The first time I called myself a feminist, I think I was twelve years old. Growing up in a traditional Sicilian Catholic household, misogyny was ever-present. There were clear expectations of me and my brother based on our gender and these ideas were grounded in our religion. I didn’t realize how problematic this was until much later; but by age twelve I was asking questions and knew that it wasn’t fair that my brother could be an altar server and I couldn’t…because I was a girl.
Feminist spirituality is often disparaged in academic feminist and progressive communities. Many of the strongest critics are Marxists, but there is a general agreement that religion is the opiate of the people, a false belief system that diverts energy from the difficult work of creating justice in this world. This view is rooted in the habit of thought known as classical dualism in which spirit and nature, spirit and body, and this world and the next are viewed as antithetical. From this, it would seem to follow, feminist spirituality focuses attention on an imagined spiritual world as opposed to the material world in which real people live and interact with each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Feminist spirituality is rooted in a strong critique of classical dualism, which sets mind above body, spirit above nature, and male above female. Feminist Goddess spirituality asserts that the female body has been especially disparaged in traditional theologies rooted in classical dualism. This can be seen in the image of the naked Eve as the source of evil, sin, and temptation. In contrast, Goddess spirituality is inspired by images of the female body of the Goddess as a symbol of the Source of Life. Goddess spirituality understands nature (or the world) to be the body of the Goddess and affirms this world as our true home. This world is understood to be an interconnected web of life shared by humans and other than human beings. Continue reading “I Am a Progressive because of Not in spite of My Feminist Spirituality by Carol P. Christ”
As I reflect on my experience at the climate strike on September 20, 2019, I see a connection between climate change and the bad rap that religion has today. When asked what they think about religion, many are quick to point out how history has shown that it has been at the center of numerous wars. Even today we find conflicts between groups grounded in religious difference. There are other differences in these conflicts, such as ethnic differences, differences of social organization, and disagreements over territory, but religion is a clear element. Colonialism, misogyny, and priest sexual abuse are some other ways that religions have earned reputations for being too strict, too old fashioned, and too corrupt, among other things.
The climate strike was called Youth Climate Strike and had as one of its leaders a very special young woman, Greta Thunberg. It isn’t often that the youth are given a platform for their complaints and even rarer that a teenaged person – and a female at that – is seen as a world leader on one of the most important issues facing civilization. Not only does this young woman have the wisdom to see the problem from a global, even a cosmic, perspective, but she also stands before us as the face of the only group on the planet that is more impacted by climate change than any other – the youth.
We recently celebrated the feast day of St. Mary of Magdala, a woman who is responsible for the founding of the Christian tradition and a model of what it means to live up to the role and expectation of being a human being.
Committed to Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice, she funded his ministry and in his darkest hour, when the male apostles had abandoned him, Mary of Magdala stood at the foot of the cross.
The Gospels honor her as the person Jesus chose to reveal his resurrected self to – and the first person to preach the message of the Risen Christ — a message initially met with utter disbelief by the male apostles. This male dominated book was careful to ensure that the world knew that Mary of Magdala — a woman — had a primary role in Jesus’ ministry and the establishing of Christianity. Without her – we would not know the message of Jesus as we do today.
We see how she has been punished for this.The shifting of her identity dictated by the patriarchal structures of the Church is well demonstrated through art history. Early on her image was shared as a woman who was respected – her head covered and wearing colors that signified her position of importance. Following the not so accidental interpretation of Mary of Magdala as a prostitute in 591 CE by Pope Gregory I, suddenly the imagery changes to a woman with red hair, long and flowing, often nude, begging to be forgiven. What better way to silence a woman than call her a whore? Continue reading “Mary of Magdala and Intersectionality by Gina Messina”
The church occasioned one of my first conscious experiences with inequality — Sunday school to be exact. I was nine and bedecked in black platform shoes and a bright pink polyester suit. It was the 70s, a moment in fashion history never to be revisited. My Sunday school teacher, a spiritually angelic woman, was explaining the demise of the Woman Caught in Adultery. According to the story, the leaders of law and religion wanted to stone the woman to death for having intercourse with a man that was not her husband. Although she was vulnerable to the death penalty, the man was not exposed to any punishment. This lopsided sanctioning plagued my young mind. Little did I know, I would spend my legal career, as a federal sex trafficking prosecutor and as a legal scholar, trying to vindicate the Woman Caught in Adultery.
I’ve long held that feminism, in order to be true and engaged and practical, must be intersectional. Such is also the case, I believe, for LGBTQ rights. The work of justice for women and LGBTQs people must also include justice for other marginalized groups. Because many LGBTQ people are also women, people of color, people with disabilities, Muslims, immigrants, and others marginalized for identities other than their sexuality. Paying attention to these intersections—of sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, religion—and acknowledging that many people have multiple intersecting identities for which they are oppressed is vital to the work of justice.
These thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind as I recently marched in one of the sister marches of the Women’s March in my home of Hilo, Hawaii. I heard many straight, white, cisgender women claim that women are not oppressed while mocking the march as irrelevant. I heard some gay men purport that such a march was unnecessary. And I wondered. Are not women of color also women? Muslim women? Immigrant women? Women with disabilities? Queer women? Further, are not women also part of LGBTQs? Are not there LGBTQ people of color? LGBTQs who are Muslim? LGBTQs who are immigrants? LGBTQs with disabilities? Of course there are. And even if there are not, are not our quests for liberation and rights and legal validity interrelated, mutually dependent, might I even say intersectional?Continue reading “The Need for Intersectionality: Repainting Sojourner Truth by AngelaYarber”
I never thought that I would need to be a part of history. Don’t get me wrong, I know that each generation does indeed end up in a history book for a handful of headlining events that mark the course of their lifetimes, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that the women in those old black and white photos, the women marching in the streets, the women burned at the stake might actually need to be me.
There were a few brief months where I truly believed that I would see the election of the first female President of the United States, but as we continue to be horrifyingly reminded each day, that version of history did not come to be. In connection with many of the articles from the last few weeks I continue to be perplexed and deeply concerned by the response of white Christians to the events of the last few months. Continue reading “I Never Thought That I Would Need to Be a Part of History by K.M. Deaver”
Like Crosley-Corcoran, I was raised in poverty. After my parents divorced in the early 1960s, our fall into poverty was pronounced. My mother liked to move, so much so that I attended no less than 15 different schools before high school. We lived in one house for two years without hot water. I learned early on the stigma of poverty, when even a Catholic school uniform could not protect me from signs of inferiority. Perhaps worse was the alienation I experienced as a young girl when other children’s parents discovered my father’s second job as a tattoo artist. Once that was known, most friends could no longer play with me outside of school. My psyche situated itself between shame and love, with the burden of keeping my humiliation a secret from the rest of my family. Continue reading “White Privilege: Confessions of a Poor White Girl by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”
‘Someone needs to gather the stories, to keep the cauldron,’ said the late Goddess feminist artist Lydia Ruyle during one of the last times we spoke, at the 2014 Glastonbury Goddess Conference. I had hinted at my concerns around conducting doctoral research in the presence of ongoing conflict within the Glastonbury Goddess community (especially when my broadly-stated site of interest is ‘politics’), and in reply she had stressed the need to ‘hold space’ for the different voices and perspectives in the UK Goddess movement, and that conflict would be inevitable. ‘There needs to be a weaver,’ she said.
The following day I recorded an interview with Lydia and some of her friends at Café Galatea on the High Street, which she had been keen to ensure since the previous summer—with poignant foresight, given her death in March 2016. I’m not sure if she was expecting that I should fully take on the role of this ‘weaver’—there are more stories than one PhD thesis can claim to encompass—but the theme is present in my writing. Her words lead me to reflect on the weaving together of politics with memory and storytelling, and on the need to honour the plural histories of the British Goddess movement. Continue reading “Goddess Politics and the Cauldron of Memory by Kavita Maya”
After reading my essay (4-15-16) on this Feminism and Religion site, one of my male colleagues (also a good friend) pushed back at me. “Seems to me,” he said, “that the issue in any oppression is power and power structures are fluid.” He went on to say that men don’t always exercise power over women and then cited his less-than-satisfactory experience with a female dean who tried to unfairly eradicate an academic program he initiated. He reminded me that in bygone times, there were queens who ruled empires–sometimes harshly. Currently, there are women with a certain amount of power who control (to some extent) the lives of their housekeepers (usually women) and gardeners (usually men). Often these housekeepers and gardeners are women and men of color who inhabit a lower social strata.
“Yes,” I noted, “there’s that whole intersectionality thing of race, class, and gender. The contours of oppression shift, but the essay I wrote focused on showing how our society is built and structured, at least partially, upon gender inequality.” He wasn’t convinced that all women in our society inhabit a space where structured gender inequality affects all women, coming back to his argument that power structures shift and we all find ourselves caught somewhere in that web at one time or another. Continue reading “What’s Essential by Esther Nelson”
I’ve been asked by both academics and Pagans what inspired me to pursue doctoral research on the British Goddess movement: of the many ways that people first click with feminist politics, a story entwined with a ‘spiritual’ impulse might seem unusual, given the slow-to-change secular assumptions of mainstream feminism.
When I reflect on my history, two threads at the core of my early feminist identity leap out: one, the value of thinking and asking questions; the other, ‘feminist spirituality’, which for me describes a profound emotional, intellectual and creative investment in the struggle for a fairer, more inclusive world. Two early ‘click’ moments: as a child, asking persistent questions about the sexist gender roles modeled by those around me (and being told “You’ll understand when you’re older,” which I now recall with a grim irony), and—perhaps unusually—coming across the concepts of patriarchy, feminism and the Goddess by way of 1990s teen fiction about witches. Continue reading “Reflections on Researching the Goddess Movement in Britain by Kavita Maya”
The most recent Holy Woman Icon with a folk feminist twist that I’ve painted is the Virgen de la Caridad. Like Mary, Guadalupe, La Negrita, and the Virgin of Regla, she was commissioned by a bold and brilliant friend, a scholar who lives, teaches, and does the work of intersectional feminism on a daily basis. As with my beloved friend who taught me so much about Jane Addams last month, this dear friend has taught me so much about feminist understandings of Marian Spirituality and of the need for many secular scholars to keep a connection to their religious roots.