The parshah for this week is Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27). I’ve actually written about Lech Lecha on this forum before, concentrating on the parental aspects of the divine. See here. However, this time I want to look at the Torah portion from a different angle: what happens to the women?
While I’m concentrating on this theme, the parshah is rich with other material on which one could comment. For example, the Holy One asks Abram to leave his home and all he’s known to travel through and eventually live in a foreign land. There seems to be much fighting and strife between various rulers in the area through which they travel. Abram too goes to war when Lot is kidnapped. The first covenant between G-d and humanity takes place. The deity promises many blessings (from land and material prosperity to innumerous descendants) for Abram and Sarai if they obey the terms of the covenant. We also learn of the markers of the covenant: name changes and circumcision. Continue reading “The Women of Lech Lecha by Ivy Helman.”
Christmas morning. I don’t usually have Sundays free and our family holiday celebrations lean nontraditional, so I’d come to a special ecstatic dance celebration and brought my 9-year-old daughter with me. As the music started and people all around us began to flow and move, I reached out to touch her hand. As if she’d been doing it for years, she shifted into a beautiful contact improv flow with me, rolling her arm down and across mine as she beamed love and radiance right into my heart.
This child brings up so many feelings in me as I watch her grow.
On many occasions at ecstatic dance, I’ve looked around the room and been overwhelmed by the beauty of the dancers and their joyful embodiment. When delight, peace, and ease are conditioned out of many of our bodily relationships through past traumas, body issues, or simply living in a disembodied or misembodied culture, feeling comfortable in our own skins is simultaneously an intentional act of cultural resistance and a profound act of self-care and self-love. Being present in the ecstatic dance space with lovely people moving confidently in fluid, sensual, emphatic, and silly ways fills my heart to overflowing on any given dance day.
Being present in that space with my daughter, looking around the room and imagining what it must look like through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, gave it a whole new hue of meaning. People danced alone or with partners, men danced with men and women with women, all without shame over their bodies or feelings. The occasional dancer who slipped off to sit on the periphery, nursing tears that flow in the way holidays bring for some, was joined, held, hugged, cried with. My little girl danced with joyful abandon surrounded by men and women of all ages and shapes, present in their bodies and feelings, moving in ways that felt good, glowing with presence and the freedom of acceptance. Continue reading “Present in Our Bodies: Sensuality, Movement, Feelings, and Joy by Chris Ash”
Over the past two days, I have been considering the challenges and competing perspectives on Carol Christ’s post, “Who is Gender Queer?” I’d like to weigh in with some thoughts on normativity, naming, and the divine image.
I do not identify as genderqueer. But, like Carol describes in her post, I have often felt misfit or misnamed. As we all do, I internalized categories of masculine and feminine in childhood and somehow felt myself to be “masculine” in my physicality, my dark eyebrows (which people – frequently strangers – felt regularly inclined to describe, critique, and even molest in bathrooms, checkout lines, and salons), my hairy legs (which seemed hairier than my girlfriends’ legs in grade school), my interests, even the way I thought. My sense of my sexual self felt somehow masculine because I never experienced my body passively. I climbed and jumped and ran more than my female classmates, and I had much smaller breasts than the women in my family. The real proof for me, though, was that I never had a period on a 28-day cycle. I grew up thinking I was defective and generally not a very good female. All of this, of course, I now know merely reflects the onslaught of normative messages I unwittingly accepted in my formation about the experience, presentation, and performance of physical sex and gender. Continue reading “Normativity, Naming, and the Divine Image by Natalie Weaver”
The authors of these feminist-friendly, sex-positive books and social movements did not exist in the church I grew up in, and I feel quite saddened by this. While my sexual conditioning in the church was far from liberating, these reads have helped me realize that the religious community wasn’t as mundane as I thought. My early sex education which was conservative consisted of the anatomical and biological basics (Arizona education system, need I say more?) and early conditioning of sex morals and ethics in the church. The latter was more influential to my perception of sex, gender, and relationships. Of course the media and my peers constructed my views of sexual culture and gender norms, but the church had the greatest impact during my childhood and adolescence. Continue reading “Christian Sex Ain’t So Vanilla by Andreea Nica”
Lori Gottlieb’s article in the February 9 New York Times magazine, “The Egalitarian-Marriage Conundrum,” was yet another tired entry in the New York Times’s annual clickbait misogyny Olympics. Who doesn’t remember the supposed opt-out revolution, and the sadness of the decade-later follow-up demonstrating every single consequence that any feminist could have predicted? Or the weekly gender terrorism spewed by Maureen Dowd, who somehow gets people to believe that constant belittling and feminizing male Democratic politicians counts as incisive, progressive political commentary? To name just a few of the most memorable, and most infuriating, examples.
Gottlieb’s article rehashed the studies – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read about them in one version or another – that suggest that equality in household labor leads to decreased frequency of intercourse among married heterosexual couples. The most revolting lines in the article – among many contenders – start with a quote from Julie Brines, the author of the study in question: ‘”The less gender differentiation, the less sexual desire.’ In other words, in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have become gender-neutered.” It is possible that Brines may be quoted out of context, or that what she intended to say was something quite different, but as the quotation stands, it implicitly suggests that so-called “traditional” gender differentiation is necessary for sexually satisfying heterosexual relationships. (For, of course, there are plenty of other ways in which gender differentiation might be present in heterosexual relationships. Gender differentiation is here being equated with a very particular set of decisions about ‘housework’, a notion that arguably exists only to render some parts of women’s work invisible.) That’s before getting into the implications of the word “neutered” used in the second sentence. Why would egalitarian distribution of household labor be considered “gender-neutral” to begin with? Continue reading “Anti-sex feminism? by Linn Marie Tonstad”
Women’s bodies continue to receive an inexhaustible amount of attention. As a society, we have glorified, scrutinized, degraded, hypersexualized, underrepresented, and misunderstood the female body. Purity culture has orchestrated a movement around the management, perception, and regulation of women’s bodies. As a former Pentecostalist, I grew up knowing there was more focus on my body versus those of my brothers in Christ. There was a bodily divergence between men and women that I did not fully comprehend but felt obligated to adhere to; the ideological basis of this difference was filled with much ambiguity.
Each time the church organized a sexual purity event and/or discussion, boys and girls were unfailingly segregated. I was always so curious about what was discussed in the boy’s group so I would ask my brother, Christian boyfriend, and male friends at the church to fill me in on the gossip. In my teens, I didn’t know how to perceive the information relayed to me. Looking back now, I am surprised at the discourse around purity culture and masculinity in the church. During my earlier years at college, I convened with the male pastoral leadership, and they confirmed the following main themes taught to men during sexual purity discussions. Continue reading “The Purity Complex: Are Men Really Less Affected Than Women? by Andreea Nica”
Being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a male feminist lately. As the only man to be a permanent blogger on this very site until my colleague and friend Kile Jones came on board, I took my role, as a man in a traditional feminist (online) space very seriously. Although the ongoing struggle to be a male feminist is one continually wrought with dialogues about power and positionality (amongst a host of many other topics), I am often conflicted when I see male feminists take advantage and destroy the hard work that many, specifically on this site and beyond, worked hard to build and defend.
Deconstructing masculinity isn’t the key to solving social, sexual, and domestic violence across the world but it is a step worth taking when attempting to engage men in affecting change to stop these violent actions since men, statistically are the perpetrators of such crimes that both cause such outcry as well as perpetual silence.
The most disturbing part of the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil isn’t the fact that Father Oliver O’Grady is rewarded by the Catholic Church with a new congregation in Ireland after his short stint in prison for the rape of dozens of children in the 1970s, but rather the hierarchy of gendered victimization which is often created throughout the various rape cases that are both reported and unreported throughout history.
I am often troubled by the ways in which rape cases are discussed and deconstructed via mediums such as blogs, online communities, social media networks, the news, and popular culture. No series of events troubled me more than the Jerry Sandusky trial, but more importantly, the ways in which the young boys and adult men who were subjected to Sandusky’s abuse quickly overshadowed the other rape cases that are reported on a daily basis, specifically those involving young girls and women. Continue reading “Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict”