These are trying times for all sentient beings. We are all carrying the intensity and stress in our bodies and spirits. I feel it. You feel it. In fact, we are feeling it together—sharing an experience even though interpreting and understanding it in our own unique ways.
As a person of faith, I believe we are on a collective healing journey. As a feminist, I believe that journey continues to involve extended uphill challenges because of intersecting systems of oppression. And that is how I understand this particular moment in time—a healing journey in a difficult uphill section on the path. As a human collective we are healing uphill.
Healing uphill can feel like too much to bear sometimes. Healing uphill is the experience of having more and more challenges heaped on your back when you are already tired and struggling to keep going. Healing uphill is like trying to take care of yourself when you lose your job in a global pandemic and one of your kids gets sick and your landlord tells you that you are late on your rent and then your spouse comes home angry and blames you for all the stress and, well… you get the picture. Healing uphill is when you can’t seem to catch a break and things seem to just keep getting worse.
Continue reading “Healing Uphill”
For the past fourteen months, I’ve been going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what ails me. Specialists I’ve seen included wonderfully competent people immersed in their individual disciplines of nephrology, cardiology, rheumatology, and neurology. At long last, the neurologist diagnosed my condition (accurately, I believe), and I’m slated to have surgery in July.
I’m overjoyed to finally have a diagnosis, with a positive prognosis no less, offered to me. My everyday life has become more and more constricted over this past year. I can’t walk far without pain. I can’t stay in one position for long without pain. I can’t practice yoga without pain. I can’t do those everyday chores—grocery shopping, vacuuming, laundry, scrubbing the bathroom, and washing dishes—without pain. Pain wakes me throughout the night as I attempt to sleep.
I do have concerns about how well I’ll tolerate the upcoming surgical procedure, but am even more concerned about my recovery period. For six weeks after the procedure: No lifting. No bending. No twisting. No exercise except for frequent, short walks. How will I ever manage?
Continue reading “Surviving My Recovery by Esther Nelson”
When I think about having returned to the Judaism of my family, I often think about a short phrase that is on almost all of the conversion documents I’ve seen. “Your people shall be my people and your G-d shall be my G-d.” It comes from the Book of Ruth and is a powerful phrase in and of itself. Imagine choosing a journey to a foreign land and being so committed to the person you are traveling with that you are willing to forsake the religion and practices of your people to join hers, even when she extorts you to return to your home. Think about the kind of trust one needs in another to be able to leave everything behind and follow another path. That is ideally what the convert to Judaism has chosen: to leave behind their past, setting out on a new religious path. In fact, it is often frowned upon to ask a convert about their religious past because it is as if it never existed.
Besides these documents, I’ve also encountered the Book of Ruth early in my training as a feminist scholar of religion. I read many commentaries on the story of Ruth, but what I read never spoke to me. Yes, two women were bonded in a deep friendship (perhaps as lovers) struggling to survive and avoid bouts of harassment from men. They also defied patriarchal standards of the day. Sweet and touching, yes. A good example of the importance of friendship between women, definitely! What I didn’t get then that I do now are the values elevated in these two women.
First, what struck me is just how much our pasts are an important part of who we are. In many ways, they help to shape our futures. Ruth’s past built within her the values necessary to make the decision to journey to a foreign land with another woman and without what, could be thought of, as adequate protections.
Continue reading “A New Perspective on the Story of Ruth by Ivy Helman”
I forgot, that relationships, like feminism, are not easy, and that it is a conscious and continual effort of renewal to remind yourself everyday why you love the person you love and more importantly, in the case of feminism, why you fight, “the good fight.”
I was once told by my ardent feminist advisor in undergrad to “not put all my proverbial eggs in one man basket” after discussing my relationship with my boyfriend over a cup of coffee. Thinking my relationship was different and that we were special, I heeded the warning but thought of it no further. Now, looking back on it three in a half years later, I wish I would have.
Relationships are a powerful tool. They help to make you feel special. They help to bring you joy. They help you discover the reason why a divine presence may have endowed us with the ability to love and most importantly they help you realize and discover things about yourself you may have never taken the time to notice.
Feminism 101 is more than just the pop culture stereotype of a bunch of women advising the younger generation of girls to be weary of men and the pain they can bring. Feminism, specifically as what I now call Feminism 101, is the transformative ability to listen to your elders, trust yourself, and ultimately, if you happen to trust in the relationship you have built, knowing deep down that it is built on equality, love, and trust. Continue reading “Why I Failed Feminism 101: Gender, Sexuality, and the Power of Relationships”
I’ve admired JC for years. That’s Joan Chittister, OSB the Benedictine nun of course. I first saw her speak when I was in graduate school and she visited Yale. I’ve also read a number of her books. Her life is an example of how religious people support feminist ideals. There is a story in Beyond Beijing: The Next Step for Women: A Personal Journal that I would like to share with you
Chittister began her historic journey on the Peace Train to the UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. As she entered a conference room to register as a Peace Train participant, she was handed a large manila envelope. To her surprise it was filled with condoms. At first, she thought that the woman who handed them to her meant to hand them to someone else. However, Chittister was told (quite emphatically according to her) that she should distribute the condoms to the health workers she encounters while on the train and in the small towns she visits along the way to Beijing. Eventually after much thought, Chittister decided to do just that and stuffs the manila envelope into her backpack. Trying to find some humor in what she considered an awkward situation for a nun to be in she remarked, “Now all I have to do is to try not to die in front of some bishop with condoms in my backpack.”
My first reaction to this story is to laugh along with her. I am also struck by her thoughtfulness to share the story publicly. She could have been given the envelope, quietly distributed the condoms and then never told a soul. But, no. She includes the account of this feminist action she undertook in her book for the world to read. What an amazing amount of courage and integrity this woman has! Continue reading “The Need for a Positive Counter-Narrative of Religious Involvement in Feminism by Ivy Helman”