March 25, 2010

Oh School House Rock, How You Teach Us Things

Posted in culture, diversions, feminism, feminist journey, music, our histories, Society, Uncategorized, why i am a feminist tagged , , , , , at 2:58 am by Eostre

More comics talk next week, and other things, there is a long post in the works but it’s not done yet…but until then I thought I would post a little something that will never cease to make me very, very happy. I hope you enjoy it. Also, there is a very interesting discussion about Twilight over at NPR’s Art and Culture blog, Monkey See, written by Linda Holmes who is reading Twilight through what is essentially a hermeneutics of suspicion. You all should check it out. Now, on to School House Rock:

September 17, 2009

Bonhoeffer is a Secret Feminist

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology tagged , , , at 7:27 am by Eostre

It’s true. Or at least, I believe he is, though he probably wouldn’t agree. And he was my first exposure to ecofeminism. Unlikely, I know, but true. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who was executed on April 9, 1945 in a German concentration camp, and I have a hard time deciding how I feel about him. I absolutely love most of his writings and his theology. He foresaw the post-Christian era, and he wrote a lot about the importance of community and pacifism and lots of other things that I really like and agree with. However…he also participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This is where the problem comes in. I am a firm pacifist, but I have a really hard time condemning him, he felt that he was saving lives, and if it meant sinning to do it, he valued the lives (and souls) of others above his own. I can’t ever fully condone or condemn him. But that is beside the point.

The point is that he is a very interesting historical figure and theologian, but he definitely had his biases, and would hardly have considered himself a feminist. But I do. You see, I was reading his book Creation and Fall for a theology class in undergrad, and, even though I was enjoying it, I didn’t really expect the spiritual awakening that it brought on.

It is really a stunning book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I was reading and making notes, preparing for an argument I had to present on it, when I came across this passage (please forgive the gender exclusive language, it’s his, not mine):

Man’s origin is in a piece of earth. His bond with the earth belongs to his essential being. The ‘earth is his mother’; he comes out of her womb…from it he has his body. His body belongs to his essential being. Man’s body is not his prison, his shell, his exterior, but man himself. Man does not ‘have’ a body; he does not ‘have’ a soul; rather, he ‘is’ body and soul. Man in the beginning is really his body. He is one, he is his body…the man who renounces his body renounces his existence before God the Creator. The essential point of human existence is its bond with mother earth, its being as a body…He does not come to the earthly world from above, driven and enslaved by a cruel fate. He is…in himself a piece of earth, but earth called into human being by God.

When I read that I felt like my eyes had been opened, that something my soul had been yearning to express was suddenly on the page in front of me. he says it so plainly, we are inextricably tied to the earth, She is in us. The beauty of his language carried me away and I began to type furiously. I suddenly had new passageways open to my mind, and I felt alive and excited in the way that only comes when you read something and say “Yes, that is it, that is what I feel, but didn’t know how to say”, when you connect with an author on a level so intimate that it feels like falling in love. I could never fall in love with Bonhoeffer, of course, he was far too stuffy for me in real life, but his writing is another matter entirely. He had awoken me.

The next day (for I am the constant procrastinator, and had been working on my argument the night before it was due) I walked into class and felt that everyone surely must see the difference. I felt like a goddess, with vines twined in my hair and a gown of leaves and petals. And this is what I presented (abridged, this is just the intro and the conclusion, but it gives you the basic idea):

Introduction: It is essential to humanities created being that we are  creatures of both spirit and Earth. This is a counter to Platonic thought, which would have man’s spirit to be disconnected with his flesh. Common Christian doctrine has taught of the evil of flesh, following Platonic lines of thinking that make the spirit the ultimate thing, which is in some way punished by being linked to a body. The creation story of Genesis does not in any way reflect that. In the Creation myth of Genesis, spirit and flesh do not exist independently, but instead are co-dependent. No where in the creation story, even after the fall, does God elevate the spirit into a position of superiority to the body. Both are essential for the human, made together and for each other.

Conclusion: It is dangerous to try and separate God’s creation. We are tied indelibly to the Earth, and we must conclude that we are meant to be a part of the Earth. This has great implications for how we view our “flesh”, and how we view the world in which we live. If we are truly a part of the Earth than we have a certain responsibility to it. Bonhoeffer aptly states that we are a creation of both Father God and Mother Earth.

I can read it now and see the earnestness and naivete that colored every aspect of my life then, and even now I can remember the triumphant feeling I had, that I had used their own language and arguments against them. But the lasting implications are very different. Bonhoeffer opened my mind to a million possibilities and responsibilities, and it was like plunging head first into the ocean. He gave me the first push, and I am still swimming.

September 11, 2009

Finding My Voice as a Feminist

Posted in feminism, feminist theology tagged , , , , , at 6:37 am by Gina Messina

Woman Power

Woman Power

I was introduced to feminism as a freshman high school student and have considered myself a feminist ever since.  Graduating with a BA in Sociology, I chose to focus my career in the social services field working with women.  Feminist Theology first became of interest to me during my decade long career as an advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Throughout that time I worked with many women who had images of the divine that I found very troubling.  Particularly many women believed that either they were being punished by the divine for some misdeed they had committed or believed that remaining in an abusive relationship was their “cross to bear.” 

After ten years I was experiencing burn out from the high stress of the field and was also very perplexed by the images and questions regarding the divine I had encountered.  I decided to change my career focus and applied to a graduate program in Religious Studies at John Carroll University.  It is a Jesuit University with a strong Catholic foundation.  I was able to explore Feminist Theology, but mainly in a Christian context.  That being said, I focused on feminist hermeneutics, women’s role in the Church, and the problem of suffering for women. 

Within the program I was introduced to many new concepts that I was greatly impacted by, in particular the idea that I could call God “Mother.” It seems ridiculous to me now that I did not challenge God language sooner; however my Catholic upbringing kept me from exploring anything outside God “Father.”  I found myself trying to image God as woman, God as mother, and comprehend what exactly that meant for my own faith. 

  Following the completion of my degree, just before I moved to California to begin the Ph.D. program, I lost my mother to domestic violence.  It was a shocking and devastating moment in my life, and one that informed my overall view of women and suffering and Feminist Theology.

Coming to CGU, I was able to move out of the Catholic box that I had been stuck in all my life.  I had never attended a church that was not Catholic, but here in Claremont I attended a Presbyterian church, and Episcopalian church, and of course Woman Church.   Attending these other types of worship helped to further my journey and once classes began I was exposed to an entire world of Feminist Theology that embraced other religious traditions.  For the first time in my life I began to feel that perhaps Christianity should be abandoned by women all together.  The tradition’s call for women to be passive, meek, and acceptant of suffering is incredibly damaging and lead many women to mistakenly believe that they must remain in abusive situations and suffer as Jesus did, a model that reinforces women being scapegoats.

Rejecting the culture that shapes the abuse for women and glorifies women’s suffering seems to make sense to me now.  It has been difficult for me to separate myself from my Catholic identity; however I feel more strongly than ever that women cannot be liberated by a tradition that perpetuates their abuse and suffering.  That being said, this is not simply a flaw of Christianity, but of all patriarchal traditions.  I find myself now looking towards the Goddess tradition as a source for redemption.  I have changed my God language and now utilize the term divine.  I have rejected the term “Father” as one representative of the divine, not because I do not think that a male can embody the divine, but because it was part of my vocabulary for long that I now feel I should give equal time to the term “Mother.”  In addition, when I think of my own mother and her nurturing ways I truly believe those are the characteristics that exemplify the divine.    

Feminist Theology has led me away from the traditional Western thought of classical dualisms and I now recognize that my personal faith in the divine is open to my interpretation.  I have no longer felt guilt over not connecting with tradition Catholic masses and have found that prayer for me is something very different than what I was raised with.  For me, Feminist Theology has allowed me to experience a relationship with the divine, a relationship that I have not had before in my life.  It is through that relationship that I remain connected to my mother.  In addition, Feminist Theology has given me the strength to move away from a tradition that I feel is inherently damaging to women.

September 10, 2009

Why I am a Feminist…and why you are, too.

Posted in feminism tagged , , at 5:37 am by Eostre

Ever since we decided to talk about Feminism and how we became Feminists, I have been ruminating on something. Because, you see, my path to Feminism is not, in fact, very exciting. It was rather gradual, and I was one for a long time before I even realized it. Which got me to thinking about how so many people (myself included, formerly) claim to “not be a Feminist”, which, in this day and age, is nearly impossible (particularly in the west). So. This lead me to my topic for the day, why I am a Feminist, and why you are, too.

To illustrate my point, I have developed an impromptu survey. I think it will be both fun and educational! It is mostly true/false, so your job is to evaluate each question, and decide whether it is true or false. Here we go!

1) Women should have the right to say who gets to touch their bodies, particularly in an intimate or sexual manner.

2) I plan on using birth control (including but not limited to: the pill, condoms, diaphrams, and “pulling out”).

3) A woman who is raped should have the right of seeing her rapist prosecuted and put in jail.

4) Every legal citizen of the USA should have the right to vote.

5) Women should be able to choose to be a stay at home mom.

6) A woman who is physically abused by her husband should have the right to have him arrested.

Did you answer true to even one of these questions? If so, congradulations! You’re a Feminist (someone should be by your house any minute to show you the secret handshake).

I know what you’re thinking, these things seem like they should go without saying. I think that most of us would agree that a woman has a right not to be raped, and that any man who sexually assaults a woman (or anyone, for that matter) belongs in prison. However that was not always the case. For instance, did you know that up until 1980 a husband could not be prosecuted for raping his wife, and most states required a witness to the rape before they would prosecute? It’s true. Most of us today take these rights for granted, but if it weren’t for the work of Feminist groups like NOW (National Organization of Women) those laws might still be on the books.

And you might be wondering about question 5. Let me address that now. As a Feminist, I believe that you have the right to choose what you want to do with your life. If you want to be a mathemetician, florist, animal trainer, or even a stay at home mom, that is YOUR CHOICE. Let me repeat that. CHOOSING to be a stay at home mom  (which is a luxury that is not an option for most women in the world)  is still a CHOICE! You are choosing your path in life, a very Feminist thing to do. You have taken control of  your own destiny, and decided what you want to do. True, it might not be my choice (but I don’t want to be a mathemetician or animal trainer, either) but you have the right to choose to do whatever you want. And you have that right because of Feminists. Your welcome.

Now, there is an alternative to being a Feminist, but I can promise you that you wont like it. It involves a lot of really unpleasant things like illiteracy, prolapsed uterui (which often happens when you have a lot of babies one right after another), early death, loss of free will, an insecure future, the right of your husband to beat you with something thinner than his thumb, and scores of other things. It is a bleak picture.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that despite what I have said, you simply CAN’T be a Feminist. You’re thinking that Feminism comes with all of these monsters, seeking out what “family values” they can devour. But, I hate to break it to you, that’s just not the case. Feminism is about the things I listed in the quiz. It is about giving women the rights to their own bodies and souls, and who could disagree with that?

I know that you have created a pretty magnificent straw-Feminist, and have had a great deal of fun tearing her apart, but while you were tilting at windmills, we were ensuring that women had the right to vote, to own property, to work or stay at home, to get an education.

This is why I am a Feminist. Because I believe that every woman has the right to own her own soul, that being born with a vagina doesn’t make us somehow inferior, or less of a human.  No one gets to make our choices for us. We are valid human beings, and we have a right to be heard. I know that this post has been somewhat flippant, but when it comes right donw to the point, this is why I am a Feminist, and frankly, why you are too.Life without Feminism