Women and Spirituality: Debunking Myths About Mormonism

mesa-mormon-temple1Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. The last few weeks have focused on the connection between feminism and different forms of spirituality.

This week we’re talking to Margaret Turley, a Mormon and a retired nurse. Margaret is the author of Save the Child, a novel about about a young child who is diagnosed with cancer. She is also the co-founder of Writers Unite to Fight Cancer, a nonprofit that raises money for cancer research.

1. What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality means having a close, inspirational connection with our creator. For me that means I believe in God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost – the Godhead. My own spirituality waxes and wanes in different periods of my life. The more I pray, study scripture and gospel principles, the closer I feel to my Heavenly Father. Attending church helps to develop spirituality but I’ve met people whom I consider to be spiritual who proclaim no specific religion. When I am in nature I feel close to God and thank Him for the many beautiful things that lift my spirit. I have noticed that when I am healthy, I feel more spiritual. I suppose that is because my thoughts are not so fixed inward on my own problems and I have the energy to look out and up.

2. What does Mormonism mean to you?
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS for short. That means I am a Christian. Our church acknowledges Jesus Christ as the head of our Church. After the original apostles died, many of the plain and precious truths were lost. Many refer to us as Mormons because The Book of Mormon is one of our books of scripture. [Read more...]

Women and Spirituality: An Interview With Pastor Beverly Jane Phillips

good bevFeminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. Today I’m talking to Pastor Beverly Jane Phillips. Pastor Phillips was one of the first women in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to receive a Master of Divinity degree which she earned at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1961. She was ordained to be the Hunger Action Enabler for Chicago Presbytery and later served as a regional organizer for Bread for the World in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Now retired, Phillips and her husband live in Arizona, where she writes books, Bible studies, and texts for the women’s retreats which she leads. You can read her blog at www.beverlyjanephillips.com.

1. What was your motivation to attend Divinity School?
My motivation to attend divinity school was an experience of God speaking to me very clearly and unmistakably. Each summer when I was in college I volunteered as a counselor at a church camp for junior high kids. I was planning to be a children’s librarian but church and my faith were high priorities for me. The summer after my junior year of college I was the counselor for a cabin full of junior high girls at a Presbyterian Church camp in the woods near Lexington, Nebraska.

It was the tradition that on the last night of camp we would all gather around a big campfire to sing songs and hear a sermon by the director of the camp. In his sermon that night the director said, “Anyone can be a minister.” I have no idea what the rest of his message was about because those words were God speaking to me. It had only been two years that the Presbyterian Church denomination I belonged to would ordain women. [Read more...]

The Connection Between Catholicism and Feminism

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. Today I’m talking to Meghan Smith, who integrates Catholic for Choice’s US policy activities and advocacy throughout the country by fostering relationships with collegial organizations and compiling legislative and policy analyses. She develops educational materials outlining CFC’s unique perspective on issues of reproductive health and right,s and engages in other efforts supporting CFC’s mission at the state level. Ms. Smith holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and Creative Writing from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

1. When was Catholics for Choice founded, and what was the motivation for starting the organization?
Catholics for Choice is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. CFC was founded in 1973, the same year as the Roe v Wade decision, to serve as a voice for the majority of Catholics, who believe that our faith tradition supports every woman’s moral agency and right to follow her own conscience when making decisions about her reproductive health. We’ve a long and storied history, but, as a global movement, Catholics for Choice has worked internationally and throughout the United States to raise the voices of Catholics who disagree with the Vatican and who support access to safe, legal reproductive healthcare services for themselves and their neighbors.

2. What are some of the stereotypes that you feel people have about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion? Why do you feel those stereotypes exist?
It is certainly true that some people think that the opinions of the Catholic hierarchy represent the opinions of all Catholics. However, that is not the case at all. There are more than one billion Catholics around the world and almost 70 million here in the United States. The Catholic Church includes all of us, not just our bishops and the Vatican—who interpret Catholic teachings very narrowly. When it comes to reproductive health, people on both sides of the issue sometimes wrongly assume that all Catholics are anti-choice, or that you cannot be a pro-choice Catholic. In truth, the majority of Catholics are pro-choice not in spite of our faith, but because of it. Catholic women use birth control and have abortions at rates similar to women from other religions and no religion, and Catholics as a whole support access to those services for ourselves and our neighbors.
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Women’s Spirituality: Discovering Wicca

wiccan-love-spells3Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. We’ve interviewed a variety of feminists in the series. In the next few weeks, I will be speaking to feminists from different modes of spirituality.

Today I’m talking to Lora Jackson Legare, an archaeologist and author who was first drawn to anthropology by an interest in religion and spirituality and how people express their spirituality in different cultures through time. She has been a practicing Wiccan since 1986 and high priestess of her coven since 2007.

1. What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality is our need to connect with the “ground of our existence,” as Joseph Campbell would say. Defining the ground of our existence is different for each of us, just as our connection with it is different.

2. How did you develop you own sense of spirituality? Have you always been a Wiccan?
Developing my own spirituality has been a very long process. I was raised in a very liberal Christian denomination (Disciples of Christ), and my father was a minister who was a civil right activist in the 60s. He encouraged me to ask questions. But most of my Christian elders preferred that questions were not asked. Questions like, why is God only seen as a man; Why not a woman; Why are women naturally sinful; Why can I be nothing more than a helpmate to a man, and never really his equal in the eyes of this God? I could not do that. I began to search and explored many different religions. I found Wicca in 1986.
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Is Beyonce a Feminist?

beyonce_super_bowl_2013_halftime_performance_show_new_orleans_main_18gueij-18guek9 A recent article in Salon.com features several pop culture icons who have said, “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” The list includes musicians such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. One female artist that this list does not include in Beyonce, who has very clearly stated that she is a feminist.

Beyonce’s performance at the 2013 Superbowl that literally blew out the stadium’s lights is clear evidence that Beyonce is a feminist. Her band consisted entirely of female musicians. The bulk of them are women of color. Many women in the music industry will tell you that this is very rare. Giving so many female musicians that kind of exposure is something I would classify as a feminist act. Moreover, Beyonce has stated over and over again that she believes in equality and helping girls realize their potential.

However, some people argue that Beyonce isn’t a feminist because she has taken her husband Jay-Z’s last name.
Beyonce had her baby Blue Ivy in January 2012.

“I feel like Mrs. Carter is who I am, but more bold and more fearless than I’ve ever been,” she said. “It comes from knowing my purpose and really meeting myself once I saw my child.

Really? If someone takes on their partner’s name they’re not a feminist? That’s the strongest argument you’ve got? What about Hillary Clinton? Hillary Clinton in an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. She took her husband’s last name. Hillary is the reason I claimed the feminist label in high school. I voted for both times that she ran for President, and I will always consider her a role model. If your only argument about claiming the feminist label has to do with changing your last name, you need to get a clue about what feminism means. [Read more...]

Are You the “Better” Feminist?

We both really enjoy the British feminist website The F-Word, and have written several guest posts for them. The site employs an intersectional outlook that focuses on all types of feminists while incorporating variables such as race, sexualities, ethnicity, and disabilities to the pieces that they post.

One thing got us going, though–a discussion in the comments section of a post that discussed a “song of the day.” The discussion centered on the singer India.Arie and the lyrics to her song “Video,” and the author of the piece appreciated Arie’s refusal to be defined by traditional beauty regimes.

What caught our attention were the comments posted by readers. One person wrote, “I just get a little tired with this trend for women who are basically hot preaching (or being used to preach) self-acceptance … It would be easy for us all to love ourselves unconditionally if we only departed from patriarchal beauty standards as much as India.Arie does.”

Another reader agreed and said that “it’s similar with that TLC song ‘Unpretty’; the message is great but you feel slightly aware of how gorgeous the women singing about how what’s inside is more important than looks.” [Read more...]

Book Suggestions for the New Year

Now that the New Year is approaching, we’ve compiled a list of books that we’ve read this year and found interesting, valuable, or controversial.

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution, Faramerz Dabhoiwala

Dabhoiwala describes and analyzes the way that people viewed sex between 1660 and 1880. The focus is on in England, but European nations and the United States are mentioned regularly. At close to 500 pages, reading this book is quite an undertaking, but readers will learn about the role of religion, about hospitals or asylums for women, and why it is that women are now considered less sexual than men, when this was not always the case.

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Book Review: How to Be a Woman

Image courtesy of barnesandnoble.com

British columnist Caitlin Moran’s nonfiction book How to Be a Woman was published in 2011 – and I meant to read it in 2011, too. I really did. But despite best intentions, it wasn’t until my sister and I were browsing in a bookstore last month, and she asked if I’d read How to Be a Woman, that I bought the book. My only regret is that I waited so long to do so.

I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud, but Moran’s blend of memoir, essay, and cultural criticism had me not only laughing, but nodding my head in agreement and reading passages out loud to my husband. I defy anyone to read the chapter “I Don’t Know What to Call My Breasts!”, particularly the section where she discusses the difficulty of naming one’s vagina, and not at least chuckle.

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Size M and the Islamic Veil: Thinking about Freedom and Submissiveness in Western Culture

The classic mainstream media encourages diets, while trivializing thinness with retouched photos of celebrities who are already thin. These images at least partly meet the fantasies of Western men, showing women getting younger and thinner, and increasingly close to the body of a young girl.

Meanwhile, the West perceives the Islamic world as a separate place where violence against women is intensified and secular, a late and barbaric world concerning progress of democracy and gender equality. This post is not about issues related to history and geopolitical contexts in the Islamic world;  rather, the point here is to highlight the gap in perceptions of and by the Other. It consists of a cultural gap that distorts reality and thereby causes a wrong image about some aspects of women’s condition in the Muslim world. This cultural gap has been the subject of Le Harem et l’Occident (2001), a book by Fatema Mernissi.

This does not compare the two types of society and what would be the best, but instead highlights some specific elements of women’s condition according to the context and looking at how individual choices of resistance and mass submission may be present in both contexts.

Misunderstandings about the freedom of women
Originally, the word “harem” means “forbidden.” But for Western men, it represents a kind of orgiastic place where unhindered men succeed in a miracle by enjoying a multitude of women they enslaved. This false image of the harem was developed by European artists during the early modern period; in revenge, Muslim artists did not hide the fact that this is a place of confinement and that women who lived in the harem were aware of being oppressed. [Read more...]

Feminist Conversations: Megan Smith

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature where we talk to activists from across the interwebs about what feminism means to them. Today we’re talking to Megan Smith, founder of the Repeal Hyde Art Project, a community-based art project to raise awareness of and increase dialogue about the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from covering abortion. In addition to the Repeal Hyde Art Project, Megan works at Ibis Reproductive Health and volunteers at the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund (EMA Fund).

1. What was your inspiration for starting the Repeal Hyde Art Project?
I’m an artist passionate about reproductive health and abortion access, so I’m interested in ways to use art as a tool raise awareness and increase dialogue about issues like Hyde (the federal amendment banning Medicaid from covering abortion except under very limited circumstances.) My work prior to the Project had been successful but very one sided. In developing this project, I wanted to explore a way to use art to create a conversation made up of many voices. Instead of telling people what I thought, I wanted people to be able to participate, and in that way, to become more involved with the issue.

I designed the birds because I wanted to create a positive image. Hyde is a hard issue to keep talking about, because it’s invisible, politically complicated, and has been around for 35 years, so the challenge is to figure out ways to keep us talking about it. I also wanted an optimistic image because I think if we don’t have hope about Hyde being repealed than it’s not going to happen, and because the image honors the people who have struggled to pay for abortions.
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