Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting for The Wind to blow

"The wind" was a favorite metaphor of Mary Daly's. She used it to describe a powerful force of nature and of the spirit that helped her achieve her true goals in life. In Oklahoma we have a different kind of wind, one that comes as part of powerful storms, and tonight many of us stayed home because a hailstorm/rainstorm/possible-tornado has been predicted.

As for the rest of us, we experimented with starting the Mary Daly Zine. Kathy got the idea from a project that her sister worked on. If you want to know more about feminist 'zines, check out the Grrrl Zine Database or the zine collection at

We also watched the trailer for a fascinating film about the feminist art magazine Heresies, which published between 1977 and 1992. We're hoping that a local feminist group will purchase the film and show it so that we can all see it.

The Wind works in mysterious ways. Below you will find a drawing that could appear in our zine. If you would like to know more about the zine, you can always come to our next meeting.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The feminist GA

At our weekly Mary Daly Feminist discussion group at Church of the Open Arms, we often talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement and how or if feminism in connected to it. On May 17, several cities around the nation held feminist general assemblies to bring feminist goals, vision, and strategy to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thanks to Occupy Patriarchy for posting two accounts of the feminist GA that took place in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.

One of these posts came from Melanie Butler at the Ms. Magazine blog. Here's a sample:
I arrived to find a diverse crowd of around 300 people. Members of the Occupy Wall Street women’s caucus, Women Occupying Wall Street (WOW), were giving a shout of solidarity to Occupy Maine. The people of Lafayette, Ind.; Bend and Portland, Ore.; Chicago and a handful of other cities were also holding feminist GAs. The Raging Grannies sang “Evolution is too slow, revolution’s the way to go!” and things were off to a raucous start. I pitched in with a paintbrush to help record the shared values we were brainstorming–“Trust!” “Creativity!” “Justice!” “Humor!”–and, ignoring my friend’s smirk, embraced the consciousness-raising exercise as though I were encountering it for the first time. After focusing almost exclusively on women’s organizing for the first six months of Occupy Wall Street (OWS), I was happy for the chance to just participate. More importantly, I was happy to see so many new leaders and so many of the elusive “unfamiliar faces” we had spent meeting after meeting trying to attract to the movement.
Sarah Seltzer of The Nation offered a more in-depth analysis of this gathering. Seltzer saw an effort not only to counter sexism within Occupy Wall Street, but also to counter oppressive attitudes within feminist ranks. She also pondered whether this GA might be the start of a new way for Occupy Wall Street to collaborate with other movements.
Aspects of this GA offered a model for how Occupy can work with other progressive movements without accusations of “co-option” on either side. The fact that the organizers of the GA were both new to and familiar with Occupy meant that the attendees came from both inside and outside the movement, an example of horizontalism—rejecting hierarchy—in action. Beyond that, the GA reinforced the notion of Occupy as platform for ideas, rather than organization. The simple act of presenting feminist ideas in the Occupy format--in a public space, welcome to all, mingling with strangers beyond the reach of institutions--was refreshing and inspiring, the opening of a door of possibility, almost like the early days at Zuccotti Park. I realized with a start during the event that I’d never been in a public space that simply existed for feminist-minded conversation before, without a destination or goal or even work-oriented networking.

Will that door of possibility lead to a new coalition or plan for action? That remained unclear. None of the goals mentioned in the report-backs included targeted plans like “organize a sit-in in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops offices.” No specific march or strike or radical art project is in the works, and no one appeared as a representative from an established feminist organization to start building a formal coalition. At this point, the OWS ethos may not mesh with most institutional organizations, and perhaps that’s okay. What the feminists at the GA wanted more than a formal partnership was to keep converging and talking. So the one thing there will definitely be? Another GA.
This is bound to be a complicated and difficult process. I thought I detected from both Selzer and Butler an expectation that Occupy Wall Street and its feminist participants would eventually reach consensus on a complete range of goals. I don't think this is going to happen.

My own feelings about this are contradictory. On the one hand, I would join Selzer and Butler in wanting to push OWS to support women's reproductive freedom. The idea that abortion rights are "too divisive" and can be ignored just doesn't sit well with me. Besides everything else, reproductive freedom is a basic economic issue.

On the other hand, both Butler and Selzer take for granted that support for "transgender rights" is something that there is, or should be, a feminist consensus to do. I find myself balking there, because I believe there is a still a substantial segment of the feminist movement that sees the gender system itself as oppressive. We see the goal as eliminating gender entirely, not reforming the gender system to make it "more diverse."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Betsy - overall you have done a great job, however, personally I would like the word theology taken out.

An idea for a logo

This is just a thought. (I thought I'd cropped this, but it's showing up wrong. Back to the drawing board.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bishops condemn book by feminist theologian

And no, we're not talking about Mary Daly. We're talking about Sister Elizabeth Johnson, who in 2007 published a book called Quest for the Living God, which, among other things, discussed the female nature of God. The Committee on Doctrine of the US Catholic bishops recently announced that this book shouldn't be used by Catholic schools and universities.

I discovered the controversy thanks to the Facebook page of Feminist Peace Network, which pointed me to a Washington Post blog entry by Jason Pitzl-Waters of the Pagan Newswire Collective. He writes:
Leaving aside the “separate but equal” theory of religious gender roles for a moment, one has only to look towards the headlines to see how dangerous the idea of female empowerment still is within the world of faith and belief. The New York Times reports that a committee of American bishops have accused Catholic theologian and nun Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson of violating church doctrine, issuing a lengthy critique of her book “Quest For the Living God” due in part to her suggestion of using female imagery for God, an idea (among others) the Committee on Doctrine says “contaminates” traditional Catholic understandings of God. “Contaminates,” what an interesting and unintentionally apt choice of words! Because reading that critique you can see the fear of contamination dripping from its sentences, hoping against hope of placing (in the words of the NYT) “the study of the male and female aspects of God [...] substantially off-limits,” lest women once more start making offerings to the Queen of Heaven.
(If you don't know who the Queen of Heaven is, you can find this out by reading the rest of the post.)

I followed Pitzl-Waters's link to the statement of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They object to more than her treatment of the female nature of God. They don't like her "pantheism" or her belief that non-Christian religions also convey useful knowledge about God. They think she undermines their rigid and unchangeable idea of a god who is all-powerful and unchanged by the suffering in the world. They object to her portrayal of the official Catholic God as an "arrogant monarch," and go to great pains to explain what a sweet, kind, caring monarch he is. And they strongly defend Biblical language that describes God as "father" and "lord." They insist that "The names of God found in the Scriptures are not mere human creations that can be replaced by others that we may find more suitable according to our own human judgment." They would surely resent being called sexist, but what they are saying is, (as Mary Daly would have put it) God is male, and male is God.

Why the bishops waited four years to attack this book is not entirely clear. The National Catholic Reporter says that "the committee felt compelled to publicly denounce the 2007 book because it is directed to a `broad audience,' and because it’s being used in many venues `as a textbook for the study of God.'" The same NCR post notes that Sister Johnson says that the bishops portrayed her book inaccurately and did not talk with her before condemning it. Cardinal Donald Wuerl responded that Johnson should have sought the bishops' imprimatur (official approval) before publishing the book. The NCR  has a link to Wuerl's statement.

One can only imagine the choice words that Mary Daly would have used about this situation. (Or, one could pick up a copy of the Wickedary.) But even some Catholics--including a Catholic columnist for the Washington Post--think that the bishops went too far in trying to stifle theological discussion. And sales of the book have increased dramatically.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Power from within

Last night at the Mary Daly discussion group at the Church of the Open Arms, part of our discussion involved pagan and goddess spirituality.

Later, I was working on finding information for a library science class online discussion about power and information. The definition of power used in the textbook seems to be all about power-over, but I know that among feminists there is also the concept of power-from-within, power that heals, achieves, nurtures, and cooperates, power that is so powerful that it does not need to dominate.

While I was searching, I ran across this biography of Starhawk and was reminded of the discussion we'd had earlier.