First off, I wanted to thank you and Jennifer
for the wonderful talk you gave last
night in Cambridge. My question actually
stems from your talk last night.
I attend a Catholic university, and while
I know things could be a lot worse, our
feminist group is facing some major uphill
battles. We are not allowed to talk about
reproductive rights, were unable to perform
the Vagina Monologues, and are frowned
upon talking about LGBT issues. Our group
faced being disbanded this summer, but
three of my friends and I stepped up into
officer roles. We actually have a good
solid group now. However, our administration
has given us mixed messages all year long.
At first, we were given warm responses
for resurrecting the group. Now, our budget
keeps getting cut and events that we were
once encouraged to have (including having
a feminist speaker for Women's History
Month) cannot be funded. The sad and often
frustrating part is that up until four
years ago, our college was an all women's
school that did have a lot of feminist
values but since it went co-ed, we are
facing the mantra "We can't do anything
that would upset the males or the Church."
How can we stand up for feminist values
and continue the legacy of the college
in representing women's rights while facing
these road blocks?
It's so sad to hear
about your school -- mostly because I guess
I like to take the optimistic route and
assume that despite the Bush presidency
what is happening on the ground can sends
a different message.
Your note makes me
realize that his message does have a strong
and powerful ripple effect. In terms of
what to do - there are essentially two
routes -- one is to try to push these initiatives
through in a very public way, but it sounds
like that would cause a larger and more
public reaction/rejection; the second way,
which some might consider as a compromise,
but which I thing is just strategic, is
to be more subtle and use their lens of
religion. For instance, create a group
about women in world religions or a group
on women in the Bible.
This will inevitably
bring up the same issues -- women's inequality,
how women's contribution is overlooked
-- even in the so called creation of the
Bible -- and also queer issues, why is
that one line in the Bible re: eating Salmon
always interpreted as anti-gay when others
have swung it as pro-gay. I know that I
have personally learned tons from groups
for a Free Choice about
how to manipulate religion of our own uses.
It's not that the religions are anti-woman
or anti-gay, but certain interpretations
that get to dominate. I think that you
have to use that to your advantage.
can also just take the women in leadership
route -- that's innocent enough, but then
under that generic and seemingly innocent
banner, you can do more political things.
I hope that helps or at least gets your
thinking in new ways.