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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?

Thank you!




Lindsay --

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 like Catholics 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.

You 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.

Good luck,

-- Amy