God is the madwoman in the attic.
I'm camped out on the threshold with my journal, camera, and plenty of snacks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

commonplace Wednesday: Womanspirit Rising

Originally published in 1979, Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, is a new classic on my summer reading list.  It's a collection of early essays by some of the most recognized writers in feminism and spirituality including: Merlin Stone, Starhawk, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Mary Daly, and Zsuzsanna E. Budapest.  I'm about 25 pages into it and feel energized by the ideas, and reconnected with the feminist identity and theological interests of my college years.  But I'm a little puzzled too - how can I be part of this movement, this bigger conversation, these changes, as a mom with a job?  [When I was in college I was convinced that if the values and ideas I was engaging weren't accessible and actionable by "ordinary people" (rather than ivory tower PhD types) then they were useless.  I inadvertently made that my mission and fumbled my way into ordinariness.  Here I am and what to do, how to do it, with these big ideas?]

This quote from the Introduction offers some hints:
If the world has been named by Adam without Eve's consultation, then the world has been named from the male point of view.  As women begin to name the world for themselves, they will upset the order that has been taken for granted throughout history.  They will call themselves and the world into new being.  Naming women's experience thus becomes the model not only for personal liberation and growth, but for a feminist transformation of culture and religion.  "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?" asks poet Muriel Rukeyser. "The world would split open." p.7.
When women describe their experience they have the potential to change culture and to change religion.  I don't have complete understanding of this yet but I think it's something about the man-made constructs falling away, the rules and the givens, the masculine common sense is revealed for its incompleteness, inconsistency, and inaccuracy.  It is not whole and complete for human experience.  It is not a valid placeholder or assumption.  This falling away makes room for more understanding, more dimensions and perspectives can occupy the space held as truth.

One of my favorite ideas from Carry On, Warrior was G's approach to scripture.  She is totally up front about the fact that all Bible readers pick and choose what to obey and how to understand the Bible. When faced with a passage that she didn't understand she interpreted it against the primary rules to love God and love others.  Based on this she decides what to do with the puzzling verses.  All the other rules, and what I call the man-made constructs, get cast aside to make way for the real work of loving.   Some of her readers find this sacrilegious or blasphemous.  I call it a hermeneutic of love and I dig it.

At it's best, at my best, feminism is an angle for speaking back to the dominant culture and taking apart the givens and the rules.  It's not necessarily about male versus female, men vs. women.  Women just happen to have a particular opportunity to initiate these changes since they weren't welcome to participate in the original naming.  (But women aren't the only "other" that was left out.  There are lots of opportunities.)  And the way this happens, in part, is women talking about their lives - like G in Carry On, Warrior, like me on my blog and Facebook and in life.  It's tiny.  It's barely visible, one woman at a time.  It's sometimes exhausting and seemingly pointless.  But as I, and we, persist in lifting up our very personal lives for public view and value, we participate in a political process of making room for more, different, other than the man-made norms.  The world is "split open" and we have the opportunity to reorder and remake with a new measure - a measure of love.

No comments: