At the Christian Feminism Today Gathering in St. Louis, Dr. Mary E. Hunt gave an inspiring presentation titled “Feminist Faith-Based Social Justice: How feminists of faith can collaborate to amplify our voices and deepen our collective impact.” Mary is the co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).
At the Gathering Dr. Hunt challenged us to believe in the power of our collaborative work. She reminded us that “it’s not the failings of the churches but the needs of the world that set feminist agendas.” Dr. Hunt went on to say that the renewable resources and moral energy of our faith traditions focused on the needs of the world give us great power to bring change.
Here are some excerpts from Dr. Hunt’s presentation:
“Our foremothers would be astonished at the diversity of what is called feminist today. I think they would also be horrified by the fact that many of the same issues that claimed their attention still claim ours: inclusive language, access to ministry, poverty, reproductive health, etc. But I think they would be heartened by the fact that the movement, which began in the United States and Europe, has emerged around the world. Women throughout Africa, in India, around Latin America, in the Pacific Rim, and elsewhere are producing their own work; not translating or imitating ours, but making their own voices heard on their own terms. We are their students and colleagues….
What I call the “feministization” of religion, began with Christianity but continues undaunted in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Pagan, Wiccan Goddess groups, and others. Even feminist atheists are making their contributions. The group Secular Women began in 2012. So there is no shortage of materials by/for feminists dealing with religion. There is, however, a woeful shortage of what I would deem real progress when it comes to structural changes that reflect feminist values of equality and inclusivity. Nor is there in church or society much spiritual change when it comes to seeing women and other marginalized people as integral parts of communities with full rights. We are far from such a moment, decades of hard work later….
The social justice agenda is where feminism is most obvious in the ongoing evolution of religion. What began as a sustained analysis of gender-based issues is now a complex and multifaceted approach to wholesale social change in an increasingly polarized and unjust world. While issues of sex and gender, especially gender-based violence, are still central to feminist work, they are incomplete and inadequate without equally serious and sustained work on anti-racism, post colonialism, economic injustice, heterosexism, transphobia, and the like. Today we train our attention on war, reproductive justice, climate change/ecology, human trafficking, immigration, and more. This is not simply a laundry list of current ills, but a checklist of the specific ways in which women and dependent children around the world experience the ravages of patriarchy, the same issues our foresisters faced but with the added dimension of huge economic disparities and worldwide instantaneous communication to make it all obvious.”
Included in Mary’s presentation was a time for reflection and interaction. She invited everyone at the Gathering to respond to these questions:
(1) Where do you find exciting and helpful feminist work in religion today?
(2) What are some of the challenges and forms of backlash that you are experiencing in your local group?
(3) What are some strategies for social justice that we who are religious feminists can adopt for common work?
Dr. Hunt concluded with these hopeful words: “It is my view that we as feminists in religion hold many of the clues and tools necessary to create a more just and loving world. I say that not to flatter us, but because I think it is true at such a deep level that neither the wider community nor we have yet understood.” Then she proposed some strategies for feminists of faith to adopt in our collaborative work in order to amplify our voices and deepen our impact:
(1) Start by saying we, not they, about one another in the Christian feminist world.
(2) Collaborate with our sisters of other faiths.
(3) Take concrete actions for justice and equality.
(4) Facilitate more exchanges among our young women.
(5) Share our theological, liturgical, and ethical resources.
(6) Share our intellectual resources, such as blogs and books.
(7) Develop more feminist religious education resources for children.”
Dr. Mary E. Hunt’s full presentation is published on Christian Feminism Today: http://www.eewc.com/Articles/feminist-faith-based-social-justice
Mary E. Hunt is a feminist theologian. With her partner, Diann Neu, she co-founded and co-directs the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, Mary lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to social justice concerns. A prolific writer, Mary has written articles for numerous journals; contributed chapters to many books on theology, feminism, and other social issues; and is a frequent contributor to the website, Religion Dispatches. Among the books she has authored, edited, or co-edited are Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship; New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views; A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z; and Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World’s Religions. See her story on this blog: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=1873