Fall 2011-Winter 2012 edition by Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Web Explorations for Christian Feminists is a digest of annotated links, leading to websites and webpages where you can read articles, listen to audio podcasts, watch online videos, or preview movie trailers.
I always recommend that you first scroll through all the items, read the brief descriptions, and then go back later to click on the links that most interest you. Be sure to check out some of the archived editions as well.
Topics and Annotated Links for This Edition:
How to Talk to Little Girls
Lisa Bloom emphasizes the importance of talking with young girls in ways that respect their minds, countering society’s messages that a girl’s value is determined by her physical appearance.
JC Penney tee shirt taken off market
One of the most egregious examples of the type of thinking that stresses beauty over brains was a back-to-school tee shirt for young girls, taken off the market by JCPenney late last summer after a huge outcry. The shirt said, “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”
Preference for boys
A 2011 Gallup Poll shows that if given the hypothetical choice of having only one child, Americans overall have a greater desire for a son than a daughter. These results are little different from those of a 1941 poll. Look at the tables, however, and note the differences between the opinions of men and women, those with more or less education, and other variables.
Michaela Haas’s commentary on “preferences for boys” poll
Haas wonders why girls are still valued less than boys even after all the gains women have made — and even though the US does not have some of the traditions (such as dowries) that have made male preference so widespread in other countries.
Martin E. Marty on “The Mystery of the Child”
In this online video discussion with Bill Moyers, Martin E. Marty, the noted historian of modern Christianity, talks about his book, The Mystery of the Child. As Moyers points out in his introduction, Dr. Marty draws on literature “as new as today’s poetry and as old as the Bible” and “encourages all of us to maintain the child’s openness to wonder as we grow old.”
A little girl with Down Syndrome has something to teach us all
To increase understanding of the potential of children with Down Syndrome, a toddler named Maddox Lucille McClintic and her mom made this YouTube video. Love just shines all through the relationship of this mother and daughter. At the same time, Maddy’s mom is honest in recording on her family’s blog her struggles at the time of the little girl’s birth.
LGBTQ Social Justice Issues
New York Times survey on LGBT teens’ coming out decisions
As the news media continue to report the tragic stories of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people who have committed suicide as what they feel is their only escape from bullying, the New York Times asked young people themselves about their coming out decisions. Click on the interactive multimedia link accompanying the report to hear their stories in more detail.
A Teenage Feminist Calls the Westboro Baptist Church
Most people know about the Westboro Baptist Church’s infamous pickets of funerals and especially at events showing support for gay and lesbian people. Sometimes other groups are the targets of their hatred, too. The Westboro Church members hold up signs saying “God hates ” virtually everybody. In this blog post, a teenage feminist decided to phone the church to find out what it teaches about women and feminism. The link takes you to her report.
Hillary Clinton speaks out for LGBT human rights
On December 6, 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in recognition of International Human Rights Day. In her powerful condemnation of the prejudices and abuses that LGBT people have too long had to endure around the world, she declared: “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” She did not shy away from religious arguments either. You can read the entire speech at the link above. Or you can listen to Hillary Clinton deliver it here.
Summary of research on gay and lesbian parenting
An oft heard argument about same-sex marriage and parenting, including adoption and foster care, is that children require a male-and-female headed family if they are to thrive – and that they will be deprived otherwise. Writing in a popular style, science writer Stephanie Pappas provides a summary of some of the social science research on the topic. In addition to the link above, you might want to read this fact sheet by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists on what is known about children raised by same-sex parents.
An evangelical mother changes her mind
After the controversial mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll wrote an opinion piece for Fox News in which he listed homosexuality as an example of “sinful sex” and said that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman, Shari Johnson, an evangelical Christian mom, wrote her own opinion piece titled, “My Lesbian Daughter, the Bible and Sex.” Johnson concluded her piece by saying, “Two years ago, after 39 years as a Christian who thought she knew the meaning of the scriptures and the mind of God, I asked myself a serious, life-changing question, ‘What if I’m wrong?’”
God and Gender
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on “God, the Mother“
Although we in the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today family have often talked about God as being beyond gender, theologian Susan Thistlethwaite provides an excellent review and overview of the topic. She discusses the “mystery” of God, the Mother as “a metaphor for the work of God in both mercy and justice.”
Rabbi Shais Taub on “God and Gender”
Writing in the Huffington Post, Rabbi Shais Taub says, “God can be my father. Or God can be my mother. Indeed the name that Judaism uses to describe God when She is most imminently present in our lives is the name Shechinah, the Nurturing and Omnipresent Mother. “
Women Made in God’s Image
Karen Torjesen, a longtime friend of our organization, tells how the idea of women’s creation in the image of God and “the spiritual transformation of gender identity in Christ” provided just the right framework for preaching in South Africa to women whose cultural background was different from her own.
Video: Gloria Steinem on Men, Women, and Power
At age 77, feminist Gloria Steinem continues to work for gender justice through her writing, speaking, and activism. Watch this interview with her from the PBS program Need to Know as she analyzes the situation of women and men in today’s economy.
Why Harry Potter Is a Feminist
Writing in the online magazine AlterNet, Krystie Yandoli says that the Harry Potter series “creates a subtle feminist consciousness” in three ways: through the characters in the books, through the themes, and through the role-model example of the author, J.K. Rowling, herself.
“I don’t think that feminism is against Jewish tradition,” says Orthodox Jewish Scholar Tova Hartman,” I think it challenges the Jewish tradition.” In this article from the Religion News Service and reprinted in The Huffington Post, Hartman is questioning many of the traditional teachings about women in Orthodox Judaism, just was her counterparts in Christianity have questioned — and continue to question — patriarchal teachings in our Christian faith.
Women are questioning religious traditions that limit their leadership
Drawing on her own Orthodox Jewish background, Leora Tanenbaum (a friend of our organization who attended one of our conferences while writing her book, Taking Back God) writes that many Jewish women hold back from exercising their rights, even as engage with their sacred texts. ”Many assume that they are forbidden from certain practices or leadership roles, when in fact they are not.” In this they are not alone, she points out. “Christian and Muslim women are often surprised to discover that much of what has been withheld from them, because they are women, is rooted in misunderstanding and error — or a deliberate power grab on the part of men. . . .”
Recent Writings by Amy-Jill Levine and Douglas Knight
Sexuality and the Bible
The scholarship of Vanderbilt University professor Amy-Jill Levine is familiar to members of EEWC-CFT through writings by and about her that have been published in Christian Feminism Today. In this article,written for the Huffington Post, she teams up with a colleague at Vanderbilt, Douglas Knight, to provide five guidelines for approaching questions about sexuality as it is discussed in Scripture. In view of the culture wars and talk about family values, the authors ask, “How then do we read in a manner that is grounded and thoughtful rather than uninformed or soporific?”
Trying to understand what God is like
As in the previous article, Amy-Jill Levine and Douglas Knight have teamed up to stretch our minds — this time by a thoughtful examination of biblical views of God.
Religious and Cultural Traditions Affecting Women
“The Voice of a Woman”
I once had an Orthodox Jewish neighbor who taught a class of preschoolers in her synagogue. One day she told me that she had a bad headache after a particularly trying day at school. When I asked what had happened, she said she had been enthusiastically singing a new song that she was teaching the children when in walked the parents of one of the children. ”I didn’t know what to do –whether to stop singing or what,” she said, telling me how flustered and upset she felt. She explained. “Our religion teaches that men are forbidden to hear a woman sing. And there I was, singing in front of a man!”
I thought of that incident when I read the article at the above link (from the New York Times). It’s about the problem the Israeli military is facing. The draft is mandatory for both women and men in Israel, but yet strict ultra-Orthodox soldiers are disobeying orders and refusing to attend events where female soldiers take part in a program that includes singing. The reason stems from a certain interpretation of a Talmudic expression that can be translated as “the voice of a woman is like nakedness.”
Culture, religion, and menstruation
Saumya Dave, a student traveling with New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof through rural villages of North and West Africa, was struck by the various traditions and rituals associated with menstruation and how such attitudes affected girls and women. ”Based on what I observed in the villages I visited, there seemed to be a strict link between biology and religion vis a vis menstruation protocol, ” she writes.
Working for Peace
The Praying for Peace Initiative
This link takes you to a reflection by John Philip Newall, a poet, teacher, and Church of Scotland minister who is especially known for his writings and speaking on Celtic spirituality. In 2011, he helped launch the Praying for Peace Initiative, which he describes as “a movement to pray for peace especially within the household of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar.” Such a movement is needed he says, because “the shadow side of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is at the heart of some of the most conflicted places of hatred and violence in our world.”
Video: Women, War, and Peace (PBS series)
If you missed this PBS series on the tremendous impact women can have in demonstrating that violence and war are not the answers to conflict, you can watch it online at the link above. (I also talked about this series in my final post for the 72-27 blog, titled “When One Woman Cries.”)
Odds and Ends
When I first started writing Web Explorations in the mid-1990s, at a time when using computers was still new to many of us, I sometimes included tips related to search engines and other computer-related information that I thought readers might find useful. I want to revive that feature from time to time. As I run across good material on this or any other general topic, I’ll try to call attention to it in an “Odds and Ends” section. As Jason Gilbert points out on this Huffington Post article, many of us may be embarrassed to ask some questions about computer-related matters because we think everybody else knows the answers. Actually, we could all use a review of some basic and up-to-date information as technology changes so rapidly. Gilbert’s article, featured this time, is about Gmail. I found it particularly clear, succinct, and up to date. So if you’re a Gmail user, take a look. You might find his tips helpful.
That’s all for this edition of Web Explorations for Christian Feminists. If you’d like to explore even more annotated links, click on the “Link of the Day,” featured weekdays on our home page. Happy exploring!
Your Web Explorations guide,
Letha Dawson Scanzoni