President's Message: Reclaiming the Soul of Feminism
Around the globe women are praying, chanting, meditating, and singing. Women stretched to the limit, pushing past the margins, refusing to segregate mind from soul. Women resisting the borders of backlash and broken promises. Making covenant with the One(s) who knows all and the One(s) who sees all. Women are creating sacred space. Seeing the sanctuary within themselves. Calling out to the unseen to move mountains of sexism To give them strength to survive storms of oppression to cast away the heavy cloak of shame and silence. Around the globe women have learned to bounce back by believing that miracles can still happen. By believing that they are in fact living miracles. The manifestation of prayers, hopes and dreams of feminist foremothers. Understanding the revelation that they are dancing in the gap between ancestors and unborn Working to create order from disorder, peace from war, respect from ridicule.
Too often, the faith of our mothers, sisters, daughters and even ourselves has been left off the agenda. Hidden away from feminist circles; thrown out with the pain of patriarchy.
Submitting to the myth that to believe is to discount the value of womanhood, the lie that being a feminist requires a dismissal of faith.
But even through our academic silences, women's prayers kept going up, incense lit, yoga poses assumed, holy text read, chants uttered. sacred dance carved out in churches, temples and living rooms. Women of all tongues and cultures. So now we come to a place where we are comfortable enough with ourselves and our feminism that we can name and honor the truth that seated among us are women who believe Women whose experiences we will not relegate to invisibility nor delegate to silent shadows. We will finally celebrate that one of the many ways women have survived and even grown wings to thrive is through their spirituality, religion, and fierce, liberating faith. The kind of faith that allows women living in poverty to see their crowns. The kind of faith that allows the sexually abused and assaulted to know that touching our bodies does not mean touching our souls. The kind of faith that allows women the tenacity to balance on the tightrope of tenure, and community work, and self-care, and publishing, and mentoring, and remembering that weeping may endure for a night, but surely joy will come in the morning. Because we honor diverse women and diverse ways of being We realize that we can and must fully show up to the table Knowing that women are divine, radical, revolutionary, powerful, beautiful reflections of possibility. And even those of us who are not women of faith, care enough about feminism that we would not want to be a part of an orgamzation that stifled any aspect of women's joumeys, including their faith walk. So we arise in this season. Ready to widen the circle and formally talk about feminism and faith.
Presidential Task Force: Spirituality and Religion in Women's Lives
I am excited to share with you one of this year's new Presidential Task Forces: Spirituality and Religion in Women's Lives. We do not pretend to be the launching point of this imtiative but we are grateful to build on the legacy of great feminist accepting psychologists such as Lillian Comas-Diaz, Jacqueline Mattis, Oliva Espin, and Ellyn Kaschak, who have reflected on the role of faith in movements of social justice and feminism over the past decades.
Two important projects of this task force are an edited book and an interfaith service.
Painting our spirits. making soul music. whispering spirit in qualitative data that defies reduction or category of the Task Force is Asuncion Austria and she is the lead Editor for the book that is currently being developed as a contemporary analysis of faith and resilience from the perspective of multicultural feminism. Additionally at the mid-year meeting each year we ask women who are on the Executive Comminee. some of whom are women of faith, to give up their Sabbath. For the first time, we will have an optional interfaith service for 20 minutes on Sunday before the meeting begins. We recognize that to honor our diversity means more than words but also action to create a welcoming space where our diverse pathways to empowerment are celebrated.
How Can Each of Us Be Respectful of Faith in The Lives of Women?
Self-awareness is a foundational component of cultural sensitivity. It is vital that each of us. including those who are agnostic or atheist, spend time reflecting on our fa1th journey and considering what we believe and why we believe or do not believe. It is also crucial for us to interrogate our assumptions and biases about people whose faith walk is different from our journey. What do we assume about graduate students, clients, colleagues, community members who identify as born again or who wear a veil or who engage in fasting or who believe in the good of humanity but not in a Higher Power? Until we come to tenns with our beliefs, we will not fully be able to engage respectfully, without defensiveness or condemnation, with those of diverse faiths.
For those who are in clinical practice, it is important to assess for the influence and importance of faith in women's lives. Coming to the counseling work from a place of not only ethnic cultural awareness. but also spiritual cultural awareness, is critical. We have to possess sensitivity to the reality that spirituality plays an important role in many women's lives.
For those who are in research, we need to consider conducting more research that examines the strengths and challenges that are associated with women's spiritual and rehgious lives.