People enter the academy for a variety of reasons. Some of us love books and learning and see the academy as an avenue for life-long learning; others are passionate about a particular area of knowledge and inquiry and desire nothing more than to talk about it with others who share their passion; some colleagues of mine are gifted teachers who seek to open the minds of young people or to help them develop their intellectual curiosity; one colleague even told me years ago that he wanted to “be famous.”
My route to the academy came via the church and advocacy work that I did on behalf of women at the national office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) prior to entering seminary. I had read some feminist theory in college and discovered Rosemary Radford Ruether’s work on my own. After college I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I came across a job ad in a mission volunteer newsletter that read, “One person to work for the eradication of sexism at all levels of the church.” Wow, I said to myself, I want to do THAT!
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March 8 is International Women’s Day.
It is a day set aside to speak out for issues of justice for women – specifically issues related to women’s economic, political, and social freedom and equality around the world. Its origins lie in the socialist movement of the early 1900s (it was first celebrated in 1908) and the emphasis is political, activist, and oriented toward social change. I MUCH prefer it to Mother’s Day! While mother’s day is nice, it can also be difficult for women who struggle with infertility or miscarriage; for people whose relationships with their mothers are less than perfect; for mothers who have lost children; for single women or women who have chosen not to have children; and for a host of other reasons. International Women’s Day, however, celebrates all women and seeks to promote ways to make life for women better.
As a child of the 70s and 80s, I was vaguely aware that feminism existed but I didn’t really know anything about it. Like the college students that I teach today, I associated it with bra burning and radicalism. I continue to introduce my students to feminism, just as my professors introduced it to me – as a way of looking at history, scripture, tradition, and the world around me with a critical eye. With an eye oriented toward women’s perspectives, women’s experience, and questions of justice as they relate to women in a variety of settings and locations. With the knowledge that our identities are multiple and that the intersections of race, class, and gender matter when think about privilege, poverty, discrimination, racism, and power.
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