Menstruant, Feminist, Theologian
These three words are my tag line, but they are more than that. They are the parts of me that I have a difficult time reconciling with my experiences. I menstruate, therefore, I am the anomaly in most women’s ministry groups in the traditional churches I’ve belonged to. Most women in the church are older and past that point of their lives. Menstruating means I’m younger, when my whole life I thought menstruating meant womanhood. Sometimes, I am the only woman in the room or the only woman in the room of a certain age. And even when I am among other women who are young enough to bleed, it is not something that can be openly shared and discussed… but I feel called to change that. #DFGtalkperiods is helping to give all of us the courage to talk about periods.
Being a feminist means that I believe men and women are equal. But even that statement feels too strict, perhaps I should say all of us are equal, no matter how we identify. However, sometimes the group label “feminist” feels too extreme for me, just like the label “alt right” also feels too extreme for me. Labels are tricky. I believe that all people are equal, because we are all children of God (but that’s the theologian talking).
The theologian gets kicked out of progressive circles sometimes. Religion is seen as the enemy of women’s rights (and I understand that in some situations that feels true), but for me, my faith is freeing, equalizing, redemptive. Faith is what allows me to transcend the other labels, the other institutional systems of suppression, and all the other garbage. But, I was trained in theology at a time when we were mostly looking at what old (often dead) white men believe about God and “his” relationship with us. And sometimes, I have trouble connecting those teachings to my every day life; they just don’t fit… or worse, they make me feel like I don’t fit. But, as a child of God, I believe that God loves me exactly as I am (and in case you need to hear it, God loves you exactly the way you are. You are loved very much).
I’m at a point where I desire to reconcile these three labels. So, like the privileged white girl that I am, I looked for a class…like Eliza Schlesinger in her 2016 special Confirmed Kills, “What do women do? “I’m taking a class.” Love classes. “I’m learning more about Cheryl.” “I’m meeting Cindy for the first time.” There’s two women in this monologue. I’m two different women, it’s fine. “I’m learning to breathe. I’m getting a sense of myself. I’m canning. I’m canning my own beets.” For no reason. I live in the middle of a city. I just thought I wanted to connect. I’m canning my own shit now. I take it, put it in there, I let it solidify, I make jewelry, I sell it on Etsy. It’s nice pocket money.” “I’m learning about myself. I’m learning to breathe. I’m cutting my own hair.” “I’m learning to make my own tea, putting the hair in the tea, I drink my hair.” Changing. We always wanna change a little bit, right?” You can read the rest of her script here, but you should watch her on Netflix in stead. I love her comedy, I think she is speaking truth, but I want to find a way to speak truth about women and do it from the pulpit without swearing (Sounds hard right? It is, especially the not swearing part). Anyway, I want to find a class, I want to change a little, I want to be better, I want to unify the parts of me into something less messy (or maybe more messy), who knows, I just need a class!
So, I began my quest for a class at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with the department of Continuing Education. I beginning there because I’m an alumnus, I work three miles from it, and the Continuing Education programs I’ve already attended have been wonderful and the Director of Continuing Education is one of the most amazing people I’ve met. We emailed a few times, there isn’t a class I can audit or a continuing education program being offered (yet). We had lunch and talked about books I should read and maybe even starting a group where women could get together and really work out what feminist theology is today. If you’re interested, comment or message me, I would love to see that happen. And I would have an agenda at each meeting called the “feminist agenda”. I’m thinking it will be more than a book club but less than a cult, something like a community that holds each other accountable for reading and writing thoughtful responses to the reading, then sharing/editing together. Still not sure exactly what it will look like, but it will probably shift depending on those who are willing to gather for something like that.
Anyway, all that is to say, that I am now armed with a book list which is almost as good as taking a class, to help me to continue to work out how my faith and my feminist thinking can stop feeling so disjointed. I’m hoping to have it worked out before I stop bleeding…