Divinity is often understood to be transcendent, pure, and usually religious. But the idea of divinity can also create an incredible space for new feminist discourses that seek to meaningfully situate ourselves in the web of neoliberal capitalist empire. In this issue, we present to you a rethinking, remixing, and repurposing of divinity. In some obvious ways, “divinity” can help us think about cultural productions, the creation of racialized bodies, and white supremacy. But it can also help us think through the ways in which we tell our origin stories – or how they are told for us. We ask – how does neoliberal capitalism create new ways of being for us to inhabit? How do they create images of nodal points of worship – or even ritual – that ground those new realities? Much like the traditional “divine,” neoliberalism seems simultaneously life-determining and invisible – in this issue, we take on the task of de-transcendentalizing this power (pg. 16). We find the divine in our own bodies (pg. 6, 18). We show how the divine is mediated by capital (pg. 4). We show how the divine can present to us magnificent spaces of transformation in a world that seems overwhelmingly claustrophobic. (pg. 32) The divine is a quiet space where we can find new versions of our selves. It can be ethereal but it can also be viscerally embodied. It disrupts our ideas of self, body, time, and space, giving us a glimpse into that new world that is waiting. As usual, my staff deserves bucketloads of love and admiration for rising to this challenge so wonderfully. I am always amazed by their will to create rigorously. FEM would be nothing without their love and labor, which are the great forces that have brought you this issue in your hands. Enjoy. - Tulika Varma
Table of Contents 2
The Business of Religion Politics
Biting Back: Reclaiming the Monster Narrative Gendertainment
Table of Contents
To You, The Brown, Black, or Non-White Queer Individual Politics
& 11 12 & 13 10 Poems: “deity,” “woman”
Lido Pimienta: A True Priestess
Arts & Creative
16 & 17
Neoliberal Education Reform Politics
Arts & Creative
14 & 15 Mother Nature Dialogue
18 & 19
Goddess in the Sheets
20 - 25
Staff Art Spread
28 & 29
In Maude We Trust
26 & 27
InterVarsity: Faith and Being “Beyond Colorblind” Campus Life
Arts & Creative
31 30 Material Girl: God, Gold, and Glory
The Fall of Olympus Arts & Creative
Arts & Creative
Turner, Christian Women & Emancipation In Ritual Dialogue
Islam and thus gives Saudi Arabia - a country with Islam as its state religion -- a steady source of income. However, even in the United States -- a constitutionally ordained secular nation -- religion contributes nearly $1.2 trillion annually. A 2016 study in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion totaled the revenues of faith based organizations, the market value of goods and services provided by them, and the contributions of religiously oriented businesses. This study pans across all major religions: 217 Christian denominations, four Hindu groupings, four Jewish groupings, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and many others. The 2016 study empirically establishes that, funded by their followers’ monetary donations, religious congregations contribute nearly $400 billion annually to the U.S. economy through employment, buying of goods, providing social services, and even through peripheral economic activity such as hosting weddings. Faith and religion are spiritual exercises built on the same founding stones as any business. Religion-based companies clearly exemplify this, as they went on to contribute almost $420 billion to the U.S. economy, as estimated in 2014. One may easily identify Kosher and Halal food companies as a natural subset of these, but some of the other well known and highly successful companies are Whole Foods, In-N-Out Burger, Chick-Fil-A, and Forever 21. As their owners have sought to assert their religious origins, they have also gone on to achieve significant financial gains. These religious ventures, culminate to being the world’s 15th largest economy, surpassing nearly 180 countries and territories. However, their counterparts seek to swindle the commoner’s well-intentioned donation for the personal benefits of few. Some of them have done so openly as seen in the do-
Over time, we have attempted to understand the workings of the universe through the prisms of both science and religion. Science has historically symbolized realism and religion mysticism. While the sparing of the two is well known, over the last few decades the conflict has been made worse by growing political polarizations with parties leaning heavily towards one or the other. However, as we debate ideas of morality and existentialism from both sides of the aisle, an aspect of religion we often stop short of deliberating over is the highly tangible one of money. While religion is primarily viewed by the masses as a means to connect with their version of a higher divine being, this route to seeking truth is peppered with numerous monetary obligations. Across the world, religious institutions are given massive tax breaks as their followers unfailingly offer monetary funds and “seed” money in pursuit of happiness, prosperity, and spiritual blessings. Thus, it is becoming increasingly pertinent to view religion as an economic enterprise. How much does religion cost and where goes the timeless outpouring of wealth from countless followers? Does this revenue generated ever benefit the people, or is it only saturated in the hands of few? In case of the latter, how should society hold the voices of God accountable? In April 2016, Saudi Arabia proposed its Vision 2030 -- a plan to reduce the country’s dependence on oil by diversifying the economy through investment in service sectors like health, recreation and tourism. One of the proposals is to cash in on the holy pilgrimages
of Hajj and Umrah as the country prepares for times with dropping oil prices and the increasing emphasis on greener fuel. In the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) 20162017 report, oil comprised almost 50 percent of the country’s GDP compared to 3.57 percent from tourism, which is primarily religious tourism. Annually, seeking to fulfill the divine calling of Islam, nearly two million pilgrims pay from a thousand to ten thousand USD each, depending on their country of origin. This money employs more than 993,000 people in the tourism sector while also boosting sales in the areas of hospitality, airport service, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). As oil prices tanked in 2015, Saudi Arabia inherited a budget deficit of $100 billion. With a global awakening to wean off fossil fuel, the country is looking to invest heavily in the religious sector to attract more followers. The burgeoning demand for this holy grail to divine interception is projected to lead to 1.3 million jobs by 2030 according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Hajj is an irreplaceable aspect of
mains of scientology and televangelists, but others have hidden behind the garb of autonomy of the religious institutions to delete the paper-trail. One of the big names that has been at the center of multiple scandals since its inception has been the holy grail of Catholics, better known as the Vatican. Fortune magazine has reported that, the sources of funding for the Holy See -- the administrative center of the Church -- are varied in nature. Money pours in from fees for ceremonies, sale of newspapers and cassettes, earnings from investments, and from one source in particular -- Peter’s Pence. Peter’s Pence is the epitome of the lessons that religious texts try to impart -- wiping one’s “sin” slate clean or striving to be a better human by donating money to help the poor and destitute. The results, however, have been far from those desired by humble, honest believers. Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, money from this fund was diverted to cover administrative expenses and to fill the coffers of the Vatican’s reserves - only one out of five euros ever made it to the needy. This swindling was apart from the lumpsum amounts of money paid for legal settlements surrounding priest sex scandals, multiple mafia entanglements, and money laundering. Millions of visitors flock to Vatican city each year with gifts and offerings, and those who don’t send in their hard earned money in exchange for blessings for their kith and kin. The church has been widely criticized over decades to operate in thick secrecy and released its first financial audit only in 2013. The cleanup of this murky system is currently being undertaken by Pope Francis as he seeks to have the church comply with stringent international financial standards but faces resistance from age-old traditions. In September 2017, Reuters reported that the Vatican’s first auditor-general, Libero Milone, appointed by the Pope to lead this purge, was allegedly forced to quit after finding irregularities and possible illegal activity. The previous papacy of Pope Benedict XVI had also attempted to reform the Vatican Bank (also known as, Institute for the Works of Religion), but was embarrassed by the Vatileaks exposé. A less secretive source of money grabbing and pocketing for personal gains is the televangelist movement. Cashing in on the simple 14 point rule used by the IRS to delineate a religious institution, televangelists are often showpeople. With their multiple TV appearances and the rising costs of purchasing airtime on cable and satellite networks, these pastors engage in several fundraising activities. Often preaching the prosperity gospel, televangelists entice naïve consumers by proposing the ideology that “more giving, leads to greater prosperity, health and salvation.” Highly invested in their preachers, followers donate money often in lieu of seeking medical help, only to be rewarded with leaders amassing massive amounts of wealth, some of whom even resort to blackmail to fund the ostentatious lifestyles they live. According to CBS News, emboldened by the IRS’ lax audits, these proponents of religion had nearly 5 million viewers back in 2015, even as scandals involving pastors like Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Paula White made headlines. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, perfected the art of capitalizing off of people’s fear of the unknown and desire for the divine spirit. He once said, “You don’t get rich by writing science
fiction. If you want to get rich, start a religion.” His words summarize the advent of a movement that failed to get traction as a non-profit in countries such as France, Israel, Ireland and Mexico. The church of Scientology has often been criticized to be run as a business with successful recruiters being rewarded with sizeable commissions. Meanwhile, its followers are required to shell out thousands of dollars as they step up the ladder to Total Freedom, heftily profiting the founders and clergy. Over the past few decades, as Scientology and the evangelist movement have been publicly condemned, the followers of the Vatican seem to be growing in numbers, raising crucial questions: what is the cost of spirituality and the path to a higher power? How much of a blind eye are we willing to turn as we go to pray and donate at our preferred religious congregations, but walk away after, never asking where the money eventually goes? These questions have no black and white answers. The same religion with its ability to mystify and enthrall its followers, could either fund our schools and roads or serve as a cover for the wealthy elite as they inflict abuse upon
us. The former materializes the teachings of ‘the one who blesses others is abundantly blessed,’ while the latter relinquishes need for accountability, essentially giving
the free reign to a few. However, acknowledging that religions are businesses and addressing them accordingly is the need of the hour, for they must be held accountable for the services they provide and the words they profess. Even if we as a society steer clear of taxation of religious bodies, monetary ills are often indicators of underlying moral decay that has no place in the temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras that extol the benefits of virtuous living and exemplary conduct.
To You, the Brown, Black, or Non-White Queer Individual By Anonymous We live and interact with the world through our bodies. When we laugh, we feel joy filling our veins and air escaping from our lips. When we weep, our stomachs sink, our throats dry, and our eyes burn. Through our bodies, we experience the wild ecstasy of pleasure, and the sometimes unbearable scarring of pain. Our bodies can be forms we want others to accept, growing dismayed at their desire to be unruly and to stray from our longed-for ideal. They can be forms that give us pride in their assertion to exist and simply be, regardless of those who oppose them. They are cherished and loved by us, pushed to the limit and hurt by us. They are ours and a requirement of existence. For many people of color, the way in which one’s body is understood and embraced is often through the context of white, Euro-American colonialism and imperialism. A Brown, Black, and non-white body is often seen and judged through the context of white supremacy which reduces the existence of all those who do not fit within its specific and rigidly defined frame. A non-white body appears less complete, as measured on this false, socially constructed scale. The darker the skin tone, the less desirable a body is. The more melanin, the more immoral and unintelligent is the soul who resides in it. To sustain a white supremacist model, colonists and imperialists attempted to destroy any worship towards divine beings that did not mirror their established norm. Instead, they introduced religious figures that reflected their own bodies, creating an ideal of beauty and divinity that continues to reign today. An incredibly popular image of Jesus within the Judeo-Christian faith is that of a white man with blue eyes. Botticelli’s painting, “Venus,” which portrays a blonde-haired goddess with incredibly pale skin, is still greatly recognized by white individuals and people of color alike. Sacred spirits and divine deities are always white. Jesus couldn’t have been Black. Other pre-colonial and pre-imperialist deities are deemed false and looked at with an othering fascination. People of color live with the awareness that their histories are tied to the incitement and perpetration of violence against them simply because of their bodies. However, if one’s body has been reduced based on skin color and race, what then, is to be said of the queerness of a non-white body? To be queer is already a variance from the heteronormative and patriarchal established norm, but to be queer and non-white is to exist even further from this standard. Here the intersections of white cisheteropatriarchy start to apply. To be queer can invite others to oppress and hurt you, but to be queer while existing within a non-white body in-
cites a different level of violence and danger. According to a 2016 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program, 60 percent of hate crimes toward the LGBTQ+ community took place against queer people of color. Mainstream queer narratives have also been dominated and co-opted by whiteness and the continued insistence of homonormativity. White, middle-class or upper-class, cisgender queer men are at the forefront of visibility in popular culture. Neil Patrick Harris. Anderson Cooper. Sam Smith. Adore these icons as you might, they are of a particular race, class, and gender normative expression. Stories around queerness and queer experiences are stories that do not often make room for the varied experiences for QTPOC. Where is the Latinx male coming to terms with his queerness and being part of a culture of machismo? The Asian femme trying to convince their parents this isn’t just a phase? The mixed-race individual trying to figure out both her sexuality and where she belongs within her diverse families? The very idea of queerness, even as written here within these words, is something defined by white Euro-American academics. Queerness as the universal Euro-American construct of sexual and gender identity does not leave space for the traditions of various cultures that exist outside of this sphere. Even if there is a push by Brown, Black, or non-white people of color to examine and reclaim all that was decimated, one cannot think of gender and sexuality which existed before colonialism and imperialism without bringing their own post-imperialist perspective. This understanding of sexuality and gender in the past is perhaps forever lost. “Queer” is used here because the author herself cannot even comprehend or conjure another form of understanding. However, the non-white queer body is something divine. Before decolonization was the installation of white supremacy. But once again, before colonists traveled to the lands and peoples that they would proceed to claim as theirs, there were deities, divine spirits, and celebrated spiritual figures who fit under what we understand as “queer” today. They were admired, prayed to, and deified. They were Brown, Black, and non-white. They were queer even before there was “queer.” Lakapati, a name which some have translated to mean “giver of food,” is a transgender deity for the Tagalog peoples of the Philippines. Siya is known as the deity of f e r t i l i t y, the deity for the fields and crops, and the protector of farm animals and crops. (“Siya” is a pronoun in the Tagalog language. Unlike English or Spanish, there are no gendered pronouns in
the Tagalog language, such as “he/she” or “his/hers.” “Siya” is a gender neutral pronoun, encompassing both “he/she” and “his/ hers,” and used here to discuss the deity Lakapati). Known as the kindest and most understanding of the people, siya was believed to have given the Tagalogs agriculture so they could attain food for their survival and prosperity. In some legends, siya was married to the male god Mapulon, the god of seasons, good health, and medicine. In other legends, Lakapati was the consort of Bathala, another transgender deity. While with Bathala, Lakapati was believed to have begun the creation of the world, with Bathala completing siya’s work. The Mexican goddess Tlazolteotl is still sometimes viewed as the Mexican equivalent of the Roman goddess Venus. Tlazolteotl is an underworld deity of life, death, fertility, sexuality, and the moon. She is known as the mother and protector of the Huastecs, an indigenous people of Mexico who live in La Huasteca, and was the guardian of transgender and lesbian priestesses. Tlazolteotl is the Goddess of Witches, and was condemned by Spanish colonists upon their arrival to the Americas. Though the other name she is known by, the “Eater of Filth,” is primarily believed to be in reference to a rotting, fertile Earth that will eventually purify and regenerate all life, one cannot forget that she is also connected to the sexuality of women. In countless portrayals, Tlazolteotl’s most distinctive physical features were her mouth and lips that were always painted black; the girls and unmarried women of the Olmecs, another indigenous civilization in Mexico, chewed bitumen to mimic Tlazolteotl’s lips and assert the existence of female eroticism, and its role in the world’s regeneration. In some legends, the Inuit goddess of the sea, Sedna, is portrayed as a bisexual or lesbian woman who lives with her partner, Qailertetang, at the bottom of the ocean. In each version of her story, Sedna is a force of nature not to be trifled with. She is either as a vengeful goddess who has been wronged by men, or as a benevolent deity who gives to her people because of her dominion over the seal, walrus, fish, whale, and other marine life of the sea. Both Sedna and Qailertetang are served by two-spirit shamans or holy figures. In many Inuit and American Indian communities, two-spirit individuals are their own culturally distinct gender, and do not fit the Euro-American contemporary understandings of
“queer.” There are many deities and others spirits which I have not named, and so many who have been lost to the waves of colonialism and imperialism. The declarations made here, though denouncing white cisheteropatriarchy and its oppressive structures, are not a call to the past. They are not a longing to return to an idealized Eden that may or may not have existed. This would be ignoring the history of our world and the way Brown, Black, and nonwhite queer individuals interact with it. For better or for worse, the world has become globalized and has been brought face-to-face because of the technological changes that have taken place. Brown, Black, and non-white queer individuals are changed and develop within the world as we understand it now. However, this is a declaration of resistance that not all will be given to the white cisheteropatriarchy. This is a declaration that these things, your body and your queerness as experienced by you within the confines of your tradition and culture, belong to you and you alone. They cannot be taken away from you. This identity. This body. Yours and no one else’s. The word “queer” is a new word for the modern age, but queerness has always existed. Almost every country in the world has deities who are queer and whose existence demonstrates that the Euro-American ways in which we understand whiteness and queerness are socially constructed and not the way everything has always been. Brown trans goddesses were loved and worshipped. Female sexuality regarding lesbianism was embraced and respected. Queer deities of the seas struck fear and awe into the hearts of those who relied on them. To you, the Brown, Black, or non-white queer individual: Your body is sacred. Your body is beautiful and worthy of adoration. These deities who existed were worshipped, beloved, and revered. They existed. You exist. And like them, you are divine.
In a September 2017 interview with the LA Times, director and producer Guillermo del Toro hypothesized about the motivation behind Hollywood’s fascination with monsters: “The thing that is inherent in social control is fear...pointing at somebody else — whether they’re gay, Mexican, Jewish, black — and saying, ‘They are different than you.’” In other words, monsters in the media are often coded as oppressed groups, playing into negative, cartoonish stereotypes and associating these people with danger and immorality. Through this fabricated “otherness,” systems of power have been able to subtly infuse the privileged masses with harmful and bigoted ideas, and have attempted to justify oppression. King Kong is one of Hollywood’s oldest and most notorious examples of demonizing the oppressed. The many remakes and additions to the franchise, such as February 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island,” have attempted to shape the brand into a more generic action flick. And, with Oscar winner Brie Larson in a starring role as street-savvy photojournalist Mason Weaver, it branded itself as something of a feminist film. However, the racist origins of Kong are inescapable: in the original 1933 “King Kong,” the monster is heavily coded as a “savage” Black man. For centuries, white supremacists have compared Black people to monkeys and apes, stating that they are “less evolved” and more “primal” than themselves. “King Kong” takes this trope further, contorting this demeaning image into something monstrous. Originally from the secluded and near-Jurassic Skull Island, Kong is subdued and shipped to New York City in something many critics have pointed out mirrors the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Not only this, but Kong himself is associated with jazz music (something that was considered “unsafe” and “immoral” in white households at the time because it is a Black art form), which feels like an invasive presence in the otherwise mellow harp-based classical score. This underscores the idea that this “beast” is a danger to the “civilized” world as he continues to be a threat to both the city at large, and, as he kidnaps damsel Ann Darrow, white womanhood. Released to a Jim Crow-era America, where lynchings and murders of Black men were rampant, the film spoke to and reflected the racist paranoia of white citizens. With Black communities itching under tyranny and segregation, but freed from official slavery, many white people were afraid of what damage the autonomous Black man would cause when “set loose” upon their cities as Kong was. And, though a now iconic sequence, the film’s ending is sobering, to say the least, as Kong is filled with bullets and he falls dead from the Empire State Building. Not every example of racial coding in media is quite as
heavy-handed as King Kong -- but it happens everywhere. The only dark-skinned beings in JRR Tolkien’s famous “The Lord of the Rings,” as well as Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of them, are the “half-breed,” villainous orcs. The alien race of the Klingons in Star Trek are often written as overly violent and barbaric, and in the original series were portrayed by white actors in blackface makeup. Similarly, nearly every background alien species of Star Wars is built on a racial or ethnic stereotype -- from the thieving, hooded “Sand People” to the anti-Semitic portrayal of alien businessman Watto as hook-nosed, dirty, and corrupt. Of course, these practices predate Hollywood, and are a staple of storytelling from its inception in the Western world. As long as those in positions of power have controlled the stories being told (through literacy, economic status, etc.), there have been monsters and demons that have reflected the oppressed of their time. One of the oldest English texts, the epic of “Beowulf,” depicts the monster Grendel’s Mother as a derangement of all expectations of a woman. She is domineering, violent, has a child with no mention of a father, and is incapable of speech (whereas the “good” women of the tale are meant to bring about peace with their words and their marriage). In short: she takes up space -- a man’s space, in both custom and location, and that makes her demonic. And the text punishes her for it; she is not afforded a name beyond the relation to her son (a reminder of her appointed place) and she is ultimately murdered by her own sword. Furthermore, scholar Alexandra Hennessey Olsen explains a more meta-textual affront to the character in her chapter “Gender Roles” for the 1996 “Beowulf Handbook.” Olsen elaborates that the male editors and scholars of the text have all but ignored the character of Grendel’s Mother, choosing to make the text bipartite, dividing the story based on the fights with the other two villains of the story. The difference: the other two villains are male. And due to sleights in translation, she argues, many critics have been enabled to “ignore her humanity and her womanness by equating her with animals.” Monstrous women of myths, similar to Grendel’s Mother, appear to take two forms: they are either too loud or too sexual. The Siren, Banshee, even La Llorona of Mexico and Central America, rely on concepts of women who are disastrously, disturbingly loud. Classical texts and philosophers used the (cisgender) female voice to portray something feral, untamed, and irrational. In her essay, “The Gender of Sound,” poet and Classics expert Anne Carson writes that “[p]utting a door on the female mouth has been an important project of patriarchal culture from antiquity to the present day. Its chief tactic is an ideological
enizing stereotypes. Similarly, the werewolves of “Harry Potter,” all appear to be heterosexual, despite being an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which, in the United States and United Kingdom, has primarily affected gay men. Furthermore, any sympathy the allegory may have had to begin with through the heroic Remus Lupin ends sharply about halfway through the series. In the later installments, violent werewolves such as Fenrir Greyback are consistently described as animalistic, preying on and infecting children and other innocent people. As a whole, narratives that are meant to humanize the long oppressed are made palatable for moderate, privileged audiences by showing themselves in fictional oppression. It maintains the suspension of disbelief, and does not require audiences to think critically about the real-world allegories of these stories. Furthermore, by softening tales that should be difficult to tell, the mass media has blocked true oppressed groups from finding ways to understand and speak about their experiences. When the pen is in the hand of those who have most keenly felt the systemic hurt, the stories take on nuance and life they could not from anyone else. Monsters become a mode of self expression, to say what it is like to be cast unwillingly as the demonized, horrific outcast for the simple fact of being oneself. For example, “Godzilla” was created by Japanese media to personify the psyche of their nation in the aftermath of the USA’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some feminists have, in recent years, reclaimed the image of Medusa from Greco-Roman mythology. Rather than being the mindless, cruel, hideous woman, the myth has been made softer. Medusa’s condition has become a gift of protection from the violence of men rather than a curse. And, perhaps the greatest example of turning the narrative of monsters is Guillermo del Toro himself. As a Mexican immigrant, he has spent his life creating works of fiction that romanticize and have empathy for society’s “monsters” using his own intimate knowledge of bigotry. His upcoming film “The Shape of Water,” scheduled for a December 2017 release, is a romance in the Cold War Era USA. In the film, a strange creature, part-fish and part-man, has been captured for testing by the US government. The creature and a secretary at the facility named Elisa Esposito (who is mute and speaks in American Sign Language) meet and fall in love. Still, Del Toro’s work does not exotify the monstrous. There is a strange gentleness and belief in the human spirit, told in the most non-human of ways. He has described this mode of self expression as redemptive for himself, a kind of creation that, oddly and wonderfully enough, has been near-religious: “Some people find Jesus. I found Frankenstein.” While not every oppressed person may want to self-identify with monsters, it is of the utmost importance that we stop being gentle with topics that were not created to be. It is time to tell the stories that are difficult to tell, but it is crucial to do so with clarity and respect, so no one is forced to feel like a monster again.
association of female sound with monstrosity, disorder and death.” The white men that stare on remark in disdain that the white woman’s “beauty killed the beast.” Carson further explains that in Greek and Roman medicine, a woman’s genitals were equated with her mouth. Both were viewed, by their patriarchal society, as dangerous and were “best kept closed.” The sexuality of women was and continues to be a subject of fascination and fear in patriarchal cultures. Female demons, from the ancient succubus to those of modern media, are hypersexualized and make advances on passive men. In a world where men are the actors or aggressors in their sexual relationships, a woman with directness and agency, who does not act as a passive object of desire, is nothing short of terrifying. Nearly all of these characters and archetypes are designed to elicit some level of repulsion from viewers or readers, and subliminally reinforce negative stereotypes of groups of people. The inundation of these stories that characterize marginalized group after marginalized group as something demonic or monstrous suggests that cisgender, heterosexual, able bodied, white men are the most pure experience of what it means to be a human. Everything else is a subcategory or a flaw to be feared, monitored and forcibly controlled. However, a large shift has happened in recent years — with the quirky touch of postmodernism, many traditional monsters have been “softened” in the media, and are made to be sympathetic figures. Shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Charmed,” “True Blood” and “Supernatural” have attempted portrayals of mythical and supernatural creatures that are meant to be misunderstood outcasts or tragic characters in some way. Author JK Rowling has stated numerous times that the character of Remus Lupin and werewolves in general in the “Harry Potter” series were meant to be representations of HIV+ positive people and the AIDS crisis. Even romance with monsters had its heyday in recent years, with teen movies such as “Twilight” and “Warm Bodies” proving to be popular in the box office. These retellings have major shortcomings. Just as “Kong: Skull Island” is not capable of erasing the creature’s ugly past, these new stories have simply tried glossing over what made their concepts so provocative to begin with. Yes, it is important to tell stories that sympathize with societal outcasts, but that cannot be done with erasure and hopeful thinking. Monsters were created to tell difficult stories of human fear and isolation, but these stories lack backbones and power. They have taken the impetus of monster mythos, and what has made them survive through millennia, and “de-fanged” them, so to speak. Edward Cullen of “Twilight,” rather than representing someone underprivileged through his vampirism, is a super-powered, rich, white man who emotionally abuses and manipulates his girlfriend throughout the saga. His own “monstrous” being is simply a jumping off point for his brooding, and an attempted justification for his abuse. The werewolves of the series, while being Indigenous, have also been heavily criticized for being offensive and homog-
Lido Pimienta -
A True Priestess of the Music World By Maddy Offerman
“I have known what I want since I was four years old,” says Lido Pimienta. With big goals, a big voice, and a huge personality, Lido Pimienta definitely deserves to achieve her dreams. And with a whole lot of passion and resilience, the Colombian electronic songwriter and producer is doing it. As the holder of the 2017 Polaris Prize for Canada’s best album, Pimienta is showing the world that women of color are a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. However, within this world built on racism, sexism, and other -isms, it has been no easy task to get where she is today. “I’m constantly faced with a higher power that tells me I cannot do what I want to do at a certain time and I cannot control it,” she says. This power led Pimienta to leave her home country of Colombia, where she had been performing in bands since she was a young girl, and restart her career in the distant land of Ontario, Canada, where she produced her first album and had a child. Yet, embarking into the professional music world as a woman of color still in her early 20’s presented Pimienta with setback after setback in the quest to establish herself. “I felt that the music industry was this all-encompassing, divine creature that would take care of me, that would love me, and that we’re all friends,” explained Pimienta. This is not how the industry works, unfortunately, and the first label she signed with stole all the money to her first album. The all-powerful force leading her through life did not stop there, and soon Pimienta also found herself a divorced single mother. Navigating the music industry as a mother is no easy task, let alone without a partner. Pimienta has seen firsthand how this disparity plays out: “Men have kids and they fuck off.” Men can go on tour for months at a time confident that their children will be cared for at home with their other parent. Even more difficult is being an immigrant single mother, as there
is no family nearby to help out. These setbacks cause Pimienta to constantly make tough decisions -- have her son miss school when she needs to go on a trip? Pay for a babysitter? Give up some tour dates so she can be home? -- all questions that a male musician is rarely faced with. This is the reality of working in an industry that isn’t meant for you, yet Pimienta is making it work. “I sacrificed touring year round so that I could raise my son, but I never compromised my art. I would never compromise my outlook. I would never compromise my sexuality. I would never compromise my body.” Amidst this series of hardships, Pimienta found strength from an unlikely source: tarot cards. Admittedly knowing nothing about the subject, Pimienta allowed a friend to read her tarot and was given the perfect card to help her through her situation -- La Papessa, The High Priestess, which symbolizes feminine energy and inner wisdom. Pimienta adopted this attitude of feminine strength and began to focus on her life with her son and continuing to make music. This new-found focus led to a new album that went on to win the Polaris Prize for best album in Canada. Since the La Papessa revelation, Pimienta has found a community that allows her to create her best work. She has a support network of strong womxn and “artistic brujas [witches]” in her life that help her balance work and family and become the artist she wants to be. However, when it comes to producing her music, Pimienta works with a band comprised of two white men. This may seem strange due to the sort of content she produces, but it is due to the nature of the community Pimienta surrounds herself with. All of Pimienta’s friends are solo artists already. They collaborate together, but Pimienta would never ask her friends to work for her when they have their own artistic careers already. “If I had a full
female crew it wouldn’t be a Lido Pimienta show, it would be a band,” she explains. Instead, she has two devoted male bandmates to do her musical bidding. “I’m super hard on them, but I also take care of them,” she says. While Pimienta’s identity as a Colombian, immigrant, divorced single mother have complicated her life beyond what many music stars could ever imagine, they have also given a strength and power to her music that cannot be found anywhere else. “Because of that negotiation and that constant back and forth and the struggle in prioritizing who comes and goes and stays with me… I have a lot of energy and I have a lot of power. I have a lot of knowledge that I know that I have to share with people on the stage.” This power comes from the fact that her different identities do not just influence her work -- they are her work. “I don’t know if I would call it an influence because I am it,” she explains, going on to assert, “Even if i was adopted, my music would be the same because it’s so ancestrally and spiritually ingrained in my DNA.” Pimienta’s music navigates the complexities of her own experiences and identities, and does not shy away from controversial topics. Her song “Agua” deals with toxic masculinity and absent fathers. It also deals with the literal need for water in our rapidly degenerating global environment. She also attributes this to the patriarchy, as it has created a capitalism system largely controlled by men that allows businesses such as mining corporations to flourish, with little regard for their impacts. With her blunt honesty, Pimienta remarks, “Men touch something and they fuck it up.” In her live performance at the Hammer this September, Pimienta added on “for all of the people on colonized land,” to the song’s chanting of “Agua.” By calling out the often ignored history of our country, Pimienta does what all artists should do, but not many would. “Acknowledgement is the bare minimum,” says Pimienta of what we need to do for indigenous people after stealing their land for our own benefit. “I can be all the black, and indigenous, and brown that I want and I am still benefitting from settler colonialism in Canada and the USA.” She does not stop there: “As far as I’m concerned, they should be able to live wherever the fuck they want, buy whatever the fuck they want, and not have to pay a single cent for it.” These are the the sort of conversations we need to be having in order to work towards reconciliation for the violence indigenous people have endured and are still enduring, and Lido Pimienta is using her platform to do so. In a world where capitalism controls all and the guts to speak out may result in loss of audience and/or a contract, Pimienta’s unapologetic activism is exactly what we need. This attitude is what makes Lido Pimienta such a unique musician, and what makes her performances so powerful. Pimienta does not get on stage to entertain. Instead, she takes full advantage of the time she has
with her audience to share her messages. “I’m there to change lives. I’m there to piss people off. I’m there to make people uncomfortable. I’m there to have people cry. I’m there to have people think about their childhood and the bullshit that they’re going through.” Now, with a new album, “Miss Colombia,” in production, Lido Pimienta is getting what she wants, and she will not stop there. As for the future, “I will create music for people until the day I die,” affirms Pimienta. Even more, “I will be writing for Solange in the next five years … I will have more kids… I will be a very wealthy woman… I will make my own gallery, which will be the most important gallery to show your work at.” “Those are the plans,” she says, “nothing big.”
By Heidi Choi The concept of nature as a feminine deity is borne out of respect for the life-bearing role of mothers as well as reverence for the overwhelming power of nature. This personification (and deification) has existed cross-culturally and formed independently among civilizations including in Indo-Chinese, Greek, Polynesian, and Latin American mythos. Disney’s Moana explores this inextricable relationship between humans and the natural world within the context of Indigenous Polynesian culture. While Moana’s portrayal of a mother nature figure, Te Fiti, embodies the typical imaginations of a nurturing, harmonious goddess, she also exists doubly as Te Kā, a wrathful, hostile demon. It is only at the very end that we discover Te Kā, Te Fiti’s wrath incarnate, merely existed in reaction to her own mistreatment. Capitalist Relation to the Natural and the Feminine Our own gendered rendering of nature in Western (Euro-American) society does not simply arise out of a collective respect for the environment or the feminine. Although we call nature “mother,” the same reverence and respect for nature does not exist under capitalist society. If we are to make sense of our neoliberal hell-scape’s linguistic reference to a “Mother Nature” as representative of our society’s values, this language can (ironically) illuminate how we treat women and nature. If nature is feminine, patriarchy’s domination over the lives of women may explain why we allow for the destruction of our environment. Western society mistreats both women and nature, an abuse that jointly feeds into the reproduction of capitalism. Hatred of the feminine does not come out of a war against women that transcends all of human history. This logic assumes that patriarchy is a natural part of the human condition. Rather, patriarchy as a superstructure developed through class society in order to assert reproductive control over those who can bear children. We see this manifest in the blockades against women’s health services, ceaseless attacks against abortion, anti-LGBTQ legislation, and the lack of adequate maternal leave for working women. All these policies serve to reinforce the family structure under capitalism that keeps the primary role of women attached to their reproductive ability. This method of economy and the policies that support it makes motherhood a financial vulnerability. As a result, working mothers earn less than their male co-workers while also absorbing full responsibility for household chores and child rearing. They must work a “second shift” after their paid
work day. Capitalist ideology makes household labor a naturalized aspect of womanhood and an immaterial form of work, and is therefore not seen as labor. Furthermore, people are discriminated against for simply being born with this capacity to reproduce because companies do not want to confront the costs of maternal leave. If American culture claims any moral responsibility to mothers, it is doing a terrible job in translating this responsibility into concrete realities. Capitalism necessitates the maximization of profits and, therefore, the exploitation of traditionally feminine labor and the oppression of women in the workforce. The aforementioned necessity of capitalism to maximize profits also gives rise to environmental degradation in the form of soil degradation, deforestation, pollution, and waste. Those with the capital to reap the monetary benefits of exploitative practices receive hefty sums of corporate welfare to fund their wasteful ventures. The capitalist state subsidizes the financial costs for production and socializes the environmental costs as pollution. Pollution as a cost of production is not considered in the capitalist business model, so the costs are made invisible. These invisible costs are consequently absorbed by the citizens and taxpayers. The people pay taxes to clean up the waste that businesses were paid to create. Large corporations succeed by exploiting natural resources with cheap (read: coerced) labor and dumping any environmental costs onto the state and the people. It is therefore necessary for the good capitalist to follow this model of cheapening labor costs and prioritizing profit over the environment. Both the oppressive disregard for women and the careless exploitation of the environment exist as symptoms and reinforcements of class society. The ascription of feminine attributes to nature under a patriarchal context can serve to covertly rationalize resource exploitation and management techniques. Capitalism’s conceptual framework of private property instrumentalizes both women’s reproductive capacities and nature, so women’s oppression and environmental hazard are two symptoms of the same essential mode of production. This is not the deified Mother Nature we like to imagine, but it is the Mother Nature we’ve formed from capitalism. The Violence of Imperialism: Cultural Erasure and Appropriation Further, reference to nature as the divine and feminine is also rooted in many Indigenous cultures’ reverence towards nature as well as mothers. In a patriarchal capitalist society, however, the gendering of nature in the West does not imply any value for nature or women; it is merely a hollow mimicry of the ecological spiritualities found outside of Western culture. Unfortunately, we cannot smoothly supplant these values of reverence for women and nature in Western society no matter how many white hippies supposedly claim them. Capitalist relation to the environment is a logic of domination in which poor women in historically colonized countries bear the most consequences. The economic hierarchy imposed by imperialism to stress inequality and poverty in poorer nations intersects with
the social structures that oppress women. Couple this with climate change, and the resultant harm is felt disproportionately by women. Any individual’s respect for nature or women is overshadowed by the damage done by capitalism, a structural force. Mother Nature as a concept in Western society is a superficial appropriation of Indigenous cultural values, and thus a byproduct of imperialism. Imperialism involves the genocide of Indigenous populations as well as the imposition of the empire’s social structures onto the colonized peoples to reproduce class society. An example of such can be seen in Hawai’i, an illegally annexed state, where people who identify as māhū, a non-binary gender identity, are marginalized in a society that was historically celebratory and reverent of māhū. When imperialism bulldozes over entire cultures, the aesthetic elements that persist then become co-opted by the imperialist culture after being cleansed of all subversive elements. Since non-binary gender identities challenge patriarchal laws, the māhū become marginalized. On the other hand, the aspects of culture that persist no longer challenge the imperialist structures. Our imagination in the Western world of nature as something divine is merely an aesthetic co-opted without any of the subversive implications rooted in reverence for a Mother Nature. Imperialist Ideology Limits Scientific Truth Western society has constructed its own ideologies of biology that form out of (as well as sustain) patriarchy, binarism, and imperialism. The idea that the divine “natural order” of humanity created by God is defined by a gender binary is not merely a product of patriarchy or imperialism, but a product of patriarchal imperialism. The social construction of a gender binary is just one example of how patriarchy colludes with imperialism. Although we imagine science in the normative sense as a vacuous haven of objective truth, in reality, the structures that exist within our society influence the course of science, and by extension, the medical treatment of our bodies. The gains that trans and intersex rights activists have made in recent years have forced doctors to change the way they think about gender and sex. The existence of non-binary genders is in direct opposition to the rule of patriarchy. Imperialism spreads social structures such as patriarchy to colonized nations and consequently reproduces these struggles around the world. As a result, previously celebrated gender identities become marginalized in colonized nations. The conversation on gender, therefore, cannot be separated from the topic of cultural imperialism. The bio-determinist thought that stems from this narrative elevates a contrived “human nature” to scientific truth. In reality, they work against empiricism and research. This is sorely evident in campaigns by the political right that attribute global warming, white-supremacist race science, and the greed of the super rich while billions to “human nature.” Meanwhie, billions of people suffer in poverty worldwide. These logics are at odds with the Mother Nature ideal, which essentially promotes life and harmony, as well as the literal ecology of the planet. Changing Perspectives If we were to elevate Mother Nature to concrete reality, science could be liberated from the constraints of colonizer logic of domination. The logics that form imperialism, the current and highest stage of capitalism, seep into areas of study which are not conceived of as typically social. For example, bacterial populations have been around for billions of years and essentially keep us alive, but in just 80 years we’ve developed an antibiotic arms race with them that humans as a species are sure to lose. While harmful bacteria do exist and antibiotics have provided cures to our most common illnesses, a recent paradigm shift in the field of microbiology shows us that
there are better and less hostile ways of conceptualizing bacterial illnesses and bacteria in general. Bacteriotherapy involves treating bacterial infections by transferring good bacteria to the infected reservoir of bacteria. It has shown to be a much more effective treatment for certain bacterial gut infections as well as ear infections. Bacteriotherapy is relatively new but has the potential to restructure our entire relationship to bacteria. It is a revolution in bacteriology that forces us to conceive of the microbiome and our human bodies as an ecosystem rather than a war zone. Schools of medicine such as Ayurveda have been conceptualizing the human body as such for centuries, with Western science only recently catching up. Is it unreasonable to conjecture that this “new discovery” in Western medicine could have come sooner if our scientists were not taught in a nation whose greatest tradition is imperialism and war? How Can We Overcome Ideology? If we reconstruct our economic and political structures to oppose domination instead of supporting it, we can work towards dismantling the social structures that play out in our individual, everyday lives. Unlearning patriarchal concepts of war, exploitation, competition, and industry allows us to rethink “contamination” and our medical practices which has transformative power. Bacteriotherapy is just one example of that power. There are countless others that are well-documented and operate much more overtly in social life. If we realize the roots of all societal ills and how they are connected, we have a much better chance of subverting all the issues that stem from this root. Ecofeminism observes how the formation of and harm from environmental destruction and the oppression of women intersects as women are far more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. However, ecofeminism is just one movement that understands the collusion of these struggles. As our conversations become more intersectional, we may better realize how we are all struggling against the same oppressor. In sum, although we’d like to imagine the natural world as a revered force, this ideology has no space under capitalism and patriarchy, where the codified language of “human nature” trumps the rule of Mother Nature. Reverence for a divine mother nature figure is empty and anemic if we do not actively subvert the structures that oppress her. As climate change continues, recently in the form of wildfires and hurricanes, the world’s most vulnerable populations are devastated as those most responsible for the damage sit comfortably in their ivory towers. We need to do more work to reverse the effects of a climate crisis dystopian future that has become our reality. This fight to defend the planet from moneyed fingers must coalesce with class, race, gender, and Indigenous land struggles for an antithesis to patriarchal domination to truly materialize. For us, the idea of Mother Nature can really only do one thing: inspire us to build a society in which she is more than aesthetic folklore.
By Eve McNally 11
Confronting Neoliberal Education Reform During the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law as a part of his “War on Poverty.” Title I of the ESEA emphasized equal access and accountability, and sought to shorten the achievement gaps between different “subgroups” of students. Jodi Melamed, a professor of English and Africana studies at Marquette University, explains that federal education policy, throughout the War on Poverty, linked racial justice to economic opportunity, a practice she refers to as “racial liberalism.” Racial liberalism is a form of “official anti-racism” that the state adopts by incorporating people of color “into the global capitalist economy as the hallmark of an equal society.” While the state claims to be concerned about the well-being of different “subgroups” of students, such as low-income students of color, the ESEA and its several re-enactments—including Bush’s No Child Left Behind in 2001 and Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015—use a “liberal race paradigm” to liken social justice equality with economic opportunity in the U.S. This fails to condemn the larger structures at play which perpetuate systemic and institutionalized racism in schools. The accountability rhetoric that the ESEA promotes displaces the responsibility of improving “existing conditions” in public schools—such as the achievement gap in education which is maintained by systemic racism—from the state’s hands to the hands of the schools, and in turn the students themselves. As a result, the state is pardoned from any blame while simultaneously depicted as a hero for offering a “solution” to the problem. As David Hursh puts it, the state will introduce education reforms to “retain its legitimacy in the public’s eyes by blaming schools
for increasing economic inequality and reforming schools in order to appear to be doing something about it.” Meanwhile, the state takes advantage of education reform to push its own agenda, what Engin Atasay argues is “investment into the learner...vis-a-vis the nation to ‘add value’ to compete in the market.” It is clear, the state invests in minority students’ education for the sole purpose of gaining laborers to participate in its capitalist projects. Operating under a “social justice agenda,” the state promotes “the nationalistic discourses that facilitate the neoliberal economic reforms to manifest a sense of natural consequence of a highly competitive and [insecure] world” (Atasay). Ultimately, the state fulfills a paternalistic role of reforming education for the “greater good” of minority students, acting as a gatekeeper of acceptable possibilities which lay within a policed boundary of “natural consequence.” The U.S. has a long history of imposing definitions of what is “natural,” definitions constituted by white people in power, to justify violence, colonialism, and genocide. Thus, we should be concerned with any effort to define what is “natural” and “inevitable” by the same white supremacist state today. Antonia Darder outlines the consequences of straying from the U.S. conceptions of the “natural” in her essay, “Neoliberalism in the Academic Borderlands.” Darder argues that all those who do not comply with the neoliberalist agenda are “tossed aside or criminalized and held behind iron bars, without concern for their numbers or their fate.” According to the U.S. Department of Education, this targets Black and Latinx students; in particular, via the school-to-prison pipeline.
Mora and Christianakis argue that prisons act as a means to control working class, poor, and marginalized people,“and is justified with the argument that the citizenry must take on personal responsibility.” The rhetoric which justifies the use of prisons echoes that which justifies education reform policies in the U.S., suggesting that the purposes of each are aligned. It is clear then how prisons—like education reform—attempt to hold individuals responsible for grievances inflicted by the state while obscuring the structural discrimination at play. Essentially, the school-to-prison pipeline exposes the state’s ultimatum demanded of low-income students of color: contribute to capitalism by entering the workforce in a low-skill job or as a prisoner. Zero-tolerance policies in schools, which “coincidentally” echo Reagan era War on Drugs rhetoric, are feeding the school-toprison pipeline. Initially, zero-tolerance policies were adopted as a response to numerous reports of school shootings and required that students be excluded from school for particular offenses such as bringing weapons or drugs to school, or for fighting. However, since implemented, zero-tolerance policies have lead to harsher punishments for first offenses and suspensions or expulsions for minor code infractions. Although the school shootings that instigated zero-tolerance policies involved white students at predominantly white schools, according to UCLA IDEA data, students of color are suspended and expelled at rates much higher than white students. According to a report released by Harvard Law, those often hurt by zero-tolerance policies are students of color with disabilities. There is little scientific research to show that zero-tolerance or other “get tough” measures are effective in reducing school violence or increasing school safety (UCLA
IDEA). The same source affirms that under zero-tolerance policies students of color are most often suspended for non-violent conduct such as “disrespect of authority,” “defiance of authority,” and “disobedience.” Students of color are punished for disobeying authorities which deem their existence as substandard to that of their white counterparts. This highlights embedded notions of what success in K-12 public schools looks like—namely, it is limited to white students. Data released by the Stanford Graduate School of Education as recently as last year reports that the “average test scores of Black students are roughly two grade levels lower than those of white students in the same district” while the performance differences between Latinx and white students is one-and-a-half grade levels. Despite “progressive” efforts to close the achievement gap, which began over 50 years ago, it remains robust. Unsurprisingly, education reform for K-12 schools continue to fail to “level the playing field.” Instead education reforms routs people of color to become laborers crucial to its capitalist projects and criminalizes those who do not comply.
An Orthodox Sex Counselor and Her Quest to Make Sex Divine
The axis between Orthodox Jewish observance and the ecstasy of a good orgasm lies on 70 Glen Cove Road in the suburbs of Long Island, New York. Observant Jewish women tend to find Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus by word of mouth, hesitant to speak openly about a topic that can be taboo among the Orthodox, but compelled to visit her office by a painful or unfulfilling sex life. There, in her suburban office, Marcus has created a sort of sanctuary for Orthodox women’s pleasure, guiding them through a religious tradition that is at times too chauvinistic to find the holiness in an internal vibrator. Marcus, a licensed sexuality counselor and founder of Maze Women’s Sexual Health clinic, uses a combination of sex toys, psychological counseling, medical apparatuses like dilators and even Jewish erotica to coax her patients toward enjoyable sex. For the Orthodox, though, these tools are often frightening, suggesting the possibility of religious transgression. “Some of my more observant patients feel as though they’re crossing a room filled with tiny invisible wires, and they’re
petrified of tripping over them and doing something wrong,” Marcus said in an interview. “It’s almost as though they’re not breathing.” The Orthodox legal tradition, which contains rabbinic interpretations of varying severity, generally restricts a couple’s sexual relations to the two weeks preceding a woman’s menstrual cycle. During that window, different sects of Orthodoxy prescribe a number of regulations to keep sex pure: lights off, sheet covering the couple, no looking at your wife’s vagina (let alone touching it). Sex education in the community is sparse, usually coming in the form of a single consultation with the local rabbi before a couple gets married. In terms of scientific accuracy or attention to pleasure, that advice is only as good as the rabbi giving it. Marcus repeatedly emphasized that there is no one voice in the canon of Jewish law, and despite strains of asceticism in some male rabbis’ interpretations, much of the law that deals with intimacy is fairly sex-positive (albeit
heteronormative and confined to monogamy). For example, among the many good deeds advocated by the rabbis is bedroom time with your spouse on Friday nights. The Hebrew word shekhinah, a term for the ways God manifests and moves among us that has a decidedly feminine connotation, appears a lot in Jewish conversations about sex — perhaps a suggestion of women’s active participation in sexual relationships. “All of Jewish thought believes in the sanctity of a married, monogamous relationship, and any sex in that context is by definition holy,” Marcus said. “We’re supposed to see our sexual partners as a manifestation of God.” Yet, for all of Jewish texts’ potential to sanctify erotic pleasure, Marcus’s worries often return to the pervasive cultural stigma that prevents some Orthodox women from realizing their religion’s sexual promise. “As a community, we often pay lip service to the fact that married sex is holy and critical and important,” Marcus said. “Practically speaking, we’re giving Jewish women terrible secondary messages: don’t touch your body, don’t look at your body, don’t appreciate your body.” Marus noted that adults frequently remind young Orthodox boys of the evils of masturbation, but the prospect of female self-pleasure is an alien idea. Additionally, strict codes of modesty in Orthodox women’s dress are generally based on the heterosexist argument that the female body is tempting. This justification contains the implicit message that the male sex drive is wildly uncontrollable, whereas women’s is nonexistent. The spiritual notion that God is in the bedroom is lost in a barrage of legalistic edicts, all established by an exclusively male rabbinic tradition. “We’re fighting this fundamental idea that women aren’t sexual beings, shouldn’t be sexual beings, can’t really be sexual beings,” Marcus said. “Changing the mindset on that is like teaching that the world isn’t flat.”
With her many hesitant patients, Marcus tries to gently subvert the stigma against female pleasure worked into the mainstream attitudes and judgments of the Orthodox community. A fear of one’s own sexuality, she says, makes it impossible to hit the spiritual sweet spot between personal and mutual pleasure that makes sex a communion with God. Like sex without consent, sex without satisfaction and enthusiasm is devoid of its divinity. One young Orthodox woman arrived on Marcus’ couch hunched into a ball, eyes cast at the floor and reluctant to speak. Her father brought her to the office because she was soon to be married, but she was petrified by the prospect of having sex with her new partner. Over the course of several sessions, Marcus created a safe space in her office for the young woman to open up about her trauma: as a young girl, a stranger approached her from behind and choked her in the woods behind her house. When she regained consciousness, her pants were off. The aftermath was no easier than the assault — her parents rushed her to the hospital for invasive internal exams without explaining that she had been assaulted or why this was cause for alarm. The young woman dug up the decade-old police reports and brought them to Marcus, who explained all the sexual terms she had never learned. Marcus also talked to the woman about her body — her fears and her desires — and sent her home with an internal vibrator. The woman came to the next session laughing, saying the vibrator felt so good that she was afraid she’d never stop. Marcus said the secretaries at the front desk noticed the woman changing: she was smiling more often, wearing pink modest skirts instead of black. “That’s really where I feel like talking about sex makes all the difference,” Marcus said. “Helping a person accept their wholeness, that’s when God resides in us. If that’s not holiness, I don’t know what is.”
InterVarsity: Faith and Being “Beyond Colorblind” By Sophia Galluccio InterVarsity is a non-profit Christian fellowship founded in 1941, located in numerous college campuses across the nation, including UCLA. Of the approximate 40,000 active students in the fellowship, nearly 42 percent of the students identify as an ethnic minority or multiracial. As such, InterVarsity has many ethnic-specific chapters ministering to Latinx, East-Asian, and Black students. This year, InterVarsity began a proxe, or an interactive survey, called Beyond Colorblind, a series that encourages discussion about ethnic identities and their intersection with faith.
FEM: Can you give a brief overview about your proxe this year, called Beyond Colorblind? AZ: A proxe is an interactive survey we host on Bruin Walk at the beginning of each school year. This year, our topic was Beyond Colorblind. We had five panels for our proxe ... each addressing a different component of our racial and ethnic identities. Our first three panels asked questions such as “Is colorblindness the solution to racism?,” “What is beautiful about your ethnic story?,” and “What is broken about your ethnic story?” The last two [questions] were [asking] about how Jesus bridged ethnic divisions in his lifetime, as well as how God wants to bring healing to the brokenness in our ethnic stories and racial discrimination at large.
Alyssa Zhang, a second-year English student and a leader within UCLA’s InterVarsity fellowship, agreed to talk about the proxe with FEM. FEM: To start, would you mind telling me a little about your organization, InterVarsity?
FEM: What inspired this theme, and why do you believe it is important?
AZ: Sure! [InterVarsity] is a multiethnic and interdenominational Christian fellowship at UCLA. We seek to learn about God, build strong friendships and community, and converse with folks about how Jesus’ love can bring healing and fullness to our lives. Through large groups, small groups, mission trips, and interactive events like proxes, we aim to understand how God is working through the good and bad in our lives and beyond.
AZ: Last winter quarter, InterVarsity had a “Racial Reconciliation” sermon series, as well as Beyond Colorblind small groups, so this proxe helped continue the conversation on race and ethnicity. InterVarsity is emphasizing racial [reconciliation] because of the spike of racial violence and social injustice in our nation, as well as to combat racial divisions we sometimes see in our own fellowship and UCLA at large. These barriers are not what God intended; rather, He wants
us to love people from all ethnicities equally … all the while acknowledging what makes our cultural backgrounds unique. Beyond Colorblind is important because becoming self-aware about how [our ethnicities] shape our lives and the ways we’ve discriminated against others is crucial to loving people well, [which is] something that is close to God’s heart. And when we strive to love others well, hopefully this will form clusters of people who will fight to end racial discrimination in our country. FEM: Can you describe what your role was in this proxe, or how your experience doing it was? AZ: My role was to ask people on Bruin Walk whether they wanted to take an interactive survey on ethnicity and faith, and then [I would] walk them through the five panels. I’d talk with them about their ethnic stories, record their survey answers by putting stickers on the panels, share the Gospel, and ask if they’d like prayer for healing brokenness [from] their pasts. Beforehand, I was nervous that I’d forget the questions and information I needed to say. After my first conversation, I got the hang of it, and had a really great time talking in depth to students about our backgrounds. Everyone who stopped by, regardless of whether they had a spiritual background or not, was receptive, vulnerable, and kind, so I found it be an insightful and encouraging experience. Go Bruins – y’all are so friendly! FEM: How do you believe divinity intersects with race and ethnicity, and what role can it play in faith? AZ: Our cultural background shapes our experiences, values, traditions, tastes, and more … so it is a key component of our identity. The Bible says that God created our identities intricately, so He was also
intentional in giving us a certain race and ethnicity. I would say faith is walking with God along the journey of life, and as life experiences are influenced by how others perceive us, [such as] race, gender, socioeconomic status ... our responses to God’s provision through them define our personal faith. Also, the major theme in Christianity is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, and our ability to love strengthens through seeking to understand and empathize with folks who are different from us. Finally, Christians believe that we are created in the image of God, so all these cultures illuminate aspects of God’s characteristics. This means that building relationships with folks from all different racial and ethnic backgrounds is essential to seeing a fuller image of who God is. FEM: What types of conversation do you hope Beyond Colorblind will spark in the UCLA community? AZ: Both of the proxe’s topics, faith and ethnicity, are not exactly [comfortable subjects]. Despite the fact that both are central components of our identities, people often don’t mention them in everyday conversation. My hope is that this proxe helped people realize that talking honestly and in depth about [ethnicity and faith] is not as intimidating as it seems! In fact, it can bring a lot of mutual understanding, catharsis, and affirmation of what drives you in life … what defines you. In the faith community, I hope that this will spark greater conversation about how our ethnicities shape our walk with God. This topic is often brushed over in Christian settings, but honestly, it’s time to face the elephant in the room and address our full identities. God cares about what matters to us, and as our race and ethnicity shape many of our life experiences, He definitely cares about this aspect of who we are, too!
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“Claudia isn’t a Jesus figure. Jesus is a Claudia figure.” In the struggle for power, the purpose of an established church is to maintain equilibrium, holding a monopoly on social norms and expectations. Religious movements, on the other hand, are based in protest. In the capitalistic, patriarchal reality we live in, Maude Gun, “the band, the order, the performance group,” is definitely a religious movement. Maude Gun is Molly Murphy and Jenni Messner, two Brooklyn-based singers, guitarists, and songwriters with musical theater backgrounds and an interest in performative storytelling. Their music combines Joni Mitchell-style lyricism with Patti Smith-esque punk stylings and general culty witchiness. They describe their live performances like a church service, but one with the purpose of lifting up the voices of queer and femme artists and artists of color. Since they do most of their live work in New York City, their album, released this past summer, has given those on the West Coast a glimpse into this mystic cult phenomenon. Their debut album, “Claudia, the Word,” tells the story of Claudia Quinta, a Roman matron who, in 204 B.C., pulled a boat carrying the image of the goddess Cybele out of the River Tiber after it had gotten stuck on a sandbar. With Lindsay Dragan on drums and bass and a “womyn’s choir” on background vocals, the album is a combination of two artists with two different styles. “Molly handles mostly the real sensual music world,” Jenni, who studied experimental performance in graduate school, explained. “I’m more interested in the story and performance.” “Claudia, the Word” plays out like an opera. Maude Gun builds their characters and setting through both music and words. The first track, “The Call,” begins setting the scene with a warm G# chord followed by a steady bass and bass drum before women’s voices chanting vocables in a modal-sounding pentatonic enter. The next track, “On High,” develops the scene further, acting as a sort of
overture: It introduces some of the musical themes and the general tone that the rest of the album is going to take, beginning with a mellow, major-key guitar riff and transitioning into an aggressive, heavy chorus. The song brings in several modern, grungy leitmotifs—recurring musical phrases associated with particular characters, settings, or ideas—like the “Ring Cycle” if Patti Smith had sparked Richard Wagner’s feminist awakening. Though this album changes genres with joyful irreverence, this song also introduces some of the constants present throughout the album: religious imagery, woman-centric wordplay, unabashed anachronism, and the character of “Maude” as the resident deity. The fourth track, “Claudia, the Word,” begins the story’s narration. In this song, Claudia pulls the boat out of the water (“You go, girl!”) and realizes her mission. The song is triumphant and loudspoken, featuring heavy, distorted electric guitar. The song paints Claudia like a Biblical-era riot grrrl by incorporating allusions like Poly Styrene-style shouting (“I’m gonna get the boat out of the water!”) and Kathleen Hanna-style half talking, half singing vocals. The sixth track, “Lilith I,” reclaims the idea of the sexually empowered woman. In Jewish folklore, Lilith came before Eve and was banished from Eden for her insubordination. She is often depicted as demonic and immoral but “Lilith I” makes her into a rebellious heroine. The song depicts Lilith as independent and tortured, featuring high, wailing vocals and low, repetitive chanting over a haunting minor arpeggio, booming bass, and crashing cymbals. The imagery—a woman scorned, a god with a terrible face—is frightening and conveys the pain of banishment that comes with empowerment in an oppressive patriarchy. For Jenni, the hag, the witch, the banished empowered woman represents the anti-culture. “Her body is more free...It’s very natural for us now, as a generation, to grab onto a lot of those symbols because we’re looking for reasons to not feel shame in our bodies.” Young women and femme-identifying people have grabbed
onto symbols like the witch and tarot that the political, social, and religious establishment has deemed taboo. “We’re seeking ways to steal power and remove shame of natural body things and have faith in something.” “There’s sort of a reclaiming of something we’re being told to be ashamed of every day,” Molly said. “It’s sort of taking a closer look at those things and why they were banished to begin with and what sort of things we can free ourselves from in terms of that shame cycle and that hiding.” Which leads into the stated moral of the story, “the imagining of the perfect version of yourself,” as Molly describes. “Characters who have immense power have doubt as well.” The seventh track on the album, “Woman’s Touch,” introduces Claudia’s internal conflict. The emotional contradiction between the lyrics and the music in the opening of the song is jarring. Though the music is upbeat and joyous, she laments her newfound fame and expresses the pressure she feels now that she’s been blessed with these powers—“I guess I’m a miracle.” “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves [to be a perfect version of ourselves],” Molly said. “It feels to me such an ingrained story of someone who has to be triumphant all the time.” “This generation of women has more power than ever before, [but] there’s still a lot of scrutiny,” Jenni added. “A lot of eyes are on us and if we fail...we will be the witch. It’s important to show women acting even with all that heaviness and doubt.” The important part of this plot is that Claudia does fail. Though she succeeds in raising a woman from the dead, she’s forced to realize that doing so was a mistake. This part of the story emphasizes “failure...not as an evil thing, failure as part of, I don’t know, moving through the world,” Molly said. “It makes it feel really real to me, someone that’s trying so hard not to fail and when she does fail, realizing you have to let that go and keep moving forward and learn from it.” The eighth track on the album, “Bethany’s Lament,” is a shift in the tone of the album, both in terms of music and narrative. It’s harder-hitting than the previous songs. The distorted guitar has a more raw and unpolished sound. The genre jumping is more sudden and extreme. In the middle of the song, after the punk verse and chorus, it shifts suddenly to a funky, rhythmically spoken bridge in which Bethany describes her experience in the afterlife, accompanied by a fat, funky, melodic bassline. While the drums in the verses are heavy and bassy, the bridge features a light and fast snare drum rhythm which builds tension in a much different way than the rest of the song. Molly commented on the significance of the drastic changes at this point in the story. “The jazzy bits of it show a lot of personality and soul and sex. The punk stuff feels just aggressive, a fast way to give one character a lot of depth and complexity.” If there’s one thing the characters in this story have, it’s depth and complexity. Molly and Jenni built Claudia, Bethany, and Lilith like real people, dealing with real life problems. The final song on the
album, “And You Get a Car! And You! And You!,” calls back to the second song, bringing back familiar musical themes in a way that seems to wrap up the story. “Imagine the perfect version of yourself,” the song tells the listener, “and I want you to let her go.” Maude Gun’s music combines the Biblical setting with obviously modern musical characteristics and language. In the second song, “On High,” the religious imagery of holy visions, ancient mystics, and shamanistic premonitions is accompanied by a grunge-inspired chord progression and an enthusiastic “sing it, sister!” In “Claudia, the Word,” when Claudia succeeds in pulling the boat out of the water, the people attribute it equally to her virginity and her “3624-36.” “Bethany’s Lament” takes its chorus—“It’s my body and I’ll die if I want to”—from Lesley Gore’s 1963 song “It’s My Party” (and I’ll cry if I want to). The anachronism is not accidental. For one thing, it keeps the audience alive. “It’s fucking fun when you see people can notice you’re doing a Spice Girls reference,” Jenni said. Beyond that, it portrays the conflicts in the story as modern problems people have faced since the beginning. “The story is so allegorical or parable-like,” Molly said. “You can find people in your life who are walking a similar path, including us.” This “perfect version of yourself” is always changing, too. It isn’t a static goal to be constantly striving for; instead it’s a moving target that changes as soon as we seem to reach it. “I think I’m really far from that perfect version of myself,” Jenni said. “I just have to be perfectly sassy, perfectly uncouth. It’s become perfect that I don’t shave my armpits. I have a new version of letting go of this perfect version of myself. It is a constant struggle.” Sometimes they don’t even use this moral when they are performing live, if they don’t feel like it. “We’re stuck in the whole thing ourselves too,” Molly added, “We’re really writing from our journeys.” Jenni went on, “It’s hard to have a moral of the story when you haven’t mastered it yet.” The album is about letting go of the perfect version of yourself, and about coming to terms with life’s natural order, but most of all it’s about lifting up the “almighty Woman Protagonist.” Maude Gun takes these ideas into real life too, with an event they host called “Maudenight.” On these nights, Maude Gun plays a set and brings in “Real Life Woman Protagonists,” other femme-identified artists from various disciplines. According to Jenni, Maudenight is “an occult carnival...all these different witches...doing what they do.” At first, their self-identification as a cult feels like a quirky running joke, a fun exaggeration of the association between feminism and the occult, but their protest of established social norms is serious. “It’s kind of like the anti-capitalism,” Molly said. “Something about the queer and the femme that brings back love, love of difference, the ability to break boundaries, a space where people hold each other up and want people to succeed.” “We can’t do anything to change and dismantle systems of power unless more different kinds of voices are able to be heard.”
Millions of years ago, the remnants of colliding stars formed a rare celestial element: gold. Unlike diamonds, gold cannot be created by humans, making it a rarity among mortals on Earth. For centuries and across cultures, this unique material has been the cause of strife among humanity due to the different values each society places on it. Aztecs referred to gold as “teocuitlatl,” which translates to “divine excrement.” While they valued the gold for its beauty, there was no use for the element; beads and corn were of more value to the Aztecs because of their practicality. When the Europeans arrived to the Americas, they marveled at the amount of gold Moctezuma owned, beginning an era of genocide in order to seize the gold. Near his death, Columbus mentioned that “he who possesses it [gold] has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.” Columbus justified his horrendous treatment of Indigenous People with his belief that the wealthy exercised full control over sinners. While gold made Columbus a wealthy man, the way in which he attained that gold did not necessarily guarantee his entrance to heaven. Columbus and other colonizers like him traveled to “spread God’s word.” The Ten Commandments God gave to Moses guide multiple religions, not just Catholicism. What’s not in the Ten Commandments: owning gold. What is in the Ten Commandments: you shall not steal, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. However, walk into any Catholic church today, you’re likely to see a gold chalice on top of an altar, a gold Holy Water font, a gold Ciborium, and followers sporting a gold crosses around their necks. A hypocrisy for the house of God, or should it be referred to as the house of gold? There appears to be a love triangle between divinity, materialism, and capitalism. Merriam-Webster defines materialism as “a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” Materialism and divinity are clearly intertwined; it is believed that those who possess the most gold have a closer connection to God. Currently, the Catholic church owns nearly $50 million worth of gold. Can divinity co-exist with materialism without losing its value?
The answer? Capitalism begets materialism; it is unrelenting in the back of our minds, reminding us that we need more and that everything we own is never enough. It drove Christians to demand gold, more gold, but it was never enough. It drives us every year when we celebrate the birth of Christ but spend unnecessary thousands of dollars to celebrate the occasion. In today’s world, materialism transcends beyond just gold and extends to any consumer good. The Huffington Post reported Jacobia Grimes was sentenced to 20 years of prison for shoplifting $31 worth of candy bars. Grimes, who only completed his ninth grade education, had five previous theft convictions. On the other hand, cases of police brutality against people of color result in no federal charges. Sandra Bland, a woman who was killed under custody of the police, received no justice. Thus we see that American capitalism and materialism values a candy bar more than a human life. Why do we live in a world that condemns stealing a Snickers, but not killing a Black woman? It’s not a surprise we don’t value human lives over gold or capital because we aren’t even truly worth our weight in gold. Today, an ounce of gold is worth $1300, making a 150 pounds person worth nearly $3,120,000. If you work the California minimum wage for forty hours a week, your life’s work is only worth $21,840 a year. The Indiana Business Research Center estimates an associate degree holder to earn to earn $1.1 million over a lifetime. Why aren’t we worth our weight in gold? Why is there more value to a rock that shines but not to a human that sweats forty hours a week to provide the best for their family and themselves? After all, humans are created from the same stardust from which gold is created. There is no need for us to own gold or any object to know we are valuable or to connect us to the supernovas and stars millions and millions of miles away from our planet. Look at yourself: you are made of stardust. You are worth so much more than numbers and figures could ever calculate. You and I are divine not for the gold we own, not for anything we own- but for who we are. Perhaps the Aztecs were onto something when they referred to gold as the divine excrement. We are the divine creation, we are the stardust of the universe, we are gold.
By Christine Nguyen Hera leaves her husband on a stormy winter’s night. The palace of Olympus, that shining pinnacle of glory, is silent and still as she slips out of her cold and empty marriage bed. She brushes her slender fingers against the cloud-spun covers, trying to remember the heaven she once had beneath them. But the sheets bring her no comfort, for those memories have faded with each of Zeus’ absences, every one of his infidelities. Hera carries nothing but the weight of her aching, heavy heart. She passes through the corridors, whispering goodbyes to those who don’t love her and won’t miss her. Her children, all grown with duties of their own, haven’t had time for their mother in ages. Her friends, if she could even call them that, would only come calling to ask for favors. And her husband, her disloyal, unfaithful husband — Well. Zeus hasn’t loved her for a long time, perhaps not since he first had her against her will and took her as his prize. When she steps beyond the threshold of the palace doors, the unforgiving night air slaps her face, the rain pelts her skin. Hera thinks of her husband, his words, his fists, his thunderbolts. Her pain. He hurt me, she reflects. He hurt me, and I never said a thing. It — everything — was always my fault. Every affair, I wasn’t beautiful enough to keep his eyes on me. Every beating, I shouldn’t have angered him. Every insult, just a harsh truth I deserved to hear. Beneath lightning-filled skies, Hera wrangles with her spiralling thoughts, fighting for control over her hurt and anger. Those emotions have only ever led her to react to her monster of a husband just as monstrously. She is not proud of what she has done to her stepchildren, to those who had rivalled her in Zeus’ affections, but she has done everything in her power to make her peace with them, to uncurdle the bad blood between her and her former enemies. And even a wicked stepmother, a shrewish wife, a woman like Hera, deserves her own second chance. Hera shrugs out of the matronly robes that had once signalled her status as the king’s wife, she lets her hair down from the polos crown that declared her queen among goddesses, and then she tosses her wedding band behind her as she walks out of the gates of Olympus. ------------------------------------------------------The mortal world has never been a friend to Hera, but it is the refuge she chooses from her former life. Mortals are so interesting, she thinks to herself, sitting in the wrought-iron chair at a simple cafe. She watches the humans around her whizz busily by, always bustling about, always moving like an ever-flowing current. Centuries have passed since her departure from Olympus, and this still remains true of the human world: they always want more from their brilliantly short life spans. No, Hera corrects, they want the most. They seek to better their lives to live as best they can. That was not the way of the gods, she recalls. The Olympian deities had been content to be cruel, unconscientious of the repercussions of their actions. And look what it got them. She casts her eyes towards the single dot of blue visible above the arching steel towers that climb skyward. The reign of Olympus has ended and the gods are nothing but distant, dusty memories rotting away in the archives of history and culture. Hera wonders idly if they still wander the lonely halls of their white marble palace, if she would be consigned to that fate had she not taken her destiny and the pieces of her broken heart into her own hands. She’s shaken from her contemplation by exuberant barking, the crash of her coffee cup to the ground, and two paws in her lap. “Why, hello there,” Hera says, blinking at the fluffy golden dog begging her for attention. She’s never really been a dog person — her son Ares had been the canine lover — and yet she finds herself melting at the sight of this lovable creature’s warm brown eyes. “I’m so sorry!” A young woman jogs over to Hera, profuse apologies spilling
from her lips. “My dog tends to get excited around pretty girls, but like owner, like pupper I guess.” The girl, dark-skinned and curly-haired, has a vibrant energy to her that fascinates Hera. Gods like Apollo could wax poetic about this woman’s beauty, but all Hera sees is the vivaciousness that colors her laughter. “I’m Aisha, and this rascal over here is Pancake,” the woman continues. “And you are?” “I — I’m Hera.” It feels strange to speak her own name, to announce herself without all the honors, titles, and epithets, the chains of her previous existence. “All right then, Hera. Maybe I’m moving a bit fast, but I’d like to apologize on Pancake’s behalf, so would you maybe like to have lunch with me? I mean, it would only be a date if you want it to be, but I’d like to get to know you if you’re comfortable with that.” “A date sounds… nice, actually.” Hera has never been courted so cautiously, so courteously before. Gods are not afraid to take what they want, when they want. This girl, this bright and lively woman, is gentle with Hera. Let the ghosts of Olympus waste away in their sepulchre of a kingdom. Hera will bask in the warmth of Aisha’s smile. ------------------------------------------------------ What would seem like a whirlwind of a romance to the gods is actually several years’ worth of slow and sweet courtship for Hera and Aisha. No rings adorn their fingers; their bond has no need for a wedding band. Hera trusts Aisha with her secrets, with her feelings, with her story, and Aisha listens, she cares, and she comforts. “It’s different, being a goddess,” Hera explains, curled beside Aisha in the warmth of their shared bed. “I’ve never been so loved, so… so treasured before. Zeus stopped caring about me once he had me, and the mortals put me on a pedestal so high I thought I could never come down.” “It must have been lonely for you,” Aisha says, slipping her hand into Hera’s. “Yes. It was like… like I didn’t exist, except as a body without a soul. A body everyone else could shape to fit whatever mold they liked.” “That,” Aisha declares, “is absolute blasphemy,” rolling over to encircle Hera within her arms. “Your body is just as much a part of you as your soul, and all of you deserves to be seen and known and loved.” “I don’t know what that’s like,” Hera admits. “Well, how about I show you?” Aisha sits up to settle between Hera’s knees, and her smiling face above Hera is better than any view of the sky. “Let me worship you the way you deserve.” She presses soft, butterfly kisses to the palm of Hera’s hand, traces the callouses on Hera’s fingers with her lips. “Your hands are so pretty, and strong too. I love the way your fingers dance across the page when you’re writing, and the way they hammer at the piano to make music for us.” Aisha’s lips travel higher, just a whisper of touch to Hera’s long arms. “Your arms too. You like to do the all heavy lifting around here, but you hold me tenderly.” Higher still, Aisha mouths at Hera’s neck. “Your voice, when you sing or talk or throw your head back as you laugh. Gorgeous, darling.” An open-mouthed kiss on Hera’s lips. “I can’t take my eyes off you and the way your mouth curves when you smile.” And as their hips rock together in a slow and steady rhythm, Aisha continues her worship, weaving a spell of love and acceptance and reverence into her words and her touch. Hours later, when their bodies are wrung out with pleasure and their limbs intertwined in a tangled mess, Hera rests Aisha’s head upon her chest, letting her lover fall asleep to her steady heartbeat. She gazes up at their bedroom ceiling, painted in blues and purples and pinks and reds and golds, all the colors of the sky, and Hera feels bliss. “So, this is what makes life divine.”
Rituals Rituals are are aacommon commonthread threadacross acrossculture, culture,time, time,and space. Examples of rituals studied by by ethnographers and space. Examples of rituals studied ethnograincludeinclude everything from circumcision ceremonies in cenphers everything from circumcision ceremonies tral AfricaAfrica to Christmas holiday shopping in megamalls in central to Christmas holiday shopping in across the United ThereStates. exists There a rich exists trove of megamalls acrossStates. the United a theoretical apparatuses from which we can to we better rich trove of theoretical apparatuses frommine which understand seemingly impenetrable worlds of other can mine to the better understand the seemingly impenereligious procedures defy Euro-American norms trable worlds of otherthat religious procedures that defy of liberated femininity female emancipation. Euro-American normsand of liberated femininity andThis is never more true than itThis is inisthe realm of the female emancipation. never more trueanthropolthan it is ogy theology, and religious ritual. religion, in theofrealm of thereligion, anthropology of theology, (Neo)liberal feminist discourse is often dismissive of and religious ritual. non-Western religious culturalismodes of difference. (Neo)liberal feministand discourse often dismissive of For example,religious Quebec and is the most recent long line non-Western cultural modesinofadifferof countries deciding to discriminate ence. For example, Quebec is the most against recent inMuslim a women those wearing niqabs,against burqas long lineby of preventing countries deciding to discriminate and hijabs frombyusing public those services. This legislation Muslim women preventing wearing niqabs, was ostensibly pushed the banner of “women’s burqas and hijabs from under using public services. This liberation.”was ostensibly pushed under the banner of legislation What if “women’s there are better ways to talk about and imagso-called liberation.” ineWhat the performance of femaleness amidst theand array of if there are better ways to talk about striking cultural and religious difference? Whattheif the imagine the performance of femaleness amidst lens ofofthoroughly imperialist perspectives espousing array striking cultural and religious difference? versions oflens theof nineteenth-century “Modernization What if the thoroughly imperialist perspectives hypothesis”versions serves of to the hinder rather than facilitate espousing nineteenth-century “Mod-dialogue and hypothesis” authentic, local, and self-emancipaernization serves to organic hinder rather than tion of women fromand cisheteropatriarchal norms embedfacilitate dialogue authentic, local, and organic ded in religious procedures? Whatcisheteropatriarchal if, instead, we could self-emancipation of women from utilize intellectual resources by symbolic norms embedded in religiousprovided procedures? What if, and ininterpretive anthropology to meaningfully stead, we could utilize intellectual resourcesreconfigure provided oursymbolic assumptions women performing their gender by and about interpretive anthropology to reconin religious ritual as a vehicle self-emanfigure our assumptions about toward womenorganic performing their cipation? gender in religious ritual as a vehicle toward organic To begin this conversation, one can review the decoself-emancipation? lonial praxisthis of conversation, cultural anthropologists who seek To begin one can review the to understand religious in terms its own practitioners. decolonial praxis ofritual cultural anthropologists who In 1908, Belgian ethnographer-folklorist seek to understand religious ritual in terms Arnold its own van Gennep wroteIn a1908, bookBelgian called ethnographer-folklorist “The Rites of Passage” practitioners. that would a profound and lasting effectRites on anArnold van have Gennep wrote a book called “The thropologist Victor Turner. In a van Gennep’s one of Passage” that would have profound andbook, lasting ventures the world of Indigenous ofGenpassage effect on into anthropologist Victor Turner. rites In van - specifically thoseventures of the Zambian Ndembu. These ritunep’s book, one into the world of Indigenous als, for van Gennep, tended to have phases: an rites of passage -- specifically those of three the Zambian initial, preliminary state,for then liminal stage (liminaire Ndembu. These rituals, vana Gennep, tended to in French), and a final post-liminal stage (postliminaire have three phases: an initial, preliminary state, then a in French). liminal stage (liminaire in French), and a final post-limTurner uponinvan Gennep’s concept of liminal stageexpanded (postliminaire French). inality andexpanded observed upon that people in the midst of thisofrituTurner van Gennep’s concept al phase were “betwixt and as he discussed liminality and observed that between,” people in the midst of in his landmark 1967“betwixt study, “The of Symbols: this ritual phase were and Forest between,” as he Aspects ofinNdembu Ritual”. These people transition discussed his landmark 1967 study, “Thein Forest of were neither part of Ndembu the worldRitual.” to which theypeople belonged Symbols: Aspects These in prior to this liminal phase were they brought transition were neither part nor of the world to yet which they
back into prior that same 1969,nor Turner belonged to thisworld. liminalIn werepublished they yet a back into that same world. Inphase 1969, Turner published a powerfulback piece of that research entitled “The Ritual Process: brought into same world. In 1969, Turner powerful piece of research entitled “The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure” discussed published a powerful piece of wherein researchhe entitled “The how Structure and Anti-Structure” wherein he discussed how the liminal phase was neither a dogmatic norwherein prescriptive Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure” he the liminal phase was neither a dogmatic nor prescriptive arena of transition in which subjects merely passive discussed how the liminal phase was were neither a dogmatic arena of transition in which subjects were merely passive receivers. The liminal is a space where real and nor prescriptive arena phase of transition in which subjects receivers. The liminal phase is a space where real and meaningful symbolic negotiationThe can take place between were merely passive receivers. liminal phase is a meaningful symbolic negotiation can take place between participants. space where real and meaningful symbolic negotiation participants. For “developed nations,” it is imprecise to refer to the can take place between participants. For “developed nations,” it is imprecise to refer to the general phenomenon of transition periodstoasrefer liminal per For “developed nations,” it is imprecise to the general phenomenon of transition periods as liminal per se. One phenomenon can instead refer to themperiods as liminoid, as Turngeneral of transition as liminal per se. One can instead refer to them as liminoid, as Turner encourages us to refer do. Liminoid spaces can as be radical se. One can instead to them as liminoid, er encourages us to do. Liminoid spaces can be Turner radical encounters of renegotiating, interrogating, antagonizing, encourages us to do. Liminoid spaces can be radical encounters of renegotiating, interrogating, antagonizing, and even combating power dynamics as understood and encounters of renegotiating, interrogating, antagonizing, and even combating power dynamics as understood and discursively reinforced in what we could call the pre-limand even combating power dynamics as understood and discursively reinforced in what we could call the pre-liminoid phase.reinforced in what we could call the pre-limdiscursively inoid phase. Take for example the archetypical American 4-year inoid phase. Take for example the archetypical American 4-year college experience, depicted with greater frequency Take for example the archetypical American 4-year in college experience, depicted with greater frequency in post-Warexperience, media anddepicted especially ingreater Bildungsromane, the college with frequency post-War media and especially in Bildungsromane, inthe “coming-of-age” genre. Before in their college experience, post-War media and especially Bildungsromane, the “coming-of-age” genre. Before their college experience, the (typically male) subject for college example, innocent. “coming-of-age” genre. Beforeis, experience, the (typically male) subject is,their for example, innocent. Whatever quality (orsubject set of qualities) the subject has prior the (typically male) is, for example, innocent. Whatever quality (or set of qualities) the subject has prior to the ritual-like experience of their undergraduate years, Whatever quality (or set of qualities) the subject has to the ritual-like experience of their undergraduate years, they will goritual-like through aexperience set of experiences (sometimes triprior to the of their undergraduate they will go through a set of experiences (sometimes trials andthey tribulations, often fraught sexual tension) years, will go through a set ofwith experiences (some- in als and tribulations, often fraught with sexual tension) in the liminiod space of college, untilfraught they (are expected to) times trials and tribulations, often with sexual the liminiod space of college, until they (are expected to) assimilate reintegrate intoof the late modern neoliberal tension) inand the liminiod space college, until they (are assimilate and reintegrate into the late modern neoliberal workforce.to) assimilate and reintegrate into the late expected workforce. The neoliberal “anti-structural” dimension of symbolic combat modern workforce. The “anti-structural” dimension of symbolic combat is really a commitment dimension to revise or The “anti-structural” of overturn symbolic established combat is really a commitment to revise or overturn established practice in commitment the world at large. to put it simis really a reviseAnti-structure, or overturn established practice in the world attolarge. Anti-structure, to put it simply, is a in socio-cultural that deliberately subverts practice the world atstructure large. Anti-structure, to put it simply, is a socio-cultural structure that deliberately subverts the hegemonic. To consciously perform protest insubverts the limply, is a socio-cultural structure that deliberately the hegemonic. To consciously perform protest in the liminoid phase is toTo first learn and perform become conversant in the the hegemonic. consciously in the inoid phase is to first learn and become protest conversant in the culturallyphase dominant discourse and become subversively challenge liminoid is to first learn conversant culturally dominant discourse and subversively challenge its the legitimacy its own presuppositions and values. in culturallyusing dominant discourse and subversively its legitimacy using its own presuppositions and values. This is possible becauseusing of the instability and dynamism challenge its legitimacy its own presuppositions This is possible because of the instability and dynamism present in every schema:ofonly hermetically and values. This isconceptual possible because the a instability and present in every conceptual schema: only a hermetically sealed narrative system is immune to thisschema: sort of liberating dynamism present in every conceptual only a sealed narrative system is immune to this sort of liberating performance.sealed narrative system is immune to this hermetically performance. modelperformance. provides us with some tools to begin sortTurner’s of liberating Turner’s model provides us with some tools to begin “reading procedures,” that is, ways of approaching Turner’s model provides some tools to beginand “reading procedures,” thatusis,with ways of approaching and empathet procedures,” ically that understanding women performing “reading is, ways of approaching and empathet ically understanding women performing their womanness in the midst of religious rituals and proempathetically understanding women performing their their womanness in the midst of religious rituals and procedures. (Neo)liberal feminist models haveand delegitimized womanness in the midst of religious rituals procecedures. (Neo)liberal feminist models have delegitimized the religious experience of women thedelegitimized West itself. For dures. (Neo)liberal feminist models in have the religious experience of women in the West itself. For those who wish to see of how women canWest perform the religious experience women in the itself. their For those who wish to see how women can perform their liberation ritual, contemporary musttheir commit those who in wish to see how women feminists can perform liberation in ritual, contemporary feminists must commit themselvesintoritual, understanding the contemporary tableaux liberation contemporary feminists must commit themselves to understanding the contemporary tableaux of the Christian church, especially its cultural moment in themselves to understanding the contemporary tableaux of the Christian church, especially its cultural moment in America, as a liminoid in itself, and therefore asinan of the Christian church,space especially its cultural moment America, as a liminoid space in itself, and therefore as an opportunity profound change. America, as for a liminoid space in itself, and therefore as opportunity for profound change. an opportunity for profound change.
art despised, I stand by thee. I love for those art despised, I stand by thee. I love theethee for those who who do love. not love. I make amends for those offend do not I make amends for those who who offend thee.thee. Come my heart.” Come into into my heart.”
There There has has always always been been a a liberating liberating potential potential in in the the praxis praxis of of the the Christian Christian church church at at large. large. The The trajectory trajectory of of the the New New Testament, Testament, from from the the words words of of Jesus Jesus Christ Christ to to the commentary of Paul, has a universalistic dimension the commentary of Paul, has a universalistic dimension and and appeal; appeal; this this is is best best embodied embodied in in the the actual actual rituals rituals of of the the church church itself, itself, which which reflect reflect the the multiform multiform narratives narratives of of freedom freedom that that have have been been made made available available in in Christ Christ as as a representative of the liberating mission of the a representative of the liberating mission of the God God of of the the Hebrew Hebrew Bible. Bible. While While churches churches exist exist in in a a particular particular cultural cultural moment moment that is itself a liminoid space, perhaps one that is itself a liminoid space, perhaps one can can observe observe a a greater greater degree degree of of complexity complexity caught caught up up under under the the space space of of transition. transition. In In other other words, words, in in the the ritualistic ritualistic space space of of transition is another transition space—one that transition is another transition space—one that is is very very hard hard to to articulate articulate or or analyze analyze on on its its own own terms. terms. Present Present day day debates debates about about the the “legitimacy” “legitimacy” of of womwomen priests, ministers, and pastors have brought en priests, ministers, and pastors have brought much much attention attention to to this this issue. issue. Context-dependent, Context-dependent, historicist, historicist, and and confessionally confessionally bounded bounded interpretations interpretations of of scripture scripture considered considered sacred sacred by by Christians Christians are are often often the the first first point point of of contact contact in in debates debates and and arguments arguments about about the the role role of of women women in in theologically theologically conservative conservative churches. churches. If If women women themselves themselves in in theologically theologically conservative conservative churches churches do do not not believe nominal appointments (i.e., priest means believe nominal appointments (i.e., priest means male) male) that that encase encase ritual ritual performance performance are are particularly particularly relevant relevant to to a a liberating liberating symbolic symbolic negotiation, negotiation, their their own own stories stories configure configure a a conceptual conceptual schema schema of of antagonizing antagonizing power power dynamics. dynamics. Further, Further, this this would would happen happen without without making making theologically theologically conservative conservative churches churches less less conservative. conservative. This liberating performance can be This liberating performance can be most most powerfully powerfully seen seen in in the the praxis praxis of of the the Eucharist, Eucharist, otherwise otherwise known known as as communion communion or or the the Lord’s Lord’s Table. Table. In In communion, communion, all all participants participants are are recognized recognized as as espeespecially called into a body of communal belonging. cially called into a body of communal belonging. Their Their being being as as people people with with dignity dignity and and worth worth is is reaffirmed reaffirmed as as the the consumption consumption of of the the flesh flesh of of Jesus Jesus Christ Christ (in (in some some circles literally so, and in others spiritually so, and circles literally so, and in others spiritually so, and in in still still others others only only symbolically) symbolically) knits knits all all together together in in Union Union with with themselves. themselves. In In Christ, Christ, one one sees sees the the unifying unifying moment moment of of purpose in the event of the Eucharist. The very purpose in the event of the Eucharist. The very being being of of the the participant participant is is affirmed affirmed when when the the collectivity collectivity affirms affirms its its mutual mutual self-commitment. self-commitment. The Thetestimony testimonyofof 20th 20th century century Catholic Catholic Portuguese Portuguese woman Alexandrina da Costa is an woman Alexandrina da Costa is an instructive instructive paradigm paradigm for for the the power power of of the the liberating liberating potential potential of of the the EuchaEucharist. rist. In In 1918, 1918, she she jumped jumped out out of of her her window window after after seeing seeing three three men men break break into into her her home home in in an an attempt attempt to to rape rape her. her. This This left left her her completely completely paralyzed. paralyzed. Bedridden, Bedridden, she she offered offered Eucharistic Eucharistic prayers prayers such such as as this: this:
seethehow the liberating radical liberating Here Here we seewe how radical potential potential of the Eu- of the Eucharistic moment is an of example of how a ritual Christian charistic moment is an example how a Christian is ritual is a space of symbolic negotiation. Da Costa tells a space of symbolic negotiation. Da Costa tells of her imof her imprisonment alongand with Christ, andfinds instructiveprisonment along with Christ, instructively, hope ly, finds hope in her near-complete paralysis, “suffering in her near-complete paralysis, “suffering with resignawithThis resignation.” resignation not a fatalistic tion.” resignationThis is not a fatalisticisacceptance of mis-acceptance of misery, but a hopeful invocation of mercy ery, but a hopeful invocation of mercy and forgiveness. and forgiveness. The Eucharist served as a site of healing The Eucharist served as a site of healing for da Costa; it fora da it was a firm rejection of the intentions was firmCosta; rejection of the intentions of her would-be rap- of her would-be rapists. She “make[s] amends for those who ists. She “make[s] amends for those who offend [Christ].” offend [Christ].” She narrates her own liberation preciseShe narrates her own liberation precisely by invoking forly by invoking forgiveness the also people who have also giveness for the people whofor have been victimized been victimized by their patriarchal culture, being trained by their patriarchal culture, being trained to view women to view women as objects of consumption. This invocaas objects of consumption. This invocation is the symbolic tion is the symbolic combat against the patriarchal order combat against the patriarchal order which legitimates, which legitimates, condones, and promotes theassault physical condones, and promotes the physical and sexual sexual assault of women. Theallontological unityasofaall of and women. The ontological unity of human beings human beings as a fundamental axiom must be affirmed fundamental axiom must be affirmed by both minister and by both minister andthis parishioners. Without thisby axiom parishioners. Without axiom being realized both,berealized by the opportunity for anti-structure theing opportunity forboth, anti-structure in the event of Eucharist in the event of Eucharist is not actualized. is not actualized. We have seen how Turner’s reading of van Gennep offers us ways to read howreading womenof perform their Weexciting have seen how Turner’s van Genown womaness as agents and individuals rejecting nep offers us exciting ways to read how women performthe narrative of patriarchy in otherwise impossible and detheir own womaness as agents and individuals rejecting situations. The Eucharist, as an exampleand of a thespairing narrative of patriarchy in otherwise impossible liminoid space and phase, can interrogate wider culturdespairing situations. The Eucharist, as an example of a al narratives about the importance and liminoid space and and assumptions phase, can interrogate wider culturof women. It offers anabout alternative script from and which al “role” narratives and assumptions the importance all participants reorient and relearn their dignity and “role” of women. can It offers an alternative script from which worth as human beings, alongside the index of the all participants can reorient and relearn their dignity andliberating momentbeings, of the Christ-event. Costa’s example worth as human alongside theDaindex of the liboffers us a somber glimpse into the authentic, organic, erating moment of the Christ-event. Da Costa’s example and us self-emancipatory praxis ritual space of the offers a somber glimpse into of thethe authentic, organic, Eucharist. In this space, da Costa, almost completely parand self-emancipatory praxis of the ritual space of the alyzed, In is able to reject dominant narratives Eucharist. this space, da culturally Costa, almost completely par- of male superiority in thisculturally particulardominant liminoid space. Da Cosalyzed, is able to reject narratives of ta’s experience works within the discourse of Christian male superiority in this particular liminoid space. Da Cosritual to reclaim the dignity attempted to take ta’s experience works within that the rapists discourse of Christian away from her. ritual to reclaim the dignity that rapists attempted to take Costa, awayDa from her. and many women today, may and have used the ritual space of the Eucharist to deny the legitito begin the symbolic combat macy of Dacultural Costa, norms and many women today, may and of anti-structure. The Eucharist itself is one of many church have used the ritual space of the Eucharist to deny the rituals that be read liminalthe space. Women are legitimacy of can cultural normsastoa begin symbolic compassive victims of misogyny oppression batnot of the anti-structure. The Eucharist itselfand is one of many in theologically conservative In many they church rituals that can be readchurches. as a liminal space.cases, Women are active agents revising, interrogating, questioning, and are not the passive victims of misogyny and oppression in reinterpreting prejudicialchurches. and discriminatory practice theologically conservative In many cases, they to remind injusticeinterrogating, and inequality. Religious rituals, are activeothers agentsofrevising, questioning, and procedures, and rites, therefore, allow women to tranreinterpreting prejudicial and discriminatory practice to scendothers the global structures patriarchy that bind them in remind of injustice andof inequality. Religious rituals, their performance andtherefore, appropriation the same procedures, and rites, allowofwomen to rituals. tran-
“My good Jesus, you are a prisoner and I am a “My good We Jesus, a prisoner andaI prisoner am a prisoner. areyou bothare prisoners. You are prisoner. We are both prisoners. You are a prisoner for my welfare and happiness and I am a prisoner forofmy welfare and happiness am aofprisoner your hands. You are Kingand andI Lord all and I ofam your hands. You are King and Lord of all andyou, I a worm of the earth. I have abandoned amthinking a wormonly of the earth. I have abandoned you, of this world which is the destruction thinking only this repenting world which themydestruction of souls. Butofnow, withisall heart, I deofsire souls. But now, repenting with all my to heart, I deonly that which you desire, and suffer with sire only that which you desire, and to suffer with resignation. O my Jesus, I adore thee everywhere resignation. O my Jesus, I adore thee everywhere thou dwellest in the Blessed Sacrament. Where thou thou dwellest in the Blessed Sacrament. Where thou
scend the global structures of patriarchy that bind them in their performance and appropriation of the same rituals.
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Creative Director | Cover Designs Goddess in the Sheets | Table of Contents Poems: “deity,” “woman”
Turner, Christian Women & Emancipation in Ritual | Staff Page
Simone Montgomery In Maude We Trust
To You, The Brown, Black, or Non-White Queer Individual | Editor’s Note
Lido Pimienta: A True Priestess of the Music World Desinger Credits Page | Poems: “deity,” “woman”
Val Cardona Mother Nature
Lucia Santina Ribisi Poems: “deity,” “woman”
Gaby Freid Material Girl: God, Gold, and Glory
Neoliberal Education Reform
The Business of Religion
Intervarsity: Faith and Being “Beyond Colorblind”
Isabel Bina Biting Back: Reclaiming the Monster Narrative
Staff Art Spread
Maya Sol Levy
The Fall of Olympus
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This quarter FEM’s staff looked deeper into how we can rethink and repurpose divinity to open up new spaces for feminist discourses. With vi...
Published on Nov 28, 2017
This quarter FEM’s staff looked deeper into how we can rethink and repurpose divinity to open up new spaces for feminist discourses. With vi...