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skirting invisible subjects


Are Not Books & Publications


SKIRTING INVISIBLE SUBJECTS janelle rebel


fe m i n isms of t h e u pper a ir

Vol. 1: Feminisms of the Upper Air Vol. 2: Skirting Invisible Subjects Vol. 3: Mandorla-Modes of Transport

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Vol. 2: Skirting Invisible Subjects A walking essay in eight parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 A series of fictionless fictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

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Women have served all these centuries as lookingglasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.

virginia woolf


a walking essay in eight parts


Wait. My blood is coming back from their senses. It’s getting warmer inside us, between us. Their words are becoming empty, bloodless, dead skins. While our lips are becoming red again. They’re stirring, they’re moving, they want to speak. What do you want to say? Nothing. Everything. Yes. Be patient. You will say it all. Begin with what you feel, here, right away. The female “all” will come. Luce Irigaray

i dreamt about this massive schol arly book. It had a great title, if only I could remember it, something about mandorlas. It was incredible—a giant tome of feminine wisdom. A key foundational work. Its cover was gently worn, its body aging but in tact. How could I have missed this in all my researches? How could I have overlooked such an influential source? It was right there. Several days later, today, when I sat down to write, my mind returned to it: I should consult this book! Its vivid recollection then scattered the truth. It had only been imagined to begin with. *

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to begin with. I think we should talk about Beth Moore and the overdue awakening of evangelical misogyny. But to talk about Beth Moore, my mind goes to Muncie, Indiana, in the late 90s and early aughts. A time and place I have thought-revisited much and also not thought about at all. You know the feeling—intensely but occasionally giving a damn without giving a damn? Well, to talk about Beth Moore, to talk about the recent chain of events that played out in mainstream media, to understand what dissidence looks like in Christian conservative circles, I think it is worth returning.1 Muncie. I found a charismatic church there on the other side of the tracks. The Catholic church on campus was sleepy—literally filled with students exhausted from a night of partying but pursuing the Sunday routines of their youth. The nondenominational churches fell flat for me too—more focused on the “transgressive” act of having coffee in the sanctuary than on any particular “good news” gospel. I had never lived in the Bible Belt before and it was all frankly a bit fascinating. The rituals, the language, and all the accoutrements surrounding a lived-out faith. Those “in the know” carried the right

1.

See Green, “Tiny Blond Bible Teacher.”

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casual, contemporary translation in a stylish zip-up case, making their Bible look like a well-cared-for day planner. I decided to check out a women’s Bible study there and got connected with a group of active seniors. Initially I was an interloper—at least forty-five years younger than the youngest among them. The weekly study guide we were following was nothing remarkable, but the members heroically tried to bring depth to it anyway—seemingly enjoying any opportunity to be in the Word and joking through any banal prompts. We were looking forward to wrapping up and the ministry leaders were excited to introduce what would be next: a women’s Bible study authored by Beth Moore of Living Proof Ministries, complete with video lectures, group discussion guides, and individual workbooks with daily Scripture readings, lessons, and self-reflections. I’d never heard of her before. But within Christian circles, Beth Moore was big time.2 I no longer have a copy of this study or the studies that we subsequently did from her oeuvre, but it was the first experience I 2.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College is on record as saying, “She’s a singularly influential figure among evangelicals as a woman leader. Beth just is a category by herself.” Stetzer quoted in Green, “Tiny Blond Bible Teacher.”

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had of doing a group Bible study with any meat on its bones. 3 At the core, Moore was teaching masses of women how to read, annotate, and study the Bible with techniques usually reserved for educating men in seminary. All I knew then was that her interpretations seemed learned, insightful, and sensitive. At 19, 20, 21—this was where I was at. I was invested in figuring out my religion and practicing my faith in the same way that other folks my age were invested in exploring their sexuality. While I’d like to think it’s possible to pursue one’s religion and one’s sexuality at the same time, that certainly wasn’t my situation.4 I didn’t understand then that Moore was a complementarian, a view that “holds that men are uniquely suited to leadership in homes and churches.”5 I didn’t understand then that the quasi-progressive 3. We did in-depth studies on Paul, John, and Isaiah. I had tossed the workbooks by my mid-twenties. Though important in memory, they were written in a hand and voice I no longer recognized and were graphically embarrassing my bookshelf. 4. As an ambiguously foreign-looking girl in the middle of Indiana, the Muncie dating scene was not really a scene that interested or favored me. 5. Graham, “Evangelical #MeToo Summit.” As Emma Green reported in The Atlantic, “Moore may be a complementarian, but she is adamant that Christian men should not treat women ‘any less than Jesus treated women in the Gospels: always with dignity, always with esteem, never as secondary

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Protestant church I was attending had mostly centrist leanings with residual ties to a regional, ultra-conservative, big-tent-revival Christianity.6 There was a lot I didn’t understand. This was before I got demoted by the head of an evangelical publisher for a conversation I never had with him, at a lunch I never attended. This was before my colleague got fired for giving her perspective on a forthcoming book about women in the church in a publishing meeting filled with men. This was before I walked out of church when a layman used the pulpit to trash Planned Parenthood. This was well before. What I understood then was that Beth Moore seemed to take the intelligence of women seriously. Though I’ve distanced myself from conservative Christianity since—it was never conceivably for me anyway—I still care. And I’ve secretly maintained a soft spot for Moore because my Muncie experiences were so formative. When Moore popped up in mainstream media in the fall of 2016—a rarity for her—it caught my attention. She publicly took a stand against Trump’s sexually predatory behavior and his admissions on the 6.

citizens.’” Green, “Tiny Blond Bible Teacher.” For context, I grew up in a rural Catholic church in northern Wisconsin with vestiges of folk religion, nature worship, and Native American spirituality.

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Access Hollywood tape.7 Meanwhile, many male evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, and Dr. Dobson were busy doubling down, giving then presidential candidate Trump yet another pass to continue endorsing him. Moore was disgusted, tweeting, “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power. Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO.”8 And while Moore was not the only female evangelical to publicly reject Trump, she had the name recognition to draw interest from outside the Christian media ghetto, and mainstream news outlets picked up the story.9 Conversely from within Christian 7. Does it need repeating? Trump infamously said to Billy Bush, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” For a transcript of the tape see Bullock, “Transcript.” 8. Moore, Twitter, October 9, 2016. 9. See DuBois, “Powerful Evangelical Women;” Landsbaum, “Surprising Champions of Women;” and Weiseth, “Spoken Out Against Trump.” In the latter article, Nish Weiseth argues that white women in the evangelical community had largely remained silent about Trump’s xenophobic, racist, misogynist campaign rhetoric while minority women and people of color in the community had been speaking out about the dangers of Trump long before the Access Hollywood tape was released.

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subculture, the reactions to Moore’s disavowal of Trump were mixed. Her stance attracted a wave of scorn from her female fans and several male evangelical leaders wanted her to change her tune.10 Moore has further persisted in the #ChurchToo movement, a campaign founded on the heels of #MeToo in the fall of 2017. It draws attention to the sexual misconduct of church leaders within faith communities and problems related to silencing or shaming victims. Addressing Christian men in a 2018 blog post, “A Letter to My Brothers,” Moore wrote: Many women have experienced horrific abuses within the power structures of our Christian world. Being any part of shaping misogynistic attitudes, whether or not they result in criminal behaviors, is sinful and harmful and produces terrible fruit.11

She has been focusing her critical lens on a Christian community that has been blind to its own abuses of power and mistreatment of women and children and survivors. On May 31, 2018, Moore blogged about the Board of Trustees’ decision to remove Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson from office, after allegations surfaced 10. 11.

See Green, “Tiny Blond Bible Teacher.” Moore, “Letter to My Brothers.”

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that he had mishandled sex abuse allegations at the school for decades, including a 2015 incident in which he wanted to meet privately with a female student who had been raped to “break her down” without any other officials present.12 Moore wrote: There are many matters outside my realm of experience but, having served women for thirty-five years, this is not one of them. I am very familiar with the ravages of sexual molestation, harassment, abuse, assault, and rape. I am very familiar with the demoralizing numbers of victims within our church culture silenced by fear, intimidation, shame, bullying, and such manipulation of biblical submission as to border on pathological.13

She’s not about to mince words now, even if her flock continues to diminish as a result. Patterson isn’t the only prominent evangelical leader to be caught up in #ChurchToo over the past year and a half. Preceding his ouster, megachurch pastors Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, stepped down from their

12. 13.

Ueckert, “Statement by Kevin Ueckert.” Moore, “In Response to the SWBTS.”

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respective positions after victims’ accounts went public and growing media coverage spotlighted the accusations against the men. On January 11, 2018, Savage told his congregation that yes, he had had a “sexual incident” with a teen, Jules Woodson, when he was her youth pastor at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Texas in 1998.14 Savage’s admission was vague, making the “incident” sound innocent and consensual and forever ago. The congregation at Highpoint responded to his bravery with a standing ovation. Savage later resigned on March 20, 2018, as Woodson’s testimony gained national attention. Woodson had been a minor when she was coerced into a sex act with Savage twenty years earlier. At the time of her assault, she had immediately confided in church leaders who had assured her they were handling the situation, though they never reported it to law enforcement. Savage was not removed from his position and given a going away party when he finally did move on to another church. The sex act committed against Woodson was a crime, a crime which was now past the statute of limitations. While Savage admits some level of wrongdoing, Hybels has publicly and privately denied all accusations brought against him. He retired in April 2018, six months before his planned retirement. After his departure, an independent advisory group for Willow 14.

Woodson, “I Was Assaulted.”

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Creek Community Church (WCCC) and the Willow Creek Association (WCA) led a seven month investigation with “a lengthy list of invitees.”15 By February of 2019 the advisory group, which is not a legal entity, released a seventeen-page report that finds the allegations against Bill Hybels credible. It is unclear how many people came forward. The report refers to women in leadership positions and male and female staffers as a “collective testimony.”16 The pastor’s sexual misconduct with women spanned decades and included “suggestive remarks, invitations to his hotel rooms, prolonged hugs, and an unwanted kiss.”17 Hybels abused his power and position in other ways as well. Over the years, women that “came forward with allegations parted from WCCC under adverse circumstances that included termination, position elimination, or lack of further opportunity.”18 Both male and female employees reported being “verbally and emotionally intimidated” by Hybels.19 The culture within faith communities is certainly not always caustic, but it can act as a petri dish for cultivating misogyny and 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

Independent Advisory Group, “Report,” 2. Ibid., 13. Pashman and Coen, “After Years of Inquiries.” See also Smietana, “Bill Hybels Accused.” Independent Advisory Group, “Report,” 5. Ibid., 13.

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worse. As Joshua Pease, a freelance reporter for the Washington Post and former evangelical pastor observes: In any community of faith, there is also sin—often silenced, ignored and denied—and it is much more common than many want to believe. It has often led to failures by evangelicals to report sexual abuse, respond appropriately to victims and change the institutional cultures that enabled the abuse in the first place. . . . The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates.20

Faith communities now splintering, have to come to terms not only with those who did or did not support sexually abusive and misogynist political candidates in the last few elections—e.g., the Donald Trump/Mike Pence ticket and Roy Moore’s unsuccessful run for Senate—but with abuse by church leaders in their local communities. When the May 31, 2018, Post article stated, “sexual abuse in evangelicalism rivals the Catholic Church scandal of the early

20.

Pease, “Sin of Silence.”

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2000s,” the tsunami had really just begun.21 On December 9, 2018, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram uncovered “at least 412 allegations of sexual abuse in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada.”22 As I’ve been working on this essay, the Houston Chronicle broke a story on February 10, 2019, tracking widespread sexual abuse within churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), citing more than 700 victims and 380 predators credibly accused of “sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other serious misconduct” who pastored, worked, or volunteered in SBC churches since 1998.23 I can’t make it to the end of some these articles. The #ChurchToo revelations are heinous and absolutely devastating. My computer revolted, freezing up as I clicked on one too many news stories. Even the computational world can’t process this magnitude, and it is time for me to take a pause. * 21. 22. 23.

Pease, “Sin of Silence.” The Catholic Church scandal is continuing to unfold around the globe. Smith, “Sex Abuse Allegations.” Downen, Olsen, Tedesco, “Abuse of Faith.” The report also states, “The SBC governing documents ban gay or female pastors, but they do not outlaw convicted sex offenders from working in churches.”

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this is all rich context for understanding a fractured church, but I want to get back to Beth Moore. Not Beth Moore specifically, but rather to what Beth Moore and other faith leaders like her have represented. There’s something else that needs to be said. Thus far I’ve echoed the melody of Christian media and mainstream media, which have largely sung the same song, portraying Moore as an unlikely figure willing to take a stand on some tough issues facing church communities today. But we are still skirting the subject. While Beth Moore and other evangelical authors that I am less familiar with are no doubt sincerely troubled by recent events, they have not moved the needle on the highly problematic complementarian establishment theology that continues to be doled out to a largely white, straight, middle-aged Christian audience. Any secularist with a passing interest can dismiss Christianity as a patriarchal monotheistic belief system that places men of God on a pedestal and fosters misogyny out of the gate. There are deep-seated issues at the core of inequality in the church and it’s going to take a heap of outside pressure and inside pressure to address a systemic problem of unholy behavior. During my research meanderings, I discovered a one-day event called Reflections: A GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Violence at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College 22


in Wheaton, Illinois, on December 13, 2018. It brought together prominent evangelical leaders like “Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Max Lucado, Belinda Bauman, Eugene Cho, Nancy Beach, Ed Stetzer, York Moore, Laurel Bunker, and others.”24 As discussed in a Slate article, the cofounders of the #ChurchToo movement were curiously left off the roster and not invited by Stetzer and the Billy Graham Center to speak.25 Huh. They instead brought in a bunch of people who would agree with their views. Charlotte Henderson’s reaction to the GC2 Summit announcement in Medium cuts to the chase: When I first heard that people like Ed Stetzer and Beth Moore were hosting the GC2 Summit, a conference about sexual assault in the church, my first thought was “They’ve got a lot of fucking nerve.” Ed, Beth, and a lot of the conference organizers have a well documented history of upholding the patriarchal, misogynist system that protects abusers and shames victims. On top of that, the conference title originally had the #ChurchToo hashtag in it with no mention of the hashtag creators, Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch. I was angry but not surprised; this conference is evangelical culture’s way 24. 25.

Billy Graham Center, “Wheaton College to Host.” See Graham, “Evangelical #MeToo Summit.”

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of trying to appropriate and control a narrative that makes them look bad, and there was no way they were going to allow two women, queer women who reject their oppression, make them look like the bad guys.26

The GC2 Summit was live-streamed and the #ChurchToo cofounders hosted an online alternative to the conference on Twitter and Instagram.27 Emily Joy’s twenty-five minute rambling which is archived on Twitter blasts complementarian theology, purity culture, anti-LGBTQ+ theology, white supremacy and racism, and toxic behavior.28 It’s a true mash-up of evangelical jargon and callout culture. So this is what dissidence sounds like in twentyfirst-century conservative Christianity. I’ll take this as a good sign, for now. Sure, the establishment doesn’t want to recognize the voices of Henderson, Joy, or Paasch. But knowing that young evangelicals are pushing back and speaking up from within Christian subculture is encouraging. *

26. Henderson, “Control.” 27. Joy, “Why #purityculture,” Twitter, December 13, 2018. 28. Ibid.

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l ast year i was watching the 2005 film The Corporation, partly in preparation for an exhibition of “ephemera, publications, and politically-engaged art” I was organizing called an untitled show about Trump, the alt-right, and the state of things and partly to gain a broader perspective on the interrelatedness of the corporate world, the economy, and government regulation in general.29 I tackled the disc of bonus interviews—eight hours of additional footage with experts on all sides of the debate—over the course of several evenings. I tuned in to discussions about law and the legal system, markets, labor, and the expenditure of resources, and let an endless stream of global statistics wash over me. Mary Zepernick, cited in The Corporation as coordinator of POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy), took the conversation on an unexpected but refreshing course to address how patriarchy figures into this picture and brought up the concept of dominator culture as formulated by Riane Eisler. I thought I understood patriarchy until that moment. Zepernick, drawing heavily on Eisler, says: Patriarchy is a many millennia old system that has prevailed in much of the world that takes human differences and assigns to them unequal value—dominant and subordinate—and on the basis of that hands out privileges and goodies accordingly. 29. Rebel, An Untitled Show.

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It’s a male word linguistically, and historically it was men who set up these categories. However as we use it, and there are other terms, a woman named Riane Eisler calls it the dominator culture to avoid it only sounding male. . . . So it’s not about men/women, although that gender differential remains, it’s about any struggle for equity and even more than that the notion of a hierarchy of human beings.”30

On an individual level, any of us—male, female, trans, queer, non-binary—can be said to exhibit patriarchal or dominator behaviors. These are associated with the conquering, aggressive, power-seeking characteristics that are so-often associated with getting oneself ahead in life. On the societal level, the dominator system that we have been living in for much of (but not all of) recorded human history, is in fact not getting our species ahead but driving us toward destruction. 31 As the future forecasts of the 1970s and 1980s predicted, we are spiraling toward “increasingly massive political, economic, and environmental dislocations”— totalitarianism, unfettered free market capitalism, the threat of 30. Zepernick in The Corporation, disc 2. In Eisler’s model, patriarchy and matriarchy are both forms of dominator cultures. See Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xvii. 31. See Eisler, Chalice and the Blade.

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nuclear war, and the catastrophic effects of global warming on natural resources and plant, animal, and human life. 32 It has upheld inequality among the sexes, vast injustices to any persons deemed lesser, and the devaluing of “‘effeminate’ qualities such as caring, compassion, and nonviolence.”33 In the context of The Corporation, Zepernick states: The modern corporation is the quintessential patriarchal institution exercising power over—that’s the hallmark of patriarchy or a dominator culture. It’s exercising power over based on wealth, based on human difference, whatever. So that any kind of vision of democracy, of peace, of justice must look at this larger framework and recognize that it’s completely different behaviors that we need to call forth in ourselves. 34

Beyond the immediate exhibition I was working on and beyond my self-education in economics and the concentration of wealth and power, these little sound bites on patriarchy got lodged in my brain. Patriarchy is . . . Well, I was doubting my previous conceptions. It was time to look up Riane Eisler, proper.

32. 33. 34.

Ibid., 173. Ibid., xvi. Zepernick in The Corporation, disc 2.

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The art school library where I work had an old paperback copy of Eisler’s groundbreaking 1988 book, The Chalice and the Blade, which is exactly the title I was seeking. The BISAC codes on the back cover are History/Women’s Studies and its LC call number is HQ1075 which corresponds to “The family. Marriage. Women—Sex role.”35 This particular copy has what we call in the biz, condition issues: moisture stains, foxing, highlighting, and margin notes in assorted pigments. It was the book I wanted, but not a particularly appealing copy. I brought it home and added it to the stack. The piles on my folding table grew and there it sat. When I did finally rescue it, I was only a few pages in before I started marking it up and jotting down my own margin notes. The moment I realized that I couldn’t possibly type up every passage, I knew I was in deep. I now sympathized with all the zealous readers that came before me. This was good—really good. Not nearly as niche as it first sounded. Eisler’s massive project was making connections across “art, archaeology, religion, social science, history, and many other fields of inquiry” to structure a new paradigm to understand and acknowledge the peaceable, 35.

Library of Congress, “Class H - Social Sciences.” As I would soon find out, these categories are laughably limiting, misleading, and quite antithetical to Eisler’s theses.

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egalitarian, economically equitable, culturally advanced societies in our prehistory and history that were matrilineal, matrilocal, followers of the Goddess. 36 Mind-blowing. Was this in some way the book I dreamt about? In it, Eisler “re-examines human society from a genderholistic perspective” and theorizes that there have been two underlying models of society: a partnership model (symbolized by the chalice) and a dominator model (symbolized by the blade). 37 In the partnership model which Eisler also refers to as gylanic, “social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking” and “diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.”38 The dominator model, which includes patriarchies and matriarchies, is often referenced throughout the book as androcratic. The dominator model is defined by “the ranking of one half of humanity over the other.”39 She explains that we have been

36. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xv. 37. Ibid., xvii. 38. Ibid. Marija Gimbutas defines gylany thus: “A term coined by Riane Eisler to represent a balance and equality between the sexes. Gy is from the Greek root word gyne, meaning ‘woman,’ an is from andros, ‘man,’ and the letter l stands for ‘linking.’” Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 432. 39. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xvii.

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living under the sign of the blade where “higher value” has been placed “on the power that takes rather than gives, life.”40 The ensuing chapters locate and envision the possibility for a different kind of future: They tell a story that begins thousands of years before our recorded (or written) history: the story of how the original partnership direction of Western culture veered off into a bloody five-thousand-year dominator detour. They show that our mounting global problems are in large part the logical consequences of a dominator model of social organization. . . And they also show that there is another course which, as co-creators of our own evolution, is still ours to choose. This is the alternative of breakthrough rather than breakdown: how through new ways of structuring politics, economics, science, and spirituality we can move into the new era of a partnership world.41

She unpacks hegemony and underscores the idea that partnership culture has always been a part of our human legacy: Long suppressed by androcratic ideology, the secret of transformation expressed by the Chalice was in earlier times 40. Ibid., 48 (my emphasis). 41. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, xxiii.

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seen as the consciousness of our unity or linking with one another and all else in the universe. Great seers and mystics have continued to express this vision, describing it as the transformative power of what early Christians called agape.42

In other words, she argues that mystical and esoteric traditions (Abrahamic and otherwise) have preserved some connection to the Goddess or to a gylanic outlook. In two sentences, she validates occult thinking in a brilliant, mainstream, scholarly way. Eisler’s assessment—the careful undoing and redoing of the scholarly interpretation of goddess religions and the evidence of partnership societies unearthed in very real, ancient communities; the systematic ways in which women have been subordinated, dehumanized, and ignored as a result of a historical shift to patriarchal, androcratic rule marked by the new gods of domination and force; and the vision that she has for a way out of our current mess—is still radical, and necessary, and urgent. * 42. Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, 193. She goes on to say that even the term agape has been perverted by androcracy, “[Agape] is the elemental linking between humans that in the distortion characteristic of androcracy is called ‘brotherly’ love.” Ibid.

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While our sexual selves have been loosed in the online dating world, “the sacred dimension of sexuality” seems duly distant.66 We can play out sexual fantasies with consensual partners through technology and in-person hookups. We have connected our liberated bodies with our sexuality but little else. We’ve got plenty of work to do before we can live freely in all dimensions, before all our selves (sexual, spiritual, social) can truly rest in equality.

66.

Harvey and Baring, Divine Feminine, 77.

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Bibliography ARCWP. “Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.” Macon: GA. Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. “Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College to Host One-Day Summit to Challenge and Inspire the Church to Address Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Abuse.” News release, November 1, 2018. https://www.wheaton.edu/news/recent-news/2018 /november/billy-graham-center-to-host-summit/. Buchanan, Vern. “InstaPoll: Assisted Suicide?” Email. March 31, 2019. Bullock, Penn. “Transcript: Donald Trump’s Taped Comments About Women.” Oct. 8, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/donald-trump -tape-transcript.html. Caspani, Maria. “Support for Abortion Rights Grows As Some U.S. States Curb Access: Reuters/Ipsos Poll.” Reuters, May 26, 2019. https://www.reuters .com/article/us-usa-abortion-poll-idUSKCN1SW0CD. Downen, Robert, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco. “Abuse of Faith.” A Chronicle Investigation, Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2019–February 13, 2019. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/investigations/abuse-of-faith. DuBois, Joshua. “Powerful Evangelical Women Split From Male Church Leaders to Slam Trump.” Daily Beast, October 10, 2016. https://www .thedailybeast.com/powerful-evangelical-women-split-from-male -church-leaders-to-slam-trump. Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. Cambridge, MA: Harper & Row, 1988.

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Gallo, Marzia Cataldi. “Sacred Vestments: Color and Form.” In Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, curated by Andrew Bolton, 17–24. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Graham, Ruth. “At the Evangelical #MeToo Summit, Christians Grappled With Just How Deep the Church’s Sexual Misconduct Problems Go.” Slate, December 14, 2018. https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/12 /evangelical-metoo-summit-churchtoo.html. Green, Emma. “The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine.” The Atlantic, October 2018. https://www.theatlantic .com/magazine/archive/2018/10/beth-moore-bible-study/568288/. Harvey, Andrew, and Anne Baring. Divine Feminine. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 1996. Henderson, Charlotte. “Control: A Black Woman’s Response To the GC2 Summit.” Medium, December 13, 2018. https://medium.com/@ charlotteirene8/control-a-black-womans-response-to-the-gc2 -summit-cd4b06530cef. Iannelli, Jerry. “Activists Warn Against Florida Bill Requiring Parental Consent for Underage Abortions.” Broward Palm Beach New Times, April 4, 2019. http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/florida-bill-hb-1335 -requiring-parental-consent-for-underage-abortion-passes -committee-10240092. Independent Advisory Group (IAG). “Report To Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) and Willow Creek Association (WCA).” February 28,

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2019. https://www.willowcreek.org/-/media/images/7-0-about /elders2019/iagreport-022819.pdf. Irigaray, Luce, and Carolyn Burke. “When Our Lips Speak Together,” Signs 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1980): 69–79. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3173966 Joy, Emily. “Why #purityculture and Other “Evangelical Beliefs” Form the Bedrock of #ChurchToo #gc2summit.” Twitter, December 13, 2018. https://twitter.com/emilyjoypoetry/status/1073296580705468416. Landsbaum, Claire. “6 Surprising Champions of Women From the 2016 Election.” The Cut, October 20, 2016. https://www.thecut.com/2016/10 /the-most-unlikely-heroes-of-women-in-this-years-election.html. Lemongello, Steven. “Florida Republicans Propose ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Bill to Restrict Abortion.” Orlando Sentinel, March 1, 2019. https://www .orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-social-issues-florida-legislature -20190301-story.html. Library of Congress. “Class H - Social Sciences.” Library of Congress Classification Outline. https://www.loc.gov/aba/cataloging /classification/lcco/lcco_h.pdf. MMOJ, “Welcome To Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community.” Sarasota, FL. Moore, Beth. “In Response to the SWBTS.” The LPM Blog. May 31, 2018. https://blog.lproof.org/2018/05/response-swbts-board-trustees -decision.html. Moore, Beth. “Letter to My Brothers.” The LPM Blog. May 3, 2018. https://blog .lproof.org/2018/05/a-letter-to-my-brothers.html.

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Moore, Beth (@BethMooreLPM). Twitter, October 9, 2016. https://twitter .com/bethmoorelpm/status/785119502769852418. Neuwirth, Jessica. Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Is Now. With a foreword by Gloria Steinem. New York: The New Press, 2015. Pashman, Manya Brachear, and Jeff Coen. “After Years of Inquiries, Willow Creek Pastor Denies Misconduct Allegations.” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2018. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news /breaking/ct-met-willow-creek-pastor-20171220-story.html. Pease, Joshua. “The Sin of Silence.” Washington Post, May 31, 2018. https://www .washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/31/feature/ the-epidemic-of-denial-about-sexual-abuse-in-the-evangelical-church. Pew Research Center. “Public Opinion on Abortion: Views on Abortion, 1995–2018.” October 15, 2018. https://www.pewforum.org/fact -sheet/public-opinion-on-abortion/. Rebel, Janelle. An Untitled Show About Trump, the Alt-Right, and the State of Things. Sarasota, FL: Ringling College of Art and Design, 2018. Rua, Ellis. “Florida Abortion Bill Would Require Minors to Obtain Consent.” Daily Business Review, April 8, 2019. https://www.law.com /dailybusinessreview/2019/04/08/florida-abortion-bill-would-require -minors-to-obtain-consent/?slreturn=20190315205554. Smietana, Bob. “Bill Hybels Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Former Willow Creek Leaders.” Christianity Today, March 22, 2018. https://www .christianitytoday.com/news/2018/march/bill-hybels-misconduct -willow-creek-john-nancy-ortberg.html.

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Smith, Sarah. “Hundreds of Sex Abuse Allegations Found in Fundamental Baptist Churches Across U.S.” Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 9, 2018. https://www.star-telegram .com/living/religion/article222576310.html. Sullivan, Andrew. “The Gay Church.” New York Magazine, January 21– February 3, 2019. Ueckert, Kevin. “Statement by Kevin Ueckert, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, news release, June 1, 2018. https://swbts.edu/news/releases/statement-kevin-ueckert -chairman-board-trustees/. United States Census Bureau. “American Fact Finder.” https://factfinder.census.gov. Weiseth, Nish. “These Evangelicals Have Long Spoken Out Against Trump. No One Was Listening.” Sojourners, October 18, 2016. https://sojo.net /articles/these-evangelicals-have-long-spoken-out-against-trump-no -one-was-listening. Woodson, Jules. “I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.” Opinion, New York Times, March 9, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09 /opinion/jules-woodson-andy-savage-assault.html. Woolf, Virgina. A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1989. Zepernick, Mary. Bonus interviews. Disc 2. The Corporation. DVD. Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. United States: Zeitgeist Films, 2005.

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Related Reading and Further Reference “On Feminisms,” e-flux journal 92 (June 2018). With Pilar Villela Mascaró, Griselda Pollock, Renee Gladman, Mary Walling Blackburn, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Elvia Wilk, Mirene Arsanios, Élisabeth Lebovici and Giovanna Zapperi, Irmgard Emmelhainz, Angela Dimitrakaki, Chus Martínez, Ewa Majewska, and Simone White. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/92/. “On Feminisms,” Part 2, e-flux journal 93 (September 2018).With Nisi Shawl, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Filipa Ramos, Natalya Serkova, Marwa Arsanios, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Doreen Mende, McKenzie Wark, and Maria Lind. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/93/. “Women & Power: Powerful Women Talk About Power—Winning It, Wielding It, Losing It, Fighting For It.” Features. New York Magazine, October 15–28, 2018.

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a series of fictionless fictions


My friend had given me a box of Frango mint chocolates to take home with me. It was entirely too many chocolates for one person to eat, but it had an image of the Chicago skyline on it. I’d have them after dinner or sometimes before bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I’d have the most soul-wrenching, terrifying, hallucinatory dreams. I’m not sure if one should come into such regular contact with the depths of their unconscious, but it brought about a kind of catharsis—facing (and surviving) such an onslaught of fears night after night.

60


I suppose you could say I was relieved when the box was empty, though I must admit, a little wistful. My standing date with the daemon nostalgia had ended. frango mints

61


Some days I am on the verge of tears. It has nothing to do with you. Some people have to watch a Terrence Malick film to tap into the meta-emotion of the universe. But like Beyonce, I woke up like this. Meow. meow

62


Out of courtesy, I waited until we were married before I looked into your soul. I caught a glimpse of a brilliant sapphire blue once. It was very far away but impressive. I saw you then. I knew you. I burrowed into you. When years passed, I tried to remember its color, its shape, its shine. I wanted to see it again. I wanted it to be right there. ocean

63


Not everyone gets to work for a fundamentalist publisher. We were the lucky ones. I mean, as a matter of course, we were shunted. Obvs. They knew I was a heretic before I did, so I’ll give them that. Perception and protectionism are not so far apart. sal ad days

64


I received a message notification and logged in. lanlue12 Jan 19 3:57

pm:

asian?

lanlue12 Jan 19 3:57

pm:

asian?

lanlue12 Jan 19 4:05 THAN ME

pm:

U AINT BETTER

I think it would be nice to respond with a buddha mind. But I’m only in week three of my meditation classes and we haven’t dealt with hate speech in dating apps yet. back at it, 2019

65


Why do married women throw showers for engaged women? Why don’t we just haze them? Wouldn’t that be better preparation? becoming peripheral is not for everyone

66


You know when you cry so hard, you have to nap it off? That’s my agenda today. i’ve got a full day

67


Sometimes strangers aren’t that strange. He said, “You’re not lousy, you’re just dealing with a reality that makes you uncomfortable. You are facing an aspect of your animal nature which is nothing to be ashamed of.” It was the frank conversation about sexuality that I didn’t know I needed. I was calling it quits. And though presumably hurt, he offered me this in return. A break-up gift in the form of loving-kindness. a nice kind of cologne

68


The first rule of bibliography: the ideal copy is not perfect. ideal copy

69


Every once in a while, I send an email to my dead ex. Mostly traumatic news. ‘I got in a car accident today.’ ‘I’m having nonemergency, urgent out-patient surgery next week.’ Things of that nature. I don’t expect him to respond. I’m just not sure how to make contact with the otherside. playing dead

70


I plodded along late afternoon in my big Levis and let them skim the ground. It was sunny or cloudy. I felt fine. The incision on my sternum shortened my gait. I was thirty-seven on the cusp of eighty-seven, stepping it out, incrementally. post-op

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Pages 72–73 omitted from preview.

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I don’t like disappointing other people, yet my guts are my guts. If you try to reason someone into a relationship, the game is up. I have felt different things for you at different times. It’s not any more complicated than that. what transpired after the third supermoon; or , i really did want to see your space opera

74


The love that I used to reserve for you has nowhere to go. Some people figure out how to divert this energy into useful channels, charitable ones. Not me. I’ve got a well full of doting love here, brimming over with the nonsensical sounds of adoration. building up the reserves

75


Is it possible to think about fucking while reading about androcratic rule? I guess you already know the answer, since I’ve postulated a weak question. androcracy

76


When I was a designer, it was not unusual for client feedback to come out of left field. This was nothing new for the profession, and we said things like ‘I’m not a mind reader’ even if we knew it was a futile rebuttle. You don’t have many defenses when your project gets gutted. But tonight when I told you that I didn’t like it when men (i.e. you) speak over me and you said ‘I’m not a mind reader;’ I thought ‘what a copout. Is that what we’re calling it these days?’ when your project gets gutted

77


When the high school guidance counselor gave us the bubble-dot aptitude test from the 70s, mine came up priest — artist — construction worker. As a girl, I wasn’t allowed to take shop class, and I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to break into the priesthood, so it was an obvious, though in actuality arduous, career path decision. priest—artist—construction worker

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In a dream state I wrote, “The alwaysstill-buffering pillowy clouds in the sky never come into focus.� digital (im)materialit y

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Pages 80–85 omitted from preview.

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Pages 80–85 omitted from preview.

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Writing and design by Janelle Rebel. Copyright Š2019 by Janelle Rebel, foldtocenter.com. First print-on-demand edition published July 2019. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent printings and editions. Read or print Are Not Books and Publications at arenotbooks.com. Contact Are Not Books at editor@arenotbooks.com. 86


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Skirting Invisible Subjects is a walking essay in eight parts plus twenty-five fictionless fictions on religion, misogyny, and gender. An idea-field of #ChurchToo, partnership cultures, women priests, liberation theology, dating apps, hyper-masculinity, abortion polls, marriage, divorce, self-betrayal . . . Are Not Books & Publications

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Profile for Are Not Books & the Nonnus Studio

Skirting Invisible Subjects, by Janelle Rebel  

Skirting Invisible Subjects is a walking essay in eight parts, plus twenty-five fictionless fictions on religion, misogyny, and gender. An i...

Skirting Invisible Subjects, by Janelle Rebel  

Skirting Invisible Subjects is a walking essay in eight parts, plus twenty-five fictionless fictions on religion, misogyny, and gender. An i...

Profile for nonnus

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