Along with writing at you, I can also talk at you! I did an on-camera interview with independent editor Terri A. Wilson which you can find here. We talk reproductive justice, feminist theology, the history of the bible, my soon-to-be-released book, and all kinds of fascinating stuff!
I hope you had fun generating ideas with your mind maps last month and beginning some preliminary research. By now you must have tons of ideas about where this whole process could take you. However, it’s time to start clearing up a tiny bit of the messy stuff and begin to formulate your question.
As you began to map out ideas and read a bit in your research area, you probably noticed that there were certain ideas that appealed to you more than others. This is the point in the process in which you get to narrow your focus and really look into those interesting ideas. It doesn’t mean you have to scrap everything else, just that you are now going to choose a lens through which to view your topic. Some of those other ideas from your map could prove useful as background or supplementary info so hang onto those ideas!
One of the biggest mistakes beginning researchers make is assuming that they shouldn’t write about something because they don’t know a lot about it. This is part of the “write what you know” mantra which is good in its way but certainly not absolute. Many, many authors do the opposite and instead educate themselves about an idea through researching and writing about it and it is, in my opinion, the most fun way. Why? Because when you find yourself consumed with a mystery or a burning question, you’ll stop at nothing to find answers. Also, no matter how you approach this process of writing a book or a paper, you ultimately need a question around which to frame your writing. If your book or paper is simply a recitation of facts, it won’t have any value whatsoever. Your writing needs a point, a purpose, that is clear to the reader.
For instance, you might decide to write a book about Napoleon and his wife Josephine. Perhaps you had “Napoleon” at the center of your mind map and a little spoke with “Josephine” on it and it caught your imagination. Great. You have an idea. Except, so what? If all you do is write a linear narrative about their relationship, you’ve given us nothing. Why do you want to write it? What is it about the relationship between the two that compels you to write? What question do you want to answer for yourself and for readers? Perhaps when you really start to think, and when you revisit your mind map you find that what fascinates you is how this all-powerful man virtually enslaved himself to this woman who was rather scandalous and politically dangerous. Awesome. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now you need to turn this idea into the question you actually want to answer which might be something like, “How was this woman with a scandalous political past and who was rumored to have had many lovers during her relationship to Napoleon, able to bring the most powerful man in the world to his knees?” You might not have any idea. You might have only this question and that’s okay. Your job now is to do your research with this question in mind. Keep in mind that your question may change throughout the research process as you uncover new resources and avenues of inquiry but that’s okay too. Or, you may encounter “sub questions” that you need to answer on the way to answering your primary question. If this is the case, go with it! Just remember that you need to keep your primary question as the focus and let the sub questions serve as fodder for the primary question.
Feel free to play with your question(s) as you move through the process. It may help you to write down your question and have it in front of you whenever you’re doing research or even to work it into the title of your book or paper in some way so that you are always doing your work with your question in mind.
Look at that! You have a focus!
TASK: Use these next couple of weeks to really narrow your focus and settle on a question and maybe a couple of sub questions that feed into the main question. Write these down and tack them above your desk or put them on a sticky note on your computer. Begin tracking down resources that might help you answer your burning question.
In our next post we’ll focus on beginning the research in earnest. I’ll talk about strategies, tips for locating resources and getting the most out of them, and how to organize your research.
Hello, friends! Here is the text for our feminist liturgy for March 4, 2018. Please feel free to join us online at 3PM mountain time via Facebook Live on my author page.
Feminist Liturgy for March 4, 2018
I want to begin by gratefully acknowledging that we are living, working, and worshipping on Treaty 6 territory, and that we respect the histories, languages, and cultures of First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant communities.
I’d also like to thank everyone who is joining us live on Facebook! I’m grateful for your presence and I hope you’ll enjoy this liturgy which has been prepared to fill a large void in the hearts of many of us who are people of faith or philosophy but find inadequate expression within traditional churches. We are women, people of color, sexual minorities, theists and nontheists, as well as anyone who has found traditional liturgy painful and sometimes even damaging to our sense of self and our deeply held faith. At the same time, I want to welcome those who may not describe themselves as having a faith. As a person who herself inhabits that strange territory between what the world calls “faith” and “no faith”, I want to recognize the people who may be joining us not out of spiritual conviction but out of solidarity. I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m trying out something a bit different this month. Rather than a theme, I wanted to test drive my feminist translation of Anglican morning prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with this, morning prayer is part of what is known as the Daily office, a set of prayer services usually said by monastics as they go about their day. Morning prayer is, obviously, the morning prayer service. More and more laypeople are starting to incorporate the Daily Office into their prayer life by choosing to say either morning, afternoon, or evening prayers each day. I know that I find it really fun and helpful.
Translating the rather androcentric Daily Office into “feminist language” has been interesting. I don’t think it does to just change pronouns. A feminist reimagining of language also takes into account hierarchical and warlike imagery. So, I don’t change “Lord” to “Lady” because that still retains feudal elements. You’ll notice that I replace “kingdom” with “kindom”, something feminist theologians have been doing for a long time. Other changes include “fellowship” into “friendship” and “Lord Jesus” into “our Brother Jesus”. These are not always perfectly analogous to what the original writers intended but this is an ongoing process.
You’ll also notice that rather than just having copied and pasted psalms, I have adapted them. This was a difficult choice for me because I do think we need to have knowledge of scripture as it is written. However, what won out was the desire to be able, for once, to make declarations and recite poetry and song that truly reflects what is in my heart. As for the Gospel reading, I left that one alone for the time being so God is referred to there as a Father.
Just one last quick note before we start. Though I do use feminine language about 90% of the time, this is not to assert that God is female. I believe, like many others, that any God that “exists” is likely not gendered. The reason I use feminine language is simply to aid in a shift that is not yet possible for some of us if we skip right to gender neutral language. For many of us, gender neutral language, while accurate, also still has the power to be imagined exclusively as male simply through cultural conditioning (think of words such as doctor, officer, etc.) Though I wholeheartedly celebrate gender neutral services, my goal here is to create a space in which we can gain spiritual insight by openly stripping God of the tyranny of androcentrism. Only then, I believe, can we make our way toward meaningful gender-neutral worship. That said, use whatever words you like! This service is for all of us.
Officiant: Mother, open our lips,
All: And our mouth shall proclaim your love.
Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.
All: O God, make haste to help us.
All: Glory to the Mother, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.
(Adapted from Psalm 95:1-7)
Come, let us sing to our Mother;
let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before her presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to her with psalms.
All: Our Mother is full of compassion and mercy: O come, let us worship.
For our Mother is a great God,
her love is present through all creation.
In her hand are the caverns of the earth,
and the heights of the hills are hers also.
The sea is hers for she made it,
and her hands have moulded the dry land.
All: Our Mother is full of compassion and mercy: O come, let us worship.
Come, let us pray and give thanks,
and be joyful before our Mother.
For she is our God,
and we are the people of her pasture and the
sheep of her hand.
Oh, that today you would hearken to her voice!
All: Our Mother is full of compassion and mercy: O come, let us worship.
Glory to the Mother, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen. Alleluia!
The Proclamation of the Word
Officiant: God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Officiant: The Holy Gospel is written in the 8th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark.
All: Glory to thee, God.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that is was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
The Gospel of Christ.
All: Praise be to thee, O’ Christ.
(adapted from Psalm 100)
Be joyful in the Mother, all you lands;
serve the Mother with gladness
and come before her presence with a song.
Know this: God is our Mother;
she herself has made us, and we are hers;
we are her people and the sheep of her pasture.
Enter her gates with thanksgiving;
Go into her house with praise;
give thanks to her and call upon her name.
For the Mother is good;
her love is everlasting;
and her faithfulness endures from age to age.
Reflection and Sharing
(The gathered share a moment of silence and then reflection on today’s readings.)
Affirmation of Faith
Adaptation of the Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God,
the Mother of all people,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, her Son, our Brother.
He was conceived by the power of Sophia
and born of Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated beside the Mother.
I believe in Sophia, the Holy Spirit,
the church gathered throughout the world,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
And life everlasting. Amen.
Intercessions and Thanksgivings
The gathered present their prayers of thanksgiving and need after which the people say…)
All: Mother, hear our prayer.
The People’s Prayer
Officiant: Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us pray:
All: Our Mother who walks with us,
hallowed be thy name,
your kindom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our lack of compassion
as we forgive those who lack compassion toward us.
Save us from our own sin,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kindom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
Officiant: Let us bless our Mother.
All: Thanks be to God.
Officiant: The grace of our brother, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
Last month I wrote about my process as an author, how I go from idea to finished book. I got some great feedback on that piece and I’m so pleased it helped so many people! I know how daunting the thought of writing a book can be and so, to honor that and to hopefully keep encouraging you, I want to invite you all to go deeper into this process and write a book with me. I don’t mean to co-author a book with me (which would be very difficult with several hundred authors!) but rather to follow along in my process and finally, with a bit of encouragement and knowledge-sharing, write that book you keep meaning to write. If you read these posts and follow these steps, you WILL write a book. You might hate my process and end up developing your own but you WILL write a book.
So, let’s get this party started. To kick this off, I’m going to write today about how we come up with, and flesh out, ideas, as well as how we begin our preliminary research.
Questions Are Your Bedrock
Though I focused last month on a rough outline of the writing process, I feel like that’s only half the story. Research is its own, much, much bigger beast. Also, it comes before the writing itself and that’s because it is part of the foundation of any good piece of writing. Seriously. Focus on good research and don’t even worry about good writing. That’s what editors are for. But even before the writing, before the research, there is the other part of that foundation. It’s the single most important part of your writing because it sets the tone for everything that follows – it is the idea (which later becomes “the question”). I’m going to focus on the role and importance of the idea/question in my next installment, but for now, just know that in order of absolute importance when it comes to good writing, you have an equation like this:
All of those things must be the best they can possibly be, but good writing style will not save a shittily researched paper and good research will not salvage an idea or question that was absolute shit to begin with.
The Dive In Approach
So, back to the research process! To begin, just know that research is always a mess at first. For real. It is. You have an idea but you’re not really sure where to start the reading. The answer is – anywhere. Seriously, just start. There is no perfect entry point because at the very beginning of research, you likely haven’t refined your idea into a question anyway (that’s what the research itself is for). So, just start reading and pay attention to what I said in my writing process post about noticing themes and ideas. Pay attention to what jumps out at you or areas of the topic about which much hasn’t been written. Most of all, generate tons and tons of questions about what you’re reading. Questions don’t demonstrate lack of understanding. Rather, they point us into new avenues of inquiry.
The Mapping Approach
But for some people, even THAT is difficult because your starting idea itself is still too broad and big and unwieldy. For you, I recommend idea mapping before doing any research. You can find some fancy-ass idea or mind mapping apps and software out there but you don’t need that nonsense. Just take a piece of paper and, in the center, write your topic or idea. Draw a circle around that shit and then draw some spokes coming out of the circle, like you’d draw a sun. Draw some circles on the ends of the spokes and inside them write ideas related to your main idea. Keep going. At the end of this process, you should have a main idea and a shit ton of related subsets. Look over this map to see what you’re most drawn to and focus on that for your research and writing.
Note that you don’t have to have perfect hierarchies of ideas. Just get that shit out. You can always clean up a map later. For instance, in my example map, I note sexism and racism in more than one spot. I didn’t bother getting specific in my writing. I also have the elements of repro justice on the same “level” with elements of religious life such as scripture and tradition. This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily writing a book that will have these as hierarchies, chapters, or headings. An idea or mind map is simply a way for you to break down a large idea so that you can begin to research it in chunks and see where it takes you. This is the very beginning step so be as rough as you like. Each idea in a bubble will be worthy of a book of its own. Don’t worry about that right now. You can create separate maps for each idea later, if you so choose.
For myself, I tend to use a combination of these two types of idea/question formation. I do a little mapping and, at the same time, do a whole fuck lot of reading. So, in effect, I am simultaneously reading the research to find holes, opportunities, and areas of complexity, and I am using mapping to get started on finding my own unique take on what I’m learning as well as to begin generating questions I’d like to answer.
Whatever idea generating technique you’re using, take as long as you need in this process. This is not a race. No one is going to write your book before you do. Each stage of this process is just as important as the actual writing stage and, in fact, your actual writing will suffer if you have a crap, not-well-researched idea.
A Last VERY IMPORTANT Word About Ideas/Questions
Whatever you do, follow your own intuition and preferences and fuck market trends. Not only are market trends mind-numbingly stupid, but they are ephemeral. Remember the plague of books about introverts circa 2012? People were so keen to get on that bandwagon that they churned out any old nonsense and this despite the fact that introversion and extraversion are not scientific but rather personal preference descriptors that are themselves more trendy than helpful (ask me what I really think). Anyway, if you start following the market, trust me, you will be the market’s whore for the rest of your life. You will spend your nights wide awake, worrying about sales and marketing and whether what you write is “good enough”. Criticism and bad reviews will tear you down and leave you second-guessing your own intelligence. Take it from me – FUCK ALL THAT.
When you write with passion on a topic about which you are passionate, a magical thing happens – you give NO FUCKS. Your neighbor thinks repro justice is boring? Fuck him. Your high school friend thinks you’re a baby killer and will mount a giant protest against every book you ever write? Fuck them too (but thanks for the promo!) Someone writes a review about what a complete moron you are because you use the Oxford comma? Fuck them and their comma-less, colorless, sad life. When you are passionate, you don’t want to spare any energy worrying about what anyone else thinks. You can’t waste that energy because that energy is what propels you forward. That energy keeps you slogging through research articles instead of sitting on the couch knitting those cute mermaid socks while watching all 500 episodes of Forensic Files. Also, passion is sexy AF so you’ll probably get laid more often.
So, takeaway? Don’t choose to write a book on a topic that is “hot” right now. Those books are lifeless because there is no burning question behind them. Save yourself from a life of whoredom and stick with questions that set you on fire.
So, what do you think? What other methods do you use when you begin writing a book or a paper? What methods (if any) did you learn in school? Which do you like or dislike? Did you immediately get laid after being inspired by this post?
How exciting is that? The review copies arrived on my doorstep last night! Even more exciting was that I got to do my very first autographs this morning at my desk as I prepared to send a few copies out to people who asked to review the book. Whew! My name on a book! Autographs! My very shabby-chic writer’s desk! I’m suuuuuuch a writer now 😉
All sarcasm aside, clearly this is awesome. Though I’m already hard at work on the first draft of Theology and Reproductive Justice: Why Reproductive Dignity Matters for the Kindom of God (yes, kindom…you’ll have to read it to find out why), having this first book out in the wild is the culmination of a life’s dream. Though I’ve had my career in librarianship and always assumed writing would be more or less a side gig, having a book with my name on the front and my thoughts and scholarship on the inside was a goal I’ve had in mind since I was a very, very little girl.
As I begin my second book, it’s funny how the process of writing is both easier and also still really, really difficult. It helps that I have a background in both librarianship and research to help me formulate and classify ideas as well as pick out patterns in my thought as well as current scholarship, but the idea of putting together several hundred pages of what should be relatively original thought is still daunting. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
So, at the (almost) end of my first adventure in publishing, I want to encourage anyone who might be reading this to just go for it. All those fears about whether people will like it, whether you have anything worthwhile to say, will all be worked out in the process. And though it is a process, approach it one bite at a time. Not only will it be more manageable, but it will also make your writing and thinking far more organized. For instance, here’s my own process:
- Gather and read AAAAAALLLLL the scholarship on the subject. Don’t worry at first whether it is too broad. Just read the fuck out of all the scholarship. For my current book, this means reading anything and everything about reproductive justice, reproductive rights, poverty, racism, sexism, classism, etc. That’s a pretty huge chunk of scholarship. But don’t worry about it.
- As you read, start to pick out what interests you the most, what you most argue with, identify with, what you think needs more context. This will start to narrow your research focus.
- Next, pick out themes. For instance, when doing my dissertation on how spiritually-alienated abortion care workers deal with potentially violent workplaces, I began to notice that there were a few broad categories that described how most people were affected. Note that kind of shit down. Color code it if you have to.
- Begin to formulate your thesis (central question – and it should always be a question) more concisely. For me with my present project, this meant narrowing my broad ideas about repro justice and religion down to a single question that is reflected in the title – why is repro justice CENTRAL to the historic and spiritual idea of the Kindom of God?
- Keep reading that damn research. You’ll never reach the end of it and that’s okay. Continue to educate yourself, even as you write. Talk to people. Call people up and ask to speak to them. I contacted a former chaplain for Planned Parenthood to get a better, less academic sense of the implications of my potential research.
- As you read the research, use whatever note taking system you’re most comfortable with. For me, it is the always elegant and sophisticated sticky-note-on-page system. On the note, I write where in the book this idea or quote or whatever might fit in. I also frequently yell at authors through my sticky notes which serves as a good reminder to question or challenge something in the research. Remember that writing nonfiction is always about you being in conversation with the research.
- Now you are ready for an outline. Outline that shit. Outline it HARD. Don’t be afraid to throw out an old outline and start again, but MAKE SURE YOU OUTLINE.
- Notice how your outline gives you your chapter breakdown. Boom. You’re welcome.
- Take the project on one chapter at a time.
- Look at your notes and note on the note (I feel like Xzibit) where it fits into the book. Perhaps write up all your notes now in this new order, one chapter at a time.
- Again – ONE CHAPTER AT A TIME. You will have plenty of time to go back and create fancy-ass little segues between sections and chapters. For right now, don’t worry about it. Just write each chapter as though it were a stand alone.
- Go back and write in your fancy-ass segues or add other language linking your chapters together.
- Congratulations, friends, you have a first draft. It might look, feel, and smell like shit but you DID IT. You wrote a goddamn book.
- Let it sit for a month. Start a new project. Knit a sweater. Watch every single episode of Forensic Files on Netflix.
- Go back and proofread your first draft.
- Let it sit for a month. Build a treehouse. Take up curling. Learn how to tie a necktie.
- Go back and proofread and edit again.
- Send your first draft to your beta readers. These are people you trust to take that manuscript apart and help you build it up into the fantastic scholarly and literary phoenix it is.
- Edit again using suggestions from your readers.
- Submit that shit. Submit it to a publisher or agent or, if you are an indie author, spend as much as it takes to hire a professional editor to, once again, tear that shit apart. Hire a professional book cover designer while you’re at it. NEVER skimp on either of these if you are an indie. Like, ever.
- Edit again with your editor’s feedback. Send it back to her. Rinse and repeat as long as it takes.
- Holy shit. You have a COMPLETED BOOK.
Friends, this is how you tackle the mammoth that is writing several hundred pages of text that you want others to buy, read, and love. And, as cheesy as it sounds, anyone can do it. Authors are not necessarily talented writers. It’s the editor’s job to make you sound talented. So, whatever your thing is, get out there and write about it. Take it step by step, be faithful to your vision and just get it done. There’s literally nothing to regret at the end of this process.
I know I’ve not offered you any substantive writing in the last month and so I thought I’d just pop in to let you know what’s going on. As many of you know, my newest book for Humanist Press (The Humanist Guide to Ceremonies) is about to be released and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the advance copies! The last month has been spent in last minute edits and photo searches as well as arranging for podcast appearances and book review articles. I should have a final book release date for you soon!
On top of this, I’ve been working hard at launching the first episode of the Electric Eel Pond podcast! Our first episode will be me interviewing my co-host Shawn Birss about his study of Christian anarchism. It should be a great episode so stay tuned for an official release!
In other news, I’ve launched a newsletter which you can sign up for on the right hand side of this page. Twice a month I offer a (hopefully) insightful piece of short writing as well as tell you what I’m reading, the status on all my projects and books, and share upcoming events such as our monthly feminist liturgies. If you want to keep up with what’s going on in the world of feminist theology and reproductive justice, sign up for the newsletter!
Aaaaand, finally…I am hard at work on two new titles that, at least for now, will only be available on my website. Theology and Reproductive Justice is an exploration of just that – how we can use theology to gain a deeper understanding of the necessity for reproductive justice for all people. It is geared toward people that are new to the topic so it’s a great primer to pass on! So, You Want to be an Ally?: Reproductive Justice for White Folks is another beginner’s explanation of the idea of reproductive justice, this time geared toward white people who may be unfamiliar with the topic. This book tackles the difference between reproductive rights and reproductive justice and gives white folks the necessary tools to become allies in the fight. Both should be available on my website later in 2018.
If you just can’t wait for all this excitement to commence, you might think about joining us over in the Electric Eel Pond Facebook Group where we broaden the conversation to talk about innovative and accessible theology as a whole. If you love good, friendly conversation about a variety of interesting modern theological topics, you might want to stop by!
Well, that’s it for now…I have to go work on all those projects!
I hope you’ll join us for our January feminist liturgy either online or in person, 3PM mountain time on January 7th. If you’re in the Edmonton, Alberta area, just shoot me an email and I can give you location details. Otherwise, you can participate by Facebook Live by visiting my Facebook author page. If you email me at least 24 hours prior I can even send you a copy of the liturgy so you can follow along.
Until then, happy holidays! I’ll see you in the new year!
*Heads up, friends. This post contains a lot more graphic sexual shit than I usually get into.
There is perhaps nothing more illustrative of the male sense of entitlement than its expression of what it believes women desire. This was brought home to me by the following completely unsolicited Facebook message I got today.
So, let’s break down the complex psyche that is Frances and what it says about his view of women’s desire:
First of all, Frances knows that I need to be complimented in an extravagantly and overblown way. He knows that all I need is for someone to tell me that I’m a goddess (no, wait, a step ABOVE goddess!) in order to see that he is perceptive and sensitive to my needs. Automatic panty dropper. He’s clearly expecting the underwear (can we stop infantalizing women by calling them “panties”?) to drop because he has illustrated his expectations with the digital equivalent of the dirty old man wink.
Now, just in case I’m thinking that this is all too good to be true, he tells me his physical stats and expresses his astonishment (and what he presumes to be mine) that he is Sill Single by capitalizing the first letter of both words. Great! So, so far, a total old man stranger thinks I am a goddess and that I, of course, want to bone his 6’1″ frame. But wait! Lest I think he is too creepy (something lots of bitches do because they can’t take a joke/compliment/straight talk) he wants to humanize himself. He wants to hide the creep factor behind a curtain of his HOBBIES and INTERESTS which include such man-about-town divertissments as scuba diving, rollerblading, SEX (it’s like he has creep Tourette’s), and travel. I am also meant to be impressed that he smokes cigars because chicks dig men who do things that poor people think rich people do. He is truly a well-rounded gentleman and he accentuates this by asking (with the obvious assurance that it is totally okay to do this) that I send him photos by email or text. He ends with a rather disingenuous request to know all about my “Hobbies and Interests” because he needs to pretend that I am a human for my sake.
In case you’re wondering, his assumptions and general technique are not unique. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered these kinds of messages and it certainly won’t be the last. The words may differ but they all contain the same basic assumptions: that women are thirsty for outrageous compliments they are too blind to see through from old men masquerading as international playboys. We want a little naughtiness (such as a leering text wink) but we also want to be on a pedestal. It hardly needs to be said that we also need the guy to cajole us out of sexually explicit photos but secretly, we love it. We just can’t say that because we’re ladies.
Sadly, all Frances got for his effort was a series of dick picks.
So, what do women actually want? As much as we are stereotyped as being inscrutable in this regard, it is actually quite simple. Ask a fucking woman. I mean, we spent our high school years being dry humped by guys who think sex is done when they are. Some of us still endure the relentless poundings men assume we enjoy because some actor in a porn he once saw screamed with pleasure while having absolutely none of her needs attended to. We are absolutely down for a little change up but, sadly, many women don’t even realize this is an option until they are asked. Many men have never even considered it because, whether they are good men or not, the sexual world has always revolved around them. Check out any “women’s” section of a porn site (I know you look at porn, so let’s move on). Here you can watch “lesbians” in implausible lingerie fellate dildos while staring smolderingly at the camera, or you can watch “daddy” clips (fucking eww). The women’s sections don’t reflect what (most) women want. They are androcentric fantasy projections. All this, we’re told, is curated for us. Not that they’ve sought advice or input from actual women or the woman-run companies that produce actual porn for women. They just know chicks love it. Why would you ask an actual woman? Guys totally know about sex!
Funny thing is, this concept doesn’t play both ways. As I said earlier, I sent Frances some dick pics in response to his request for photos (after all, he didn’t specify they were to be photos of me) and I know how this will end. It will be just like every other incident in which I’ve sent dick picks to a dudebro. He’ll be incredibly offended that I assumed what he’d like and no, he won’t see the irony in that.
Frances, let me tell you what I want. I’m a big fan of feminist theology in relationships and in the bedroom. And, in case you don’t know how that squares up, let me tell you that it is the exact opposite of your worldview. A feminist theological view of sexuality prizes the following things: mutuality and consent, female pleasure and, wait for it…the full personhood of women. That means that sex and relationships become a truly holy thing in which both people are aware of each other’s needs, boundaries, and, you know, status as a human. Part of this includes talking about what we like in bed, not assuming that your girl has a clitoris in her mouth. It means understanding how vital our sexuality is to our basic sense of humanity.
I am sometimes overwhelmed by the Franceses of the world. I have my ideals, I’m passionate about what I speak and write about but what do we really need to do to incorporate our feminist theology into our institutional theologies of sexuality? How do we address this when so many institutionalized churches reject the very idea of women as human? Honestly, I don’t know. I have literally no idea how to counter the Franceses of the world except with a steady barrage of dick pics. But maybe there’s something to that. Although it can feel tiresome and fruitless, perhaps all we can do is hold up a mirror to our churches and our society while in our own lives mirroring what a healthy sexuality can look like.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately in reproductive health circles, you may have seen that two priests and their co-defendants avoided jail time after storming an abortion clinic in northern Virginia and refusing to leave. This news has, of course, dismayed those of us working for reproductive justice. It has highlighted the way women and people of color are treated by the justice system as well as shone a spotlight on the cozy relationship between patriarchal law and patriarchal theology.
So, here are the facts; police gave the group an incredibly generous two hour window of opportunity to leave before being dragged out. During that time, the group tried to dissuade the now captive women from having abortions. This tactic is what is known as a “red rose rescue” because they also hand out roses to the women they want to convert. When police finally arrested the invading group, they refused to go quietly and had to be carried out of the clinic. In court, the judge dismissed an obstruction charge because he felt that telling the police “no” politely when asked to get into the squad car did not constitute obstruction. We’ll come back to that later.
The prosecutor tried to argue for jail time for at least one of the priests who has a history of storming clinics but the judged decided instead to set suspended fines at $500 for each defendant. That means that defendants won’t have to pay their fines if they stay out of trouble for a year. Not that this matters, both priests have said that they refuse to pay the fine anyway.
So, what’s going on here? Why should this matter to spiritual and religious women?
This should matter for three reasons: the fact that the law prioritizes priests over women and people of color; the fact that patriarchal theology is being used to deny women their rights, and, the fact this theology is at least tacitly recognized by the law. So, let’s explore this.
The law prioritizes priests over women and people of color
Want to know what happens if a black man politely refuses to get into the back of a police car? No, trust me, you don’t. In fact, it is so interesting to me that the judge referenced the priests’ politeness as reason for dropping the charges. This reinforces the idea that your tone of voice is more important to police than whether you have broken the law or not.
I’m also fascinated by the fact that it took cops two hours to remove the group. Two hours. I haven’t yet heard back from anyone at the clinic who might be able to shed more light on this but so far it seems that the cops were in no hurry to disperse or arrest a group of people who invaded a health clinic with the sole purpose of harassing women. One has to wonder again if a group that didn’t contain priests or that contained people of color would get the same deference.
Patriarchal theology is being used to deny women their rights
When asked, the priests in the group said that that their arrest was illegal and that any detention or fines would be illegal too. Why? Because abortion rights laws are invalid because they are “intrinsically evil” and therefore the court has no jurisdiction in the matter.
You guys, this is not simply the speech of the impassioned. This is a literal calling for secular courts to be made subject to patriarchal theology. And that, my friends, is the heart of what’s really going on here. Anti abortion groups believe that they are completely vindicated of harassment, assault, and yes, even murder, simply because their dogma is a higher law than that of the United States of America. By this logic, anything can be condoned that is done in the service of patriarchal dogma. Just let that sink in. And then, if you can stomach it, Google the Army of God or the Nuremberg Files. These priests may not have killed anyone but their theology opens a lot of scary doors that perhaps should stay locked. In effect, they are continuing to prop up an old and so far unsuccessful anti abortion defense strategy – that of justifiable homicide. And while you may be comforted by its lack of success, think again. The success is not necessarily in having someone acquitted of murder charges but in encouraging would-be assassins to act on their patriarchal faith.
This theology is at least tacitly recognized by the law
And finally, the courtroom. I don’t have transcripts of what went on so I have to rely on the reporting but according to one of the defendants, even though the judge ultimately rejected “saving the unborn” as a legitimate defense, he still seemed to be “somewhat open” to it. That could be posturing but in any case, it is terrifying. Also, we need to remember that what was once considered posturing is now being raised seriously in our courts. For instance, the idea that one man who heads a company can now deny women basic health coverage, simply for being women, was unthinkable twenty years ago. And think of this: so far, the theology overwhelmingly being normalized by the courts is patriarchal theology, theology obsessed with women’s agency or the love lives of same sex couples.
The Missing Factor
Women are what is missing in nearly all reporting of this story as well as others regarding abortion rights. It seems that we’re more interested in abstract debate about “choice” and “religious liberty” than we are the actual lives of women. We’ve been so focused on winning an ideological war that we’ve been careless with the casualties.
So far, patriarchal law and patriarchal theology, who seem so at odds with each other, actually have in common the lack of concern for women’s lives. That those women at the clinic, who were held captive for two hours, might have been afraid for their lives isn’t even considered, not to mention their right to access health care that is confidential and safe. And on “our side”, we have a problem too. Eager to score political points, we don’t want to stop and consider “the hard cases”, those women for whom abortion may have been the right choice but who still feel guilt, sadness, and grief.
This is why it is so important, now more than ever, that coherent feminist theologies continue to be constructed. The joy of feminist theology is that it is a lived theology with women’s lives at the center. It is built from the ground up, not handed down from an authority up above. What women experience every day is made sacred by our acknowledgement and care, without judgment. The time has come for us to push back against a patriarchal theology that has been quietly normalizing itself for thousands of years, poisoning our relationships and legal systems.