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Week #8 Reading Reflection Assignment

After doing the assigned reading (see Week #8 Reading Discussion Questions for details), use the prompts below in writing your Week #8 Reading Reflection. Due date for full credit: March 5. Final "grace period" due date for reduced credit: March 19 (remember March 12 is Spring Break week).

After careful reading of the introduction and four articles (see Week #8 Reading Discussion Questions), write responding to the following prompts:
-- Discuss unique or distinctive features of the religious experiences of women of color represented by each of these writers. What do you believe accounts for these unique perspectives?
-- Discuss any concerns or perspectives discussed in these four articles that are continuous with the concerns and perspectives voiced in earlier articles written by white women.
-- What can be gained building alliances between groups of women with different experiences and backgrounds? What are some difficulties women face in trying to do this?


The biggest distinction for women of color that really stuck with me was the example from Daly on page 202 of the young black slave that had a tendency to run away and was finally put into “a heavy iron collar, with three prongs projecting from it.” I have to admit that in the beginning of the readings I didn’t really see the difference of being a feminist or a “womanist” (p. 179). In my mind oppression is oppression, regardless of it being sexist, racist or whatever, so to read about being oppressed as a black woman being two separate things didn’t really register for me. Since I’ve never really experienced oppression (at least not blatantly) I actually found myself thinking why is being a black woman so much worse than being a woman of any other race?

Then I got into Daly’s article and read about the treatment of the slave who continued to run away. At first the treatment didn’t really surprise me because of the time, but the lack of a reaction for her suffering from the “mistress” who “was really, so far as alms-giving was concerned, a charitable woman, and tender-hearted to the poor; and yet this suffering slave, who was the seamstress of the family, was continually in her presence…with her lacerated and bleeding back, her mutilated mouth, and heavy iron collar without, so far as appeared, exciting any feelings of compassion” (p. 202) from the mistress of the house. This is something that probably shouldn’t really surprise me considering the time period and the methods of punishment for slaves, but the idea of a woman completely ignoring the blatant suffering of another person, let alone another woman completely astounds me. I’ve never experienced that level of indifference in my lifetime and can’t fathom it. I think that experiences such as this and knowing that your history is so rooted in tortures such as this would really shape one’s image of self, not to mention the feelings that person has towards other people that are not of those same experiences. Daly’s article helped me to understand the earlier article on Womanist Theology by Delores Williams.

Daly’s “be-friending” and “be-longing” remind me of the earlier article about the Yeah, Yeah movement. The idea of women in general being willing to acknowledge a common experience, even if they are not able to become friends because of it seemed to tie into the yeah, yeah article from earlier where a woman shared her experience and the rest of the group of women ended up shouting out yeah, yeah in response to what she had said. The be-friending and be-longing concept really tied this all together for me.

Coming from a business mindset the first thing that comes to my mind as far as what can be gained by building alliances is the image of a bunch of people sitting around a board room going through a brainstorming session. The saying “two heads are better than one” is the next thing that comes to mind. By getting a bunch of women together that do have different experiences and backgrounds there is more opportunity for everyone to grow and learn from each other because everyone is different. Each person has a different perspective or experience to bring to the table and can offer different insights to the other women in the group.
The biggest difficulty in this would be the same as any large group sharing ideas and experiences. Someone is going to disagree with what someone else says at some point and an argument is going to start. The same way that long standing churches break up the group of women could break up and new alliances to each side could form, thus disbanding the group and ultimately destroying the real reason that they all aligned to begin with.

In Deloris Williams essay ‘Womanist Theology’ Black Women’s Voices she talks about Alice Walker her work titled “In search of our Mother’s Gardens.” Ms. Walker introduced the concept of womanist and here Ms. Williams interrupts it. Feminist in this essay means women of color must become white in order to be part of the feminist movement. Where as a Womanist is more encompassing caring for the earth, all it’s living beings, and both men and women.
Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic” She succinctly states in the very first paragraph on pg 208 that women have a power within us that has been oppressed and that power is the erotic. We are also not utilizing this power and information. Once women take advantage of this power we’re no longer powerless, more creative and willing to change.
Karen McCarthy Brown talks about Vodou in her essay “Women’s Leadership in Haitian Vodou. What is distinct about Vodou is how (in this case I’m sticking with priestess) the priestesses lend their bodies to the spirits so they can connect and the spirits can address the problems (pg 226) in a powerful, intimate and direct way. Very different from what I was taught because this would be seen as demonic possession by some branches of the Catholic Church and definitely Evangelical church.
After reading “On Mirrors, Mists, and Murmurs” by Rita Nakashima Brock I was saddened by Asian Americans experiences here regarding religion. That their religious experiences in seminary are of isolation, alienation and they don’t’ have anyone to talk to too. They still talked about theology and wrote about it despite not having role models at the forefront. For example who is their T D Jakes?
After reading the four articles I saw how my sisters from other cultures and faiths were oppressed in their religions. I also saw that while our cultures are different some of their experiences were the same. In all four essay’s I saw women who were trying to find the Goddess within. They were trying to reclaim their power as women. How they did this was via community with their sisters. I think as women we need to expand our community to include women of different cultures and faiths. We gain wisdom from each other, support, friendship, mentor, and friendship. Where it gets tricky is when you have women of different religious faiths getting together and sometimes theology and egos get in the way. Especially when you have one, two or more people who believe that their faith is the “right way/one” then it’s almost impossible for dialogue to happen.

-- Discuss unique or distinctive features of the religious experiences of women of color represented by each of these writers. What do you believe accounts for these unique perspectives?
One is that the black women can not have the luxury of separation from their community and their men. Deloris focuses on the area that her feminism allows her to be connected to her past. Except that the health issue the is no separatist. The black feminist claim a knowing self idea. Another words it is to know yourself then you can go forward. Mary talks of a leap that includes ate-identified faith, hope, and lust. These are part of the process of weaving. There is a thing that Audre calls erotic resource. This is thought to be in all spiritual or woman. There are many others that are expressed in these articles. They speak of things that they see missing in people’s lives that are involved in spiritual lifestyles. This is the message that I get from reading the articles in the book.
-- Discuss any concerns or perspectives discussed in these four articles that are continuous with the concerns and perspectives voiced in earlier articles written by white women.
In most cases the women of color and white women have about the same ideas except that the black women have more of a cultural agenda. There is an area that shows tension between the white and black counterparts as well. They tend to disagree with the feminist view of each other. To state that on the side of the black they state that if feminist is to become white they do not need feminism.
-- What can be gained building alliances between groups of women with different experiences and backgrounds? What are some difficulties women face in trying to do this?
One of the things that I see in them joining forces is the support and strength that they could have. In support what I mean is that the people that are together can help each other. For example I will use a part of the scripture out of the Bible found in the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. Fir if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone. And if one prevail against him, two withstand him; and a threefold cord is no quickly broken.” This peace of scripture came from the King James Version Bible. This shows the strength that they have united not separate. As for the problems that I see is that they must over come the cultural issues that each are holding onto. For if they wish to hold these things the union will not last. For as the Lord says a house divided can not stand for it must unity.

The unique features of religious experiences of women of color represented by each of these writers are to respect the humanity. Black feminists concerned about the women’s struggles for freedom from racist and sexist stereotypes within community, family, and relationship (p. 173), and she was seeking women’s independence as relational. I believe that each and everyone has different experiences in life. Therefore, for the black feminist, because of their experience, they mostly suffer due to racist, sexist, and poverty. They have physically victimized more than white women, therefore they are more concern about human love, power of relation, more like basic need of human being. On the other hand, white women feminist think about higher level of equality like sexism in religion.

Marica Falk and Plaskow’s essays involved to expand our conception of what a historical tradition can become, the same concern that Delores S. William mentioned in her article about the reclaiming their roots in black history, religion, and culture( p. 178). Willim, Umansky, and Daly talk about the situation of the self within particular communities as, Audre Lorde and Beverly further reflects on personification and the positive teaching of its passion (p. 175) Harrison’s perspective of humanism is that generate strong love to weak to form the images of heroic. (p. 223). Human should know the power of relation, and pass on to other human being, and appreciate the gift of love. (p. 224).

Some difficulties that woman facing due to building alliances between groups of women with different experiences and background like having to many ideas from their cultural point of view. One of the difficulties that I believe is that it is harder to reach for the decision.

The benefit of having many ideas from different perspectives like if everyone has same conclusion, it is more effective and powerful. It will cover all the ideas from different prespectives and it will work better.

Williams describes some social concerns specific to African-American women - colorism, class hierarchy and competition for male attention - which at first glance are common to all women in some form but, being rooted in a history of slavery, oppression, and survival, they are distinct and require culturally specific theological exploration. Daly suggests feminism ignores a painful history between white and black women, as in the example of the vicious mistress lashing out against the defenseless slave who was raped by her master (p.203). Williams explains womanism “allows women to claim their roots in black history, religion and culture” (p.178), which is necessary to free black women not only from the oppression of a patriarchal system but also to heal the wounds of being subject to patriarchal women who carry out phallocratic crimes (p.203). It would be narrow thinking to suggest womanism exists solely as a reaction to white power, since much of the issue centers on traditions and rituals that have grown from experiences within a thriving community, not solely in reaction to an outside power.

Lourde embraces the neglected power of the erotic - the “lifeforce of women” - as a means of creating change in “the face of a racist, patriarchal, and anti-erotic society” (p.213). Like the other authors, Nakashima-Brock seeks a theology that integrates women’s “concerns for suffering, community and healing” (p.237). Interestingly, and unique to this section, Brown states that Voudou has actually been shaped by women’s leadership. And, perhaps unexpectedly, instead of being repressive of conflict and aggression, it accepts it as essential. Instead of preaching to the masses, Voudou utilizes the voice of the community to guide the message of its ritualizing. This is quite similar in attitude to witchcraft as described by Starhawk, which has also been shaped by the leadership of women.

There is, as there was in earlier articles, concern over reimagined texts and symbols being dismissed as inauthentic. There is emphasis on the importance of community, but less generalization of women’s common experience. The view on sisterhood is less romantic but recognizes the diversity of voices makes the discussion more authentic.

By building alliances between groups of women with diverse backgrounds, the discussion not only becomes more authentic but it remains alive and builds immunity to stagnation. It might feel more safe and comfortable to only interact with others who are like minded and have similar backgrounds, but it also puts the “sisterhood” at risk of gradually becoming accepting of conditions that are demeaning or cause pain to people outside of your own experience. Of course, this diversity can bring up arguments and anger that people don’t know how to handle, and may harden one’s viewpoint to the point of deepening the divide.

I have a friend that I work with, and I could really see her in Williams’ essay on “womanist theology.” She is clearly the matriarch of her family, and obviously displays the characteristics described as “womanish.” Though, I really sense the tension from generalizations in women speaking on women’s experience. As a white woman, I felt that I could identify with the struggles and values that she discussed. This may be jumping ahead a little bit, but this is where I think there may be some difficulties in the meshing of different groups. People may feel that their own struggles are not being validated, and pretty soon people are not hearing each other. I bristled at the statement in the intro: “Black women cannot afford the luxury of separation from the men of their communities (p. 174).” I can read a lot into that, and statements like that immediately put others on the defensive, and do not facilitate open communication. Williams refers to cultural codes, “words, beliefs, and behavioral patterns of a people that must be deciphered before meaningful communication can happen cross-culturally (p. 180).” To me this means that, this group of women, need a chance to vent their frustrations and identify with each other before they can collaborate with others (feminists) seeking the same cause/outcomes.

Lorde discusses “the erotic” as a power that comes from love. It may be in loving and embracing your work, or just appreciating the things and people around you. Much like Walker’s discussion of what Shug’s God is like, we can find greater happiness and joy if we appreciate the good things, the simple, everyday things accessible to us. The erotic is the power to enjoy this, and to recognize our opportunity to experience satisfaction from them.

Brock’s essay discusses the need for women to have a “mirror.” It is a lonely thing to realize that you have no one that you can identify with. If someone has had a similar experience, that is able to “mirror” your feelings, you can share your pain and suffering, work it out, and move past it. Brock really emphasizes this in her discussion on the importance of community. This theme reminds me of Collin’s article, expounding on the importance of collectively telling the story of women’s oppression and suffering, in order to facilitate healing within the community. Brock states: “We must seek to embrace and acknowledge our own suffering…to bring healing (p. 237).

It is clear that within each article, there is a woman struggling to find inner peace with her past, embracing joy and autonomy in her life, and seeking equality in her community. I think that a lot could be gained by building alliances between diverse groups of women, because different perspectives bring different forms of oppression into light, and it allows us to see strengths in others that we may be able to find in ourselves. When everyone voices their struggles, it lends opportunity to attempt to right the wrong, or at least brings awareness in an effort to prevent it from happening again. But, as previously mentioned, it is also a recipe for slighted feelings and argument. Quarrelling isn’t always bad, for some people it is the only way they get the message, it’s the silence I’m worried about. Further oppression and pain is not an appealing outcome.

I found out, reading the week’s assignment, that womanists have a couple of big differences from the feminists. It seemed that womanists want more to “search for the voices, actions, experience, and faith of women whose names sometimes slip into the male-centered rendering of black history…”, at the same time they have more “egalitarian relations between men and women, much less rigidity in male-female roles, and more respect for female intelligence and ingenuity than is found in bourgeois culture.”(pages 180 and 181) Feminists, in comparison, are more interested in identifying a female if not as a superior, at least as an equal gender in male-female relationship. Feminists are trying to establish, more than to restore, the feminists leaders. I found that the role of black mothers and the recognition of their wisdom are connected with the type of life, religion and history that womanists had to deal with. As it was said in previous readings, the black woman in past had to be much more humble in order to achieve the same results as white woman did. “Black mothers have passed on wisdom for survival … for as long as anyone can remember.”(page 174) The togetherness of black men and women are connected with the hard times that they had to go through, the struggle of survival that they had to share in order to establish today’s quality of life. Womanists are talking more not about the rights of women in comparison to men’s rights, but more about the women’s liberation through erotic power, sensuality, social and cultural activity of love, determination of love for themselves. I found it interesting from the reading that different cultures and religions: African-American, Asian, Jewish, seem to be so different but at the same time they have a lot in common. This week’s reading made me to memorise one of the first movies about the Goddness that we were watching in the class. Over there all the women, of completely different cultures, religions, believes, countries were sitting together and sharing their views, learning from each other, building a movement of women, no matter what kind of woman you are. I remember I was impressed by their unity. That is why I think that women can achieve much more when they are united, rather than making a comment as “if to be feminist mean to “become white,” to define the self exclusively or primarily through the work of white women authors and activists, black women do not need feminism…”

First I would like to say after reading these four articles is WOW!

Mary Daly’s Be-friendly is the creation of feminist community through the naming of an intellectual climate in which women can be call forth from patriarchal bondage into authentic existence pg 175. I think states very well that we need to be-friend each other and allow respect for each other and listen to their stories, because by doing so make our problem seem quite small. If we don’t have anything to measure our self by we have habit of making ours be the worst problems.

In Williams where is starts out about the daughter and mother conversation seem quite innocent when actually it is telling a great thing about what black women have went through in their lifetime. What a wake call for me when I read and the master wife who lets to see the slave get punished. And would do things like throw things to make her (the slave cry out) thus she would get whipped. I was naive and thought the whole slave thing was a male dominant thing. I think the husband and wife should have been whip by the slave. I agree with Williams that black women do not need to join feminist to become their history is rich in what they have went through.

In Lorde’s article about using the erotic seemed very pleasing to me, like when on pg 209 for erotic is not a question only of what we do, it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. I believe we are to give more then we receive and if we give it a chance the society would be a much more pleasing place to live.

Harrison’s talks about on pg 217 women’s lives literally have been shaped but the power not only to bear human life at the biological level but nurture life, which is a social and cultural power. These reading we have done before seem to be constantly telling us how bad or dirty we are because of our menstrual bleeding, even today if a women decide not to have children she is still frown upon. It was nice to hear about ourselves having great power and how we hide our anger which is really and stepping stone to tell us something is wrong with our love. If we can use anger for a better purpose then what we are using it for it can only be beneficial to society.

I though Brown’s article about Vodou reminds me of past reading about dreams and other people are needed to interpret the meanings.

These four articles I would say are the most interesting that I have read so far. They all made so much sense to me, and I cant believe all the knowledge I had gained from after reading them. I think that women and feminist have a lot that isn’t in common than they have in common. It looks like women want to search for what is out there and what can be done, like look for voices and women to be heard. These women have more admiration on women with brainpower. It seems like feminist aren’t treated as the same in a women and men relationship. They try to establish and figure out more than what is being done and said.
When Brown was talking about the Voodoo, it kind of scared me. I don’t believe it is right, and it kind of scared me of what I have heard about it. I don’t think God gave us hands to do bad, and I believe that He did for us to do good things and help people out. This article was a little harder for me to read, because if this, but it was very interesting to see his point of view.
In the Williams article it starts out as the mother is with the daughter and it looks like everything being done is okay. It actually tells us about how the women at the time had to go through so much to get to where they are at. There was a lot of history there in the making. It is sad reading about the women being punished and other people that are called to watch it happening. It was hard to read this, and I cant imagine being there and seeing someone being punished they way they were. It seems like such a inhumane thing to do. I think that African American women have also been through a lot and they don’t need to be in a feminist group. There history is amazing and it is terrible what they had to go through to be where they are today. It happened for a reason, is what I always tell people. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a good reason, but God made it happen and it turned out t be great results in the long run. Sometimes we need to sacrifice now to get good later. Williams was saying how they also shouldn’t have to be a feminist to be what their history is showing us.

The Self in Reflection chapter had some compelling arguments and interesting angles. A few that particularly interested me were those by William’s, Daly, and Harrison.

Delores Williams’ “womanist” article brought forward the rich oral traditions and cultural codes held by black women and the need for such as a tool for survival. She also indicated that black women and men have together sought “wholeness” out of their “shared struggle for survival” (182). I think these are particularly unique and most likely are the result of the basic human need to belong, to be loved, to be accepted or as Williams’ suggests, a need for community. Without this pursuit, insanity would surely ensue.

Daly sees this need for community as well, but in a different sense. She excludes males and argues for deep female bonding through what she calls “Be-Friending” which provides women with the opportunity for “authentic existence.” This is unique in that she suggests that women are potent and just need to realize their “potency” and in doing so, a metamorphosis can take shape. This metamorphosis serves as the catalyst for deepening the friendship of women thereby creating a powerful “active” force--relationship.

Harrison’s article looks at community or relationship stemming from the basis of love—a radical love modeled by Jesus who “calls us to the radical activity of love, to a way of being that deepens relation, embodies and extends community, passes on the gift of life” (223). This interpretation of Jesus’ central characteristic is largely over looked by many Christians, as she asserts, because we have been too preoccupied with and focused on his crucifixion and subsequent suffering without acknowledging the reason for such. It was his “[refusal] to abandon the radical activity of love” that led to his death (222). So to bring about “solidarity…and mutual relationship” we must express “radical acts of love” (222-223).

Each of these articles stress the need for women, from various backgrounds, to come together to create alliances. What can be gained from these alliances are understanding, compassion, empathy, and acceptance just to name a few. I also think that through the process of listening and learning about others, you learn something valuable about yourself—and this new found perspective leads to less self-consumption and to more social responsibility.

Some external difficulties that could hinder this process are geography, demographics, cultural differences, pre-judgments, and oppressive/abusive environments. Some internal difficulties could be fundamental faith systems, fear, and unrealistic expectations. These of course constitute only a partial list; a myriad of other factors could inhibit the process.

Each writer pointed out unique religious experiences of women of color in their culture. Williams pointed out unique features about black women in her article discussing Alice Walker’s work. I had never heard of a womanist before and I like how she explains the concept of womanism. It’s a way for black women to feel like they are feminists while still connecting with their black community. Williams stated on page 179: “The concept of womanist allows women to claim their roots in black history, religion, and culture”. Williams also points out on page 182 how black men and women share a common bond through their past struggle: “Walker simultaneously affirms black women’s historic connection with men through love and through a shared struggle for survival and for productive quality of life”. Therefore it is important to preserve the bond. Wanting to feel a sense of community is a concern discussed throughout these four articles that is also a concern mentioned throughout the previous articles written by white women. I had a hard time understanding the article by Lorde about the erotic. I don’t quite understand what the erotic is. At times it sounded like she was referring to a womanly intuition, but then she kind of lost me. However, I did get from Lorde’s article that she too was concerned with feeling close to the people around her; “The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power that comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person”(210). Brown points out in her article how music is a strong distinctive feature or the black community. She talks about how the drumming is so unique that it cannot be duplicated. It provides a feeling that is deeper than any other music; “Evidence of this complexity is illustrated by the fact that the music of African drumming ensembles cannot be reduced to Western-style notation…”(229). Again, Brown also discusses a sense of community felt through the music. People come together to celebrate. Brock talks about the feeling of suffering that the Asian community embraces. They feel like “to be healed we must be willing to suffer”(238). She also discusses the sense of community in the Asian culture; “Asian American women hold the ties of community, no matter how frayed, as sacred” (240). I believe that it’s the environment and background that each author grew up in that accounts for their unique perspectives because we know what’s around us. Building alliances between women of different backgrounds can be gainful because different people will have things to teach each other. Women from one background may discover something about women from another background that could be helpful to them. However, it may be difficult to do this because of the unwillingness of some people to open their minds to new things.