Thursday, March 03, 2011

Female = Feminist?

A friend of mine currently blogging over at Theology PhD Mom is in the midst of an interesting and helpful series of posts on the academic job market.

She raises a very interesting point in this post about the not-entirely-realistic expectation that female theologians are conversant with feminist theology.

I know the important names, the basic thrust of their work, and the kinds of concerns that may be common to those who label themselves feminists, but I have far less expertise in feminist theology than I do in, say, philosophical ethics, scripture, systematics, Thomism, or Wesleyan theology.

Of course, in some sense, I do feminist theology, whether or not I do it in concert with explicitly feminist theologians, simply by dint of being a woman. In a more significant sense, I do feminist theology because some of the issues, approaches, and convictions that tend to be of particular concern to women are part of my intellectual landscape. (That is, I am more likely than my male colleagues, on the whole, to notice, theorize, or write about some of the sorts topics that feminists tend to notice, theorize, and write about.)

But I have never identified myself as a feminist theologian.

Despite never having identified myself as a feminist, or even admitted to being conversant in feminist theology, I have been asked by colleagues to "present the feminist perspective," to give a lecture on feminist theology, or in other ways to speak for or about feminists in academic settings.

I have finally stopped graciously apologizing for my lack of knowledge and interest. The last time a (male) colleague asked me to give a presentation on feminism, I answered, "Hey, you know what would be awesome? Let's do something really wild. Why don't you present on feminism, and I'll present on masculinity."

He didn't take me up on it.


toweringajax said...

Did I ever tell you that I was once asked by a church that did not know me to give a talk on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Because apparently, being an "expert" in the theology and science dialogue means I can talk intelligibly about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sarah Sours said...

Any theologian-pastor who cannot talk intelligibly (and intelligently) about MLK does not deserve to be a theologian-pastor.

I doubt that was the guiding principle behind this church's choice of you for that topic/that topic for you, though.


Theology PhD Mom said...

You know, I've just realized this has happened regarding me and disability theology, too. Like, I'm the disabled person in the room and so clearly have something to say...

I do care and I can come up with things to say but it's not my forte.

This must be related in part to the idea that we must have "everyone" represented at the table - so we look at people in terms of what groups they might represent.

Kirsten said...

Interestingly, I entered my graduate program with a stated interest in feminist theology and an explicit lack of interest in "feminist theory"- now I find that my interests have flipped! i'm thinking about epistemology and revelation now and texts in feminist philosophy are very helpful- while feminist theology often relies on a view of the atonement and/or God's role in the world that I find problematic... with a privileging of the experience of suffering that i find slippery in terms of epistemology...

Anonymous said...

I really understand your complaint here. But the fact is that feminism is very important and men can't really talk about it. Because really talking about any topic means talking about strengths and weaknesses, agreement and disagreement. And even if the thrust of my talk was 99.9% about support/ respect/ affirmation, if I said anything that could in any way be heard by anybody as disrespectful of any sort of feminism (or of any women) it would be a Very Bad Thing. By contrast, if you gave your talk about the theology of masculinity, I'd expect a pretty good proportion of it to be critical in nature, and to make some men feel disrespected, and that would not be a Very Bad Thing.