Leaping from Our Spheres

The Blog of UUWF's Affiliated Minister

Dark Monday with Darker Days Ahead

handing out condoms at Hobby Lobby in Aurora IL

Clergy handing out condoms at a Hobby Lobby store in Illinois.

On a very recent dark Monday in June, by a narrow majority ( 5-4), five male Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the national crafting store Hobby Lobby and a small furniture making business that sued the federal government for the right to opt out of the no-cost contraception coverage provision of the Affordable Healthcare Act ( AHA). They had specifically objected to four kinds of birth control they regard as inducing an abortion. What they got was at first touted by those signing the ruling as a narrowly crafted exemption, with even a suggestion to the administration that it figure out a way to pay for this preventive healthcare so as not to deny coverage completely for those females working for companies with faith-based objections. Continue reading

Crashing Waves

DeCrowKarenA week ago, feminist activist and civil rights lawyer Karen DeCrow, who led the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1970s, died. She was 76 years old.

A longtime friend described her as the “perfect model for the women’s movement.” In addition to her unflagging advocacy work, DeCrow had been a journalist and prolific writer. While a law student at Syracuse University she ran for mayor of the town, a first in the state of New York.

DeCrow campaigned for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, but eventually falling short of the necessary legislative approval at the state level. There were crushing disappointments which she saw as backward turning losses. Continue reading

UUWF: Biting Back

newspaperI spent just as much if not more time in the newsroom of the campus newspaper as I did attending classes at the University of California in Berkeley. Having discovered it in the first few weeks of my freshman year: an activity, a purpose, a refuge, a community, a training ground for a vocation I have never really given up. The clunky typewriters ( yes that ages me), the scarred oak desks, the stacks of cheap brown half sheets we were expected to compose our stories on: stories of Black Power protests, ROTC protests, anti-war protests, People’s Park protests—a lot of unrest—and also the rich cultural offerings of that day, “The Day.”

In the midst of all the tumult and the tear gas volleys, I got to see and write about Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills and Nash, French noir films, Ingrid Bergman movie festivals, the early third wave women poets. Continue reading

A week in the life of women



This past week, a disturbed young man in California stabbed and shot both women and men — killing six, wounding 13 — and then committed suicide. Left behind in social media were his plans, especially a YouTube posting documenting his intentions to murder three people in his apartment building and then attack a sorority house in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara. It is the same college community where my own daughter lived during the time she attended nearby Santa Barbara City College. Once his rampage began, he settled on attacking passersby, including two female students.

In his video and an online manifesto he published just before what one journalist has called his “spasm of violence,” the killer talked about his War on Women. “I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex,” he announced. While he could not “kill every single female on earth,” he said, he could “deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.”

His writings — his rantings — also declared that women are like a plague, needing to be contained in concentration camps, starved to death. Continue reading

Emily’s Genius

Emily Dickenson - from Wikipedia

From the daguerreotype taken at Mount Holyoke, December 1846 or early 1847. The only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson later than childhood, the original is held by the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.[1] – Wikipedia

Last Saturday, I checked off an experience on my ever changing bucket list: attending a One Day University. This “extraordinary day of learning” which I had long read about in full page ads in the New York Times features popular college and university professors: shrinking a semester’s worth of lecturing into 75 minute sessions. It had finally come to my neck of the woods. I didn’t have to spring for an airline ticket and hotel room to register for and enjoy the four presentations I selected. And as the introduction to the program reminded me — there was no homework, no exams, and “best of all, no stress.”

Well not exactly. I had ended up picking classes taught by male professors (there were a couple led by women, with topics not as compelling to me). And as engaging and personable as they all were, they couldn’t seem to come up with examples of women as objects (the biology and psychology of resilience) or women as subjects (Geniuses). The latter session was led by Craig Wright, a professor of music at Yale University, where he teaches a course on The Nature of Genius: scanning Western History for figures like Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci and Einstein.

The definition of Genius: Continue reading

Mamas and Diapers

Baby sleepingIt looked like a pantry. It was the size of a double closet, with lots of shelves, kept locked day and night. The key to it was held by the director of this emergency shelter for women and their children, a very temporary home for families who had been referred to us by the umbrella task force on homelessness, or through local churches or social workers. It was not a domestic violence safe space: nonetheless the former youth hostel had no identifying signage, nothing to indicate who was living there, or indeed if anyone was living there at all on a street with a number of law offices and other businesses.

The residents arrived often with only what they could fit in large plastic garbage bags, or loose, crammed in the trunks of their aging cars. They came to us with children of all ages; in fact we were the only shelter in the entire metro area that allowed more than four minors in a family unit and older boys. We provided them with the basics: a cold breakfast, a volunteer provided dinner; bedding, towels, toiletries. Continue reading

War on Poor: War on Women

grocery shoppingLast week the focus was on a new law in Tennessee calling for felony penalties against pregnant women who test positive for illegal narcotics. Just this week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill requiring drug testing — at their own expense — of some applicants for food stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). An applicant would be forced to be tested on the basis of either missed appointments or her “demeanor “as determined by a state worker, a vague and dangerous version of profiling.

Georgia would be the first state to require this of food stamp (SNAP) seekers, something currently not permitted under federal law. While the Georgia law can’t go into effect until a change in federal law, the House has already passed a measure to lift the ban on states adding their own conditions to food stamp eligibility. If the Senate passes its own version, then it opens the door more quickly for states to jump on board. Continue reading


baby's feetThe passage of the study action initiative on reproductive justice a couple of years back by the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) — of which we are an associate organization — challenged us to look at issues of human sexuality, pregnancy, and gender identity in different ways than our prior focus on legal rights and access to care. The four-year period dedicated to education and discernment allows us to ponder and respond to questions such as:

  • How do power structures limit individuals’ access to reproductive justice?
  • How do sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse contribute to unintended pregnancies later in life?
  • How can eliminating racism, classism and sexism reduce the need for abortion and enable families to care for the children they do have?
  • How are pregnant women who use drugs stigmatized, and what are the real dangers and solutions? Continue reading

Equal Pay at the Altar? (and the war of statistics)


(thanks to NOWNYC.org)

My thoughtful feminist husband first told me about it: the latest salvo in the defensive battle being waged against equal pay for equal work by women. It was the grenade tossed by Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the so-called “pro family” organization Eagle Forum. As she wrote in a Christian Post op-ed published earlier this week and reported on ironically in Huff Post, it is her opinion that “providing women with equal pay for equal work would deter their chances for finding a suitable mate.”

Schlafly argued that since women prefer to marry men who make more money than they do, decreasing the gender gap would leave a woman tragically unable to snag a husband. She names this “fact” hypergamy, which she says means that not only do women instinctively prefer higher paying mates but that men also generally prefer being the higher earner in a relationship.

So if somehow the pay gap between men and women ever is eliminated, she reasons, using what she admits is simple arithmetic, half of all women would be unable to find a husband. Which is a very bad thing, worse than being poorer and less valued. Continue reading

Dallas Women’s Alliance Still in the Thick of Reproductive Justice Movement

Texas Freedom Network - Lifting Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice

Texas Freedom Network – Lifting Faith Voices for Reproductive Justice

As the UU Women’s Federation representative to the national Religious Council on Reproductive Choice (RCRC), I recently had the experience of joining other faith leaders in Washington DC for the council meeting and to stand with them on the steps of the US Supreme Court to protest the Hobby Lobby case asking for a corporate religious exemption from covering birth control under the Affordable Care Act(ACA).

This morning I rejoined this group by conference call to hear breaking news about an RCRC event in Dallas Texas last night (Monday April 7) held at the First Dallas UU Church with a goal of rebooting choice activities in that much beleaguered state. Especially on the heels of the recent passage of a law calling for new requirements of practitioners which effectively has shut down multiple abortion providing clinics. Continue reading