Leaping from Our Spheres

The Blog of UUWF's Affiliated Minister

The New Suffragettes

VotesForWomenA quaint term, for sure, Suffragettes, used to describe women seeking the right to vote for females, especially British women who mounted militant protests in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century.

That old-fashioned word somehow came up for me this past week as we remembered the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th constitutional amendment granting the right to vote to American women in 1920. A victory that was long in coming and not without marginalizing many African Americans.

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WrenchThis past week has been heart-wrenching for those of us seeking dignity, justice and equity for all people. The African American men, women and children in Ferguson, Missouri, have been subject to and have born painful witness that we are far from living in a post-racial society. Across the country and the world, the social media postings have multiplied each day with expressions of sorrow and righteous anger for the senseless killing of another mother’s son.

We Unitarian Universalist women care about and worry about and respond faithfully to violations of the human spirit and human rights. So we can feel pulled in so many directions on a daily basis as cyberspace communications provide more and more ways to find out what’s happening on an almost momentary basis.

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Time to Talk

TimeToTalk2We Unitarian Universalists are often encouraged to come up with and get comfortable delivering so-called elevator speeches. Those pithy, direct, persuasive sentences that summarize just exactly what our faith tradition is (rather than what it is not).

Or slap on bumper strips, of which we have had many over recent years. My car is papered over with different versions, including my personal favorites: Affirming the Worth and Dignity of All People and Deeds Because Actions Speak Louder than Words.

Speeches and stickers that might at least buy us some respect in the religious marketplace, let alone a few visitors, even members.

In the years I worked as a spokesperson – and trainer of spokespeople – for Planned Parenthood, we also created and refined and then re-created our elevator speeches, our bumper stickers for similar reasons: to give some heft to our stands, to gain sympathy, even active support. Perhaps the most familiar would be Keep Abortion Safe and Legal. Not far behind might be Pro-Child, Pro-Choice: Every Child a Wanted Child; or My Body, My Choice. Continue reading

(Some) Good News for Summer

GoodNews08-05Whether it is news around gun violence or violence in the Middle East it is entirely possible to feel that nothing ever changes, that no progress is ever made.

In the arena of justice and equity for women and girls this can be equally true, with a recent Facebook posting by a male UU ministerial colleague mine this past week bleakly reminding all of his “friends” on social media that in 2013 alone there were 624 bills introduced in states and on the federal level intended to regulate women’s bodies—vs. none in the entire history of men. As a former journalist, I would have liked to have fact checked this statement, but intuitively I believe this is in the ballpark of accuracy. Which can make the dog days of August even more disconsolate for me than ever, with gratitude only that our elected bodies are mostly on summer break, with at least a respite from further inroads into our human dignity— privacy and sovereignty over our own lives. Continue reading

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