Leaping from Our Spheres
I returned a few days ago from 10 days in San Miguel De Allende Mexico, a town which was turned into an American and Canadian arts and culture tourist mecca and now a thriving ex pat community some years back, due to the opening of an art school. Nowadays there are Spanish-language academies, writers workshops, alternative healing centers and spas, and an all-year-round Unitarian Universalist fellowship that meets weekly in a gracious hotel.
The view from the hall is stunning, and there are sounds of children playing, Catholic church bells ringing and bustling street noises. Continue reading
This past week, the state legislatures in two states, Indiana and Arkansas, approved so-called “religious objections” laws. These types of legislation (previously passed by 18 states) are ostensibly based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which was the effort of a coalition of groups, many of them progressive, to ensure that individuals and their faith traditions were protected from inadvertent discrimination, especially religious minorities.
The federal law was in play last year when the US Supreme Court ruled on the so-called Hobby Lobby case argued before it, that “closely held” corporations have the same basic rights of religious belief, allowing businesses to assert their faith positions by opting out, for example, of providing free contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act if they found it objectionable.
In The Boston Girl, the latest novel by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent), in a chapter titled “I figure God created Margaret Sanger, too,” the lead character Addie Baum’s friend Filomena attempts a self-induced abortion by using bleach. A French-Canadian nurse in their neighborhood saves her from dying and completes the procedure. In the parlance of the 1900’s in America, she has “lost” a baby, the stuff of cruel rumors and threats that, because she had terminated the pregnancy, she would be denied burial in the Jewish cemetery upon her own passing.
One of the women who gather around the weak but recovering young woman reveals that her own mother “had five babies in six years and died giving birth to the last one, who died too.”
There’s a way to keep this from happening, she declares. She has a pamphlet about it and she is going to loan it out.
Many thanks to Rev. Marti for granting me access to this space. I’m Portland, OR-based cisgender white male UU in pursuit of solidarity with folks of other genders, races and target identities. In her invitation, Rev. Marti asked me to write about the need for or usefulness of male allies. My working definition for a male ally is a male-identified person intentionally working in partnership with women and folks of other genders to challenge sexism and interlocking systems of oppression.
One caveat: depending on the situation, maybe a male ally isn’t needed. For real. Regardless of our positive intent, sometimes, as Amanda Hess says, we’re the worst. Even when we’re not the worst, sometimes we’re not what’s needed. For instance, when the Portland-based Men Engaging Now produced a white paper documenting challenges and opportunities related to engaging men in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault response work, they noted that “men have earned women’s skepticism and distrust” and while “many female abuse survivors do not experience generalized fear of men,” it is essential that male allies honor the boundaries set by survivors. Thus male allyship can only work when it’s done in partnership with women and folks of other genders. Continue reading
From Glory by John Legend and Common
This Oscar-winning song from the movie “Selma” was used to frame the many conversations that took place at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) council meeting I attended in Washington DC this week. The focus of much of this was how we could most effectively and respectfully be faith-based allies with the groups of women of color across the country that have been pursuing reproductive justice for many years now. Reproductive Justice, it has come to be understood, is work that fights against all of the cultural, political, economic and structural restraints, that limit women’s access to healthcare and full reproductive choice. To seek comprehensive social justice for women and girls; and in doing so, secure the right of all women to have children, not to have children, and to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment.