Leaping from Our Spheres
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.
Confession: one of my favorite pop music genres is the girl groove, those all- female groups and soloists that hit their peak in the 1960’s. On one of those public television pledge nights a while back, we were treated to dozens of fading video tapes of those Detroit , New York, and Nashville female vocalists who I had stayed up listening to on the bubble gum AM radio stations of my California pre-teen years.
Some of them were minor stars, even one hit wonders, and others like The Supremes dominated the charts for many years with their songs of one way love and rejection. Their stories of leaders of the pack and soldier boys. Their advice to those of us who dreamed of being Bobby’s girl: that just to see his smile made our life worthwhile.
For me, the high point of the overall tedious Academy Awards show this year was Lady Gaga channeling Julie Andrews in her 50th anniversary tribute to the release of The Sound of Music. She was nothing short of amazing, demonstrating her classical voice training and her love of American musical theater. It was pure entertainment, soaring and joyous.
Using this hugely viewed ceremony as a platform to draw attention to issues, Oscar winners talked about ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, and government invasion into the private lives of citizens and the status of Mexicans in their own country and as immigrants in the United States.
And there was Best Supporting Actress recipient Patricia Arquette, who read from prepared thank you remarks, which in addition to the usual shout outs to family and fellow cast members, included a plea for “wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.” At the moment she finished this sentence, the cameras panned on actresses Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, who nearly leapt from their seats in support of her statement. Continue reading