Category Archives: feminism

It’s the Patriarchy, Stupid!

 During his first run for president Bill Clinton’s ‘war room’ was dominated by James Carville’s hand printed sign “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” It reminded them not to get off message. It worked. Focus on what is important and people will respond positively. It’s a lesson we would do well to learn from.

Patriarchy is the problem. Fighting the patriarchy doesn’t mean fighting men, disenfranchising men, or eliminating men.  Fighting the patriarchy means fighting the system currently in power. The system that defines what it means to be male and female and values what is assumed to be male over what is assumed to be female. Bell Hooks reminds us, though, that patriarchy has no gender. It is a system  imposed on our theology, politics, and social interactions.

Institutions are embedded in the patriarchy. They get their power and ‘legitimacy’ from shoring up patriarchal values. The church elevates those values to ‘sacred.’  Political systems are so entrenched that resistance to change is concretized.

Here’s the thing: you can’t be a part of the world and not be subject to the patriarchy. That includes everyone: male, female, transgender folk, and gender queer, gender non-conforming. Everyone. Everyone is limited by a system that elevates one gender expression over every other. Everyone is limited when barriers are put up that keep people in or out. Everyone suffers when their expression of humanity is constrained by a system that perpetuates racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism and all the ‘isms’ that define us as ‘less than’. Men are limited by the patriarchy, too. The only difference is that their gender grants unquestioned power and superiority. Most men don’t realize that it is a constructed and unquestioned system that dispenses their ‘superiority’.

Smashing the patriarchy means that men would necessarily relinquish their assumed superiority. They would need to share  power and challenge assumptions about their values. That process could open them to accept parts of themselves they have felt the need to reject. Cis men have been confined and injured by the patriarchy, too. The perks of it are seductive, but the price is disabling.
                                   So what is the point of all this? It’s the patriarchy, stupid.

I am a feminist, a Christian, a lesbian, a minister, and a mother. I have worked construction, waited tables, and served a congregation. I do not let the patriarchy define any of those things about me.
When I talk to my sister about religion and politics she often refers to ‘the church’ in disparaging terms. I get it. My daily traffic with people hurt by the institutional church is endless. It is important to me to claim my path as Christian. Which is very different from the institutionalized patriarchy of the Church. Politically, I am a Democrat. But I disavow the systemic patriarchy of the way the party works as an institution.

Here’s the invitation in two parts. First, become and stay aware of the patriarchal system and how it affects you as you live in the world. Then listen to how others are affected by it. You will begin to see it everywhere. And you should, because that’s where it is. And when you see it, don’t be afraid to name it. We need to stop assuming it is some cosmic or human norm.

Second, resist. The politics of resistance is not complete unless we are working to undermine a system that diminishes and elevates people without regard to what makes us truly human.

Every act of resistance begins from here. Put a sign up on your wall or over your desk, a post-it note on the dashboard of your car, scratch it out on the cover of your notebook, prop it up over your TV:
It’s the patriarchy, stupid!




Still A Heretic, Hopefully Gracious

          In an unabashed plug, my memoir,  A Gracious Heresy: the queer calling of an unlikely prophet, will be published soon.  I am at the stage of seeking permissions for works I quote in the text and that is where my story begins.
I asked a poet for permission to use his two line poem which sums up the unexpected confrontations, joy, and challenges that Godde sets before me. It took me a while to track him down because I didn’t know the context in which the poem was published. I did what all good researchers do: I googled him. I discovered he taught at a Catholic university somewhere in West Virginia so I called him and asked for permission directly, assuming he would tell me what publisher to contact.
We had a lovely conversation in which I told him I had written a spiritual memoir and was hoping to use his poem. He said he could give permission and was glad to do it. We talked further and he asked if he could read my manuscript. I was delighted and agreed to send it as an attachment. Here is what followed (redacted to protect the guilty):


Thank you so much for giving me permission to use your poem, XXXX, in my memoir. I have attached a copy and hope you find it worthwhile.

Before too long I received this reply:

Although I certainly wish you every success, I think we might have a problem here.  The University I teach at is (like me) orthodox Catholic.
You seem like a good person, and so I feel kind of bad to ask you, but could you use a quote from someone else?
We all have to try and be faithful to the Jesus we know.
I’ll pray for you and you pray for me!
Again, I wish you the best.
In Jesus and Mary,

Dear XXXX,
          Of course, I am deeply disappointed. I suppose I could have avoided your conflict by not sharing my manuscript but I choose not to prevaricate or mislead about my life and faith. Rejection in the name of doctrine is not a new experience for me though I did not expect it here. I will not use your work since you have withdrawn your permission.
Your poem, XXXXspeaks deeply to my absolute joy in God. Perhaps because of this, I am surprised you do not see the Spirit in the eggplant that is me. Be assured, I am not a good person but I am a child of God and a follower in the Way of Christ.

         Without rancor I concur: I pray for you, you pray for me… we are all a part of God’s body.
In Christ’s love,

To which he responded:
Thank you, Connie, although I wouldn’t say that I don’t see the Spirit that is in you.  We all need mercy; we all struggle.
(I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you were doing better than I am.)
And thanks, too, for the prayers!

 I only regret that I didn’t expect this. There is no question that this person is warm in spirit and seeking to be faithful.  What is clearer than ever is that I have absolutely no struggle with who I am, only with systems of oppression, especially those in the name of Godde. In the relative scheme of things this is not a big deal but it is an important reminder of the reason I need to tell my story.

I Will Not Be Your Enemy

We can choose not to be enemies.
We share history that is the source for all our struggles, self-definitions, failures and successes. For minorities and women much of that history is bad, even despicable. We have been oppressed, terrorized, marginalized, and repressed. But we have also built communities, resisted the dominant paradigm, and survived unimaginable violence to our bodies and psyches.

So how can we choose to not be enemies? Perhaps more importantly, why should we make that choice?

Women have the front seat on how for us to critique finding common ground with those who would oppress us. I hate the patriarchy and its systemic power to dehumanize one group of people and elevate another. I hate it for the same reasons I hate racism. And ableism. And heterosexism. I hate them all for the the boundaries of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that   form a temple of fear.

Women love men: we love husbands or fathers or sons or friends or all of the above. We do it while existing in systemic patriarchy that devalues our existence and codifies laws about our bodies. Here’s an example: I love my dad. He supported my every dream and did not reject me in the face of questionable choices. He is the first feminist man I can remember – though he would have cringed to be called that. Loving him did not eliminate the ways I was sexualized by a man as a child, groped as an employee, or give me the right to be in charge of my own reproductive health. My dad was my ally even while he benefited from being a man in ways I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to make the mistake of dehumanizing and demonizing ‘the other’ any more than I want to be demonized myself.  Where will that get us? How will we make meaningful change if we repeat the same patterns?  The real ‘demons’ are systems that oppress.

What if, instead, we worked to find value in our differences rather than fear them? What if to give to one didn’t mean to take from another? What if we embraced the idea and the fact that we are all in this together? That to survive we must reach across the divide? If we are to survive as a nation we must find our way back to one another. We will always have things to disagree about so let’s treat this like a momentous disaster and rally around so that all survive.

Our goal can’t be that we are lock-stepped in agreement about our beliefs. Instead, let’s find ways to see the humanity in one another, to listen to the concerns we have, and to work together for solutions to this nation’s problems that require compromise not only by the oppressed.  Believe it or not, we used to do something like it. The opposing party was referred to as ‘the loyal opposition’. The idea was (and is) to take the best of both sides and find a solution of compromise that meets the needs of both. More compromise may be required by those who have traditionally held power but we can do this if we find our will.

The depth of our polarization deafens us to one another’s needs and will defeat us if we are not careful. For me, it starts here.
I will not be your enemy.

The Power of Women Unleashed


Something powerful is happening.
Pundits talk about it, observing from a distance.
Talking heads dismiss it, claiming it will go the way of Occupy.

But they are missing something important. They are missing the convergence of awareness. The Women’s March, #metoo, #timesup…women are woke. And they are woke across class and racial lines, sexuality and gender lines, and making inroads into all the lines that  historically divide us.
They miss the point.
The point of #metoo is that almost every woman (and among my many acquaintances the number stands at 100%) have been sexually harassed, assaulted, abused, or raped.
That should take your breath away.
These same women have systematically made less money for doing the same jobs as men. Or have been passed over for deserved promotions. Hence, #timesup.

With the past election we got woke to the systemic hatred of women. Okay, people still find it difficult to say that women are hated but look at the treatment of Hillary Clinton by men in the media. Even progressive men. Look at the explicit sexism of the Bernie Bros (and we’re supposed to be on the same side). Look at Chris Matthews. Look at her treatment by Trump. For many of us, it confirms our own experiences. For many it is a getting woke moment. For some, it is still difficult to acknowledge a symptom one has studiously ignored.

We are erasing the imaginary lines between us. Not ignoring our differences, but recognizing how keeping us separate has kept us down. We refuse to acquiesce to the way it’s always been. We are held up by the women who have gone before us from Eve to Ester, Mary to Prisca, Sojourner Truth to Margaret Sanger, Shirley Chisholm to Gloria Steinem. Young women and old women, girls, maidens, matrons, and crones are stepping up and speaking out.

Yes we have growing pains and we don’t need to be perfect, but we must be authentic. What is important is that we refuse to  be numbed to the evils of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and ableism. We must stay woke to our interconnectedness.  It is time to  unleash our power and VOTE, and RUN for office, and REPRESENT.

Advent Revolution: Be Like Mary

Godde is shocking and if you aren’t shocked by  Godde then you haven’t been paying attention.
Since forever the clash of the religious has been between piety and justice. Righteousness and goodness.  Godde always strains towards the people we reject, devalue, or dehumanize. Or should I say ‘demonize’ ?  And then she goes and does something radical by inviting the people one least expects (or likes) to be Godde-with-us.
Like women. Like foreigners. Like children. Like the outsider and the oppressed.
Can you see Mary, mother of Godde-with-us, in the picture above? If not, then maybe you have been looking in the wrong places. Morality doesn’t lie in transcendence (the way Mary is usually depicted), it lies in the gritty choices of everyday life. Is what I’m doing benefitting only me or is it in service to the greater good? Do I choose to make money over clean water and air? Fair wages? Accessible healthcare? Does my vote reflect not only my interest but also those of  the  most vulnerable among us? Do I place more value in the humanity of a person than their adherence to my sexual, gender, or cultural norms?
These are the questions we need to be asking. These are the concerns to which Mary calls us to when she is overcome with thankfulness and sings an ancient song of liberation and freedom:
‘My soul magnifies our Godde,
47     and my spirit rejoices in Godde my Saviour,
48 for She has looked with favour on the lowliness of her servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is her name.
50 Her mercy is for those who hold her in awe
    from generation to generation.
51 She has shown strength with her arm;
    and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 She has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 and has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

This is what counts as shocking to those who believe that their religion saves them from eternal damnation or that the amount of money they have amassed shows that they are favored by Godde. Which, in a way, is seductive because it gives the impression that we are in control. If I remain a virgin till marriage, don’t come out, don’t transition, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t wear make-up… then I can control my fate. But piety never protects us. Instead, it  sets up the juicy conundrum that men can both objectify and abuse women with impunity. In the name of God.
 Godde calls us  to revolutionary actions not pious acts.  Mary is overcome by Godde and her response is to give voice to Godde’s call for liberation and freedom.
In these days when we look for Godde-with-us, check out the places you don’t usually look and the people with whom you don’t feel comfortable. Women who are pushy. Immigrants. #Me, too. #Black lives matter. They are doing the holy, revolutionary work of Godde.


Believe Us: #metoo

Something has changed. Women are unleashing tsunamis of memories and experiences in unprecedented ways and it as wonderful as it is pain-filled.

Ask any woman. Any. Woman. You will hear the stories of physical or verbal sexual assault and abuse. You will hear stories of how we are silenced because we need the job or the apartment or the healthcare or the church. You will hear stories that have lain dormant or relegated to the sanctity of the therapist’s couch for too long. We have been silent and silenced too long. Now that we are speaking out, there is no turning back.

Many of us who are not black are aware that black parents must, at some point, have ‘the talk’ with their children about racism and the inherent personal danger, ugliness, and hatred associated with it.

There is a similar talk that women have with girls. If not mother or grandmother, then teacher or mentor, neighbor or aunt, co-worker or congregant. It goes something like this:

Here is a dime (or quarter, or always have your cell phone with you) keep it with you and call if he gives you any trouble. Be careful how you dress because men can’t help themselves. Don’t be alone with that guy. A man will always try to take what he wants. Don’t walk alone at night. Always check the back seat before you get in your car. Have a whistle on your keychain. Use your keys as a weapon. Carry mace in your purse. Don’t set your drink down if you are in a club. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go out alone.

And then there are the messages we get that are often unspoken but assumed:

Say something and you’ll lose your job.
No one is going to believe you.
You asked for it.

Well, guys, I think you’ve just lost control because women are speaking up and speaking out. You don’t believe us? Do you really not believe us? You’ve never heard how men talk about women when left to themselves? You’ve never said those things yourself? You’ve never used your physical, political, or social power to coerce a woman? Or never seen another man do it? Really?

You don’t believe us? Well, too bad because we believe one another. We have centuries of experience with systemic sexism. We had it happen to us, to our daughters, to our friends – whether in something as tragic as rape or sexual abuse, or as rampant and dehumanizing as cat calling or unwelcome touch.

We aren’t going to make excuses for your behavior anymore. We are not going to undermine women who have the courage to speak out. The curtain was pulled back when thousands, millions of us say #metoo. We are not going to accept that this is ‘just how men are’. We want to believe you are better than this. Stand with us and make it unacceptable to use, coerce, or abuse women sexually or any other way.

And here is how you can begin: BELIEVE US.

Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Somehow it is never enough.

Columbine 15
Sandy Hook 20 children 8 adults
Charleston   9
The Harvest Music Festival 58
Pulse night club 49
Virginia Tech 32
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs: 26
San Bernardino: 14
Edmond, Oklahoma: 14

This is a short, non-comprehensive list. But somehow it is not enough.
Not enough to strengthen gun laws.
Not enough to wrestle political power from the NRA.
Not enough to stop making a false distinction between terrorists (brown) and mentally ill (white) shooters.

Can we not agree that mass murder is a terrorist act and that anyone capable of committing those atrocities has significant mental health challenges – no matter their brand of political or religious fanaticism,  no matter the color of their skin?
Can we agree that there is ABSOLUTELY no need for any civilian to own an automatic weapon?
Can we agree that a bunch of armed white supremacists are not ‘a well-regulated militia’?Can we agree that arguments made by the gun lobby are specious and self-serving?
Can we agree that gun culture also leads to increased violence against women and children?
Can we agree that we are afraid?
Can we agree that enough is enough?

Stopping gun violence is a feminist issue.
Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns — more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.

Can we agree that enough is enough?

In the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science is not “legitimate.” To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous year.

Can we agree that enough is enough?
And if you believe enough is enough then make your ‘thoughts and prayers’ have hands and feet. 
-Write, email, and call your senators and representatives. They hear from the gun lobby enough. They need to hear our voting voices loud and clear.

-Give as you are able to anti- gun violence organizations. The NRA is a powerful lobbying group that represents gun manufactures more than its membership and can pay politicians for votes.   

We must change the conversation so that it is completely and utterly ‘populist’ to support gun control.  Because enough is enough.



Bernie and the Women’s March Conference

Progressives and people of conscience need to be a united front against the insanity that took over the White House in 2016 and has been pervasive in the Republican Party since the advent of Gingrich.

That being said… we all know that is not how progressives/liberals work. We have to engage in endless arguments about the minutia of policy. Which makes our policies better. We don’t work in sound bites or tweets. It takes more than 140 characters just to name an issue much less define it. We have “marshals” at every turn reminding us who is included and who needs to be included. Hundreds of voices from thousands of experiences of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, ability, age… all seek and demand input. I’m proud of that. I am proud that is who we are and how we work. It is also the reason we are vulnerable to simplistic ideas expressed in short phrases. That, and the fact that the Right uses our diversity to divide us. Hell, we do that all by ourselves.

Which is why I hesitate to say anything at all about my argument with Bernie and the Women’s March. We desperately need to be a united front against the travesty of the Trump regime. We desperately need to unite to vote Tea Party Republicans out of office (the no compromise party that puts its extremist values above the well-being of the nation). We desperately need to humanize political discourse.

With apologies to those whom this does not apply, I find Bernie followers to be the worst. I don’t disagree with or deplore their ideas but I know in a democracy ideas are compromised both as part of our tradition of governing and of our legislative process. We cannot afford to mirror the Republican Party in some inauthentic search for purity. None of us is so elevated that we do not need to listen to one another.

Bernie supporters were hacked and played by Russia and many still believe the lies  circulated about Hillary. During the election, many of his supporters behaved like (and were) privileged, cis-gendered, white men. They demanded immediate change, not understanding that change is an ongoing process filtering through laws, family life, work relationships, religious life, community, and political life. Those without privilege could have informed the conversation were not that so many Bernie supporters absolutists. He dismissed women’s issues (e.g. Planned Parenthood) as unimportant and failed to understand the centrality of our issues to his economic and social agendas.

Right now I am angry because Bernie is the opening speaker at the Women’s Conference in Detroit. I’m sorry if you don’t understand. As a feminist of 40+ years I have seen this before. It is not about inclusiveness, it is about privilege. Invite all the men you want, I would welcome them, but let them come to  listen. Imagine a white person being the opening speaker at a Black Lives Matter conference. Could she or he speak as well to the issues as a person of color who has lived them? The choice is tone deaf. I will leave it there.

So now what? I don’t know the answer but let’s start the conversation. It is one thing to disagree, even vehemently, and quite another to dismiss and demean one another. We are ALL needed to turn this horror around. If you are angry that I am speaking my truth, be angrier still at those who are subverting democracy. If you are angry that I don’t trust Bernie, show me that you are trustworthy and don’t dismiss me because you don’t think my ideals are pure enough. If you get that women’s issues are human issues and that no political theory is valid without a substantial critique of issues that effect women then I will work with you. If you begin to listen to those of us outside your wheelhouse, I will work with you. Me and my feminist hoards will work with you.


‘Representing’ at the Shower of Stoles Project


I have the honor of speaking  at the Shower of Stoles project as part of All Saints Episcopal Church’s celebration of Pride Week. October 11, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

I first sent my stole to the Shower of Stoles in the 90’s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the project, it is a collection of stoles (you know, those things preachers wear over their robes that often follow the liturgical season) donated by lesbians and gay men who sought ordination or were already ordained but remained closeted. Each stole comes with a brief story of the one who donated. Many are anonymous. Viewing the kaleidoscope of colors and the uniqueness of each story is sometimes sad, sometimes triumphant, always moving.

The struggle for LGBT folks to serve in the church is long, arduous… and,frankly, not over yet.  We’ve made a lot of progress and these stoles represent the lives and work, the persistence and the resistance of many faithful folks who experienced a call to ministry contrary to their church’s teaching.

I am one of those people. I lived through a time when I had to find a way to make sense of this blasted  called and what it meant for me to be faithful. This week I get to tell the story of my stole, my call, my struggle to be faithful, and the grace I splash around in.

I’m focusing on resistance in my talk because the times we live in require much of us. These stoles remind us of  the power of resistance. Sharing the stories inspires us for the work of justice. And, perhaps most of all, these stoles and their stories give us hope for the future.

Come let these stoles bear witness and listen to the story I have to tell. Hope to see you there!

They Don’t Just Hate Hillary

When the feminist movement reemerged in the 1960’s and 70’s I embraced it with all the passion of a young woman who wanted to make life choices based on my skills, abilities, passions… I was on the front line of challenging the ‘roles’ women were delegated to as wives, mothers, and workers. I freed myself from the constraints that dictated my sexuality and embraced my love and attraction for women. I was gloriously free and too naïve to be afraid. That came later.

That came after my life was threatened. After the threat to take away my daughter. After, after, after I experienced and recognized a hatred of women that permeates our culture.

Yes, hatred. Which most likely is just the leading emotion for fear. Nevertheless, the day came when I had an out of body experience of the systemic nature of misogyny. It was like the totality, the absoluteness of the oppression and suppression of women was experienced by every cell in my body. My mind stretched to reach around the reality of the truth until I thought I might break open. My heart shattered as I allowed myself to perceive the depth and universality of the hatred. It unleashed my fury.

Women can’t really live in that reality all the time. It is too harsh. Too heartbreaking. Too frightening. So I walked up to it, acknowledged it, and stepped back. Not from the reality of it but from the powerlessness misogyny assumes.

Then I lived my life. I came to have deep friendships with men and learned the difference between sexism (they all suffered from some form of it) and misogyny. I channeled my fury into making change. I learned to love complicated people and paint them with many colors and textures. We were moving forward on that slow arc toward justice about which Dr. King spoke. As a woman identified woman I came to experience what is now called ‘intersectionality’ – what we learned as women reached out across class, race, education, gender expression, and sexualities. We were forced to recognize the ways we internalized our own oppression. It was good stuff. Challenging. Inspiring. World changing.

Like people of color (at least those my age) I watched societal changes. Hell, I worked to make them happen. I believed we were changing things. Slowly but surely. Very slowly and very surely. Young women told me the battle was won, that we are in a post-feminist era. I should have been delighted – and there are ways I am grateful that young women now don’t have to question their value in many sectors – but I also know that my experience of the depth of the reality of misogyny didn’t concur that we were in a post-feminist world any more than we are in a post-racist world.

However, I was lulled into thinking that our trajectory was on course and would continue. Then came the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I was excited and hopeful that another (and great) barrier would be knocked down. As with the election of Obama, it was time. We had a great candidate. A perfect ‘transitional’ leader. So competent that no one could suggest she didn’t have the ability or experience or stamina to do the job.

I expected the haters.  I believed the meanness, the vociferous, strident hatefulness unleashed by the right was contained. But then my Bernie Bros signed on to misogyny with out compunction. And white women forgot that their privilege is based on both their race and being heteronormative. They forgot, if they ever knew, that we are all in this together.

This is the systemic hatred of women I knew existed at a primal level. On election night 2017, I had that out of body experience again. I’m betting many of us did. Though our hearts are broken we are being forced, once again, to recognize and name the demon, to confront it, and to exorcize it. Most of all, I pray we re-member that not one of us is immune to the oppression of misogyny and we need,  every one of us, to make the change that needs to happen.