Tag Archives: gender

Thank You, St. Jude

Yale University Press; 1996

Robert Orsi’s work[1] resurfaces a long fought battle among women universally—finding their own voice and then finding a space that allows their voices to be heard. The Voice of St. Jude, a widely popular American Catholic magazine that began circulating within the U.S. in the 1930s, provided that specific public space for immigrant daughters who wrestled with balancing the life in between dual cultures of Americanism and Catholicism. Letters were sent to this magazine by young immigrant daughters of the Catholic faith who desperately pleaded for help by praying to St. Jude asking him to intercede to Jesus on behalf of them.  Part of this desperate longing for external help arose because traditional support networks through ethnic enclaves (once available to the older first-generation immigrant community) were no longer useful as young, second-generation, Catholic daughters were forced to work outside of their homes and neighborhoods to help the family make ends meet. The majority of the men in these women’s lives were unemployed, unmotivated and often depressed. These burdensome circumstances recurrently led this specific group of women to fall deeper into hopelessness. What these women needed and desperately desired was their own community and network of support—in other words a space to speak, be embraced and heal.

Reading this text through the lens of Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own[2]gives an opportunity for another layer of analysis. Woolf initially uses the backdrop of the fiction writing industry as a way to construct her argument about the lack of physical and figurative space for women in the workplace, but this critique also allows a way for others to use her text to speak about the larger reality of the lack of women’s space in the world of patriarchy. Woolf confidently states, “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” She understood that often the act of writing (then secondly the publication of that text) unleashes, releases and rescues individuals from feeling suffocated, imprisoned and insignificant about their lives. Writing is self-voicing. Having a voice that is heard reinforces significance and a certain amount of power. This power affirms the potential to influence others with the words that one writes or says regardless of who it actually affects. Writing used as an outlet can also heal.

Interestingly, their loyalty and trust depended on a mortal, mediator saint whom they believed would petition on behalf of them to Jesus Christ (the ultimate Savior in the Catholic faith). Unlike Jesus, Jude’s mortality and unknown identity provided the perfect foundation while the magazine provided the perfect platform for these women to imaginatively reform and renegotiate their own understandings of womanhood for their generation. It was women affecting other women’s lives under the label of a man. Much like women writers in the past who used pseudonyms to publish their works for others to read. If looked at simply, St. Jude’s voice was actually a literary vocal team of women who molded The Voice of St. Jude to continue to provide the women a vehicle that could be used to form and shape their voices—because speaking and being heard was enough to give them hope to continue living just a while longer. All in all, regardless of the limits that existed in their society, the space existed—constantly growing, transforming and encouraging women to enter into a greater abundant life filled with gratitude and hope.

So, a few closing questions arise. How would their religious experience and understanding of womanhood have been different if St. Jude had been a woman? If the person whom the magazine was dedicated to had been someone other than St. Jude, would the women have been as devoted to him/her? How much of their devotion to St. Jude was due to the supernatural religious hope and how much of it was due to the alternative enclave community it provided? At large, has the Internet (especially blogging) replaced magazines, radio and other older forms of communication to be used as modern places of expression, healing and community? Which community has blogging benefited the most and which has it hurt the most? Has the Internet further restricted or expanded spaces for Catholic women and other women of faith rooted in patriarchy?


[1] Orsi, Robert A. Thank You, St. Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1996. Print.

[2] Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway ; A Room of One’s Own. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.

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Women’s Well-Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas

How to Assess Human Development and Well-Being

Human Development of Women in the 25 Most Populous Metro Areas

U.S. Female Life Expectancy by Racial and Ethnic Group

Women’s Educational Attainment by Age

Male and Female Higher Education Enrollment

 

To get further information about Women’s Well-Being in America:

Download the Measure of America PDF

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Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey

Indiana University Press; 1989

Abigail Abbot Bailey’s account[1] of domestic violence neither seems atypical nor surprising from many other women’s accounts of what they’ve experienced in abusive relationships. However, Abigail’s faith and trust in God coupled with her understanding  of it—what it actually means and the way in which it should be manifested in her life—is what sets her story apart from other women’s stories.

Abigail’s family upbringing explains how her understanding of trust in God had been shaped. She had a relatively peaceful and loving family. Submission to her parents was never a problem because they provided care and sacrifice. Her lack of experience in struggles and hardships did not allow her to understand what it meant to fully trust God and activate her faith.

Early on in her marriage to Asa Bailey, she notices that he exhibits sinful behavior in his life, but she is eager to show him grace because she believes he has yet to be converted and that every human being has sinned before God. Thus, she has no right to judge, but only to impart forgiveness on her husband. Abigail honestly explains that she “would rather suffer wrong than do wrong” (Taves, 57). Her first and foremost devotion is to please God and live in holiness. Her belief could also be explained through her understanding that any kind of earthly suffering was endurable because Christ’s life entailed the ultimate suffering on behalf of the world. She would simply be partaking in Jesus’ life and her duty as a Puritan woman to conform to the image of her Savior.

Multiple times she “trusted in the Lord to deliver” her (Taves, 60). Abigail believed that trusting in God meant praying and idly hoping that he would either rescue her hardships by changing her husband to be a better man even to convert. In fact, her hope that Asa would change was probably one of the main factors that encouraged her to remain in the marriage for so long. One psychology article[2] states that one of the factors that contribute to a person finally deciding whether or not to leave an abusive relationship is “belief that the abuser would change” (Strube, 837). If her own previous definition of “trust in God” did not change, I do not believe that she expected to separate from him by leaving him or attaining a divorce.

Nevertheless, in the latter part of their marriage (after Asa’s incest with their daughter was made known to her) together she began to consider a new definition—“that trusting in God implies the due use of all means” (Taves, 174). Her faith became active and she became a participant in the decisions she made for her life.


[1] Bailey, Abigail Abbot, and Ann Taves. Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

[2] Strube, Michael J., and Linda S. Barbour. “Factors Related to the Decision to Leave an Abusive Relationship.” Journal of Marriage and Family 46.4 (1984): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. Sept. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/352531&gt;.

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Response to “Who Should Be First?”

When U.S. Senator of Illinois Barack Obama ran up against U.S. Senator of New York Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, many individuals in America were in an uproar—pressuring people to take sides on whether they would elect a Black man or white woman for president. Besides 2008, mainstream discussion about race and gender has not been covered so “generously” by the media since 1870 when the 15th amendment was passed granting Black men the right to vote before white women. Though, many feminists felt the need to exclude and demean others who chose the “other” candidate, it was clear that more importantly feminists worldwide would give and speak up about their own inputs on the issue.

Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Johnnetta Betsh Cole’s “Who Should Be First?: Feminists Speak Out on the 2008 Presidential Campaign” shares a collection of various essays, editorials, articles, and even personal reflections from feminists across diverse ages, races, classes, political stances and family backgrounds.

In “Why I’m Supporting Barack Obama,” Katha Pollitt sparks a new edge on the same conversation. She advocates Obama as a better potential president than Clinton. As Pollitt writes that she “wasn’t delighted to think that success would mean four more years of Bill Clinton either,” it is unfair how she cages Hillary in by associating her with negative feelings towards Hillary’s husband. There are other reasons Pollitt justifies choosing Obama over Hillary, but among these the one that stands out the most is that she believes “Obama is a candidate in a different mold” while Hillary doesn’t connect with people as naturally as Obama does. It is clear that she expects backlash from other feminists because at the end of her essay (with a defensive tone) she lists names of “plenty of feminists [who] support Obama].”

Ariel Garfinkel shares observations among the disparity of opinion between the younger and older generations of women about the 2008 primary elections. There is a higher popularity for Obama among young women while older women lean towards a vote for Clinton instead. Garfinkel states that Obama exuded more “values of feminism” than Clinton did during their campaigns as Obama defended Clinton when there were people urging for her withdrawal in the race. People picked up on Clinton’s racially divisive tactics of placing herself above Obama even within her speeches or interviews. Due to Obama’s frequent nice, supportive and collected self; young people viewed Clinton’s blows as part of “old politics” and Obama’s methods as part of a feminist way of approaching politics.

In “Yo Momma,” Linda Hirshman touches upon the trend for young American women to want to defy their mothers and choose to vote for Obama mostly based on that fact alone. Clinton not only reminds them too much of their own mother, but also knowing that their mothers (feminist or not) would probably vote for Hillary makes them want to rebel all the more and vote for the trendier, nicer candidate who is Obama. Hirshman believes that many of these attitudes come from the “stereotypes of second-wave feminists as overbearing, selfish mothers,” but that young women should not use that as a means of revenge in such an important election as this one. She advocates that Clinton should be president and closes with the note that feminists are allowed to vote whichever way they please, but young women should not dismiss Hillary because of their personal problems with their mothers back at home.

Betsy Reed , author of “Race to the Bottom”, talks about the to and fro attacks about both democratic candidates from the pool of supporters from both sides, Reed mentions that the sexist attacks on Clinton were unfair, but that Clinton’s own racists attacks on Obama were disappointing. Reed makes a significant point about the Catch-22 that every woman has to wrestle through in her life.  Clinton was scourged for being a woman that was too cold and aggressive. Yet, ironically, she was flogged for being too emotional and weak by shedding tears during an event in which she was asked a question about how she’s doing everything as a woman.  Reporters and comedians seemed to leave out her response to the question in which she replied that the reason for her tears was that this whole process was personal because “it is about our country. It’s about our kids’ future. It’s about all of us together. Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some difficult odds.”

Certainly, Obama comes in a racially different shell considering that he became a representative of every minority racial group’s chance at ever being treated as an equal or getting ahead in the United States. Similarly, Clinton too comes in a gender different shell, as she became a representative for girls and women all across America in the hopes for equality or getting ahead as well. Yet, what needs to be clarified is that it is a misnomer to assume that simply by electing a black man or white woman as president, it will appease the racism and sexism that occurs in this country.

In “Generation Y Refuses Race-Gender Dichotomy,” Courtney E. Martin boldly shares that rather than looking at the 2008 elections as a “litmus test”, she chooses to use it as a platform for “a deeper, more authentic conversation” about the intersection between race and gender. Martin chose to vote for Obama, but shares that she will continue to be an “avid Clinton supporter”. Rather than creating divisions, she encourages Americans to use this event as an opportunity to engage in race-gender discussions that will help foster a united nation.

Expectations in the feminist community of keeping a single-minded opinion are confining and highly unlikely considering. This nation is formed from a myriad of people from varying races and ethnic groups, genders, and backgrounds. The beauty and privilege of this nation is that we are not shackled down to only believe one way or the other. Voting for a black man or a white woman for president should not lessen or increase one woman from being a true feminist over another.

So, with this in mind rather than causing bitterness, hatred and resentment towards people that do not agree with us on every issue in life, shouldn’t we be able to dialogue with one another in a loving, safe environment? Ideally, that would be the case, but some political issues are close to people’s hearts and passion arises out of even political elections especially when it is so closely linked to a person’s acceptance, discovery and empowerment of others of their own gender or minority group.

Then the real issue (among the pool of several essays mentioned above) is not that there are lively, passionate discussions about race, gender and the intersection of the two, but that the overwhelming majority of the discussion is about the candidates’ biological and physical aspects alone. Most of the news articles, essays and interviews have been about the racist or sexist attacks and how to combat them. Undoubtedly, there is a great need for people who are willing to do so, but how is that going to help them actually decide whom they will ultimately vote for in the ballot room.

It seems that there wasn’t enough discussion about both Clinton and Obama’s ability to actually become a good president based on their experience, skills, compassion, and ability as a nation leader. There is no need to dismiss their race and gender because it is a great part of who they are, but the concentrated discussions circling around only race and gender stirs the greater problem, which is that maybe there wasn’t enough focus on what kind of human being they are.

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