activism

The Dwell Project

The Dwell Project is managed by Roxy and Eddie, who spoke at our ‘Reclaiming the F Word’ conference in March this year. Its vision ‘is to prevent domestic violence against women – including honour related violence, through education, awareness, & partnership at the front line of Christian-Muslim relations’. Here, Roxy explains what the project is doing and how it hopes to change lives.

Dwell started because of our own experiences with domestic violence in our families & a desire to change the perceptions & myths we heard in faith communities about domestic violence. It started with the belief in healthy & safe relationships for all men & women.

We felt a need to get men in faith communities involved especially Christians & Muslims in standing against the issue because without them domestic violence will continue. So the Dwell Project is preventing domestic violence in Christian and Muslim communities through workshops about the truth & myths about domestic violence, about masculinity & healthy intimate relationships. We raise awareness about domestic violence online through social media campaigns such as Frocktober which ran through October this year & our blog which we write regularly.

We are a married couple with our own story of God’s healing in our lives, healing from the trauma of domestic violence (which we experienced in our homes as children) which gives us hope & a belief that it is possible with God’s help to make a difference. We want to encourage Christians to pray so we are working on resources that will help. We want churches to be ready to support those who have suffered domestic violence. More than that we want churches to prevent it from happening through speaking about gender equality within marriages, talking to young adults about masculinity & giving them space to share & be vulnerable about relationships.

We seek to be people who live with the hope of beautiful relationships between men & women. We look to God and ask him to help us to believe that he is with us as we do this work. We ask for faith in relationships, in marriage, in partnerships between Christians & Muslims, men & women that will enable us to prevent domestic violence. We are realistic in believing that this work will take a long time. We try to find creative ways to raise awareness about domestic violence & our blog is an example of this.

Ultimately we believe in heaven coming to earth as we pray The Lord’s Prayer. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We believe heaven will be without pain & violence so believe when we pray for heaven on earth we are praying for an end to domestic violence.

“Our Father in Heaven,
Reveal who you are
Set the world aright:
Do what’s best –
As above so below.
Keep us alive with 3 square meals
Keep us forgiven with you & forgiving others
Keep us safe from ourselves & the Devil
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Matthew 6:9-13 (Message version)

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Girlguiding: ‘splitting from God’ as they find their feminist feet

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Natalie Collins blogs on why she’s worried that the Guides’ move away from a faith basis and towards feminist activism makes it seem like the two can’t go together.

Last week an article in The Guardian detailed Julie Bentley’s first year as the Head of Girlguiding UK. The article focused on the organisation’s “split from God” and recent protests against sexism. The article seems to suggest the two are linked, as if it’s impossible to be a faith-based organisation, and engage in feminist activism.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with taking God out of the promise for girls who don’t believe in God, or who don’t want to make a promise to serve God. This, for me, is the same as struggling with Godparents who are agnostic or atheist stating that they believe in God and making commitment to raise a child in that knowledge.  The measure of a faith-based organisation isn’t whether people who are engaged with that organisation make a pledge to God or not.

However, it seems that Girlguiding distancing itself from a promise to God is not about the guides moving towards having more integrity in their practice, but is actually about distancing themselves from being a faith-based organisation. It also seems that there is a direct correlation between asserting the lack of any faith basis in the organisation, and the increasing amount of feminist activism done by the organisation – something which seems to further validate the idea that faith and feminism don’t go together. This both saddens and angers me.

As a feminist, the work I do to address inequality and work towards gender justice comes out of a deep prophetic tradition within the body of Christ to “proclaim good news to the poor…to bind the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”.  It saddens me that an organisation that began so rooted in this tradition has needed to move away from a connection with Jesus in order to engage in such actions, and it angers me that it is most likely Christians, rather than non-Christians, who have perpetuated and possibly been responsible for the perception of many that feminism and Christianity are not compatible.

I don’t blame the guides from stepping away from their Christian roots in favour of a more multi-cultural, multi-faith image, and recognise the many challenges of being a person of faith in feminist spaces, but I wonder at the lost opportunity of this organisation which has equipped and valued girls around the world for over 100 years, to show that faith and feminism are compatible, or as we like to say at the Christian Feminist Network, that it is Christian patriarchy that is an oxymoron, not Christian feminism.

CFN at UK Feminista Summer School

Natalie Collins blogs about facilitating a workshop entitled ‘Religion, Faith and Feminist Activism’ at UK Feminista’s Summer School last weekend.

As a Christian it is often a struggle to feel fully part of the feminist movement. With many feminists stating that religion is a patriarchal construct, and having personally having been told by a feminist organisation I worked for that it would never be appropriate for me to mention my faith during my work, it is difficult to feel part of the sisterhood. Similarly in the church, I often feel like an anomaly as I bring a feminist perspective to sermons, songs and home groups, to the point where I often avoid small groups as I know I’m unlikely to fit in.

So it was great to be able to be involved in running a workshop at UK Feminista’s Summer School in Birmingham. The weekend-long event had a rich and varied programme, a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere and lots and lots of wonderful feminists. I was originally asked to participate in a panel with feminists from different faith and religious communities, as a representative of the Christian Feminist Network, however I ended up facilitating the session, with two Muslim women, Maria and Ujoor, sharing their experiences alongside me sharing mine.

The session was wonderful. We had over fifty people attend, with individuals self-identifying as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, spiritual, exploring faith and atheist. Some people felt committed to their faith, whereas others felt that their faith was something they had inherited and in that way was a part of their identity.

The dialogue was open and respectful. The Summer School organisers had shared with me that some issues of Islamophobia had been raised in other sessions, and so we ensured the session was introduced as a space for respectful dialogue. People shared their views and experiences of being people of faith, and how for some, feminism was an extension and complemented their faith identity. Some people couldn’t understand why feminism seems to be seen as an atheist movement, which allowed those who self-identify as atheist to share their views.

One woman commented on how women who wear very little clothing are seen by society as “sluts”, whereas women who wear the hijab are seen as being oppressed. She said she felt it would be wonderful if, in the same way as feminists had started “slutwalks” to declare that women should be able to wear little or no clothing and not be victimised, feminists could also stop seeing women who choose to cover their heads or bodies as oppressed.

It was wonderful to hear Maria and Ujoor’s stories of being Muslim activists, and Maria discussed how we shouldn’t blame Islam for oppressing women, focusing instead on the fact that it is those who choose to use Islam as an excuse to oppress and abuse women. Maria and Ujoor shared how they felt frustrated when people think that Muslim women are a homogenous group, when each woman and their individual communities have very different experiences and values.

We discussed our various experiences of being feminists of faith, and those within the group who were atheists listened and heard our views. The session finished with me sharing some of my story, of how I grew up in a Christian home and how Christian teaching had disabled me from making good choices, leading to me experiencing abuse, but also how it was through my faith in God that I was able to make it through the most difficult period in my life. I shared of working within the feminist world and the challenges I had faced and also the Christian leader who had told me she had to have the “spirit of feminism” cast out of her.

I concluded by talking about the similarities of faith communities and the feminist community. Each is full of flawed people, with a shared set of values and principles, which are perceived differently by every individual, a community of people trying to be on the same page, though with different priorities, perceptions and life experiences. My observation is that the feminist dialogue about trans* people looks very similar to the Christian dialogue regarding the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

After I finished, we separated into groups of people with the same faith and had some time sharing and discussing. Some of us swapped details and hope to stay in contact. Many shared with me how useful the workshop had been and how much they appreciated the space, both people of faith and those without.

A big thank you must be given to UK Feminista for being intentional in creating a space for people of faith and as we continue to have respectful and open dialogue I hope and pray, as do all those at the Christian Feminist Network, that we might get to a place where people of faith truly know we fit within feminism and are more equipped to challenge misconceptions within our faith communities.

Weekly round-up 4

How to raise up women leaders – Jenny Baker for IDEA magazine

Ask women in your church what they need to grow in leadership and what their aspirations are. What’s stopping them being leaders at the moment? Identify women who you feel have an aptitude for leadership. Team them up with more experienced women who can mentor them, even if you have to look outside your congregation. Create opportunities for them to take on small projects with support and feedback, and build on that.

Porn: the shocking truth – TES magazine

The effect that mass exposure to pornography is having on teens’ emotional well-being and self-esteem will take time to gauge properly as it is an unprecedented phenomenon happening in real time. However, the impact it is having on the way they view their bodies and the bodies of the opposite sex is already very evident.

The Jane Austen banknote victory shows young women are packing a punch – Zoe Williams

Two things are unarguable about this century; the first is that it is more sexist than the end of the last, raunch and postmodernism having converged to normalise the presentation of women as meat; the second is that the internet has had profound consequences for privacy and, inevitably, personal freedom. But pause to consider the vivacity of the feminist fourth wave, its energy and victories, the way it has honed and deployed the power of social media rather than surrendered to the misogynist tropes it throws up. It is fearless and pugnacious and alive with a sense of possibility.

Danielle at From Two to One is running a Q&A on Christian feminism as a series of blog posts. She can also be found at SheLoves magazine writing on The difference between sex and gender roles in marriage.

Although I’m sure she’s heard it all, I skirted around the specifics with my pastor-friend, blushing while explaining that, “Um, well. In some parts of our marriage, it is quite clear who is female and who is male.” I was not only stating the obvious, but also was referring to something more mysterious, more sacred.

FAQs: Feminism, sexism and intersectionality - The Quail Pipe

So, what is intersectional feminism? Well, quite simply, it’s feminism taking other causes of oppression into account and including all women, whether they are trans*, non-Caucasian, disabled, working class, middle class, upper class. Essentially it’s the recognition that other people’s experiences are different to our own, but equally and sometimes more valid. We can have feminism without intersectionality, but as I said, this is not good feminism. If the only oppression you face is due to gender inequality, then you are extremely privileged and need to understand that this is not the same for other women.

Restored’s In Churches Too campaign, about domestic abuse in Christian relationships, is now up and running – watch the video below.

 

 

CFN @ Million Women Rise

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With International Women’s Day fast approaching, we wanted to let you know what we’re planning on doing to celebrate the day. Since 2008, women have been taking to the streets of London in their thousands to protest global violence against women and express their hope for a safer world at the Million Women Rise march. This year, CFN will be attending the march, on Saturday March 9th, as a group and will be holding a prayer breakfast and banner-making session beforehand.

We’ll be meeting at the Cathedral Offices at Southwark Cathedral from 9:30am. Bring along any banner-making supplies you have such as marker pens, fabric, and decorative bits and pieces. There will also be the opportunity to make a voluntary donation towards breakfast (a vegetarian option will be available).

The march sets off from Oxford Street at 1pm, assembling from midday, so we will aim to leave the cathedral by this point. It will move along Oxford Street, which will be closed to traffic, ending in a rally at Trafalgar Square from 3pm.

Although all are welcome at our pre-march event, only women and children are allowed on the march itself. Men can offer their support from the sidelines, however! If at all possible please let us know if you are hoping to attend by emailing cfnet@ymail.com. We have created a Facebook event here and an invitation in PDF format for you to circulate or print off.

Find out more about Million Women Rise.

Image via tamara.craiu on Flickr