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Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay

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“Why do you stay?” It is a common question women are asked in relation to their faith. These are not women who buy into Candace Cameron’s biblically submissive theory; rather, these are women who claim a feminist identity, have membership in a particular religious tradition, and practice their faith in spite of gendered challenges. In Faithfully Feminist 15 Christian, 15 Je “Why do you stay?” It is a common question women are asked in relation to their faith. These are not women who buy into Candace Cameron’s biblically submissive theory; rather, these are women who claim a feminist identity, have membership in a particular religious tradition, and practice their faith in spite of gendered challenges. In Faithfully Feminist 15 Christian, 15 Jewish, and 15 Muslim women share their stories of struggle and faith. In a world where women’s issues are political issues, women are judged for their positions in relation to their claimed identities. Feminists argue that you cannot be a “true” feminist if you are a practicing Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Likewise, religious practitioners claim that you cannot be a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Jew if you support feminist values. Nevertheless, women who practice these religious traditions and hold feminist values are not uncommon, and the question “Why do you stay?” is one that is frequently asked of them. Faithfully Feminist is the sharing of stories, encouraging other women, and acknowledging that being feminist doesn’t mean giving up on your faith.


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“Why do you stay?” It is a common question women are asked in relation to their faith. These are not women who buy into Candace Cameron’s biblically submissive theory; rather, these are women who claim a feminist identity, have membership in a particular religious tradition, and practice their faith in spite of gendered challenges. In Faithfully Feminist 15 Christian, 15 Je “Why do you stay?” It is a common question women are asked in relation to their faith. These are not women who buy into Candace Cameron’s biblically submissive theory; rather, these are women who claim a feminist identity, have membership in a particular religious tradition, and practice their faith in spite of gendered challenges. In Faithfully Feminist 15 Christian, 15 Jewish, and 15 Muslim women share their stories of struggle and faith. In a world where women’s issues are political issues, women are judged for their positions in relation to their claimed identities. Feminists argue that you cannot be a “true” feminist if you are a practicing Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Likewise, religious practitioners claim that you cannot be a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Jew if you support feminist values. Nevertheless, women who practice these religious traditions and hold feminist values are not uncommon, and the question “Why do you stay?” is one that is frequently asked of them. Faithfully Feminist is the sharing of stories, encouraging other women, and acknowledging that being feminist doesn’t mean giving up on your faith.

30 review for Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lea Page

    I love it when a book answers questions that I didn't expect to have addressed. I grew up in a household without a father, and my mother's example of feminism came with an un/healthy dose of anger and hatred. It is understandable to me as an adult: she suffered countless indignities and barriers. For example, as one of three staff members in the National office of ERAmerica, she found out that the male secretary was being paid more! So she quit. One can survive on anger, but one cannot live. I w I love it when a book answers questions that I didn't expect to have addressed. I grew up in a household without a father, and my mother's example of feminism came with an un/healthy dose of anger and hatred. It is understandable to me as an adult: she suffered countless indignities and barriers. For example, as one of three staff members in the National office of ERAmerica, she found out that the male secretary was being paid more! So she quit. One can survive on anger, but one cannot live. I was left on my own to learn how to meet injustice with something other than hatred. And here, in this anthology about why feminist women of faith remain in their religions, even as they acknowledge historic patriarchy and misogyny, forty-five women tell me, gently, kindly, powerfully and lovingly, how: how to belong somewhere when you are not made to feel welcome. These are not lessons about fitting in. They are stories about how to belong to yourself and to something greater. How to take a moment, in that "conscientious pause," to listen. And to speak. Not with anger or hatred, but with "truth and honor."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sabeeha Rehman

    Once I started reading it, I had to share it. I proposed it to my Interfaith Book Club, and viola, they loved it. We had a spirited discussion on how much we women from all faiths have in common. The men in our book club loved it too. The book tells the story also of how men in the lives of women have helped them achieve their independence and find their calling.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I enjoy reading people's stories of why they hold their beliefs and why they stay in religions or leave them. In this book many young women tell why, in spite of being feminists, they have chosen to stay in their particular Abrahamic faith despite experiencing its deeply patriarchal aspects. I enjoy reading people's stories of why they hold their beliefs and why they stay in religions or leave them. In this book many young women tell why, in spite of being feminists, they have chosen to stay in their particular Abrahamic faith despite experiencing its deeply patriarchal aspects.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaime K

    I don’t know if it’s the e-book version or simply the library’s Hoopla version, but the typos and formatting issues with this are astronomical. This didn’t affect my rating of the book; just pointing it out. What is feminism? What is religiosity? How can the two intersect to form a cohesive understanding of humanity? This book compiles about 45 essays from different women to represent feminism in light of the three Abrahamic religions. Do I agree with everything each says? No--that’s not how people I don’t know if it’s the e-book version or simply the library’s Hoopla version, but the typos and formatting issues with this are astronomical. This didn’t affect my rating of the book; just pointing it out. What is feminism? What is religiosity? How can the two intersect to form a cohesive understanding of humanity? This book compiles about 45 essays from different women to represent feminism in light of the three Abrahamic religions. Do I agree with everything each says? No--that’s not how people work. Even so, I was able to glean something from many of them (even if that something was...minor). Because the overall theme is to straighten mindsets and to unskew things that have been BELIEVED but are not actually TAUGHT. What surprised me is how much I got from The Islamic and Jewish women since, as a Christian, I would [obviously] be less inclined to agree with a lot. I may not believe everything, but I recognize the value in learning about them. The overall message of them was actually more clear and less biased against others--there are different ‘sects’/‘denominations’ as are seen in Christianity, but there was more of an amicable “that isn’t for me” sense to the essays as compared to the Christian ones. The anti-Catholic bias, for example, is evident--even with Catholic authors. I mean...I understand now why former Christians tend to Islam. Still, I found myself calmed by the book at first, a sisterhood despite differences (some of them major!), and an understanding of where so many people come from. We’re all of the same mold, after all. A third of the way through I found myself waning, realizing that I was actually bored. Despite the fact that a couple of women talk of simply finding a voice while adhering to (T)traditions and rules, these testaments are few and far between. Instead, the book presents quite a few radicals who want to rock the boat and actually contradict teachings of the faith. Some women beginning in Christianity, for example, have decided that taking “a little bit” from different religions is fine, when it’s really just a cafeteria type of faith -- ‘well, if such-and-such doesn’t work with MY thoughts, then I will ignore those teachings and find something that fits with me.’ This is not how religion works. Additionally, most of the featured Catholics are pro-abortion, pro-women’s ordination, and are likely pro-SS marriage; all of these go against not only tradition but teachings and a good part of the foundation of the faith. I cheered when I came across a Catholic who didn’t include that in her essay. So, what does it mean to be a feminist who is also invested in her faith? Well, some of those things blend together. It is: ~ Leaving a toxic relationship and/or one that makes you feel “less.” ~ Taking ownership of faith from within it, not as outsiders (or even a select few) define it. ~ Having a space for your presence and voice (and finding them!), allowing others to hear you. Representing and not ghettoizing. ~ Embracing religious tenants to strengthen your soul without alienating others. ~ Question “rules” and roles to ensure total understanding, but not backlash against them. This allows one to enhance on the roles women have in religion--both in the past and present. With that, acceptance is NOT erasing the category of ‘woman,’ but allowing the gender to blossom and have that voice. ~ Owning your own sins (not having someone own them for you). And being a genuine sinner while admitting the struggles many females face when being true to their faith ~ Not being ashamed in your belief and staying strong in adversity. ~ Hearing God in others. Learning with others. Loving and supporting others -- whether or not we fully agree on something. We can still adhere to rational laws of faith while supporting people who may rock the boat for the better. ~ Setting terms of engagement within tradition (big AND little T) ~ Learning that gender struggles may differ but all stem from the same place. Maybe they’re not glaring, but they are often there. ~ Understanding religion is more than faith: it’s culture ~ Leaning and relying on family ties to keep you grounded ~ Speaking against misogynist behavior that silences anyone, and are imbalanced against female voices. ~ Listening to and learning about others to truly understand actions and motives--thereby recognizing the strength in others. ~ Believing in equality and respect for all. ~ Being free by living your faith, particularly by following your heart. ~ Finding meaning in struggles -- not as a “this is God’s plan,” but as a way to strengthen your mind, soul, and faith. ~ Remembering & honoring one’s personal and religious histories, letting them nourish and reflect our humanity. ~ Knowing that a given faith and its teachings don’t reside in a bubble. ~ Recognizing that the institution and community each offer healing that we actually need. ~ Being a creative voice to the conversations, ceremonies, and roles. ~ BEING ABLE TO BE A MOTHER ~ Feeling blessed by skin color and other facets that are out of our control. ~ Talking TO people, not about them. Things I got from the authors: * Sayed: Information on Islam, including words/phrases/beliefs of different ‘sects.’ I love her words on surrender. * Fructer: Shares the depth of Orthodox Judaism. Her questions toward women are phenomenal. * Peskowitz: A great look at the past and present versions of Reform Judaism * Edwards: She repeats a lot and I don’t agree with most of what she says. But the information on Baptist issues without pointing fingers was interesting. * Zohair: Very interesting information on her conversion to Islam as well as why she stayed when facing personal adversity. * Kline: Some new info (for me) on Mormonism * Lieberman: Wow. That was some eye-opening information on egalitarian traditions. * Crumpton: her story is fascinating * Levin: Provides quite a bit more insight on the seder plate * Chaudry: She relates to me in so many ways * Mandviwala: I love how feminism “saved her real identity” and strengthened her. However, her anti-anti-abortion (or maybe just anti-Fox News?) ‘joke’ made me want to vomit. * Richman: I love how music plays a role in her physical and spiritual growth * Leeman: That she incorporates religion in her paintings is awesome. She is honest with her struggles and explains that she finds meaning in each. She questions the laws, learns reasons for them, and does not disregard them. * Granados De La Rosa: For me, her experience is unique, and one I needed to read. It’s eye-opening and bittersweet. * Khan-Ibarra: She provides a lot more information on Pashtun/Islamic teachings that I didn’t know I needed. * Dixon: The opening with the Jay-Z quote made me smile, made me think of an author/radio host I know of. She resonated with me, embellishing on Muslim culture while sharing many of my values. Her words on sex were utterly refreshing. * Shoop: The poem about Mary Magdalene is beautiful. * Quraishi: I like reading of her comparisons between Christianity and Islam. * Sol: Offers true views on exile, creativity, andreturn. * Saeed: Well, there is another book I want to read! My heart breaks that many felt that her motherhood meant she wasn’t feminist. * Hasan: Wow. MOTHERS pass on discrimination. I never of that before. She offers a great question: how did we end up here? * Moser: Her essay has different perspectives and look at Judaism. There is great information to chew on. * Stone. Well. While I’m not with her completely, I needed to learn of the reasoning on Jewish reproductive beliefs. * Uddin: Elaborates on strength and versilitude of women. *Guerro: YES. A Catholic who isn’t all gung-ho against the teachings! She is very relatable for those who aren’t ‘in communion’ with the CHURCH, and even me. * Cooper: I liked reading this and her take on how different forms are all valid in their own way. * Bailey: That is the first time I’ve seen ‘womanist.’ * Neiss: Sadly, I’m not surprised by the audacity of men in her story. Not because they’re men, but because I’ve found a lot of people to just be rude and not care about what is designated as not theirs.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    I am a firm believer that books cross our paths when they are meant to. This book appeared like a beacon of light and hope as I was randomly looking through my library collection. My main struggle with religion and even my Christian faith is the idea God created me as "a lesser being." Some in other reviews say they were disappointed as this book was not uplifting or positive enough, but to that I say these women are standing up against divine texts thousands of years old, of course its an uphil I am a firm believer that books cross our paths when they are meant to. This book appeared like a beacon of light and hope as I was randomly looking through my library collection. My main struggle with religion and even my Christian faith is the idea God created me as "a lesser being." Some in other reviews say they were disappointed as this book was not uplifting or positive enough, but to that I say these women are standing up against divine texts thousands of years old, of course its an uphill battle. I think the comfort this book provided me was that no one is going it alone in any major monotheistic faith and we are all in this together. This book needs to reach a broader audience because it includes so many outstanding stories of women doing their thing despite the immense backlash. It would make an outstanding gift for a powerful, strong, and faithful person in your life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I read this for Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder challenge. It's not bad, but I just could not get into it. It took a real effort to finish. I read this for Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder challenge. It's not bad, but I just could not get into it. It took a real effort to finish.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I learned about this book because a friend of a friend is a contributor. I really like the concept for various women who are part of one of the three Abrahamic faiths to tell how being a feminist is in line with their devotion to their faith. There were 15 Jews, 15 Muslim and 15 Christians, all from America. I think the outline would be better if they would have put them every other one instead of random. Some were very academic, while others were straight personal stories. A few were inspiring an I learned about this book because a friend of a friend is a contributor. I really like the concept for various women who are part of one of the three Abrahamic faiths to tell how being a feminist is in line with their devotion to their faith. There were 15 Jews, 15 Muslim and 15 Christians, all from America. I think the outline would be better if they would have put them every other one instead of random. Some were very academic, while others were straight personal stories. A few were inspiring and a few educational. In theory this would be good to recommend to people who don't understand either how women stay in faiths that can be patriarchal or people in the faiths who don't see how someone could be a feminist and practicing but I think there are resources that are better for those ideas. But I do recommend this to anyone who is interested in women's stories. And because I recommended it Austin Public library has a copy :)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Exponent II

    I thought I would be interested in Faithfully Feminist, but I expected that my engagement would be largely academic. I looked forward to analyzing and comparing the personal essays of 45 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim feminists. I did not expect that I would be moved by the stories of these women, so deeply moved. I have heard Joanna Brooks speak about the power of telling our stories, but I have never been quite sure of what that power really was. I suspected that it was something about identity I thought I would be interested in Faithfully Feminist, but I expected that my engagement would be largely academic. I looked forward to analyzing and comparing the personal essays of 45 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim feminists. I did not expect that I would be moved by the stories of these women, so deeply moved. I have heard Joanna Brooks speak about the power of telling our stories, but I have never been quite sure of what that power really was. I suspected that it was something about identity formation and framing our narratives in empowering ways, but reading Faithfully Feminist showed me that the nature of that power is in sharing the way that we wrestle with faith and community. Reading so many stories of this wrestling felt validating.... To read this entire book review, please go to the Exponent blog at http://www.the-exponent.com/an-overly...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I read this book very slowly over the past several months, a few essays every weekend. It was less encouraging than I expected - more frustration and compromise than empowerment or freedom. But at the same time it was affirming to see smart, aggressive, confrontational women decide to make space for the faith traditions they were raised with - the parts of it that still mattered to them - amid newer ideas that they've come to value. It was also interesting to hear the same concepts and fights ec I read this book very slowly over the past several months, a few essays every weekend. It was less encouraging than I expected - more frustration and compromise than empowerment or freedom. But at the same time it was affirming to see smart, aggressive, confrontational women decide to make space for the faith traditions they were raised with - the parts of it that still mattered to them - amid newer ideas that they've come to value. It was also interesting to hear the same concepts and fights echoed in different traditions and different aspects within each tradition. I would recommend reading this collection scattershot rather than straight through, as the cumulative effect felt a bit redundant.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

    I started the book with great expectations. It is a collection of short essays by Christian, Jewish and Muslim women. They all describe how their faith is central to their identity and how they manage to live their faith and their feminism (often not much defined). I had hope to find discussions on how women deal with discriminatory practices, with difficult texts in their respective holy Scriptures. There are examples how women adjust, make changes, but very little on dealing with difficult tex I started the book with great expectations. It is a collection of short essays by Christian, Jewish and Muslim women. They all describe how their faith is central to their identity and how they manage to live their faith and their feminism (often not much defined). I had hope to find discussions on how women deal with discriminatory practices, with difficult texts in their respective holy Scriptures. There are examples how women adjust, make changes, but very little on dealing with difficult texts. I liked the diversity of experiences and stories, but was left wanting more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Agafitei

    This book and its 45 short chapters provided ample good material for a monthly women's interfaith discussion group. This book and its 45 short chapters provided ample good material for a monthly women's interfaith discussion group.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lana Simmons

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gayle J Goldberg

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  16. 5 out of 5

    nobu

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ann

  18. 5 out of 5

    Valeria

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brigitte Liebowitz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Vegas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Stefan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chavi

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paula

  25. 5 out of 5

    Afshan

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Nebauer

  27. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Caldwell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Dumer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara B.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heather

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