by Andrea Bardelmeier, Diocese of New Jersey
Wednesday, March 03, 2010- Our fifth full day at UNSCSW.
I woke up from a Tylenol PM induced sleep this morning after spending some much needed down time yesterday evening after a great day. Several of us had attended a key note address by Sarine Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary, where she spoke at a Religions for Peace panel. One of the central images she used to convey her evolving beliefs about the feminist agenda is the active body; that we must understand ourselves as embodied. She spoke about how we need to pay attention to our bodily actions as we analyze the ideas that we would like to be shifted. As we review our progress in accomplishing the 12 platforms of from the Beijing Conference, we can see that some of the targeted efforts at equitable health care and education have not actually contributed to the economic or political advancements for women that we had hoped for. Jones’ critique of our approach in the 15 years since Beijing is that we have not focused enough on what women are doing day to day, the realities of their embodied existence. Instead, she said, “We must turn our gaze to those who with no great action are constantly reconstituting the world.” She broke it down into a powerful image which divided the world into several concentric circles of which the world economy, trade, social networks, were all visible. At the bottom of these rings, almost at the level of the roots and humus on top of the earth, lies the cooking, the laundry, and the “wiping of spit from a grandmother’s mouth”, the forgotten work of dedication and love that is provided by women around the world each day and night. In her view, the new feminist agenda should consider how these bodily activities inform our goals and work on this level to change perceptions and actions.
I am trying to work with what she has said here because I think there is some truth in it. At the talk, and even now, it seems quite lofty to me, yet I am still thinking about it two days later. This idea about the importance of our embodiment is of special note to me because I have been sick for the past three days. My body has given out on me at just the wrong time. The emotional and spiritual storm this conference has caused in my body has created a literal sickness in me. Old wounds from have been opened, making me remember the heavy burden of sexism and, even worse, the many traumatizing stories of other women’s experiences that make me feel powerless, they are too much for me to comprehend. All of this to say, I agree that there is something we have miscalculated about how deeply our embodiment is connected with our mental, spiritual, emotional (and maybe political) health. I don’t really understand it, but I think she is on to something and I would like to explore it more….