Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feminist theology in Andalusia

I was delighted to read this article about EFETA, the Escuela Feminista de Teología de Andalucía (Feminist Theology School of Andalusia) by one of their students. For those who read Spanish and are interested in feminist theology, this is a fabulous resource.

Don't say it's just a dream: Studying feminist theology today

by María José Ferrer Echávarri (translation by Rebel Girl)
October 5, 2009

A few months ago at a wedding, a friend who had not seen me in years asked about my life. I gave him adequate notice of my work and personal situation and added: "And I'm studying feminist theology." "Feminist theology? What is that? Aren't those two words incompatible? How do you study it?", he said with a puzzled look. His questions, which gave way to a long and interesting talk, made me realize some things, because until that moment I had never considered how feminist theologians had come to be such.

Feminist theology, or rather, feminist theologies, for there is not just one, have been and are created by women theologians, with no other adjectives, being self-taught, reading and studying each other, using tools from other disciplines, drawing on other methods of feminist studies and also being an inspiration for other scholars, always starting from the experience of women, asking questions and tracking down the answers in a new way, sifting through the earth of history with their hands to bring to light the thought, words and lives of women, invisible and silenced for centuries and millennia, recovering women's voices from past and present, feminists often unknowingly risking travel along uncharted paths, dangerous and liberating at the same time, risking themselves over and over...

Although officially born in the second half of the twentieth century, feminist theological studies are not, however, a discipline "in diapers." At a minimum, it must be acknowledged that the "girl" has learned to speak fluently and, therefore, to think. Furthermore, I believe that feminist theology is a young adult and able to create valuable and deeply transformational thought.

Nobody can deny, therefore, the existence and entity of feminist theology. There are theologians who even dare to say that feminist theology is the only one that is bringing new life to the "science of God." However, feminist theology, in the best and not necessarily the most common case scenario, is an isolated subject in theology schools, especially those dependent on the Church or church institutions or orders. Feminist theology is not taken into account in many official theological circles, it is considered to be the responsibility of women alone. On many occasions, moreover, feminism is seen as a threat, if not something distinctly unorthodox.

This patent or latent boycott of feminist theology has consequences. On the one hand, it makes it invisible, and this invisibility hinders access to feminist theological studies for people interested in them. Furthermore, it ignores the research, works and achievements of feminist theologians. Under these conditions, those who want access to feminist theology must be practically self-taught. And this has been my experience over almost a decade.

I have been a seeker of meaning for as long as I can remember, although I have not always been aware of it. Sometimes, it is the questions that start a search in motion. Other times, it is precisely the lack of questions that generates anxiety and an inexplicable desire to seek something, something that one often does not know what it is, until one finds it. That was what happened with feminist theology. I had long been looking for it, but I only knew it when I found it and was able to name many insights and experiences which until then I had not known how to formulate and sometimes did not even recognize.

My encounter with feminist theology, like many great discoveries, was coincidental and I confess that I could not resist it. From the first moment, it aroused my interest and also some vertigo, because I knew I would not be immune to its effects. I decided to keep looking, but it was not easy for me, although I was not alone, as I was and am part of a group of women, also seekers of meaning and interested in feminist theology. We wanted to know more and started working on a few books, groping, and inventing methods to approach them and ways to share our progress. As "good" feminist theology students, we had to be self-taught ...

For almost ten years I spent many hours looking for texts of feminist theology, diving on the Internet, reading books that led me to other books, whatever the particular topic addressed in the texts, sensing there was more, but not knowing how to get to it neatly. I learned feminist theological terminology by reading and rereading texts, realizing days later, what something I'd read fifty pages before meant. I found some authors particularly difficult, but went ahead with the hope of understanding what they said in the end. In reality, I did not know how to organize my findings, or the knowledge I was acquiring, or the ideas that I myself was generating. And indeed, I was not immune to contact with feminist theology, because it changed my perspective on everything.

Two years ago, also by chance, I discovered EFETA, the Escuela Feminista de Teología de Andalucía (Feminist Theology School of Andalusia), which gave me the opportunity to study feminist theology systematically and with tools that, as a self-taught person, would have taken me years to learn to use. At the same time as I started as a student of the School, I became part of the team of Umbrales, EFETA's space for feminist spirituality, which is for me a unique experience of a shared quest for new ways to find myself, and the reality, nature and the Divine, ways which Umbrales offers to anyone who wants to draw near to our space.

Finding EFETA was qualitatively as important as discovering feminist theology, because EFETA is much more than a school in which structured knowledge is acquired. It is, above all, a project that exceeds the limits of the lessons taught on line and which includes all people who work in it, whether students or teachers (mostly, but not only, women) or members of other teams and committees. It is a framework of theological thought and feminist spirituality, where ideas are generated, expressed and shared. And the ideas are powerful, very powerful, because they transform the world and history. They transform me.

In the last two years my life has changed a lot. And I have to. I do the same things as before but with a different perspective, feminist and liberating. Organizing my ideas, getting to know different points of view, having the tools of analysis, meeting people with whom to share, nurturing self-criticism ... have made me more open and more accountable, I have discovered a power that I did not know I had, it has given me words with which to express myself and to fight for what I believe is right. I also do new things, some of them dreams that I had thought lost and have taken up again, others the result of a new way of seeing that keeps me awake and a new force that keeps me alive.

This summer I went to the European Society of Woman in Theological Research (ESWTR) meeting held in Winchester. I was impressed by the way the European theologians valued EFETA. They stated that such a school was the dream of every feminist theologian. A few days ago, a friend witnessed how a well-known American theologian explained to an Australian colleague what EFETA was, while showing the greatest admiration for the Spanish theologians who were capable of launching such a project. She had also considered it a pipe dream. It's not a dream but a reality.

We have at our fingertips the possibility of becoming feminist theologians, more than self-taught, working in a new, egalitarian and liberating way, creating knowledge and sharing it, finding a new language ... The EFETA theology professors do not have the title of Feminist Theologian, but want something better for their students than what they themselves had. They want to pave some roads, so we do not spend all our energy traveling blindly along trails where some women have already left their lamps lit. They want easy access to feminist theological studies for all interested persons who seek and do not always find them. They want our thought to be recognized and us to be able to give a reason for our faith in a Divine One of whom we women are a perfect image and hope for a world where we women are acknowledged as full human beings, adults, free and responsible, capable of thought, word and transformative action.

Are we going to give up this dream?

To find out more, visit www.efeta.org

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