Introducing Feminist Theology
What is feminist theology anyway?
Often we at WATER are asked,
“What is feminist theology?”
There is no easy definition, we say, laughing. Feminist theology is a highly diverse “umbrella” term, and we revel in the diversity. Before attempting to answer the question above, there are a few things you should know.
First, there are many different theologies (explorations of divine and human realities). Some write about god/s/ess and spirituality; others write about religion, engage tradition or sacred texts; others might reject or bend the term “theology” altogether. Some theologies deal with religious beliefs directly – such as exploring the effects of divine metaphors like “Father God” – others might use theological tools to explore specific areas of study – for example, religious ecofeminist ethics. Some scholars study religion from the outside in an analytical fashion, while others engage from the inside through personal spiritual quests.
Second, there are many feminisms* informed by many traditions, persuasions, and contexts. The boundaries are fuzzy. Some thinkers who are considered ‘inside’ the umbrella may even reject the label “feminist,” but are still vital to the field. Feminism/s are a grand conversation, and feminist theology is informed by feminist theory. Therefore, there is no such thing as a singular feminist theology in a pluralistic** world. Within the umbrella of “feminist theology,” there is an amazing range of conversations on a wide variety of subjects. So, generally speaking, feminist theology includes any voice that seeks the full equality and validation of women’s perspectives or those of all marginalized persons in regard to religious spaces.
Third, feminist theology spans world religions and time. It is not only Christians or Jewish scholars who do this kind of work. Feminist theological work happens in virtually all faith traditions. It has been influenced by, and developed over the course of history, and is constantly evolving.
Fourth, feminist theological scholars seek to address the social problems and structures of oppression of their day. To make things even more complex, there are often institutional intersectionalities*** at work. As these scholars attempt to unpack and liberate people through their ideas, they often end up having to address multiple forms of oppression at once. For example, they might engage issues not only around sexism but also racism, classism, ageism, etc. Because every issue and context is different, it’s important that feminist theology not be constrained by many rules. Freedom of thought is important for conversations to exist. When you explore what these writers have to say, you don’t have to agree with everyone. As you listen, dialogue, and wrestle with these ideas, you play an important role in the future of this work.
To answer the original question, there is a huge diversity in the “umbrella” of feminist theology. Whenever someone engages feminism/s, religion/faith, and justice/liberation together across worlds and times, they are doing feminist theological work.
Should you try to master it all? No way! It’s totally ok to investigate a certain interest area. A commonality among these writers is asking big questions, and being bold and creative in their explorations. We ask you: what big questions do you have? How can we help you find companions for your journey?
(*For more information about feminisms and feminist theory, this is a great resource.)
(**Pluralistic: multiple and sometimes conflicting ways of being, thinking and acting)
(***More than one form of oppression operating)
African & African Diaspora Religion
Eds. Murphy, Joseph M. and Sanford, Mei-Mei. Osun Across the Waters: A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the Americas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society). Oakland: University of California Press, 1991.
Olajubu, Oyeronke. Women in the Yoruba Religious Sphere. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003.
Ed. Cabezon, Jose Ignacio. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991.
Murcott, Susan. The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentaries on the Therigatha. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1991.
Boucher, Sandy. Opening the Lotus: A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.
Gross, Rita M. Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993.
Ahmed, Leila. A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.
Roald, Anne Sofie. Women in Islam: The Western Experience. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Shirazi, Faegheh. Velvet Jihad: Muslim Women’s Quiet Resistance to Islamic Fundamentalism. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2009.
Toubia, Nahid. Women of the Arab World: The Coming Challenge. London: Zed Books, 1989.
Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1997.
Weinstein, Marion. Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows. New York: Earth Magic Productions, 1998.
Starhawk. The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004.
Griffiths, Josephine. Seeking Sophia: Meditations and Reflections for Women Who No Longer Go to Church. Toronto: Novalis, 1997.
Eds. Isherwood, Lisa and McPhillips, Kathleen. Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Approach. Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate, 2008.
Hampson, Daphne. After Christianity. Norwich, U.K.: SCM Press, 2003.
Spirituality and Ritual
Chittister, Joan D. Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005.
Rupp, Joyce and Wiederkehr, Macrina. The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey through the Seasons. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2005.
Jackson, Christal M. Women of Color Pray: Voices of Strength, Fair, Healing, Hope and Courage. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths, 2005.
Neu, Diann L. Women’s Rites: Feminist Liturgies for Life’s Journey. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2003.
Eds. Cherry, Kittredge and Sherwood, Zaimon. Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995.
Gately, Edwina. Psalms for a Laywomen. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1999.
Smith Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005.
Kirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. Refiner’s Fire: A Religious Engagement with Violence. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2005.
Fortune, Marie M. Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 1998.
Eds. Mananzan, Mary John and Oduyoye, Mercy A. and Tamez, Elsa. Women Resisting Violence: Spirituality for Life. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004.
Ecofeminism and Bioethics
Adams, Carol J. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010.
Eds. Donchin, Anne and Purdy, Laura M. Embodying Bioethics: Recent Feminist Advances. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999.
Gebara, Ivone. Longing for Running Water: Ecofeminism and Liberation. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1999.
Eds. Eaton, Heather and Lorentzen, Lois Ann. Ecofeminism and Globalization: Exploring Culture, Context, and Religion. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003.
Philosophy and Religious Ethics
Eds. Groenhout, Ruth E. and Bower, Marya. Philosophy, Feminism and Faith. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
Anderson, Pamela Sue. A Feminist Philosophy of Religion. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Daly, Mary. Beyond God the Father: Toward of Philosophy of Women’s Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1974.
Jantzen, Grace M. Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy in Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Harrison, Beverly Wildung. Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Davis, Tom. Sacred Work: Planned Parenthood and its Clergy Alliances. Township, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006.
Harrison, Beverly Wildung. Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
Dombrowski, Daniel A. A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
Maguire, Daniel C. Sacred Choice: The Right to Contraception in Ten World Religions. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.
Introducing Christian Feminist Theology
McFague, Sallie. Models of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1987.
Eds. Isherwood, Lisa and McEwan, Dorothea. An A to Z of Feminist Theology. England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
Watson, Natalie K. Feminist Theology. Grand Rapids, NY: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.
Clifford, Anne M. Introducing Feminist Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000.
Eds. Hunt, Mary E. and Neu, Diann L. New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2010.
Stories, Biographies, and Autobiographies
Gross, Rita M. A Garland of Feminist Reflections. Oakland: University of California Press, 2009.
Ed. Tardiff, Mary. At Home in the World: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995.
O’Dell, Darlene. The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven. New York: Seabury Books, 2014.
Stokes, Jeanette. Hurricane Season: Looking Through a Broken Heart. Tulsa: Word & Spirit Publishing, 2008.
Daly, Mary. Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage. Toronto: Women’s Press, 1998.
Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.
Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. Women, Men, and the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1977.
Huwiler, Elizabeth. Biblical Women: Mirrors, Models, and Metaphors. Cleveland, OH: United Church Press, 1993.
Russell, Letty M. Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985.
Fiorenza, Elisabeth. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1994.
McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1982.
Grey, Mary. Introducing Feminist Images of God. England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.
Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2014.
Global South Perspectives
Ed. King, Ursula. Feminist Theology from the Third World. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994.
Ed. Russell, Letty M. and Kwok, Pui-lan. Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988.
Fabella, Virginia and Oduyoye, Mercy A. With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988.
History of Women and Christianity
Malone, Mary T. Women & Christianity: The First Thousand Years. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.
Brock, Rita Nakashima and Parker, Rebecca Ann. Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002.
Clark, Elizabeth A. and Richardson, Herbert. Women and Religion: A Feminist Sourcebook of Christian Thought. New York: Harpercollins, 1977.
Christ, Carol P. Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion. New York: HarperOne, 1992.
Kalven, Janet and Buckley, Mary I. Women’s Spirit Bonding. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1984.
Women and Church Leadership
Torjesen, Karen J. When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of the Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1985.
Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001.
Harmon, Rev. Debra and Rhodes, Rev. Barbara. When the Minister is a Woman. Atlanta: Chalice Press, 2008.
Gorsuch, Nancy J. Feminist Pastoral Care and Counseling: Introductions in Feminist Theology. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2001.
Kienzle, Beverly Mayne and Walker, Pamela, J. Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity. Oakland: University of California Press, 1998.
African Women’s and Womanist Theology
Townes, Emilie M. In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
Mitchem, Stephanie T. Introducing Womanist Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.
Turner, Henry McNeal and Townes, Emilie M. Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997.
Oduyoye, Mercy. Introducing Africa Women’s Theology. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2001.
Kiama Kia Ngo: An African Christian Feminist Ethic of Resistance and Transformation. Ghana: Legon Theological Studies Series, 2001.
Asian Women’s Theology
Eds. Brock, Rita Nakashima and Kim, Jung Ha and Pui-lan, Kwok and Yang, Seung Al. Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion & Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Pui-lan, Kwok. Introducing Asian Feminist Theology. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2007.
Kyung, Chung Hyun and Chung, Hyun K. Struggle to Be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women’s Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990.
Hee, Choi An. Korean Women and God: Experiencing God in a Multi-Religious Colonial Context. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005.
Orevillo-Montenegro, Muriel. The Jesus of Asian Women. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007.
Latina and Mujerista Theology
Gebara, Ivone. Teologia a Ritmo de Mujer. Madrid: SAN PABLO COMUNICACION, 1995.
Isasi-Diaz, Ada Maria and Tarango, Yolanda. Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice in the Church. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 2006.
Aquino, Maria Pilar. Our Cry for Life: Feminist Theology from Latin America. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993.
Tamez, Elsa. Bible of the Oppressed. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006.
Aquino, Maria Pilar. Nuestro clamor por la vida: Teologia latinoamericana desde la perspectiva de la mujer. Costa Rica: Editorial DEI, 1992.
Postcolonial Feminist Theology
Rivera, Mayra. The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Pui-lan, Kwok. Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire. Toronto: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2007.
Welch, Sharon D. After Empire: The Art and Ethos of Enduring Peace. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.
Bodies and Sexuality
Isherwood, Lisa. The Fat Jesus: Christianity and Body Image. New York: Seabury Books, 2008.
Isherwood, Lisa and Stuart, Elizabeth. Introducing Body Theology. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1998.
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Isherwood, Lisa and Althaus-Reid, Marcella. The Sexual Theologian: Essays on Sex, God and Politics. New York: T&T Clark, 2005.
Campbell, Susan. Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.
Ingersoll, Julie. Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles. New York: NYU Press, 2003.
Gardner, Christine J. Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns. Oakland: University of California Press, 2011.
Juster, Susan. Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.
Guest, Deryn and Goss, Robert and West, Mona. The Queer Bible Commentary. Norwich, U.K.: SCM Press, 2006.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella. From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology. Norwich, U.K.: SCM Press, 2004.
Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey and Scanzoni, Letha Dawson. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response. New York: HarperOne, 1994.
Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology. New York: Seabury Books, 2011.