'Talk Back Tuesday' explores intersections of faith and feminism

By Riley Collins | 1/25/17 10:09pm

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GVL / Luke Holmes - The "Love Your Body Week: Mindul You" presentation took place in the Women's Center in Kirkhof Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.

by Luke Holmes / Grand Valley Lanthorn

As the political climate has warmed up recently, so have debates concerning topics like faith and feminism. The Grand Valley State University Women’s Center, along with Campus Interfaith Resources, has taken many steps in tackling the same issues on campus.

Students are invited to join the Women’s Center’s monthly Talk Back Tuesday sessions to participate in conversations allowing them to explore topics like cultural appropriation, the Violence against Women Act and even how to cope with insensitive family members while in a comfortable environment.

The Women’s Center, which has been hosting Talk Back Tuesdays for three years, hosted the talk "A Conversation on Faith and Feminism" Tuesday, Jan. 24, focusing on intersections between feminism and faith.

“We do want to get some different voices in here, especially different narratives that we might not hear,” said Alli Roman, assistant director of the Women’s Center.

To do this, the center partnered with Campus Interfaith Resources to bring in student facilitators of different religious backgrounds, who spoke about their own belief systems and how those interact with social concerns like women’s empowerment.

For many, feminism and faith do not emerge in table conversations. Rather, Roman said many take to social media platforms to post their opinions on issues they would not normally be as passionate about in face-to-face conversations. Even more, feminism and faith often do not coincide in these virtual conversations.

To Roman, however, ignoring those of marginalized religious identities and refusing to discuss them reinforces harmful myths, which assume religious persons can’t be feminists. In reality, Roman said, a large number of students who practice religion on campus also identify with feminism.

Subjects of conversation at the talk included myths and assumptions about the role of women in religion. In addition, facilitators shared their thoughts on how to educate others who are interested in the inner workings of these issues but aren’t sure how to tackle the topics.

“We all have different faith beliefs and spiritual backgrounds, but we’re all trying to come around this central mission of trying to fight for gender justice,” she said. “What does that look like?”

For Katie Gordon, coordinator of Campus Interfaith Resources, this mission looks like the recent, international events centered on justice for women. Incredibly diverse groups of people have been coming together to express their passion for women’s rights and bringing to light the realities of being a modern woman.

“In a time like this, and after a weekend where we saw huge success of the Women’s Marches across the world, the conversation is more important than ever before,” Gordon said.

Roman said feminism isn’t meant for only one “ideal” type of woman, rather, the face of feminism is the face of millions.

Talk Back Tuesday, especially this past talk, aims to educate attendees on feminist views often not included in a larger political picture.

“I hope that through the stories shared over this Talkback will show people an alternative narrative of faith and feminism that they weren’t previously aware of,” Gordon said.

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