Special Series: Introductory Response by Mary E. Hunt
The stated purpose of the panel is to discuss “how digital projects are remapping the feminist theological terrain and creating opportunities for a wide range of voices to participate in ongoing and new conversations related to feminist issues in religion.” These writers have done that and more.
Several things stand out: first, two vital blogs exist that deal with exciting, new material which I recommend highly. Their very existence is reason for celebration. Second, their creators are sufficiently evolved to work together to promote their own, each other’s, and many other forms of social media as pedagogical and organizational tools. This is reason to rejoice. I can recall previous projects that I will not cite in which leaders whom I will not name worked with different results. They competed with one another in unhelpful ways, destroyed the very work they created, and ruptured the fabric of the field they wished to enhance. So the cooperative model manifest in this work is reason enough to commend it.
We never scratched in the sand with a stick. But when the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) began in Silver Spring, Maryland (suburban Washington, DC) in 1983, typewriters, albeit electric ones, were essential equipment. I write this response on a MacBook Air, same basic keyboard but a far cry from the old machines.
The founding document of WATER was a three-page proposal for the “Women’s Theological Alliance” which I typed complete with White Out. For the uninitiated, White Out is a liquid correction fluid applied to paper when one makes a typo, allowed to dry, and then typed on again. We made copies of the original document at the neighborhood print shop for distribution. Voilà, we were in business.
Thirty years later, we handle routine communication on iPhones, Apple laptops and iPads, and printers that scan and fax. We utilize social media including Facebook and Twitter. We maintain a website and strategize how to move our newsletter from print to digital mode. Google groups are tools of the trade; flash drives are indispensable.
The evolution has felt seamless if obligatory at times—from floppy disks to compact ones, from fax to email, from printing photos to carrying them around on the phone. We plan to embed videos soon in our web site. The implications at each step are not trivial, and the gestalt is telling. More people are aware of our work and involved in parts of it than ever before. This is how a 21st century non-profit functions.
In the midst of enthusiasm for techno wonders, it is wise to remember, however, that the pioneers in the field of feminist studies in religion—including Georgia Harkness, Nelle Morton, Pauli Murray, to name just a few—never sent an email. I am quite sure that Mary Daly never blogged a day in her life. Ideas still trump technology. Hard work is all. But technology plus ideas and hard work can change the world as we know it.
Thanks again to each of these writers, and to all who have shaped and contributed to the FSR and FIR blogs. I hope that this discussion will pave the way for dozens more blogs to come. The more media the merrier.