Your GUIDE-ance Please
One of the most pleasant aspects of feminist studies in religion is the willingness of many colleagues to help one another. Unlike some cutthroat fields, religion has tended (with notable and scandalous exceptions) to be a place that welcomes new scholars and nurtures budding activists. That was my experience as a student and young person, and it is something to which I am committed. Hence, my request that you, the reader, help provide guidance for future generations.
In 1992, Rita Nakashima Brock and Judith Plaskow, along with the American Academy of Religion Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, published Guide to the Perplexing: A Survival Manual for Women in Religious Studies (Atlanta: Scholars Press). It became known as “The Guide,” or the “Camouflage Cover,” because of its period-piece jacket. It was read like scripture among women in religion and heeded with seriousness.
The book, really the people who took the time to write the book, helped many of us to move from graduate school through American Academy of Religion meetings, jobs, tenure, and “difficult situations” as sexual harassment and related problems were delicately called in those days. My generation owes a great deal with those who shared their experiences and strategies.
A decade later, I collaborated with Rebecca Alpert, Karen Baker-Fletcher, Valerie E. Dixon, Janet R. Jakobsen, Rosamond Cary Rodman, and Katharina Von Kellenbach to produce an updated volume, A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Our book has done its work as well to orient newcomers, encourage mid-career women, and name the new experiences of retirement and emerita status.
Our assumption was that not everyone, indeed not many people, would get a tenured position in the academic study/teaching of religion. But many of us will do other kinds of work—in the political sector, non-profit organizations, publishing, religious organization administration, ministry, and the like. This approach has had deep echo in the community as colleagues show endless creativity with their lives following the academic study of religion. Lockstep is out, innovation is in.
Ten years hence, it is time to redo the Guide, not because so much has changed, as because so much has not changed. While the field boasts more diversity of persons, the same old problems of sexism and racism, childcare and tenure, among others, rear their ugly heads. It has gotten trickier to know how to deal with being an out trans person, a commuting spouse, a student who wants to do a feminist dissertation and still get a job, just to name a few of the challenges we face.
So, once again, women have stepped forward to craft a new Guide. Kecia Ali and Monique Moultrie have joined me to do a second edition of the current guide. We need your help. We would be very grateful if you would take a look at the current book—your library probably has a copy if you don’t—and tell us what you think needs to be changed, emphasized, rethought. Just a quick note TODAY to me ([email protected]) or a quick post to this blog (in 2004 we didn’t know what a blog was) will add your voice and experience to the mix. Please tell us what you think we ought to emphasize. Our deadline is short because we want to get this done in time for the 2014 AAR/SBL meeting.
When current students look back on their academic formation, I hope that they will be able to say that we who are in interesting jobs today were welcoming and helpful to them. The Guide is one way to make sure of that. Thanks for your help.