Is this “Rising” or even Equal?

Ana Schuber is a graduate student in our Religion in Culture MA program. This post was originally published on our Religious Studies & Social Theory: Foundations course blog.

So, here in the middle, actually right up on the final run toward the mid-term 2018 elections, it was amazing to see a political advertisement that turned the standard dialogue about women running for office on its head. Paid for by the Serve America PAC, a democratic effort, this ad features eight first time congressional female candidates running across the United States for elected office. You should watch it here:

I have a long and varied path from my early identification as a feminist in the 1960s to the present Pussy Hat wearing throng of women with political ambition or political desire. This ad was new.

Seeing the ad for the first time on Facebook, my old feminist heart leapt at the visual of these women, all having served America either through military service (Marines, Navy or Air Force) or governmental service (CIA). They spoke of their service in combat, as leaders, in high-powered jobs and their desire to continue to serve their country through political service.

First impressions being what they are and quite frankly after forty years of the old dialogue about the “little ladies” running for office, I was blown away and amazed at this political advertisement. I smiled and re-posted it to several feminist friends and colleagues and planned to show the ad to my undergraduate students in triumph of a new wave of possible women candidates who could win with such a message.

But then, the scholar in me woke up and shoved aside the feminist and I started wondering what I would say to my students. The language of this ad was different than any other “woman’s” political ad that I had ever seen. They were using the language that is usually associated with male power. They were talking about flying combat planes, leading men and women into battle, leading men and women on a huge ship, working in a male-dominated investigation unit. The linguistic images were those of men. Hold on a minute.  Feminists have been fighting the image of nature versus nurture for hundreds of years and endless reams of scholarship attempting to level the playing field for both men and women.  Scholars like Sherry B Ortner (see her article “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture”) associate women’s lack of social or cultural power to the fact that women are considered closer to nature due to their ability to give birth and nurture children. Men are typically identified with the power associated with the protection of weaker women and children through aggression and battle. This political ad was using what many would consider male language. Rather than considering women equal to men, was this not a usurpation of “male” language just to get females elected?

As women have been afforded secondary status historically, this ad leaves us with an incredible predicament because women are not unilaterally one thing across the globe and when it comes to the concept of power there are even more complexities. It seems that we have finally begun to un-separate the “duties” of men and women in culture and un-tangle the gendered language used to understand what power is acceptable within culture. More importantly, what does it say if these women win in the mid-term election of 2018? Do women have to usurp the heretofore language of male “power” in order to win? What does this say about a woman who occupies a “traditional” woman’s job in culture such as school teacher, non-profit worker or librarian? Is female “power” now only afforded to those women who have “made it” in traditional male jobs such as combat or the CIA? That seems to be the message of this political ad.

When all these ideas came rushing into my head, I was suddenly mad. Minutes before, I was ready to run out and vote and champion this moment and minutes later I was grumpy and back to my typical “HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?” mood. In the long run, what happens if women win using what is considered male language, and what are the consequences?

There and Back Again: A Grad’s Tale

What can you do with a degree in Religious Studies or the humanities? Have questions about what happens after graduation? Come find out from a successful REL graduate. Join us on Wednesday, September 26 for our Grad Tales event! Jennifer Alfano Nelson is a Religious Studies graduate who will be discussing her undergraduate degrees (English and Religious Studies) earned from UA in 2007.

 

Jennifer went on to earn a M.A. in Education at UAB and taught middle school English from 2010-2017, and she is now a member of the Alum Liaison Committee. During this time, she developed an interest in educational technology and software development and decided to learn to code, receiving a scholarship to Flatiron School’s Web Developer program from Women Who Code. She is now a software developer at Quantalytix, Inc. in Birmingham, AL. She also gets to combine her passion for education and technology as a Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) volunteer, co-teaching an introduction to computer science course at Tarrant High School.

Meet Jennifer…

 

Jennifer’s host in the event will be Kim Davis also an REL grad and member of the Alum Liaison Committee.

6 Questions with Joe Kimbrough

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you here & what did you graduate with?

I arrived in September or October 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. I graduated in May 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Philosophy.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I planned a seminary trip to become a pastor.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

“Without incriminating anyone,” huh? You’re not making things easy, Dr. McCutcheon. This could take a minute…. All right, I recall a meeting with Dr. Tim Murphy. Dr. Murphy led my independent study at the time. He wanted an update after Spring Break. I reached the door at the same time as my buddy, Zach Day. Murphy told us both to come in and see what happens. Dr. Murphy, Zach, and I had one of the best brainstorm sessions. Everyone tossed theorists about. We each shared a perspective based on our current project. Plus, we dreamed of where our individual projects could lead us. Oh sure, the goals were reached. The three of us came away with a touch of clarity and a dozen new rabbit trails. I enjoyed the simple exploration of it all.

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

The best description I have: I daylight as a tobacconist and moonlight starting up a ministry project. I worked a number of odd jobs after graduation. I, even, returned to Bama to get a master’s degree. In 2015, I landed as store manager for The Briary in Homewood, AL. Also, I write stories, perform in churches, and promote artists through the Storytelling Apologetics Project. So I control inventory and plan stories. Meanwhile, I sell pipes, tobacco, and cigars and rehearse for storytelling performances. Plus, I play webmaster for both positions. Never thought I would end up here, but my career path is a fun ride.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you?

Absolutely, not only is it fair but also completely accurate. I talk daily about Derrida, Plato, and Chesterton with customers. I might even suggest that sales are like adapting to different professors. Plus, I find the same rules for editing papers apply to editing stories .I could go on, but suffice it to say: my time in Manly definitely benefits me daily.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

Look down the course list, and take that one class simply because it looks interesting. Yeah, I know it doesn’t fit with anything else at the moment. However, that class will have the most fascinating benefits one day.

That’s Joe, above, pictured with his wife Jessica.

6 Questions with Shane Sharp

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

1997-2001; Psychology and Religious Studies (double major)

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I wanted to do something that didn’t involve backbreaking labor in the hot, hot sun.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

The best classes I had were with Dr. Catherine Roach, and those didn’t happen in Manly Hall. What I remember the most about my classes in Manly was how students would simply tell professors they were wrong, especially in the Old Testament and New Testament classes. Dr. Green, of course, took this in stride. Dr. Weinberger was too old to put up with any of that and would outline each and every way the student was wrong (and not in a nice way).

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am an associate professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University. After graduating from UA, I attended Vanderbilt and received an MA in Religion. I then moved on to the University of Wisconsin—Madison and received an MA and PhD in Sociology. I was hired by NIU in 2011, and I have been here ever since. I do research in the social psychology of religion. A particular area of research I focus on is the religious practice of prayer.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

This is a fair assumption. Dr. Doty’s psychology of religion class and Dr. Roach’s problem of evil class have stuck with me. As I said above, I do research in the social psychology of religion. I also have written journal articles on theodicy, and I can trace this interest back to Dr. Roach’s course.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

Everything’s going to be all right.

Ed. Note: Dr. William Doty and Dr. Leon Weinberger, longtime members of REL, retired in the late 1990s or very early 2000s and have since passed away; former Chair of REL, Dr. Patrick Green, though retired, still teaches occasionally for Honors or Blount, and Dr. Catherine Roach is a senior member of the faculty in New College here at UA.

Tips for Career Readiness

This past week, recent REL grad, Khara Cole (who works for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama), returned to Manly Hall to offer a workshop on careers, resumes, and interview tips. Khara, having graduated from UA in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations and Religious Studies, had a lot to say on the skills she acquired while getting those degrees, and how one can effectively discuss and employ those skills when preparing for a career outside the study of religion. Additionally, Khara gave great advice on how to stand out to employers before, during, and after the interview process.

Here are some of the main take-aways from her REL Careers Workshop… Continue reading

6 Questions with Maggie Paul

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I was a Religious Studies major when I enrolled at UA, and I graduated with a double major in Religious Studies and Geography. I graduated in 2015.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I actually transferred in as a junior from a different college. I was pretty sure I would work for the Episcopal Church in some way. 

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

My Religion in Film class with Dr. Trost was one of my favorites. I took it as a higher-level independent study and ended up writing my paper on the “Church of Football” after having watched “Bull Durham” and discussing the Church of Baseball. It seemed like the most Alabama paper I could write.

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am now the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, GA. I started off as a Youth Ministry Intern when I graduated from Alabama, and I started running the programs the next year. I feel like my background in Religious Studies really helped with this because it allowed me to have the deep thinking and reasoning skills to help my youth dig deeper into their faith. It is also helpful in helping draw different religious narratives together.

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

I would definitely say that the skills of some of my REL undergrad classes are still useful! It might be a little hard to pin point what specifically because I do work in a religious field, but I will say that having a well rounded background in critical thinking and world religions allows me to not just speak at my youth, but really engage them in discussion.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

Take better notes in your books! It will come in handy when a question comes up at work.

6 Questions with Wade Bond

We’ve started a new series, featuring grads that have ended up doing a pretty wide variety of things after leaving their REL classes (graduating either recently or a little while ago).  So we posed a few questions to each and let’s see what we learn.

1. When were you enrolled at UA and what major(s) and minor(s) did you graduate with?

I enrolled way back in 1992, and I earned a BS in Business Management.

2. When you first came here from high school, what did you think you wanted to do for a career?

I wanted to be a psychologist.

3. Any memories from your REL classes in Manly Hall that stand out and, more importantly perhaps, that you can share without incriminating anyone?

I did not discover the Department of Religious Studies until I was a senior.  If I had found REL sooner, I would have taken more than one class.  Our class was divided up into small groups.  Each group was assigned a major world religion, and we were asked to teach the basics of that religion to the rest of the class.  I was in the Buddhism group and found inspiration in the concept of the middle way.  Virtue is a mid-point between polar extremes.  It was completely different than the spectrum we typically use in the West where good is on one side and evil is on the other.  Instead, balance was healthy and virtuous, and extremes were harmful.  Courage was a mid-point between cowardice and recklessness.  A healthy diet was a mid-point between gluttony and starvation.  I did not become a Buddhist, but I did gain a new perspective.  I was and I still am skeptical of supernatural claims, but I did gain an appreciation for Eastern philosophy and religion.    

4. So what have you ended up doing and what path led you there? Tell us a little about your career now.

I am the Director of Risk Management here at UA.  I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity four years ago to work for my Alma mater.  And that lesson about the middle way is still with me.  Finding the middle path between cowardice and recklessness is a great description of what risk managers do daily. 

5. Is it fair to think that some of your REL undergrad classes or skills continue to be useful to you? If so, do you have any examples?

I’m a step ahead of you.  See number 4.

6. If you now gave some advice to your earlier self, the one in classes in Manly Hall, what would that be?

I would give advice to my freshman self: Take more REL classes. Perhaps get a minor or a double major. 

Meet our Peer Mentors

This semester the Department of Religious Studies is proud to announce that we have teamed up with several students from various departments across campus to form our inaugural Peer Mentor Program (coordinated by Professor Touna). Because these students excelled in their REL Core course last semester, they will be available to help students in two of our survey courses this semester: REL 100 (sections 001 and 002) and REL 102. Continue reading