Emancipating Women | Sojourners

Emancipating Women

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza won’t be silenced by critics, within and outside of feminist biblical scholarship, who consider her work passT. With integrity, grace, and academic moxie, the Harvard Divinity School professor devotes much of Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Context to critiquing critics of her scholarship. She says they either misinterpret her scholarship or condescendingly dismiss it as part of an early, bygone wave of feminist biblical theology.

Readers who aren’t familiar with Fiorenza’s previous groundbreaking works—In Memory of Her, Bread Not Stone, and But She Said—may feel lost at first, like they’ve stepped into the middle of a heated argument. And Fiorenza’s scholarly feminist terminology, which often goes undefined, may also be a hurdle. But those who plod ahead will be engaged and challenged by this provocative, sharp-witted thinker.

Fiorenza admits that biblical religions have played significant roles in emancipating as well as oppressing women. She argues that to dismiss these religions as hopelessly destructive sets up agnostic or atheistic feminism as superior to religious feminism. It also overlooks the reality that for millions of women, religion is still meaningful, liberating, and affirming, she says.

Women have made substantive gains within churches over the past three decades, achieving access to ordained ministry, academic theological positions, and other leadership roles previously unavailable to them. Even so, Fiorenza says, they are overwhelmingly relegated to low-ranking, low-paying positions where they often serve as mouthpieces for theologies and structures that marginalize them. Likewise, "success" in male-dominated academies often depends on how well feminist scholars can promulgate the very "malestream theories and theologies" they seek to transform.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1999
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