restricted access Editors’ Introduction
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Editors’ Introduction

Currently in the United States, uncertainty looms for women’s rights and freedoms as some of the most conservative leaders of the Republican party begin their tenure with a vast power base across the nation. As the first quarter of the twenty-first century unfolds, this conservative political leadership will dominate all three branches of the federal government as well as the overwhelming majority of state governments. Because of the range of policy issues this majority of US political officials is expected to champion, the politics of religion will be a dominant force in gender-justice activism. Key arenas of contention will likely include: women’s reproductive rights, poor women’s access to affordable housing and Medicaid health benefits, the precarious plight of women and children refugees, threatened and assaulted immigrants, and trans-gender women of color. Economic turmoil and war are producing dire forms of uncertainty and fear in South Sudan, Burma (Myanmar), Iraq, Ukraine, and many other places around the globe. In these settings too, the politics of religion plays a role in policy decisions that often restrict the freedoms and well-being of women and girls.

This is a moment to gather together. We must find innovative ways to jointly create scholarship and activism that sustains gender justice in direct response to the entangled consequences of repressive religious traditions and exploitative political economies. We are therefore excited about the upcoming Feminist Studies in Religion conference that will provide a space to meet face-to-face. We will continue the work of constructing radical scholar-activist responses such as those featured in this issue that highlight teaching, theory, institutional leadership, and the wisdom of founding innovators in the field. “Making Alliances, Breaking Taboos, Transforming Religions” will be held June 18–21, 2017, at Drew University Theological School, Madison, New Jersey. Information about the conference may be found at:

Even when we share an ardent opposition to sexism, the task of finding agreement on how to make alliances, break taboos, and transform religions is [End Page 1] never simple. The letter to the editor by Margot Badran offers a response to the roundtable lead essay by Asma Barlas included our last issue (JFSR 32.2). Badran’s letter invites consideration of the fraught politics of naming the work in the study of Islam, feminism, and gender.

The politics of feminist inquiry in religious scholarship, teaching, and activism are revealed in both of the Across Generations interviews in this issue. The interviews document two differing pathways forged by highly nonconformist, generative, and influential pioneers. In the interview by Elizabeth Ursic, Carol Christ explains: “You can’t propose a theory that undermines the idea that Western culture is the highest culture that has ever existed without inciting a backlash. . . . Maybe our culture is inherited from the Greeks, but if it is, it is not only a culture that endorses inequality but a rape culture to boot. And that is not the party line of the academy” (145). As Ursic notes, Christ has had the courage to dissent from the academic party line in many ways, including her early adoption of an interdisciplinary perspective and her willingness to leave the security of a tenured position. In her interview with Mary Hunt, Kate Stoltzfus aptly expresses the goal of this section: “to learn more about how to engage in work that is awake to change while still holding on to the history and work of all the brilliant feminist scholars who have paved the way” (184). Hunt’s work provides an inspiring example of how to be awake to change: “Early on,” she states, “we began to see the importance of the way in which women, especially those in developing countries and women of color in the United States and other marginalized people, put their needs out there in ways that were very different. It forced those of us who are white feminists to do our work differently; to listen more, to begin to build ways of working in solidarity, and to encourage and promote the work of a variety of settings so that we white feminists were...