- Editors' Note
The passing of two boundary-breaking feminist playwrights in late October 2018, María Irene Fornés and Ntozake Shange, reminds us to pause to reflect upon the vast spaces through which feminist energy surges. Both women explored the pernicious effects of violence, sexism, and class on women's lives, shedding light on their female characters' most intimate strategies for survival in their harsh worlds. Though both playwrights were experimental poets at heart, Fornés excavated the elusive feminine—and sometimes queer—spirit, while Shange focused her critique on the multi-textured realities of living as a black woman in contemporary society.
How does one grapple with the durability of these diverse and intriguing feminisms? Whether through practice or scholarship, feminist energy engages a wide variety of identities, activisms, research methods, and forms of communication and creative expression. Feminist scholar Prudence Chamberlain aptly cites feminism's enduring "responsiveness and adaptability" in her quest to narrate its sustained productivity during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.1 These two qualities suggest heightened awareness and fluidity in the face of ever-changing gender politics, habitus, and desires. Feminism's existential suppleness strengthens its applicability to the world today and to the worlds yet to come.
Each of the nine essays in this volume demonstrates the power of feminism's broad range of practice and thought. Connected through their communal diversity, these essays exude feminist notions of "responsiveness" and "adaptability" and illuminate the writers' nimble connections to emerging feminist readings of activism, ways of thinking, and imagining.
The first three essays approach the topic of activism in the United States, Argentina, and Egypt. In "Breaking into the Marathon: Women's Distance Running as Political Activism," Jaime Schultz argues for a re-conceptualization of women's distance running as a form of "physical activism," one that aligned [End Page vii] with other contemporary feminist social activisms. Schultz posits that the runners' physical presence and actions politicized and transformed the historically male-dominated, public marathon space, challenging outdated notions of women's bodies for witnesses and competitors alike. Second, the co-written essay by Barbara Sutton and Elizabeth Borland, "Abortion and Human Rights for Women in Argentina," offers an analysis of the use of human rights frames in advocating for abortion rights in Argentina. Through their interviews with abortion rights activists, Sutton and Borland discover five key strategic reasons for utilizing human rights perspectives in reproductive rights activism. Given the very narrow rejection in August 2018 of a bill to legalize abortion in Argentina, this essay suggests the growing empowerment and success of abortion rights activism rooted in feminist strategies. And third, in "Blood, Bodies and Violence: Gender and Women's Embodied Agency in the Egyptian Uprisings," Kathrine van den Bogert offers an ethnographic essay in which she contends that female activism in Egypt (during what is commonly known as the Arab Spring) was a form of "embodied agency." This form of body-centered feminist activism was bolstered by the ambiguous social meanings of the women who were present in public spaces of violence and turmoil. In speaking back to the previous essays, the author also contemplates the literal and poetic meanings of the female activists' spilt blood in public spaces.
The next three essays, "Whores in the Religious Marketplace: Sex-Positivity's Roots in Commercial Sex Cultures" by Jayne Swift, "Teaching for Coalition: Dismantling 'Jewish-Progressive Conflict' through Feminist and Queer Pedagogy" by Jonathan Branfman, and "Female Refugees in Rural Germany: A Local Aid Agency's Efforts to Build on Women's Experiences and Needs" by Ina C. Seethaler, draw readers' attention to feminist ways of thinking. Swift, Branfman, and Seethaler explore innovative thought paradigms about sex, religion, cultural identity, healing, and empowerment, suggesting new practices and definitions that impact our daily lives and social relationships. For instance, Swift focuses on the Church of Venus, a Seattle-based brothel that advocated for the spiritual life of sexuality. Swift notes that the Church muddied the definitions of secular modernity in questioning the strict divisions among commerce, sex work, and religion, seeking to bring "sex-positivity" to mainstream cultural conversations. In contrast, Branfman focuses on the tensions underpinning the Jewish progressive identity, a rift...