Feminism has always been a spiritual experience for me. It is my “church,” my means of building the kingdom of heaven, my way of worshiping and fellowshipping.
But, like all spiritual experiences, not all feminisms “work” for me.
This weekend, I went to the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. and felt like I was in a mega-church.
Now, I know many people (like the wonderful Alise Wright!) who have found God in the mega-church, but I’ve never been one of those people. So, the NYFLC wasn’t my cup of tea. Like nearly every mega-church I’ve been in, I felt small and voiceless. I felt pressured to spend/give money.
Emotional videos, meant to stimulate guilt in the watchers, showing sad people in sad situations, were played. But clear courses of action were rarely mentioned.
T-shirts, pins, stickers, and tote-bags were sold, so that I could proclaim my feminism to the world through my fashion. But rarely were we taught how to proclaim our feminism to the world with our actions (besides being told to vote. They were constantly telling us to vote, as if that was the only power we wielded).
We sat in lectures, and listened to speakers who thought they knew more than any of us (one literally said that we “don’t know shit”). But there were few opportunities to voice our opinions and share our solutions.
Like every mega-church I’ve been in, the lecture topics seemed to assume a white, middle class, straight, cis gendered, able-bodied audience. Like every mega-church I’ve been in, when lecturers spoke of those who were not white, middle class, straight, cis gendered, able-bodied persons, the implication was that these people were helpless victims–not potential leaders of their own movements for liberation.
There was good at the conference. Parts were inspiring. I met one of my feminist heroes, Shelby Knox, and I met Sandra Fluke. But the real spiritual experience happened outside of the conference.
It happened on the nine hour car ride to D.C. with my lovely feminist friends.
It happened during the angry, passionate, productive discussions we had about the conference during lunch break.
It happened when we skipped a couple of sessions and took the metro to downtown D.C.
It happened in community, and in critical thinking, and in messy discussions and in long hours of togetherness. That’s where my spiritual feminist experience happened–outside the doors of the mega-church-like conference.
And, you know, sometimes I think that’s what everything is about. It doesn’t matter how big your church is or how many people come to your conference, or how much money you make selling t-shirts and tote bags, or how many big names are speaker.
What matters is those messy discussions and that togetherness.
That’s where I find the feminism that I love.
And that’s where I find God.