What motivates your work as a feminist scholar, teacher, and writer?
My own contemplative practices—including my creative process as a writer—have always been central to my journey as an academic researcher. I am a mystic and an empath with a soul need for intellectual rigor and creative expression. I sense the world's possibilities for healing in my body—and I believe centering the writings of feminist history propels us forward into imagining and creating a better present and future. We have a wellspring of resources for transformation that the forces of patriarchy and white supremacy suppress from our collective consciousness. I wish to help midwife those suppressed knowledges into the world! And in the process, I support people to find their voice, to write beautiful things, and to make art.
Where do you live?
NYC, a place I dearly love. But I am also bi-coastal at heart with west coast commitments.
What was your training for the ideas you now teach at Feminism School?
My training was unusually interdisciplinary. I studied in 5 graduate programs and took 3X the courses required for 1 Ph.D. (63 total graduate courses before writing my dissertation in ethnic studies!). I trained in the following fields across 15 years of research: counseling psychology, religious history, gender studies, and ethnic studies. I also had a creative writing practice the entire time I was training as an academic—which kept me tethered to my creative joy in this work.
I am grateful to have learned from so many scholars and teachers—including Laura Wexler, Tisa Wenger, and Emilie Townes at Yale University, and Shelley Streeby, my fabulous and generous doctoral advisor at UC San Diego. My courses and seminars offered at Feminism School reflect these kinship networks of feminist mentorship and care, as well as the depth and breadth that comes from sustained and rigorous interdisciplinary research and teaching.
If you look closely at the middle picture below, you can see the bird/open book theme of the Feminism School logo as it was born from a skirt my grandmother Lillian made my mother in the 1970s. (As my Grandma raised 5 children, she made all kinds of art for her kids and grandkids via her sewing!) I wear the skirt now, and her creative powers on that skirt live on in FS art.
In the website graphics, almost all the images have the pattern of this bird in various murmurations, as well as the long diamond shape of my Grandma's baklava!
The bird/book represents the most important idea of Feminism School—that we build from the creativity of women in the past to re-envision our future and that we hold our creative lineages sacred.
Many creatives helped midwife Feminism School—in addition to the scholars who trained me in feminist, ethnic studies, and religious studies lineages of scholarship.
Nancy Guerrera made the art of Feminism School to represent layers, emergence, and movement, as well as to tend to my generational connections to women's creativity.
How we root into our creativity is how we re-image and re-create the world. All systems of oppression, including patriarchy, attempt to severely restrict our imaginations for what is possible.
We need layered and nuanced feminist critiques to break the spells of the systems, to name the violence, to defend against the gaslighting. But we also need creativity to dwell in liminality and surprise, and to explore a nonlinear and mysterious awakening. We need to exercise our creativity daily—as a powerful incantation of feminist faith, joy, community, and wonder.
One way to tap into that kind of creative power is to remember how women, men, nonbinary, and genderqueer folks in our kinship lines enjoyed their creativity—as modeled by the choice of my logo made from my grandma's art.
Before Nancy and my work together, Kamya O'Keeffe (who made the ESD workbook designs) originally held space for me to honor my love of textures, twirling, and vintage clothes, and from our partnership on ESD the logo idea was born from the skirt. I also thank Pattie Flint for my photos on this site, and for her supporting the creative infusions from the very beginning. Jeremy at Varner Creative does my videography. Elisabeth Blair (poet, composer, artist) creates the original (viola rich) music for the courses.