Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-violence, Social Justice and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism
In her years of teaching women's studies courses at Rutgers, Leela Fernandes has seen frustration, paralysis, and depression take hold of young, politically committed students just when they should be gathering the tools and energy for taking on the task of working toward social justice. What, Fernandes wondered, was making these students throw up their hands in despair? That question led her to examine the state of contemporary feminism and social justice movements, asking how it is, given all the progress we've made in understanding how social, economic, and political inequities are produced and sustained, that the path for change seems less clear and less manageable than ever before. The result, Transforming Feminist Practice, offers a searching and accessible critique of feminist practice both in social justice organizations and in the academy. Diagnosing the frustration and paralysis she sees in her classes as part of a larger spiritual malaise in social justice movements, Fernandes suggests that feminists, as well as other social justice activists, need to incorporate an ethic of nonviolence into the core of their personal and social actions and find a non-institutional, personal, spiritual base that will give the humility and strength needed for their work. Drawing on the work of spiritual leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., she challenges contemporary activists to rethink what they need to do personally to sustain a thoughtful, spiritual basis for lifelong struggle.
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