Feminism in the UUA — Lucile

SUMMARY:  This page introduces three pieces that Lucile penned at various times. They all address what she sees as the fundamental nature of sexism and the Radical Feminism the W&R Resolution is asserting. They are presented in order of importance regarding her basic premises, not in date order. 

(LF) Context: During the discussion on revising the  Purposes and Principles that took place from 1981-85, a Workbook prepared by UUA staff was issued that included this essay on Feminism. (New Principles and Purposes were adopted in 1985.)  It is interesting background reading because it reveals how the Feminist Movement was being described in the larger denomination. This paper has continued relevance today.

Read the full text of this UUA essay:  Feminism and Pluralism Statement 

“Feminism in the Unitarian Universalist Association”
Panel for Theological Education, September 29, 1987

Feminism in the UUA (pdf)

(LF) Background: In this short presentation, Lucile urges the Panel which addresses what is taught in the theological schools, to understand the intention of the 1977 Women and Religion Resolution. At the core of Lucile’s concerns was making distinctions between two forms of feminisms. In many of her articles, Lucile was very clear that her concern when she drafted the Women and Religion Resolution was not getting more women in institutional positions which she considered Liberal Feminism. Rather, The Women and Religion Resolution for Lucile advocated Radical Feminism. It deals with core mythic, spiritual and psychological bases of sexism, not institutional reform. It sought to eradicate the root cause of sexism in religious ideology. For Lucile, this task is an ongoing one.

Lucile says: 

“Radical in the sense of going to the roots of the problem – as in radical surgery in the field of medicine.” She points out that this strand of feminism aims to change the religious system itself – the principles, the dogma, rituals, symbols, images and the like that affect “the image and sense–of–self of all women.”

(LF) Comment: The Resolution has two purposes:  to urge the UUA to look at the religious roots of sexism; and to encourage all Unitarian Universalists to examine the extent to which religious beliefs influence sex-role stereotypes in interpersonal behavior within families and friendships and in the workplace.

REVISION OF THE PRINCIPLES

(LF) Background: The new principles were adopted in 1985, two years before she made this presentation. For Lucile, revising the principles was so important because of the sexist nature of the previous principles.

Lucile says: 

“We must value our current principles, for they can and must be made to embrace a theology that affirms the full humanity of women and men.”

(LF) Comment: She then goes on to quote the principles. This is really the center of Lucile’s theology. It runs throughout all of her pieces.

Lucile says:

“The interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” provides a feminist sense of relationship that need not lead to domination and subordination, but affirms and values the totality of life.”

OTHER KEY POINTS IN THIS ESSAY:

She further urges the Panel, as the resolution demands, to put traditional sexist assumptions into historical perspective and to avoid sex bias in the future.

Lucile gives a history of how controversy has been handled in liberalism in the UU denomination. She focuses on the patriarchal nature of the organization with its emphasis on men as leaders.

Lucile writes in Kairos Magazine, 1979 a succinct position paper

Lucile’s Kairos article re W&R Resolution, 1979

Lucile says:

“Seeking out and pulling into historic perspective the sexism that pervades the mythic basis of our religion and exploring to what extent religiously authenticated sexist attitudes influence sex–role stereotypes within our families is no easy task. The undertaking will remain with us to the end of our lives and the lives of our descendants as will the job of avoiding sexist language and assumptions.”

Feminist Theology in the UUA

Feminist Theology in the UUA, (Reformation by Resolution) Convocation ’80

This paper was presented at the UU Women and Religion Convocation 1980 in East Lansing, Michigan, November 15, 1980 by Lucille Shuck Longview.

(LF) Comment: In this presentation, Lucile clearly defines the intention of the W&R Resolution.

Lucile says: 

“In recent years, even before the merger, some women and men have noticed that we, in the liberal faith, do not affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth and dignity of women as we affirm men.

“By centering the 1977 resolution, Women and Religion, on the religiously sanctioned male dominance in patriarchally defined families, we touched the lives of all men as well as all women, in our childhood, of course and generally in our adult relationships. In the resolution we were reaching for a new and inclusive understanding of reality, a new Genesis, a new Creation when we said ‘avoid sexist assumptions and sexist language in the future.'”

REFORMATION BY RESOLUTION 

One of the areas Lucile covers in this paper is “how we in the UUA have tried to reform the sexist nature of the denomination through the resolution process.” She points out that former resolutions were addressing female representation in the UUA through ministry, and equal rights and opportunities for women, and equal opportunities in UUA employment.

In Lucile’s view “Liberal Feminism” seeks to gain equality for women in on-going institutions. She points out there were three resolutions that addressed this which were passed prior to the 1977 W&R Resolution. (1964, 1970, and 1973)

1964 — # 8    The Unitarian Universalist Ministry

1970 — # 6    Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women

1973 — # 15  Equal Opportunity in UUA Employment

Early Equal Opportunity UUA Resolutions 1964,’70, ’73

She notes that “Although results were slow in coming, women have gained access to a broad variety of positions in the UUA.”

(LF) Comment:  The number of women in institutional positions has increased substantially since 1987, with women in many roles today. Still, concerns persist which have been raised by women clergy. In my view, Lucile did not see institutional reform as unnecessary. Quite the contrary. However, she was convinced gender parity in employment did not by necessity change the basic sexist nature of organizations. As the years went by, she was an advocate of a New Consciousness which challenged the hierarchical structure of institutions. She became convinced that interconnection and shared leadership were the correct models for social groups.

Lucile notes the later three resolutions were directed toward the spirituality of all women in our denomination – -toward our empowerment and fulfillment. They were:

1977 Women and Religion

1979 Battered Women

1980 Implementation of the Women and Religion Resolution

W&R Resolution Text, 1977

Battered Women and Implementation of W&R Resolution, 1979 and 1980

LUCILE FELT SHE WAS AN “OUTSIDER BY INTENTION.”

Lucile says: 

“More over, some of us had been aware of the more pervasive and deeper expression of sexism. We saw our outsiderness in a larger dimension. We were not merely shut out of participation in institutional roles, we were defined out of existence by the basic assumptions that undergirded patriarchal thought. It became evident that we must seek the roots of sexism in the male–biased preconceptions that prevailed in our culture and were sanctioned by all religions, including ours.”

THE W&R RESOLUTION PUT THE UUA ON THE CUTTING EDGE.

She closes this essay with this:

“Just as our forefathers opened traditional religion to critical analysis, UU women are critiquing liberal religion and finding that it fails to serve our spiritual needs. We are pointing the way beyond liberalism to new perspectives and to new understandings.

“By adopting the resolution “women and religion” the denomination has moved again to the cutting edge of society’s concerns and it should be shouting the message to the world:

“UUA focuses on hierarchy as practiced in patriarchal families.

“UUA embraces all women’s becoming.

“UUA seeks a new Genesis.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *