Monday, November 10, 2014

The Power of Sisterhood

Written by Creighton University Senior, Kimberly Thies

I greatly believe in the power of sisterhood. I am not just referring to my remarkable sisters of Theta Phi Alpha-- but to all and 
any groups of women who can band together, creating an unstoppable force. In my 21 years on earth in this female body, I have learned that having good girlfriends makes all the difference. They are the ones who make accomplishing goals more manageable and a lot more fun. I take pride in being a woman during this time of progress in the worldview on gender equality. As a senior quickly nearing graduation, the amount of times I am questioned, ‘why would you waste your next several years going to medical school when you can just marry a rich man and never have to work a day in your life?’ makes me sick. It is for this reason that I strongly believe in the impact that a group of educated women can make in helping to diminish these double standards and celebrate the wonders of being female.

Kimberly is a senior, medical anthropology major on the pre-med track at Creighton. She is originally from St. Louis, MO, where her parents, brother, sister, and two adorable dogs still reside. Graduating in May of 2015, Kim plans to spend a year traveling abroad to volunteer and work in countries in need of women’s health improvement. She will then enter into medical school with the hope of pursuing her passion of medicine in becoming a doctor.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Transforming Feminism

Ever since coming out as FtM (female to male transgender) I’ve been asked in a variety of ways how I reconcile this identity with my ideals as a feminist. Whether this question was motivated by confusion, curiosity, or malice I have found myself defending the reality of these coexisting identities more than a few times. I won’t pretend that this is a new issue to me or that it isn’t something I pondered and even wrestled with before other people brought it up. However, I have come to the resolute conclusion that these two identities are in no way contradictory. I now have the privilege and challenge of redefining the way that I view feminism and learning to manifest these views in a new way.
            The internal battle between these two parts of myself was based on the fleeting feelings of guilt I felt when I was first questioning my gender. I felt in a way, like I was abandoning my sisters in this fight. I was also concerned with the dissonance between the ideas of being proud to be a woman or believing in the value of women and my desire not to identify that way. It wasn’t until I came to understand two key concepts in regards to my identity that these issues were reconciled.
1.      I am not a woman who is becoming or choosing to turn into a man. I am a man and always have been. I am now doing what I need to do in order to be seen as such by others.

2.      By transitioning and possibly gaining male privilege as I begin being seen as male by society, I am not abandoning my sisters unless I choose to. I know that I will not ever give up the fight for the equality that women deserve in the world and therefore know that I am not and will not ever abandon the people who are directly affected by this cause.

I, at that time, was also viewing my masculinity and my identity as a queer woman as ways that I lived out my feminist ideals. Learning to express these values in a new way has been a challenge as well. I have always believed that men can be feminists but it was never something I experienced firsthand. Now I am able to be an example of male feminism. I am not one to deny my past and experiences as they are a part of me and inform who I am everyday. I have had the experiences of a female in this society and it is impossible to turn my back on the lessons those experiences taught me.
            My knee-jerk response the first time I was asked about how I could still identify myself as a feminist was to point out that women are not the only people who should care about women’s rights and advancement. Women are not the only people negatively effected by sexism against females in our society and women are not the only ones who can benefit from equality in that regard. Other people who are not women should care about women’s rights not only because it is just but also because they too have something to gain from women’s equality.

            Another point that I often make on this topic is that I love women. This may seem irrelevant at first but I find it to be exceedingly apposite here. If I want to date a woman and say that I care about her I need to show it. I will never understand those who are romantically involved with women and then try to treat them like second-class citizens. 

            In my humble opinion, every person should be a feminist. No matter what gender you are or whom you love, you have something to gain from this movement. You will benefit from society finally giving women the respect and equality that they deserve just as much as any other human. I would also be willing to bet that there is a woman in your life that you love. Show her.
Miles Jordan

Friday, April 5, 2013

Discovering New Things

I suppose that I am most passionate about discovering new things. I travel a fair amount, especially in the U.S., giving talks and attending conferences. One of the most delightful aspects of this roaming is the chance to learn about other places. Recently I flew into Toledo, Ohio to give an address at the University there. I have been in other Ohio cities - Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus – but never in Toledo. It was cloudless afternoon when I flew in and, because I request a window seat so I can peer down at the landscape below, I was amazed to see so many of the homes on the rural outskirts of the city with ponds in their yards. Not swimming pools but ponds. All shapes and sizes. There were large bodies of water with homes ringing their shores but there were also uncountable number of separate properties with one home on it and a back or side area featuring a pond. It made me wonder about the ecology of the region (Toledo abuts the shore of Lake Erie) and the use put to those ponds (ornamental? fishing? even swimming?) It was a question I would have to put to my hosts when I arrived.

When a guest, I am often lodged in a generic conference hotel but, if given the opportunity, I will choose a more off-the-beaten-path lodging or at least try to walk the nearby neighborhood and scout out its unique stores, homes, landmarks, inhabitants and particularities. Another place I have had opportunity to visit recently is New Orleans, where I stayed in a somewhat long-in-the-tooth but historic inn which allowed me to amble through the French Quarter each morning on my way to the conference gathering and do a tour of my own through the storied district with its layers of history: the Old Ursuline Convent, the Cathedral with its prominent tableaux of France’s King Louis, the Creole restaurant where Andrew Jackson dined and I enjoyed the mufalatta.  Each unique environment has its own history and feel, its own natural and cultural ecology, its sense of the “place.” This fascinates me.

As a teacher and a scholar I suppose the same curiosity about things I don’t know drives my work. One of my main areas of academic research is Salesian spirituality (the tradition founded in the 17th century by St. Francis de Sales) and I never tire of being asked to delve deeper into that tradition to ferret out new perspectives and ask unasked questions. More recently I have completed a study of Marian devotion in the “minority majority” archdiocese of Los Angeles, which incidentally is my home town. The research took me all over the vast southern California ecclesial environment and allowed me to speak with all sorts of people I never would otherwise have met: priests, religious, and sacristans, yes, but also members of rosary groups and sodalities of Our Lady, ordinary Catholics who taught me of their devotion to Mary in her many guises: Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, Polish, Lithuanian, Nigerian, and Salvadoran.

At Creighton I especially enjoy students who ask a lot of questions, not that I always know the answers, but I appreciate the restless intellectual energy that motivates the questions and delight in the play involved in turning the question over and seeing how things look when viewed through the lens of a probing inquiry. The “what do I have to know for the exam” questions, while I can appreciate the often anxious motive behind them, are not the ones that most interest me. Rather, I delight in a student who finds connections between a topic we are pursuing in Theology and something read in a Psychology text or heard in a History lecture, or some observation they have made through their own experience, or some cross cultural encounter they have had. These forays into the world of ideas are not unlike my own roaming in unfamiliar cities: ancient or recent pathways traversed with new steps, seen with new eyes and sensibilities and a zest for wonder. These are the things that give life and generate passion.                                                                  


Dr. Wendy M. Wright, Theology

Friday, March 22, 2013

Celebrating Our History

I am delighted to be writing during Women’s History Month.  Communities across America celebrate the accomplishments of women who beat the odds to blaze the trails that make it possible for us to live self-determined, authentic lives.  We gather to draw inspiration from the lives of great women like Alice Paul, Shirley Chisolm, Kateri Tekakwitha, Dolores Huerta, Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth, Patsy Mink, and Wilma Rudolph (and many, many others).  Then, on April 1, our conception of “history” takes its regular shape and we look forward to celebrating more women from eras past when March comes again. 

At least as wonderful as these histories is the unbounded admiration that we give these women for their accomplishments.  There’s no instantaneous accounting of how much makeup Amelia Earhart wore.  There’s no attempt to downgrade the courage of Susan B. Anthony or Eleanor Roosevelt in proportion to any support they may have received from men.  There’s no asterisk next to Queen Liliuokalani's name to indicate that she could not have made her strong stand against imperialism if she hadn't come from a powerful family. We don’t compulsively slap labels like “girly girl,” “sell-out” or “man-hater” on Elizabeth Blackwell, Ella Baker, Rachel Carson, Victoria Woodhull, Abigail Adams, or Sandra Day O’Connor.

There are some who suggest that such conversations about contemporary women emanate from a well of aggression hidden deep within the hearts of women.  But these are not conversations of the heart.  They are reactions to the pressures of our own historical moment.  In the 1970s-1990s women dreamed of “having it all.”  As this vision evolves into an expectation, we find ourselves juggling family, education/career, and community life.  Not only must we never drop a ball, we are to look, feel, and simply be fabulous while keeping everything aloft.   

Some women are reckoning with the fact that “having it all” may be more struggle than juggle.  Many of us, years into our own attempts to “do it all,” find ourselves making on-the-spot decisions about what we really can and cannot pull off in the narrow span of time between high school graduation and late middle age (with only twenty-four hours in each day in that interval).  Anxiety and fear are the foes of wisdom and compassion.  Every projection or judgment about whether a juggler’s costume is cut sexy or dowdy, or gets extra practice time by being “careeristly childless,” or receives unearned praise for “just” being a mother is a lost opportunity for the kind of mutual support and solidarity that could bring an end to the whole exhausting performance.  

As in every historical era, women are making history with everything that they give life to, whether babies, ideas, artworks, collaborations, movements, conversations, communities, homes, cultures, celebrations, or relationships.  We’re all in this era together (men, too!) and whether it’s at the forefront of our consciousness or not, we are creating the stuff of the Women’s History Months of the future.  So why wait?—Let’s celebrate the history that we are making together every day!


Dr. Heather Fryer
Professor, Department of History and
Women's & Gender Studies

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Tribute to Dr. Anne Scheerer

I write this tribute to one of Creighton’s most remarkable women to urge that SOMEONE here do something to keep her memory alive.
            Dr. Anne Scheerer, retired dean of summer sessions and lifelong learning, died recently. It’s not surprising that her death has received little attention since she had outlived most of her contemporaries and had Alzheimer’s. The shrunken woman trying to remember something someone had just told her was a far cry from the dynamo I met as a young reporter in the early 1970’s.
            Anne taught mathematics before becoming one of Creighton’s first women administrators. As a dean, she took Creighton into the community with seminars and non-credit classes that benefitted many, including women trying to figure out new roles. I think I met her on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women that worked to open doors to women. Along with people like Eileen Lieben and Mary Higgins (yes, the Mary Higgins who still works in retention), she helped transform the role of women in the University and inspired many outside of Creighton. In 1987, she received the Mary Lucretia Creighton Award.
            What I remember best about Anne, however, was the way she spent her first years of retirement. Instead of relaxing, she joined first the Papal Volunteers then the Peace Corps, serving in various Third World locations. She sent back detailed descriptions of her adventures including bicycling on the Great Wall of China. What a woman!
            Sadly time and illness caught up with Anne but good friends like Sister Mary Alice Haley, retired philosophy professor, patiently took her to community events. I would wish that Anne rest in peace but she would hate that. Instead I’ll hope that her eternity finds her as energetic as she was in life. 
Isn’t it time to permanently memorialize this Creighton pioneer who did so much for so many? How about a Dr. Anne Scheerer Outstanding Retiree Award? 

Dr. Eileen Wirth

Friday, February 22, 2013

Run For Your Life

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary entitled Run for Your Life by Judd Ehrlich and was introduced to a man by the name of Fred Lebow. Fred started the New York City Marathon in 1970; a race that started with 55 runners and now boasts over 45,000 runners and is one of the biggest and most prestigious events in the running world. Fred challenged the running community to think differently about running in three significant ways—all of which have created a culture which allows me to be the running enthusiast I am today. The first was challenging New Yorkers to allow the race course to touch all five Burroughs in NYC. There was a lot of crime in one Burroughs during that time and runners were not interested in risking their safety in the name of fairness; but Fred challenged this mentality proving to everyone that avoiding dangerous neighborhoods would not grow the sport.
The second was the introduction of the first ever all women’s running event, the Crazy Legs Mini Marathon, in Central Park. When businesses heard about Fred’s courageous attempts with the marathon they wanted a piece of the action. Women’s distance running was unheard of in these days. I recently read a story in Runner’s World (RW) magazine about Katherine Switzer, the first woman to enter and complete the Boston Marathon. Katherine recounts to RW that in the late 1960’s when she started running she used to get stopped by the police when out on runs—they had assumed there was no reason for a woman to be running unless she had broken the law. Fred not only created the Mini Marathon for women only but he also allowed women to enter the NYC marathon as equals with men.
 The third thing that Fred did was probably the least significant to most but it spoke volumes to me. When Fred began running, he ran a mile and a half in 20 minutes. That’s 13.20 minutes per mile. Most able bodied college students could walk a mile in this time. Fred finished the first NYC marathon in 45th place out of 55 runners. Fred didn’t seem intimidated by his lack of speed at all. He courageously pursued his dream of growing the running culture in as many ways as possible, despite the fact that he couldn’t keep up with any of his friends let alone the running greats of that time. How did Fred do this? How did he get two Olympic marathoners to agree to run in the first 5 Burrough NYC Marathon? How did he generate a buzz about the race that encouraged exponential growth each year? How did he serve as the race director when he was consistently a few steps ahead of the slack wagon (a vehicle which follows the last runners in a race and picks them up if they’ve decided to quit or have become incapacitated)?  It’s Fred’s slower speed that is the biggest takeaway for me. I’m not good at many things; if I were to compare my ACT scores with my friends and students I’d be at the lower end, if I were to prepare a meal some part of it would be over or undercooked, and if I were to run a marathon (hypothetically in Lincoln, NE this May) I can guarantee that I’ll finish in the bottom half. But I’m gonna try. I’m gonna lace up every other day for the next 2 and a half months and I’m gonna chip away at this big goal. In the spirit of Fred Lebow, what goal are you courageously pursuing regardless of your skill level?
Mandi Hulme
Resident Director, Kiewit Hall

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cura Personalis: A Way of Being

Hi Everyone,

Lately I’ve been thinking about how cura personalis is not only about doing but also a way of being in the world. Back in the day, we used to talk a lot about “the care of souls.” What this meant is that we tried to be mindful of the “Godfulness” of every person who we met in our day. Lately, this way of being in the world, this way of meeting every person in my day with awe and deep, reverential respect is becoming very alive for me. When I meet my students, I see the beauty of their characters, dreams, and spirits. When I meet the people in my apartment building, I respect the wonder of their lives and their clear wisdom. When I engage the sisters within my Franciscan community, I appreciate their inner joy, carefree spirits and trusted friendship.

I guess that what I am saying is that we can be “women and men for others” simply by opening our eyes moment by moment. As we meet each other every day, let us understand that each person is the dwelling place of God—God coming to us. If we open our eyes within our dorms, classrooms and departments, we will certainly also see and serve the poor, lonely and disenfranchised in our world.


Joan Mueller
Professor of Theology