Women’s Studies in Religion
The image that appears on the cover of the book was painted with intentionality and for the purpose of portraying Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in a new way unique to this book. Initial ideas were born in conversations between Theresa Yugar, the author, and her former student, Chicana feminist artist, Maria Ruiz, recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University, while the illustration itself was born in a conversation with Christian feminist artist, Melinda Bielas of Claremont School of Theology. The creation of this image was feminist in its collaborative spirit.
The three colored layers surrounding Sor Juana signify three significant stages of her life in matricentric circles. The outermost layer is green, reflecting the indigenous Mesoamerican ecological sensibilities that shaped her experiences as a young girl and throughout the rest of her life. It also reflects the nurture of her lifelong sensitivity to inequalities between men and women and Spaniards and non-Spaniards by her mother, Doña Isabel Ramírez de Santillana, and her maternal grandmother, Doña Beatriz Ramírez Rendón. The second layer is fiery red, reflecting her experiences as a maiden in the vice regal court where Sor Juana’s intellect and resistance to patriarchal norms were supported by three virreinas during her lifetime. The innermost layer is blue, representing the third part of her life in the convent of Santa Paula. There Sor Juana was part of a community of women faithful to both Jesus and, in Sor Juana’s view, the Black Virgin. For Sor Juana, Our Lady of Guadalupe was the virreina of heaven, who affirmed both the feminine face of the divine as well as the divine within herself. In the image Sor Juana is surrounded by nine stars, representative of her faithfulness to both “Our Lady” and Jesus who gestated in the Virgin’s womb for nine months. Sor Juana lovingly embraces the earth like the Nahua people. At her feet lie overlapping quills lay at her feet accompanied by the words for harmony in Spanish and Nahuatl, sueño and temictli. Sor Juana’s dream was that that these two highly sophisticated civilizations would equally value the Other in their evolution together in Western and Christian salvation history. The quills also reflect her lifetime resistance to contemporary inequalities. Unlike the well-known Western image of Sor Juana, which portrays her sitting stoically in front of her books, –the cover image on this book reflects more of her humanity as well as her vision of a world that is holistic and embraces divinity not only within all of creation but in all peoples as well.
The future of feminist the*log/ies and the discipline of women’s studies in religion is at an important crossroads. In the academy, we are now an established voice. Unlike in the past, women of diverse colors, ethnic backgrounds, classes, sexual orientations and more are now published. Subsequently, their theories, methodologies, praxis’ and paradigms are slowly infiltrating secular and religious dominant male discourses in the academy and on a grassroots level. In this way, it is a time of potential and possibility for women in our field. At the same time, we need to be astutely aware that patriarchal sensibilities continue to morph and take different forms. Thus, it is critical for women across disciplines and ages to translate and discern the relevance of feminism in our respective scholarship and times. The reality is that are foremothers are aging. Blessed be, in a forty-year period, they/we have accomplished So much. As a junior scholar I am more and more mindful that I am the protégée of many women in our field, from Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, to Margaret Miles, Mary Hunt and more recently Rosemary Radford Ruether, Zayn Kassam and April Mayes. Reflective of Elisabeth I did a her-story feminist reconstruction project on the life and writings of seventeenth-century prototypical feminist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Reflective of Rosemary’s ecofeminist sensibilities I argue that de la Cruz is also a proto-typical ecofeminist. To date, I am also interested in egalitarian feminist pedagogies and an ecofeminist curriculum reflective of both of these scholars. For me, the future of women’s studies in religion is at an important crossroads. In this regard, I believe that our individual and collective energy/ies and choices in our discipline need to be strategic. At the same time, these choices need to be intergenerational as well. There is no time to reinvent the wheel that are foremothers have so faithfully and graciously fought for us so that we can engage in this important work. In this light, their legacies live on in me/us. This holy work needs to be taken very seriously if the future of women’s studies in religion is to continue to challenge and thrive in an academy that so desperately needs our voice.