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The Legacy of Betty Friedan

posted by donna freitas

The pioneer of Second Wave Feminism, Betty Friedan, author most famously of “The Feminine Mystique” (first published in 1963), died Saturday, February 4th, on her birthday. Her book, which has sold several million copies over the last four decades, is credited with giving a voice, words, and description to the soul-killing angst of the classic 1950’s-60’s housewife. Friedan offered communal solace to a generation of depressed, stay-at-home wives and mothers, in addition to providing one of the texts that would be come a classic for women of my generation and generations to come. Her work also served as a pivotal springboard for discussion about domestic life in novels, movies, and countless women’s magazines.

The problems she described have proven enduring, at least so far as popular culture is concerned; that lonely housewife is a role we’ve recently seen immortalized on the big screen in such iconic portrayals as Julianne Moore’s Laura Brown in “The Hours” and Joan Allen’s listless, flat-charactered housewife, Betty Parker in “Pleasantville.”

But on a more inspirational note, without women like Betty Friedan–whose familiar face came to symbolize equal rights and the feminist movement itself–women such as myself and the students who fill my “Women and Spirituality” courses might not be able to claim our seats in undergraduate and graduate classrooms, never mind in the pursuit of the study of religion, as so many women of this generation do. Because of Friedan, we take for granted today that, of course, we have a place and a voice and a right to the educations we are lucky to pursue today– as well as space on playing fields and in the workplace. Betty Friedan was the icon of one era, and she paved the way for other inspirational icons of today, women like soccer star Mia Hamm (see HBO’s recent “Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team) and the cultural, spiritual, and enterpreneurial working woman phenom that is Oprah Winfrey.

What a legacy to leave us all.

Kristin Chenoweth: It’s Not Just Her Career That’s Taken Off

posted by burb

Kristin Chenoweth has what’s called crossover appeal. Already, she’s a Broadway diva (“Wicked”), television actress (“The West Wing”), and celebrity spokeswoman (Old Navy commericals), and has a burgeoning film career (the upcoming “Pink Panther”). She’s also a good Christian girl with a Contemporary Christian Music recording career, as well as a gay icon (see “Broadway diva”).

Now she’s breaking new ground as a cheesy bikini model. Clad in very little, Chenoweth appeared in a recent issue of the young men’s magazine FHM. (Click here to see the feature in question, but if you’re offended by such things, don’t say we didn’t warn you.) The magazine’s editors also note Chenoweth’s contradictions, but choose to lead with, “She’s 4-foot-11 and tips the scales at 95 pounds, yet she sports an Amazonian’s curves.”

So far, there is little likelihood that Chenoweth’s audiences will come together in numbers large enough to spark angry clashes, but with her big-screen career picking up speed, it may be wise to avoid multiplexes where her name is on the marquee.

Who Would Jesus Root For?

posted by

In his book “Season to Season,” Joseph L. Price declares, that for Americans, “sports constitute a form of popular religion.” And while it can be argued that sporting spirituality is just as strong across the pond, there is perhaps no better exemplar in America than Super Bowl Sunday, with its religious holiday-like reverence, fervent prayers, and last-minute “Hail Mary” passes.

Even Norman Vincent Peale, pastor and Positive Thinker, is said to have remarked, “If Jesus were alive today, he would be at the Super Bowl.” From Guideposts to goal posts, eh, Norman?

But, religion and sports have been intertwined for millennia. One just needs to look at the upcoming Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Originally, one of the four ancient Panhellenic games, the Olympic games were held in honor of Zeus, ruler of the Greek gods.

Still to this day, large crowds gather in arenas to honor their god. The most striking example of this modern-day incarnation is the Christ-centered men’s ministry The Promise Keepers, which holds its conferences in sports arenas. Co-founded by Bill McCartney, the former coach of the University of Colorado football team who came to be known as “Coach,” Promise Keepers was the perfect marriage of religious fervor and sports fanaticism when it came on the scene in 1990. More recently, extreme sports festivals for Christ have been popping up around the nation.

In recent years, churches around the nation have stopped competing with the Big Game for attendance and have started throwing Super Bowl related events, including Super Bowl services, where television pre-empts the pulpit while jersey-clad parishioners cheer from the pews. Other communities of faith partake in The Souper Bowl of Caring, wherein church members donate one dollar on Super Bowl Sunday to local charities.

“The contemporary tendency to connect athletic success and divine favor–or simply to blend the spirit of sporting competition with the fervor of evangelical piety–suggests that the convergence of sports and religion involves a kind of denigration of one or both, the profanation of the sacred or the diminution of sporting competition,” notes Price. “However, the process of their modern mixing perhaps represents a reintegration of two sorts of ritual rather than a profanation of sacred rites.”

Think about that as you watch the Seahawks’ Northwestern Totem-inspired helmet running down the field…

Mitch Albom’s Super Plan To Aid the Homeless

posted by kris rasmussen

It’s not only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks who have a lot riding on Sunday’s Super Bowl. The entire city of Detroit, a city that has been trying for years to recover from economic recession and urban flight, is looking to Super Bowl XL and the deluge of visitors it is bringing to town for an economic boost. But what you won’t see on Sunday’s telecast amidst the shots of the cheering crowds and the lavish halftime show –not to mention the football game that takes place amidst all this–are the thousands of homeless people within five minutes or less of Ford Field. So I am truly thankful we have people like columnist and author Mitch Albom to remind us that they are still there, and that in the midst of the glitzy excess of one of of the biggest sports events of the year, we can all take time out to help them.

On the cover of yesterday’s Detroit Free Press Albom recounted his recent visit to the Detroit Rescue Mission as a means of advertising a new fund that has been started entitled S.A.Y. Detroit. (S.A.Y stands for Super All Year). By donating to this fund, visitors and locals such as myself–and even those of you watching the game at home–can help raise the financial resources to significantly increase services to the city’s homeless population.

There’s a new Super Bowl tradition that would make Albom’s now-famous mentor, Morrie, proud.

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