Panelists talk gender equity, faith at CSU Collaborative Conversation

Audrey Weiss

Panelists at Collaborative Conversations took the task of deconstructing gender and faith upon themselves, including a Jewish, Islamic, Baha’i and progressive Christian perspective.

The Women and Gender Collaborative of Colorado State University addressed discussions of gender equity in faith at the first part of the Collaborative Conversations series on Tuesday.

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Cori Wong, director of the Women and Gender Collaborative, mandated the event.

Panelists were chosen based on varying perspectives and spoke based on the experiences they have faced, according to Wong.

“This is a very difficult conversation to have and a lot of people … are nervous about engaging of across faiths when it comes to social-political issues including gender,” Wong said.

This is a very difficult conversation to have and a lot of people … are nervous about engaging of across faiths when it comes to social-political issues including gender,” -Cori Wong

Alicia Sprague, who practices the religion Baha’i and is the training coordinator with the Vice President for Diversity office, said that gender is named and discussed in her faith through principles, one of which being equality of men and women.

Sprague also described a heroine within Baha’i that led men and women and broke barriers faced by women.

“It’s not just a practicality … it’s a physical truth in the way that gravity is a physical truth,” Sprague said in regards to the impact of gender equity within spirituality.

Alex Amchislavskiy, campus director of Hillel, agreed, saying that Judaism states that all are created in the image of God. Amchislavskiy said the Torah identifies more than the simply male and female.

“In the Jewish legal code, there is a discussion of six different kinds of genders and forms,” Amchislavskiy said.

Amchislavskiy elaborated, saying that Adam is not associated with a gender, but represents humanity as a whole. In Hebrew, ‘Adam’ translates to ‘ground.’

Laura Nelson, former director of the Geller Center for spiritual development and member of the Fort Collins interfaith council, took a progressive Christian perspective. She said that gender appears in complex ways within text and tradition.

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“There’s something really powerful in … our tradition that God came and was reincarnated in a human body,” Nelson said. “(Which is) something really problematic because it was a male body.”

Nelson clarified that there is a discussion that the male body was chosen as the ideal, yet this is not necessarily true. She said that bodies matter, no matter the gender.

Nelson said one of her struggles within faith has been sharing to her community that those who don’t subscribe to religion are not in need of a church. In truth, they are merely spiritual individuals.

Bai held a differing perspective that gender discrimination is not identified in Islam, while societal perspective brings out biases.

In the Quran, women are seen as spiritually superior, yet patriarchal tradition within Muslim culture skews these traditions to favor men, Bai said.

“We’ve let our biases rule our judgment, based on religion,” Bai said.

We’ve let our biases rule our judgment, based on religion,” -Zubaida Bai

According to Bai, her grandmother taught her that all were created in the image of God and those who disrespect different people are, in a way, disrespecting God’s creation.

Panelists said they agreed that interpretation plays a great role in the understanding of faith and gender and that the greatest way to break barriers is by working as a community to promote equality no matter spirituality.

Collaborative Conversations will host two more panels to delve deeper into this topic. The first will be April 10, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., and the other on April 24 at the same time. Both will take place in the Cherokee Park Ballroom in the Lory Student Center.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misquoted Cori Wong’s statements and indicated that she mandated the event. A previous version of this article also incorrectly attributed a quote from Alicia Sprague to Zubaida Bai. This article has been updated to reflect the correct information.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Alex Amchislavskiy’s name as “Alex Amchi.” This article has been updated to correctly spell Alex’s name. 

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Audkward.