In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Later, Y’all

Just want to say a heartfelt thank-you to the Feministe crew, and to everyone who’s taken the time to read and respond to my stuff here over the last two weeks! I’ve especially loved hearing your wisdom in the comments: from thoughts on Marxist feminism to ways of taking refuge and experiences with snark.

I sincerely appreciate folks’ open-mindedness (and endurance! haha – these posts were hella long!) in engaging with what I’ve shared. My style differs a bit from what Feministe readers are used to, and part of my aim for guest-blogging was simply to present some new perspectives. Particularly on the spiritual tip, it seems like this entire dimension of feminists’ experience goes virtually un-discussed and untouched in Lefty feminist media -type circles. Probably in part because of reactions, explicit or implicit, like David‘s:

When you first made a post about dhammic practice, a useful technique for dealing with life’s problems could be gleaned from it, and I found it useful. However, you have since made many posts about your personal religion, and as someone who is not a Buddhist, I feel alienated from your readership. I would greatly appreciate more posts about gender equality, and less about dogma.

Or from no, on my home blog:

Oh, so this is touchy-feely NewAge/Sewage Dipshit Central? Not that I had that high a regard for Feministe anyway, but with you spewing superstitious woo-woo crap all over it these days, that’s one more reason to stick to feminist blogs that value skepticism and reason.

Truth be told, I empathize with the wariness around spirituality. Took me years and years to even try any form of meditation, despite a long-time interest in Buddhist philosophy. Wouldn’t get within 50 yards of an altar or shrine, or assume any kind of bodily position that could in any way be construed as religious, prayer-like, or devotee-ish. (Yoga I rationalized as just another type of exercise.)

All I can say is, I’m glad I got over myself enough to test it out. 🙂

If any of y’all have an interest in investigating the dhamma in the Vipassana/Theravada school, and can find some time, there are free 10-day Vipassana meditation courses (totally donation-based: food and lodging provided) in countries all over the world — with 14 in the U.S. alone. Or if there’s a dharma meditation center near you, you can check it out on your own schedule. Any sangha (dhamma community) would benefit from an influx of quality feminist practitioners!

To repeat Donald Rothberg’s words, “the two paths deeply need each other.”

Thanks again, everybody, and take care.


(Ps: Please feel warmly welcomed to get in touch at katie (dot) loncke (at) gmail (dot) com, on the Facebook, or at

33 thoughts on Later, Y’all

  1. I can’t believe someone said that about your blog. I am a Pagan feminist/Feminist Witch, so I connect my spirituality with my feminism and vice versa. If something said that to me I would be offended. Especially if they called it ‘New Agey’ when it wasn’t, isn’t, or dipshit for that matter. But I liked reading posts from your blog about Buddhism. I was interested in Buddhism when I was much, much younger and I still find it interesting.
    Well take and good luck!

  2. that’s one more reason to stick to feminist blogs that value skepticism and reason.

    Yikes. I’m so sorry you were faced with that comment – to me, there’s nothing more saddening in blogging than to get a hostile response to a completely positive post. It’s one thing to be wary of spirituality; it’s quite another to try to annihilate it in other people’s feminisms (and, at the great risk of being unfair, makes me wonder how many people doth protest too much). I also agree with your and other commenters’ responses to David.

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

  3. I haven’t had any problem with your referencing spirituality; I just have a problem with the assumption (one that I encountered both in your posts and elsewhere) that Buddhist terms and concepts of spirituality are universally relate-able. If I did that with Christianity, approximately half of the readership of Feministe would jump down my throat.

    I have great respect for Buddhism and its practitioners, but the way people frame their Buddhist spirituality as anything other than an arbitrary (though certainly still meaningful) religious choice bothers me. Why do so many people consider Buddhism different from other religions in this regard? Sigh.

  4. Thank you for your posts; I found them valuable and a great change of pace from the usual.

    I value reason and skepticism, but not to the exclusion of other ways of knowing. We live in our bodies as well as our minds, and we live on a planet, not just in our heads. Reason-minded folks who think statements like that are too “woo”, need to check out “Descartes Error” by Antonio Damasio—a neurologist who holds that rationality requires emotional input in order to function. (and yeah, the book reads like it was written by a neurologist! in this case, that’s a good thing, ‘cuz there’s plenty of backup for the hypothesis.)

    That folks have such an….irrational….response to Buddhism is kinda funny. Non-theistic, so much practice devoted to looking objectively at what is happening now….seems right up the alley of a person who values reason, right?

    Well, anyway. Loved your posts; will definitely be checking out your blog!!

  5. I really enjoyed your posts. I’m a spiritual woo-woo person (of the polytheistic variety), and I think it’s important to get a wide variety of perspectives. We all come to feminism, to anti-kyriarchy in different ways and deal with it in different ways.

    It’s good stuff and I put your blog on the RSS because of it.

  6. Thanks for bringing some Buddhist ideas into the discussion. I’m a Unitarian, so I can do whatever I want within a code of ethics that keeps me aspiring all the time.
    What I like about Buddhism is that the practice is good for what ails you even if you don’t buy the theory.
    Take care.

  7. I will confess that I was skeptical when reading your intro post (mainly about the snark thing), but I found your style consistently engaging and respectful – quite the opposite of alienating. As an ambivalently spiritual person myself, I appreciated your contributions from your perspective. I don’t believe in leaving parts of ourselves out when we discuss issues – it all informs the process.

  8. Why do so many people consider Buddhism different from other religions in this regard? Sigh.

    One answer would be that Buddhism, for many people, isn’t a religion, and kloncke isn’t Buddhist.

  9. Hi. I just stumbled upon your posts. I am also Dharma practitioner and a feminist and woman of colour…I liked your approach, and reading through your posts and comments, so did many many others. In fact, more liked it that disliked it, so what a shame to make the comment …”I’m glad I got over myself enough to test it out. 🙂 just wanted to say that…” Please don’t get over yourself…we need to keep printing and promoting how effective and useful and transformative a spiritual approach to political struggle is, not keep upholding the view that it is is “woo woo”. Perhaps those people who fele that have been so damaged by (Christian) religion, they cannot see the difference? I like your stuff, respect.

  10. Katie, thanks so much for your posts here. As we said in the Intro to Guest-Blogging post, we invited people with a wide variety of perspectives, experiences and beliefs to write here this summer — all people who we respect and whose writing we love, but who are not regularly represented at Feministe. I’m really glad you were able to bring your experiences and insights to this space, and I’m disappointed that some of our community members were unable to just be grown-ups and skip the posts that didn’t appeal to them (or read the posts with an open mind, and if they don’t agree, engage instead of just insulting).

    Anyway, the positive comments and feedback on your posts have far outnumbered the negative. Count me as one more person who is glad that you are here, and who is glad that you shared your spiritualism and your insights.

  11. Buddhism is most definitely a religion in my view. And it’s true that some people do treat is as different in a way that probably isn’t helpful or honest.

    Jess said: “If I did that with Christianity, approximately half of the readership of Feministe would jump down my throat.”

    One, I think it depends how one approaches their spirituality/religion within a post. If there is an underlying aim or attitude that people must convert or swallow my religious/spiritual views as the whole truth, it’s guaranteed people will get pissed.

    Secondly, though, I think it’s sad that there’s such a strong resistance amongst a fair amount of people doing social justice/anti-oppression/peace work towards anything spiritual. I don’t know how many people would rip you, Jess, but it’s sad to me that, if you’d like to add something about how Christianity informs your “secular” work, that you have to be ready for a pile of rejection. That’s troubling, very troubling, as it’s happening amongst people say they a committed to liberating others and themselves.

    I, personally, would love to see more cross religious, cross spiritual dialogues going on around the kinds of issues being discussed on Feministe. I’ve long enjoyed the magazine Tikkun for this very reason.

    Like Katie, I’ve had my own periods of wariness with all things spiritual. I still get it from time to time within my own sangha. Sometimes, what I hear feels out of touch with what the systemic misery I see in the world. In addition, I’ve learned plenty from secular friends who have no interest in “being spiritual.” And yet, maybe the difference between their responses and a few I’ve seen over the past two weeks here is that my friends hang with me and show basic respect, even if they really don’t understand or agree with whatever “Buddhisty” thing I’m going on about.

    In my view, it would be wonderful to have a blog like Feministe be a source of writing, conversation, and potential action coming from all these perspectives. That you could read a post directly informed by secular humanism, and then one by Buddhism, and then one by Christianity, and then one by paganism, all in the same blog. In fact, an issue like feminizing Obama could be taken up by folks from all these different positions, offering nuances you’d never find in a single perspective.

    This is exactly why it’s troubling when there’s so much demand to separate social/political issues from spirituality and religion. You ultimately force a lot of people to block out a major part of themselves in order to conform to a standard that doesn’t offend, but ultimately fails to enrich because something is left out. This is true even for secular people because they are explicit about the sourcing of their values and ethics, and why those values are ethics are important to them.

    I, as a reader, am left to guess who this person is, what influences them, and why they come at something from a certain angle. And because I’m left to guess, I’m often wrong, or only partial in my understanding.

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful posts…I truly enjoyed this series and it gave me much to think about. I, like many here, am not religious and have avoided anything that smacks of organized religion throughout much of my adult life, but I have recently come around to exploring the “inner direction/self-knowledge” aspect of some spiritual practices. Portions of Buddhism, Unitarianism, and Quaker/Friends philosophy have appealed to me because of their emphasis on self-awareness/introspection, quiet mind and attention to self, and improving one’s inner life to achieve peace and balance that translates to outer interactions (vs following externally applied authoritarian edicts or human leaders). I thought you did a wonderful job of introducing your dhamma practices in your posts and making them accessible to a broad audience. 🙂

  13. Buddhism is most definitely a religion in my view.

    If it is for you, I respect that, and I think that most Buddhists around the world practice it as a religion. However, I ask that you respect those of us who practice Buddhism differently than you do.

  14. Many thanks to everyone for the honesty and support. It’s been a real pleasure being here with you — if sometimes stressful! 🙂

    It’s so heartening to hear that many of you have found and are finding ways to combine your spiritual work and feminist lives. Would love to hear more about bringing the feminism and politics into the spiritual communities. Also a tricky project, in my experience.

    @BeccaTheCyborg: I appreciate your input but had to un-approve your comment ‘cuz we’re still sticking to the no-snark guideline. You’re welcome to re-submit without snark or sarcasm.

    When I say I “got over myself,” I mean I got over my irrational prejudice against everything spiritual, and my fear of looking like a chump by getting into spiritual stuff. I got over the part of my ego that considered myself too good or too smart to seriously engage with meditation practice, or any spiritual path. And the part that assumed I’d be forced to swallow an ideology I wasn’t really down with.

    Certainly, people have many, many different and good reasons (much better than mine were) for being non-religious — not just irrational prejudice — and I fully respect them. I’ve said as much throughout my blogtime here. Spirituality isn’t right for everyone. But these objections from David and “no” didn’t strike me as very balanced or open-minded, and without putting words in their mouths, I wanted to share how I can relate to a similar tendency.

  15. I say this as someone whose father has been a Buddhist all my life, and who has some positive feelings about Buddhism:
    Buddhism is a religion, and your promotion of it therefore constitutes evangelism. I object to that.

    How can I not? Is it fair to say that promoting a religion that in its most simplified forms is non-theistic and involves a teacher who found enlightenment under a tree is okay, but promoting a religion that is at its core theistic and involves a savior who was the son of God and got killed for everyone’s sins isn’t? ‘Cause, you know, if you came here talking about the benefits of praying to Jesus instead of the benefits of Buddhist meditation practice, you’d probably get booted out the window. Not that Buddhism has any better of a historical record around women’s issues than Christianity does, mind you…

    The “it’s not a religion” line is in very, very wide distribution here in the West, but a personal spiritual practice which follows the dictates of leaders who even at the simplest, most skeptical level do adhere to some supernatural beliefs, which has monks and nuns, scriptures and temples… what can I say? It walks like a duck, quacks like a duck.

    To say that some people don’t “practice it as a religion” is not unlike saying that some people don’t practice Christianity as a religion – that praying for them is a personal, spiritual act, not a religious one.
    You may not consider -your- vipassana or zazen practice or what-have-you to be “religious,” but the fact is that the people who promote those forms of meditation, who organize vipassana and zazen sessions and groups and build meditation halls, constitute religious leadership. Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi was very specific about meditation being for the purpose of attaining enlightenment, although he went on to say things like that -doing- it for that purpose was a roadblock to said enlightenment, and to generally commit, like other Zen masters before him, further acts of linguistic contortion that would make a deconstructionist blush. He was hardly alone in saying this.

    And really, if your meditation practice is totally 100% for serious just personal-spiritual and not religious at all, why attach all the dogmas and scriptures and woo-woo (there, I said it! Please don’t hate me!) of Buddhism to your practice in the first place?

    If your meditation practice -isn’t- about the distinctly religious aim of attaining enlightenment and liberation from the wheel of life and death, if it’s really just about cultivating your state of mind in a positive direction, is it even “Buddhist?” – and why call it that? Why not just call it “meditation?”

    I’m sure your Buddhist practice has been valuable to you, but really, I think this sort of explicitly Buddhist meditation-evangelism is not substantially different from someone coming on Feministe to extoll the benefits of prayer (and not only that, but specifically Christian prayer). I object to it on those grounds.

  16. I enjoyed your posts very much, and am very glad to add your home blog to my reader. Thanks!

  17. I really have to disagree that Buddhism is necessarily a religion. I’m not saying it can’t be practiced as such, but it’s obvious to me that it doesn’t require belief in the supernatural, which, certainly, religions in general require.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “dogma.” Buddhism is all about questioning.

    “Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith in me.”

    Does that really sound like something a Christian or Muslim religious leader would say?

  18. …but a personal spiritual practice which follows the dictates of leaders who even at the simplest, most skeptical level do adhere to some supernatural beliefs

    PanoramaIsland, what exactly are the supernatural beliefs at the “simplest, most skeptical level” of Buddhism? In my understanding, the simplest level of the belief system consists of the four noble truths – none of which contain any metaphysics. (If your claim is that it’s not the philosophy, but rather the leaders that adhere to supernatural beliefs, then that is a very problematic statement, as there are thousands of Buddhist leaders around the world.)

    Also, you mention that “The “it’s not a religion” line is in very, very wide distribution here in the West.” Does that mean that it’s absent in the East? The Amida Society of Los Angeles states explicitly in some of their literature that Buddhism is not a religion, but an “education.”

    Again – if some people reading Feministe consider Buddhism a religion, that’s great, but they need to do their research before telling practitioners that we don’t understand our own way of life.

  19. Thanks to everyone for the input. I want to make sure, though, that we don’t get too caught up on the religion/non-religion definitional question. Specifically because I’d like to avoid that type of Buddhist exceptionalism that says “Everything’s cool, guys! It’s not a religion!” and thereby implicitly shuts out Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and all the – you know – religions.

    My hope was not to exploit some sort of Buddhist loophole, but to open up conversation about the ways that spirituality and feminism can and do inform each other.

    What I find troubling is that the people who’ve objected to my “explicitly Buddhist meditation-evangelism” or “dogma” haven’t actually engaged with any of the specific points I’m making. How is it any more evangelical to suggest that folks investigate dhamma than to suggest that folks investigate Marxism?

    And what is it I’m advocating?

    (1) Striving for comment speech that’s honest, useful, timely, kind, and grounded in physical self-awareness.

    (2) Acknowledging a distinction between harm and suffering.

    (3) In view of this distinction, developing tools specifically designed for reducing harm (e.g. Marxist feminism), and tools specifically designed for reducing suffering (e.g. dhammic meditation), with the understanding that there are many more tools for each than the ones I’ve highlighted, secular and otherwise.

    (4) Valuing personal experience as an important source of wisdom. Questioning and testing out spiritual concepts in our own lives.

    (5) Cultivating compassion that is not at odds with strong action.

    If folks have concerns or disagreements with any of these, great! I’d love to talk about them. But I don’t think these definitional questions (dhamma = Buddhism? Buddhism = religion?) actually get us very far.

  20. “Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith in me.”

    Does that really sound like something a Christian or Muslim religious leader would say?

    Yes, actually. To me it does because I know Christians who have said as much to me. Okay, I don’t happen to know any “Christian religious leaders” that well, but I know Christians who practice their faith this way, as questioners. My mother for one does, and could articulate better than I can on her behalf why she considers her religious faith (and I do mean faith) to fundamentally incorporate a questioning posture, without being contradictory. Clearly not all Christians feel that way, but I’m going to guess that there’s variety among Buddhists too.

    I absolutely respect what you are saying about Buddhism here, but I don’t respect the jibe at Christians (and Muslims, though I have no specific personal experience to relate there).

    I’m totally down with exploring Buddhism and spirituality within political contexts (and personally felt like kloncke’s posts were offerings, not commandments or evangelism), but I’m not groking this vibe from some that Buddhism is somehow better than other forms of spirituality. Isn’t that beside the point?

  21. Sorry, I actually know how to use blockquotes, but my editing eye must be tired. The second indented block is my actual response to what I quote in the first block.

    Also, I see that kloncke has already updating with an awesome reply, and now I feel superfluous. 🙂

  22. I want to make sure, though, that we don’t get too caught up on the religion/non-religion definitional question.

    No problem.

  23. Katie, I commend the heart and passion and wisdom you bring to your writing and philosophical/spiritual/political/mindful practices. Even if virtual audiences engaging in this kind of dialogue are using words as their tools for relationality, you engage your respondents as if they were face-to-face conversations–and you do so with courage and compassion.

    I appreciate your desire put a censure on the snark and sarcasm as well. As someone who puts a high premium on sarcasm as a mode of discourse, I found it refreshing to read your posts–stripped of snark, abundant with affirming prose about making meaning in the world in open and vulnerable ways.

  24. The presence of religiously tinted posts don’t bother me (hey, it’s part of people’s life experience) but they do lessen my interest in their content considerably. It’s not *my* life experience, after all. So in that respect, yes – it is alienating to part of your audience to have religion (any kind of religion) be your measuring stick. Case in point: this is the first post of Kloncke’s I’ve read to the end.

    we need to keep printing and promoting how effective and useful and transformative a spiritual approach to political struggle is, not keep upholding the view that it is is “woo woo”.

    I’m not going to pretend for one minute that I believe it anything other than woo woo. That’s not to say I don’t support your right to believe in all the woo you want, but I like my feminism (and other political activism, for that matter) religion-free, thanks.
    (N.B: religion-free does not mean anti-religion.)

  25. Compare

    How is it any more evangelical to suggest that folks investigate dhamma than to suggest that folks investigate Marxism?


    How is it any more evangelical to suggest that folks investigate Christian prayer than to suggest that folks investigate Marxism?

    and perhaps you’ll see how suggesting investigation of a ritual associated with a specific religion is not equivalent to suggesting investigation of political theory.

  26. Are we really so insecure in our own beliefs that we can’t deal with Katie discussing hers? I understand and respect arguments against evangelism, but there’s no coercive aspect here — Katie isn’t showing up after an earthquake with an armful of Buddhist literature and a promise that if you embrace it, you’ll also get food and clean water. She is sharing her own spiritual journey, and exploring the ways in which that spiritualism informs her social justice work and her feminist beliefs. That spiritualism is valuable to her, and she is letting readers know where they can go to support and explore it if it interests them. And if it doesn’t, ok! We’ve had writers in the past discuss how Christianity, Islam and Judaism have all informed their social justice beliefs, and how their religion and spirituality have shaped their lives. We come from different places, and you don’t have to be religious to recognize that religion does play a vital and positive role in the lives of many, many people. It can also play a negative role. But conversations about religion, from a variety of angles, absolutely have a place on feminist blogs, including this one.

  27. Oh, so this is touchy-feely NewAge/Sewage Dipshit Central? Not that I had that high a regard for Feministe anyway, but with you spewing superstitious woo-woo crap all over it these days, that’s one more reason to stick to feminist blogs that value skepticism and reason.

    It angers me that Buddhism is written off as ‘New Age/Sewage Dipshit’ when it is older than a lot of other things. And this description is so filtered through a Western lens. It is not New Age. It is ‘New Age’ because it entered the West that way.* It is old world for me and for a lot of people of Asian descent.

    *Clarification: Not that I am implying any doubt as to the intentions/motivations of Buddhists who come from other heritages.

  28. On the subject of the Vipassana meditation courses, I had severe lifelong depressive tendencies that has frequently shaded into total, utterly disabling depression. It was untreatable by any medication I was ever prescribed and has gradually been lifting since I did my second ten-day Vipassana course. (regular meditation every day was never an option for me as meditation was an intense, unpleasant experience that often would leave me non-functional for the rest of the day, but the intense ten day blast in a structured environment was easier to cope with.)
    My experience is extreme and fairly unusual and of course there is no way to prove a causal link in my individual case, but “mindfulness” has scientifically proven psychological benefits, not only thousands of years worth of anecdotes supporting it.

    I don’t regard myself as a Buddhist. My point is that you don’t have to be a Buddhist or even believe in any kind of non-physical reality* to find some elements of Buddhist practice and the thinking which supports that practice useful.

    This is mostly a response to the “ritual associated with a specific religion” comment above. Rituals associated with a specific religion are generally not useful, practical or meaningful for people outside that religion. This is an exception.

    *full disclosure: my personal “religion” is purely experiential and I’m not interested in consciously imposing any belief system on top of my spiritual experiences.

  29. Katie, you are inspirational. I’m putting your blog in my favorites. Thank you for coming here! As a previous commenter pointed out, your honesty, clarity, and bravery is astounding. Especially in your last comment, I felt you really cut through the crap and got to the heart of the discussion. These are the kinds of conversations I’m interested in having — ones in which we focus less on being right and more on growth and solutions. Your language and tone happens to connect with me because of my own Zazen practice. I understand why it wouldn’t for some, but I am very thankful to find your voice! *Deep Gassho*

  30. This seems like a pretty commented-out post, but I came back to it and realized that I hadn’t responded to a fairly important question, which was asking what supernatural beliefs even the most skeptical Buddhist doctrine holds to.

    That belief, which I referred to but didn’t state as clearly as I should have in the previous post, is the belief in the “wheel of life and death” – that is, that one reincarnates over and over again until one attains nirvana and flies off the wheel.

    This is a foundational tenet of Buddhism; the icon of the religion is a wheel for this reason. It is an interesting belief, but it is supernatural, just like believing in Heaven and Hell. There is evidence that people can alter their own mental state through meditation – I’m pretty sure it’s well-established – but no evidence that these meditations can/will culminate in nirvana, and absolutely -none- at all for reincarnation.

    Thus, religion.

    Of course, meditation is a technique that can be used outside of religious contexts. This leads back to my earlier question: if you’re just there for the positive effects of meditation, why tack all the ritual and symbolism of Buddhism onto it and call it Buddhist?

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