Back in the Habit

Nope, this isn’t about a revival of the early 90s Whoopie Goldberg hit movie, this is about what Bust Magazine is reporting this month is a new trend of young, feminist minded women choosing to become nuns.
Bust reports that young women are being drawn into the nun’s life, something that even in Whoopie’s movie is characterized by sheltered little old ladies with grey hair. At a time when criticisms against the Catholic church are at a high, with recent priest sexual abuse scandals and harsh reactions to the archaic stance the Vatican is taking against modern day issues like homosexuality and birth control, it’s surprising to think that young women may be choosing to become part of this hierarchy.
The article points to the internet as evidence of the rising visibility of nuns, and gives it at least partial credit for recruitment into the life as well. They mention a number of nun-authored blogs which deal directly with many of the difficult issues of convent life–celibacy, for example. And, just in case you’re curious, priests are blogging too.
The women interviewed for the Bust piece use the language of feminism–and frame their decisions to enter the convent within the language of choice:

Society tells women that you have to get married. But I’m open to the possibility of falling in love with a religious community or a man.

Further explaining the feminist context of these convents:

…Women’s gifts are encouraged–whether it be to play music, teach, learn languages, or write. Convents demonstrate the positive side of a gender-segregated education. Women’s religious life is a very strong feminist social construct.

What does it mean to be living feminist principles within the context of a religious hierarchy whose treatment of women has been hotly contested? This trend reminds me of Ann’s piece about competitive birthing , another instance in which women are returning to traditional roles and spheres, in some ways in response to the paradox of “choice” and the opt-out phenomenon.
It’s hard to tell if this is really a “trend”, as the article makes no mention of numbers and the interviews focus on three particular young women, but the theme of “feminism within religious contexts” is not a new one–we’ve also heard it in the context of muslim women and the hijab as well as others.
See some of the Feministing ladies past discussions of women and religionhere.

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