Wouldn’t you like to be a FQR too?

I’M A FQR.

No, I don’t mean it like that. And this isn’t a confession – that would never do, Foucauldian that I am.

I mean it like genderfuck, like “fucking with” gender in performative ways that challenge or even undermine gendered norms and assumptions, that playfully tease or fiercely throw sand in the face of complacent assumptions about what it is to be (or that we all must be) a gendered being.

I mean it like religionfuck, a word I introduce at length in Queer Nuns (forthcoming in April 2018 from NYU Press) – a parallel and interrelated, performative fucking with religion that challenges assumptions and edicts about what religion is, who belongs, and who gets to decide such things.

The work I do, the tradition and the intellectual community that I engage with, is feminist. That means feminist in the inclusive, intersectional, none-is-free-until-all-are-free, this-is-not-your-home-or-your-safe-space-this-is-a-space-where-we-do-justice-work (to paraphrase Bernice Reagon) sense. And that includes religion.

My work and my tradition and my intellectual community are also queer. Not like Queer as Folk; like Queer Nation. For some of us, naming ourselves queer isn’t (or isn’t only) about resisting categories or wanting some sort of umbrella term. Actually, I worry about umbrella terms sometimes even as I see their usefulness. But for me and other folks, maybe especially those who are around my age, naming ourselves queer is a political statement. It’s an anti-normative, anti-assimilationist, radical as in changing-things-from-the-roots-up, move. A lot gets packed into a word sometimes. And that, too, includes religion.

And now some readers are backing slowly away, shaking their heads, thinking about religion as the opiate of the women, religion as the opiate of the queers, religion as bad people who do bad things to people like us. And that’s exactly why feminist and queer include religion. Because that’s a cramped, narrow, and exclusionary take on religion. And cramped, narrow, and exclusionary are anti-feminist and anti-queer, at least in my sense of those words.

That’s why I’m a FQR.

But why write a blog about it? (Do they have to flaunt it?)

I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling for years with feeling like my interest in blogging is completely self-centered. Not that I think that about other people who blog; like most of us, I’m really good at holding myself to a double standard. (I don’t need men or cis people or straight people to do it for me; you’re all off the hook!) So whether or not that’s true – or more importantly for me, whether or not other people will think it is – I’ve decided to claim it. This blog is for me. I’m making it public for some reasons that are also for me. And I hope that at least a few people will find it engaging and interesting along the way, because I think a lot of the time I’ll be raising more questions than answers. If you know me well as an academic, particularly as a teacher, you know that’s what I love to do.

When I’m not fretting about being self-centered, blogging is another way for me to live out my commitments to public intellectual work. I’m not a very good street activist – I get discouraged by street protest really quickly. Maybe that comes from being so involved in the protests against the Iraq War in the early 2000’s, where the only thing that seemed to change was how many activists got arrested, how many forms of civil disobedience were prosecuted as felonies, and how badly the press underestimated the numbers of protesters – or how often the stories completely disappeared from news sites soon after being posted. I absolutely and deeply believe in the efficacy of street protest, but I don’t feel it, so I’m pretty bad at getting involved. I’m also not very good at the public engagement kind of activism – the kind that engages with legislators and other public leaders. First of all, I’m not convinced that legislation is the route to justice much of the time. Second, I have that same problem as with street protest – it doesn’t feel effective to me. Honestly, it feels like a discouraging waste of time and energy. And I know that other people believe it works, and I’m completely prepared to accept that they might be – maybe even probably are – right. I strongly believe that activism takes all kinds – the writers, the donors, the marchers, the lobbyers, the people on the front lines mitigating the harm done to victims.

And the teachers. That’s what I can do; that’s what feels to me like it changes the world. Every day in the classroom. Every time someone tells me they read something I wrote and it affirmed their experience, or helped them to help someone else. Teaching and writing are the only things I do that I’ve actually, directly seen make a difference. But my teaching happens in a specific place, and my writing is getting more theoretical. And there are so many times when an issue requires immediate commentary, not a book-length study. And I can’t imagine getting picked up as a columnist by any press, anytime soon. And besides, then I’d have to write about what their editors want me to write about. It’s hard to be a FQR when you’re beholden to corporate news. So – this. Maybe at least once, something I write here will be read by someone who needed to hear it, or who might change their mind about something because of it. I hope.

This is also a space for experimentation. I have lots of little things I wonder about that aren’t really conference paper material. I have questions, things I want to poke at and ponder aloud. I’m really interested in expanding or shifting my writing style and practice, but I’m not ready (perhaps never will be) to do that in a book. So my posts here, which I’ll try to update about every two weeks, will ask questions, explore, and ponder. They’ll be less formal than my usual writing, and sometimes more personal. More of my own personality may come through here. It’s there in my formal writing, but I have more leeway to be playful here. If I dare, I might throw in more creative writing as well. I’d love to hear back from folks. I really like the idea, which I learned from Sara Ahmed, of using blogging to emphasize, encourage, and (more completely, certainly not fully) democratize academic thought/writing processes. I hope to feature the writings of other FQRS as well. If you choose to read, I hope you’ll be interested and engaged, maybe even FQ’d with a little, by what’s here. I hope you’ll do me the honor of engaging respectfully with it. So in keeping with being a little more openly myself and a little less formal, let’s end with a saucy riff on the old Dr. Pepper ad.

I’M A FQR, SHE’S A FQR, ZE’S A FQR, THEY’RE A FQR, WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO BE A FQR TOO?

C’mon, everybody’s doing it. *Tosses hair.*

Author: Melissa M. Wilcox

Melissa M. Wilcox is Professor and Holstein Family and Community Chair of Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author or editor of several books and journal issues, and numerous articles, on gender, sexuality, and religion. Her books include Coming Out in Christianity: Religion, Identity, and Community; Sexuality and the World’s Religions; Queer Women and Religious Individualism; and Religion in Today’s World: Global Issues, Sociological Perspectives. Her newest work, Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody, will be published in Spring 2018 in the Sexual Cultures Series at New York University Press, and she is at work on two textbook projects in the areas of queer studies and sexuality studies in religion.

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