There is a history to the name Wimminwise, and that history relates both to our blogging enterprise and to the Women’s Center at LPTS, so it seems like a good idea to get a brief discussion of that history out on the table (if a blog is a table) right early.
Wimminwise had a previous life as a print publication that ran for several numbers. That publication was the successor to the longer-running Sparks. Sparks was the newsletter of FALPTS, Feminists at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, an organization that embodied what has come to be known as Second Wave Feminism, and which was instrumental in bringing about a number of changes on the LPTS campus. Those changes culminated with the opening of the Women’s Center in space on the ground floor of Nelson Hall.
Wimminwise was part newsletter and part review. That is, it reported on coming events at the Women’s Center, but even more of its content was articles, poems, theological and exegetical reflections, and other similar textual offerings from students and the occasional faculty member. The idea behind Wimminwise, besides its effort to carry on the tradition begun by FALPTS, was to showcase the talents and opinions of budding women theologians and ministers.
The name Wimminwise is at least a double entendre. A little like the logo of the PC(USA), which intertwines a number of symbols, Wimminwise intertwines a number of meaningful elements. If meaning arises from juxtaposition, Wimminwise‘s juxtaposition of these meaningful elements creates something a bit greater than the sum of its individually meaningful parts.
It includes an alternative spelling of “women”, one of the alternatives popularized by radical feminist groups in the 1970s and 80s, “wimmin.”
It incorporates the theme of “wisdom”, which has been one of the key themes in feminist and womanist and mujerista theology. The reclamation of the biblical wisdom tradition for women’s theological and spiritual purposes responds to the wisdom literature’s generosity to women. Wisdom lavishes resources for liberating counter-theological reflection and for the celebration of women’s lives on the readers who hold her fast!
“Wimminwise” seems to include the acronym “wim,” maybe for “women in ministry.” Many of us like that, since “women doing ministry” is one of the things the seminary is about. Some of us, on the other hand, don’t particularly like it, since women in ministry seems like the same old same old, that is, women always serving serving serving, not – as is presumably paradigmatic in the Christian life – by choice, out of conviction, but because for women there often seems to be no choice in the life of service. Women all too often serve because it is women’s lot in life, or because women believe that others are not supposed to have to serve, or are doing much more important things than serving.
Finally, the “-wise” ending might echo the use, deplored by some, of -wise attached to various other terms, and meaning “in a (specified) way or manner.” In that usage, the way “stepwise” means “by or in the way of taking steps” and “likewise” means “in a like way” and “clockwise” means “in the way a clock moves”, “wimminwise” presumably means “by or in wimmin’s way” – whatever way that is!
Indeed, what way that is, is precisely what we are trying to find out, to bring out and about, to correlate and join or oppose, as may be appropriate, to others’ ways, and ultimately to understand in the context or light of the way or ways that figure so prominently in the Scripture that we, in our particular faith context, are committed to taking fully seriously. It’s our conviction that wimminwise in that sense is precisely one of those ways that are collectively the way that God knows, the way out and the way forward, the way of righteousness and justice, the way of pleasantness and the path of peace, the way that leads to life rather than death. (See Prov. 3:17-18 and 8:32-36)