Sr. Joan D. Chittister, OSB
Peace and Gender Equity


She is a well-known author and activist in the areas of human rights; peace and justice; ecumenism; contemporary religious life; and women, church, and society. Co-Chair, Women's Global Peace Initiative. Formerly prioress, Benedictine Sisters, Mount St. Benedict, Erie, Pennsylvania. Formerly President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Author of Winds of Change: Women Challenge the Church and many other books.





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Theme: Peace and Gender Equity
The slow decline of patriarchy’s long domination of human society and culture is one of the hallmarks of the cultural evolutionary transformation that marks our age. Joan Chittister has long been one of the most eloquent voices for gender equity and one of the most tireless and effective activist working for planetary cultural change. In this conversation, we learn why new understandings of gender and culture are vital components of the linked struggles for human rights, social and economic justice, and peace in our time.


Excerpt from Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope at a Time of Cultural Sea Change (Jim Kenney, Quest Books 2010), p. 202-203:
The sea change associated with the First Axial Age (the first millennium BCE and the birth of the great classical religions), like all major cultural evolutionary shifts, eventually disclosed its darker aspects. One, as Leonard Swidler has shown, was a world dominated by competing religious and cultural monologues. Another was the universal ascent of the patriarchal order, replacing what may well have been fairly widespread egalitarian gender norms. The great traditions all seem to have succumbed to the male-dominance paradigm that is still preeminent, though dramatically eroding, in religions today.


The Feminenza Network (“an international network of women formed in April 2000, working in 16 countries with a view to pioneering a new template for women”) describes the healing process: “The establishment of basic human rights for women (at least in the West) that has occurred in the last 100 years can be perceived as restoring a more natural state of affairs between men and women that started to go wrong during the start of what some historians call ‘The Axial Age.’”


Women’s reempowering represents a transformative aspect of the current cultural evolutionary flux. Swidler notes that the end of the age of monologue emerged first in an interreligious context, but eventually affected the entire spectrum of the global culture shift. In the same way, a transformation of women’s role in religious institutions and of the feminine in spirituality is a major marker not only of the Second Axial shift but also of the entire twenty-first-century sea change.

Further Reading:
Joan Chittister, “Women, Power, and Peace”
The Peace Council and the Chiang Mai Declaration on Women and Religion (A Study Guide)
Benetvision (Benedictine Sisters of Erie resource center for contemporary spirituality)