Lifestyle Conversations with Members of the Unification Church - Edited by Richard Quebedeaux

Women's Caucus

Richard Quebedeaux: I'd like to introduce Lorine Getz who will begin the discussion.

Lorine Getz: I'd like to pose a problem that some of the women in the group have experienced in the conference and talk a little bit about it. The problem has to do with the participation of women here and the underrepresentation of women's views. What occurs to me is not a condemnation of our proceedings, but a question of what are we doing. Last year at the St. Thomas conference in the Virgin Islands we only had one conference. There we were all together in one group and women played a somewhat peripheral role. They gave a few presentations but their participation was a minimal kind of thing and it struck me as a concern at that point.

Here is a new religious group that has a theology which posits the possibility of the equality and liberation that women and other minorities have been searching for. I didn't feel particularly discriminated against in that conference, but I felt that I wanted more interaction and more searching in that direction. I voiced my concern about the minimal role of women in the dialogue at that time. Now a year later I notice two changes in the conference structure. The conference has a kind of mind-body split. And there was not one female Moonie mind presenting a paper in the mind group. I wonder if we are just recapitulating history. That is the way it has always been. In theology schools the thinking has been done by the men; in churches and communities the living out, the practice -- that which women can participate in! -- has been carried out by the women. That is more their field, and they belong in the lifestyle section. So I just want to posit this again not as a condemnation, but as a question. We women have talked about this with some of the men who are conference leaders. Their response was that to their knowledge, there were no women who were quite ready yet. There is a sense in which historically and culturally this is true. Women have not been in the forefront of theological education and your movement is not radically different from others. But shouldn't we be working on overcoming that?

Secondly, when we got a group of women together, we discovered that even in the lifestyle section women felt that their own concerns were not directly expressed and that they couldn't get to them. There is a problem of articulating authority and self-identity and getting those issues out in the open. But how can that be done in such a way as to generate a reciprocal, productive kind of relationship between concerned men and women? That is the question. How do we do that? How can we get the dialogue together? I would not like to see a separate women's section.

Diana Muxworthy: I have sympathy with most of what you are saying. My main concern is the positive side of this. We do have Divine Principle, something that we believe is new, revelational and can bring in the new age. The question for us women in the Unification Church is, obviously, what does that mean for women. This is something that we are struggling to try to figure out. What does the Principle mean for me, for women who are getting Ph. D. 's, or for women who are in more traditional roles. It is not a matter of trying to convert Unification Church women to become feminists, nor of trying to convert feminist women to become whatever. What is needed is an open dialogue between men and women to really open our hearts and minds to try to understand possibly what these new models are. We then can try to experiment with how we can live that out. We have something very good to do here. What I respect and like about this discussion is that it is a sign that obviously something could go wrong, and let's be aware. And I think the Unification Church women certainly are willing to say that some mistakes are being made. We need to stop and reflect and see where we go from there.

Richard Quebedeaux: In terms of the organizational process, to set up the conferences Darrol and I worked at the bottom level. Approval for people to be participants in these conferences must be made at the highest level. It is very interesting to find that even some of the allegedly chauvinistic leaders of the church are now absolutely insisting that everything be done to include women. Now, they don't know quite how to do it, but I think they are growing. I just wanted to make that statement to begin with.

Darrol Bryant: Just one other comment. The hermeneutics section is something for which I take total responsibility because the composition of that group was wholly in my hands. It wasn't because of something going on in the latest church. It was wholly my doing.

Lorine Getz: But it is to some degree because the church like the rest of society does not have a large number of women who are totally prepared to participate. I didn't want this to look like an accusation, because I think the problem is that we are all liable to recapitulate the pattern. And how do we deal with the problem that is already historically there?

Darrol Bryant: I am not doing apologetics about the situation. It was the best I knew how to do given the circumstances. The only reason I say that is just to make clear that there was no internal pressure from the church or from the seminary or anything like that that resulted in this situation. Quite the contrary, as Richard indicated, there is a desire from inside the church that these kinds of things don't happen.

William Shive: I would like to have some woman from the Unification Church explain to me what the male-female roles in the Unification Church are, particularly, what is right female action, lifestyle, what is right male action, lifestyle? Are they interchangeable?

Diana Muxworthy: The reason for the hesitation is that obviously we are still struggling to figure that out. The balance that I think we are really struggling with is, where does Divine Principle as a lifestyle come through purely, if that is even possible? There is the cultural conflict between the American version, the Korean version, and the Japanese version or whatever version. I am from Puerto Rico, so I have my version coming from Latin culture. I know within myself there is a real struggle to work this out: what is purely Divine Principle and where does the cultural part come into play?

I want to admit that role modeling goes on. Yet in a center for instance, where there are brothers and sisters, there is really not that much distinction. The women do fundraising and witnessing; the men do fundraising and witnessing. At the News World there is pretty much a balance. At the seminary when I was first there, (and some of the professors can testify to that) I willingly and gladly served the cookies, the coffee and so forth at the meetings. In time that changed. Now it is Arthur who does a lot of the food preparation from what I understand. There is obviously flexibility in here. We don't have any clear sense ourselves really to be able to determine, say, this is right and this is wrong. We ate trying to work this out. That is why I appreciate the very strong, radical and angular critique of Lorine. She attacks us right on so that we are forced to confront ourselves. If we do come out and conclude in time or at least woman by woman that what we want is in a sense a traditional role, then I want to be given the opportunity to draw that conclusion, too.

Richard Quebedeaux: I think that there is a real problem in terms of my own experience. Quite often I stay at the New Yorker Hotel. When I ask where I can have my laundry done -- and wanting to do it myself -- the word is, we can have the laundry girl do it. And at the CARP center in Berkeley it is always the case as far as I have seen that the women do the cooking and generally function in the more traditional domestic roles. Even though all go fundraising and witnessing together, basically when it comes to domestic life you find the traditional roles. Some of the Oriental leaders of the church -- I won't mention names -- have told me that, yes, Divine Principle does teach the equality of men and women; however there are fixed roles and these cannot be changed. So there is that problem.

Therese Stewart: I'd like to say that I think that what is going on in the church as far as role definition, our discussion of and study of relationships between men and women, is very much a reflection of what is going on in the larger society. We just recently had the annual oratorical contest at the seminary. There were a number of suggestions as to what topic people would speak to including the role of women in today's world, but that wasn't an extremely popular topic with the students -- President Kim then suggested that we ask the faculty what they thought the topic should be. It got only about a fifth of the votes when President Kim took a poll among the students during morning service. The professors felt very strongly that the women's issue should be addressed so we went back to the students with a modification and suggested the topic of the respective roles of men and women in today's world. Well, there were some interesting talks. I don't think the issue in those talks was addressed exactly in the way we ate talking about it here today. Maybe some of the students would argue with me on that.

Let me cite just one example as to the degree to which some women in the church feel that there is a problem. My secretary came to me a couple of weeks ago after having sat in with one of the male students in a small conference with a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ who was working with us. The Mormon raised the question, what are the respective roles of men and women in your church? And the brother answered: the men teach, and the women cook. My secretary looked at him and exclaimed, "Tom!" This is a generalization but it was said more in seriousness than in jest. My own feeling has been, and is, that the whole question of the role of women in the church is very much in process, but I don't think it is going to be resolved very quickly.

Frank Flinn: In the past I have related several problems that I see in Divine Principle as it is written. As people know, I make a big distinction between the Principle and the book Divine Principle. In the book I notice on one level a relational language, a language of give-and-take, and on another level a language of entity, of substance, of hierarchy of super ordination and subordination. Now I ask myself this question, which language is closer to the Principle? I think the relational language is closer. In relational language, if you take away one pole of the relation, you don't have a relation, so you can't say one is higher and one is lower, one is more important and one is less important. In substance language you can take away an accident and the substance is still going to be there. I feel the relational language is closer to the Principle but at the same time I see in Divine Principle an ambiguity about this. Maybe we are paying indemnity for the language we use. This is a theological question that pertains, I think, directly to the male-female question.

Patricia Zulkosky: Part of what I see happening is the fact that we are responding to Christianity which comes out of a patriarchal tradition. When you are responding to that kind of system then you tend to pick up that kind of language, so on one hand we have the relational which I would hope to be exactly what we are trying to do and work out. On the other hand we find this hierarchical language that has been absorbed. It is the same problem that we are struggling with at the School of Theology at Claremont -- it is a question of language. Do you say "mankind" or "humankind," do you say "man" or do you say "person"? And I know myself, I have become extremely sensitive to even that kind of language, especially in the church. I know whenever I hear people talking now and I hear the word "man," I feel excluded. Just excluded. And I have to translate to myself "people" in order to feel included.

Now this might be a more radical stance than ninety-nine percent of the women now in the church because we are not dealing with that kind of issue. However, in the context where that issue is one of the major issues on my campus, I can't help but become sensitized to that particular issue. This is just one small kind of thing, but even that kind of awareness hasn't yet surfaced within the movement as a whole in terms of the way we teach the Principle, or make our presentations here at the seminar or anything else as far as I can tell. This is part of the whole patriarchal tradition that we come out of. It is a struggle of women all over now to try to gain recognition in at least the language.

Durwood Foster: I empathize greatly with the struggle which Pat has just reflected. It has of course been going on generally as a struggle between tradition and modernity for most of us. I want to point out that in a sense the Unification community is under a kind of double-bind which hasn't yet been mentioned in this sitting. There is the inheritance of biblical pattiarchalism, as you mentioned, and that is something which we are all struggling with in one way or another. In addition to that, as far as the roots of Unification tradition and lifestyle are concerned, there is the Confucian-Oriental tradition, which is extremely important and raises some very intriguing kinds of issues. In our hermeneutics seminar we had a very good paper from Andy Wilson expounding the Confucian background of Divine Principle and the Unification tradition. A couple of things in the Confucian and Oriental background deserve particular mention. One is the Confucian concept of relationality. It is a concept that, I would submit, synthesizes the antithesis of which Frank Flinn was speaking when he spoke of relational modes on the one hand and hierarchical modes on the other. In Confucianism relationality is hierarchical. There is a subordination of the junior to the elder and there is historically a subordination of the wife to the husband. The five different classical relationships establish a kind of hierarchy. Although in the West we come out of biblical patriarchy, in the post-enlightenment West, due in some ways to the impetus of the Christian faith, woman has been liberated to a degree that would be shocking, I think, to traditional Oriental sensibility. So there are cross-currents here that are very interesting.

The other thing from the Oriental background is the basic idea of yin-yang which was assimilated by Confucian tradition historically from the Taoist tradition. This idea plays a very real role constitutively in Divine Principle. Yin-yang or yang-yin is understood sexually from the very beginning. One way in which it is explicated is in terms of the contrast between male and female. The yang, or positive principle, is the male principle and the yin, or recessive or passive principle, is the female. This is worked out in a lot of different ways. Sometimes yin-yang is also expressed in terms of positive and negative without sexual reference. But nevertheless feminists have in the very roots of the Unification conceptual idiom something to struggle with. I wouldn't for a moment say it can't be overcome, but it does anchor very deeply a way of thinking of the feminine according to certain stereotypes. And that allies easily with Confucian hierarchical relationality and with biblical patriarchy. This is what I mean by the double-bind. I wish you well.

Jane Flinn: I was very impressed yesterday with some of the presentations. Especially Hugh and Nora Spurgin were showing us a sort of developmental attitude towards what was going on in the family, the sense that, "Here is where we are today, and maybe the next generation will be somewhere else." So I would like to relate that to this question. Are you thinking of the ideal of the traditional American family, the ideal of the traditional Oriental family or some other ideal that perhaps hasn't appeared? And, if the third, have you experimented with anything in your own family to help produce a generation that might be a little less constricted, a generation in which the girls wouldn't be the only ones who were compassionate and able to feel and the boys the only ones who could be president.

Nora Spurgin: You asked a lot of questions in there. I have been doing a lot of thinking about this personally. I don't want you to think that I am representing the church. Concerning the Principle and the concept of the yin-yang, I tend to think of masculinity and femininity as being names that have been given to certain kinds of energy. Masculinity is the kind of energy that is very focused, very pointed and very initiating energy. Femininity is the name given to energy that is more encompassing, more nurturing and those kinds of things. I feel that within each man and woman there are both of those energy forms. I also think that different people have different amounts of different qualities. And then I feel that as a couple within the church we work this out and there isn't a specific image imposed upon us. Personally my experience has not been a negative one in the church although there are occasions -- recently my secretary was taken away from me -- in which I have thought, "I wonder if I had been a man, if they would have done that?" (laughter) However in general I haven't had bad experiences. I feel that I have had a lot of freedom to develop. Basically I am not opposed to a domestic role although I would also like to do a lot of other things. I can be happy in a lot of different areas. Yet I never really have had the opportunity in the church to be very domestic. Usually I'm called upon to do other things.

Patricia Zulkosky: But aren't those other kinds of things things which feed into the traditional roles of women?

Nora Spurgin: I think they are, but I would say that I want to be a nurturing kind of person. I am not unhappy with that kind of role. But you know I have had many opportunities to speak, to study, and I haven't felt I was hindered because I am a woman. I know that there are some women who are more unhappy than I am. And I think that part of their unhappiness may arise out of the hierarchical interests which stem from the Oriental attitudes. My personal feeling is that Rev. Moon doesn't say this is the ideal and superimpose that on us in terms of our working relationships. Rather he throws people together, all the cultures, men, women everything, and lets us work it out. And out of that will arise whatever makes people happy and fulfilled -- it seems to me that is what we will end up with. I can't believe that half the human race will ultimately be unhappy for the rest of eternity. I just don't believe it. That's my philosophy.

Lorine Getz: It seems to me that one of the problems is that Divine Principle itself does not provide many models for women. The models in the text are mainly male models. And so the question requires some kind of inventiveness. When we discussed it the other night and we talked about whether there is a good female model, I stated that a Lord of the Second Advent who is a male model like Jesus is no help. The rejoinder was, "Oh! but the Lord of the Second Advent is assumed to be a couple." If this is true, what is the identity for the other half of the couple? I mean where is the woman's theological model? That seems to me a real problem that still needs to be explored.

Jonathan Wells: I still have a brief theological point to make following Durwood's comment. Despite the patriarchal inheritance and the Confucian inheritance, I want to point out that Divine Principle is distinct from them and it has some quite novel elements to it. I will mention two of them. First, it is clear in Divine Principle and Unification Thought1 that masculinity and femininity are secondary to a person's faith and character. Second, in this relational mode that we are talking about, subject and object positions and masculine and feminine positions can be interchanged, and often are interchanged. That is, once a subject-object relationship is established, in the language of Divine Principle it begins to "revolve," and there is no relationship that is static in the sense of one position always being subordinate to the other position.

Jaime Sheeran: From the position of being in leadership for a couple of years, it is interesting that, as I look back, I feel the strongest opposition I have had has come from women. I don't know what the motivation is or why, but there is a lack of confidence among women that a woman can actually do leadership things successfully.

Diana Muxworthy: My concern with the most extreme type of feminist critique is that it begins and ends with resentment. There is so much resentment there that it is very hard to come to an ideal. I think that the Unification Church is trying to struggle with this issue of historical resentment. It is interesting that Rev. Moon proclaimed the Day of Victory over Resentment. In the meeting with some of the other women last night Nora mentioned that it will be interesting to see if we will ever have a Day of Victory over the Resentment of Women. Beyond that is the very fundamental issue that when women get together this issue of resentment has to be dealt with. And then from there move on to an ideal image of what men and women can be. I hope that Rev. Moon can do something about this, and we can help him.

Herbert Richardson: I want to make three kinds of comments. The first one is on the general feminist point. As I view the feminist movement at the present time, I find it is absolutely divided on the following questions: should women have a special place and special tasks or should everybody have the same tasks? It is absolutely divided on this question. Is there a separate kind of identity for women or are women basically like men, that is, as persons? I think about the difference, for example, between Penelope Washburn who goes about talking about the bodily differences between men and women (women can have babies, etc.) and Elizabeth Clark who thinks women are persons and that bodily differences are about as accidental as you can get.

In terms of job placement I can give a couple of examples. We have all seen how women getting into all kinds of jobs has set the stage for men getting into jobs traditionally reserved for women. Now we have men telephone operators, men stewards on airplanes. It is a question whether women are better off or not from that perspective -- this practical question is being debated at the present time.

And the third point is the question of hierarchy. An attack on hierarchy can become an attack on the family, and if the family breaks down, are women advantaged or disadvantaged? That is a practical question. The feminist movement is divided on that point too. To come at the Moonies as if they should be on one side or the other seems to me to be unfair to them. The feminist movement hasn't made up its own mind yet. I don't suppose any of us here could agree among ourselves what the position of women is.

On the question of women generally in the Unification Church, I am always amazed at our failure to talk about the teal issues. We talk about yin and yang in the Godhead. (By the way yin-yang is not the fundamental character of God. The fundamental character of God is a person who possesses both masculine and feminine characteristics. Unification theology is not dualistic in this way.) What is really significant are things like the way the church organizes the relationship between men and women. Is it good to have both men and women active in the whole range of activities? Is it good to postpone sexual involvement and throw men and women together to live in a non-sexual way as brothers and sisters? What does that do to women? Is it good to select marriage partners or not to select marriage partners? Is it good or bad to put the very very strong stress upon fatherhood that the Unification Church does to try to make it coequal with motherhood. Are these things good or bad? These are very significant things that we can observe in the Unification Church. They seem to me to be much more important for judging its relation to the women's movement than speculating about a masculine-feminine concept of God or the Lord of the Second Advent being a couple. How one moves from those high level symbols into something that is going to affect behavior is always a big problem. But if you look at what people are doing that is different then we can ask things like this. I would argue with my friend Elizabeth Clark who says all this kind of yin-yang stuff in God is just more patriarchy. I don't think that that is the point. The point lies in such things as the way marriage is delayed and in the selection of marriage partners. In a society where traditionally men have selected their own marriage partners and women have had to make themselves attractive to men so that they would get selected, it is a tremendous advance for the situation of women to have a third patty select and match. Women are in this fundamental aspect of life made equal to men. As to the decision of whether you will or won't accept the match, the grapevine tells me that many more women turn down the proposed person than men. That is very, very interesting.

I want to touch one final thing here. If we want to talk about the problem of women and why there is so much despising of women in our society, we have to get at the root of that. And I suggest that the root of many of the masculine attitudes of hatted towards women is their sense of being dominated and ruled by their mothers. There is resentment against mothers. Why is there resentment against mothers and what have we done to clear that up? Why I hate my wife in those moments of temper outburst that come up is clearly related to certain problems that I had with my mother. I don't think I am at all unusual at this point especially among a bunch of theologians. We male theologians are theologians because we are trying to please our mothers. That is why we became theologians, (laughter) There is plenty of empirical evidence for that: we were good boys pleasing mothers that wanted us to be good boys. That is partly why there is so much patriarchy in the church, because there is so much good-boyism among the male theologians satisfying dominating mothers. The resentment comes out in all kinds of ways.

Now as a practical kind of move into the problem, then, we could ask this: within the Unification Church is there some kind of alleviation of the problem of patriarchy, is there some kind of way of coming to terms with forms of motherhood that generate resentment against women? And my belief is that there is, because partly my belief is that the understanding of parenthood is basically a form of give and take between a husband and wife together. One of the critical points is that the children are wanted. One of the special things about Divine Principle is that you really want your children. This is going to fundamentally transform the attitudes of men towards women, because it is going to transform the attitudes of men towards their mothers. But I don't think there can be any discussion of the role of women in the Unification Church until we really face up to some of the origins of resentment in men against women. One can't do that without talking about mothers and family structures.

Nora Spurgin: This reminded me that I didn't answer Jane's question. I would like to say that one of the patterns in the church has to do with the possibility of having nursery care for our children at times and also having a kind of an extended family feeling. The intensity of the relationship between mother and child, father and child is a bond of unity which is very strong. But in terms of education all is not focused on the parents and I find that very healthy. Sometimes I am relieved just to see other people handling my children. I am happy that my kids are having an experience that is apart from the intense emotional relationship they have with their parents. There is something that goes on between parents and children that sometimes is very unhealthy. A person who comes in from the outside and who doesn't have that intense emotional relationship with them treats them in a much more objective, matter-of-fact way. I am glad that my kids have this experience. I also want them to have experience with me but I am happy that they aren't limited to that give and take. The same thing is true with Hugh. They have his fathering, but then there are other men around that play a role with our children as models and people who give them something.

Myrtle Langley: This is a very brief comment following up Herb's. From the anthropological side, we need to consider not only the child-mother relationship but also the male-female relationship when it comes to childbearing and child raising.


1 Unification Thought (New York, N.Y.: Unification Thought Institute, 1978). 

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