Cátedra Carnahan 2007: Ivone Gebara 1

Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara is giving the Carnahan Lectures this year on the theme of 'From gender, a new world is possible.'

Last night she focused on the mutual construction of ideas of gender and science, philosophy and history. Gender, she noted, is intimately bound up in the development of ideas and art, and is always changing.

As usual, Ivone encouraged us to move beyond fixed identities of male and female, straight or gay, black of white. As humans in relation, we are constantly shifting and responding.

She pointed out that moves to strengthen gender identities tend to reinforce cultural beliefs about correct behaviour. Reproaches over un-ladylike actions for example, or notions of women's work, or what is acceptable for a man to wear. There is a fear of loss of some essentialist notion of maleness or femaleness.

Ivone suggested women have a more fixed identity than men, pointing out that motherhood is seen as women's natural vocation. Yet there is not corresponding 'natural' vocation for men. Men can 'naturally' be many things.

Finally she warned against arriving. We are not seeking new improved gender roles or a fixed model of God. We are seeking openness and flexibility in our relationships. Who I am, who you are, who God is. All these are constant questions and ongoing conversations.