Meredith Minister, Assistant Professor of Religion at Shenandoah University, talks to us on the final day of UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism campaign about her work on religion and sexual violence. Meredith works closely with fellow academic activists Rhiannon Graybill and Beatrice Lawrence. They have a forthcoming edited volume Rape Culture and Religious Studies: Critical and Pedagogical Engagements (Lexington Books), which will be profiled on this blog in January.
Tell us about yourself: who are you and what do you do?
I’m Meredith Minister, Assistant Professor of Religion at Shenandoah University. I also teach courses in the Gender and Women’s Studies program at Shenandoah.
What’s your involvement with gender activism? Does your work intersect with gender activism? How?
I am involved with gender activism in my scholarship, on campus, and in the community.
My recent scholarship has been focused on addressing sexual violence on college campuses by providing a better theoretical framework for prevention and response. This project has been ongoing for several years and has included presentations on trigger warnings and a critique of existing approaches to sexual violence including consent and bystander intervention. I also attended a NEH seminar this summer on diverse philosophical approaches to sexual violence led by Ann Cahill at Elon University. In my forthcoming book, I explore how rape culture is learned through cultural, religious, institutional, and legal processes and argue for deep and ongoing pedagogical interventions that offer possibilities for unlearning rape culture. This book is titled Rape Culture on Campus and is forthcoming from Lexington next year.
Beatrice and Rhiannon have been faithful conversation partners for this work and Rhiannon’s interview describes the ways we’ve collaborated so far and where you can find our work!
On campus, I have worked with students to promote better structures for preventing sexual violence and for responding to specific instances of sexual violence. I have also worked with faculty by developing and offering a workshop on teaching about sexual violence in partnership with our Title IX office here at Shenandoah.
Finally, off campus, I work with the Valley Equality Project, a community organization that serves the Winchester community by working to make our community safer for and more inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons.
How does or could The Shiloh Project relate to your work and activism?
I think The Shiloh Project is doing really important work and I’ve enjoyed reading about the other scholars featured in this series. Scholarship is so often presented as an isolated endeavor but I think the kinds of academic work we’re doing, including challenging engrained cultural assumptions, really requires collective work and imagination. Not only can we learn from one another, but we also find validation and commiseration when things get messy (as they sometimes do when you come out against sexual violence).
How are you going to get active to resist gender-based violence and inequality?
In my forthcoming book, I argue that the classroom can be a space where we can begin to unlearn engrained patterns of rape culture. This unlearning goes beyond simplistic interventions such as consent education and bystander intervention. These interventions depend on an understanding of human beings as autonomous individuals and fail to connect rape culture to other cultural assumptions such as white supremacy and institutions such as the prison industrial complex. Rather than creating responses to sexual violence that perpetuate these individualistic assumptions, I hope to draw on understandings of human beings as fragile and relational in order to rethink existing responses to sexual violence. I do this theoretical work in my scholarship in part because it energizes my resistance to gender-based violence on campus and in the community.