The Sisters’ Paradoxical Space: Mapping Truth to Power

Proceedings of The 3rd Global Conference on Women’s Studies

Year: 2022



The Sisters’ Paradoxical Space: Mapping Truth to Power

Kimberly Fillion



Herland, written in 1915 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a story about a fictional land that is inhabited by women and girls as a type of manifesto that rebels patriarchy at every turn of the page. Gilman’s feminist utopian society is a reflection of the capitalist and sexist reality of which she was living in and writing against. Herland is a deconstruction of heteronormativity, heteropatriarchy and heterosexuality. Furthermore, Gilman’s fictionalized women and girls only “her land” establishes a sisterhood where love and justice proliferate. In this paper, I analyze the potential for nonfictional women to map truth to power in the spirit of Gilman’s Herland. Using the works of bell hooks, Judith Plaskow, Elizabeth A. Johnson, Mary Daly, and Gillian Rose as well as my interviews with three American Catholic nuns (Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, Sister Rosamond Blanchet, and Sister Catherine Vincie – all became nuns prior to Vatican II), and empirical research, I claim that fecundity takes on an entirely new meaning within the constellation of religious life for women. While these nuns profess a vow of chastity, their ability to produce within the confines of a church that oppresses them creates a paradoxical space. This paradoxical space serves as a site of resistance from heteropatriarchy, heteronormativity, heterosexism and androcentrism while simultaneously creating liberation, autonomy, and a sense of belonging. From these points of location, both literal and metaphoric, my analysis demonstrates how nuns have mapped truth to power, resulting in a reclamation of space, known as her land.

keywords: space, paradoxical, women, church, autonomy, heteropatriarchy.