Nadia Bolz-Weber is a former stand-up comedian turned Lutheran Pastor/public theologian based in Denver, Colorado. She has liturgical inspired tattoos, she’s a best-selling author, she’s not afraid to speak her mind, and she founded Denver's progressive, inclusive House for All Sinners and Saints in 2008. Bolz-Weber’s most recent book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, is about Christianity and its antiquated ideas about sex, gender, and bodies. In November 2018, Bolz-Weber announced an art project on Twitter and invited women to send her their purity rings.
ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm inviting women to mail in their purity rings for a massive art project. @SweetBirdStudio is collaborating with me to melt them into a sculpture of a vagina, click here to join in and get your certificate of impurity! https://t.co/tbaJJdbxeJ #shamelessbook— Nadia Bolz-Weber (SHAMELESS af) (@Sarcasticluther) November 26, 2018
Bolz-Weber explained to the Huffington Post that purity rings, in many evangelical Christian communities, were given to girls as a symbol of a pledge they make to abstain from sex until marriage. Purity rings and Christian purity culture, which surged to popularity in the 1990’s and 2000’s out of a desire to control women’s sexuality, have shamed young women into disconnecting from their bodies and sexuality. In response to purity theology, Bolz-Weber teamed up with artist Nancy Anderson to create a piece of art about the reclamation of women’s bodies; to show that a symbol used to shame women could also be used for their liberation.
After her call for purity rings, Bolz-Weber received over 170 purity rings and many of them were sent alongside personal notes that revealed how happy women were to part with their harmful, patriarchal symbols of control. Bolz-Weber told the Huffington Post, “A lot of women have gone through a lot of their lives sort of judging themselves on a scale of worthiness that somebody else handed them.” She continued, “To me, to be able to have the self-determination to take symbols and words and actions that might have harmed me at a different time in life and to reclaim and redefine and rework those into something healing and humorous—that’s a powerful thing.”
Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported on Bolz-Weber's sculpture unveiling at the 2019 Conference for Makers, a feminist media sister brand to Huffpost. The beautiful piece of metalwork, with a vagina rising from phoenix-like flames, was presented to Gloria Steinem as a thank you.
Top photo: YouTube screenshot
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Allie Lawrence graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and English. She loves dogs, laughter, and The Great British Bake Off. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @0riginalliety.