Monday, May 5, 2014

Healing the Wound that is Female

There is a wound in the world that is specific to women and girls. Many of us take a lifetime to figure out what it is.

Every person is born of a woman, but somehow the traditional creation myth was turned around on its head. Women are secondary, if not cursed, via this tradition.

The textbooks that our children read are still almost entirely male-dominated filled with male-accomplishments. Our spiritual communities are still mostly male-led and refer to God as “He.”

Religious thought seeps in early and is very damaging to girls. If God is a man, and “He” is everything that is good and superior, it is easy to conclude that we as women are, in fact, beneath men. Whether you practice a religion or not, this still has a profound effect on our collective thinking.

I did not realize how deeply my upbringing in the Church had tainted and still suppressed my core being until I read Patricia Lynn Reilly’s book, A God Who Looks Like Me, several years ago.

Despite 15 years as a feminist, it never dawned on me to question my family and religious upbringing. We were, by all accounts, “normal”. Compared to many other people, I really didn’t have much to complain about. So while I learned about and rallied against the systematic oppression of women, I did not correlate my family and faith to the roots of my own.

I now believe that it is these much engrained patriarchal systems that continue to keep women as a whole down. This is a very hard thing to face. It is painful to think that your own family had anything to do with holding you back.

As I pondered this in my own life, I realized my daughter was about to enter the same dark hole that I had.

When my daughter turned five, I already saw the way the world was beginning to taint her image of herself. We had disconnected the cable several years before, but the message was still seeping in from other places: you are not enough.

I grew up with 3 sisters. I never realized how distinctively different the experience of boys and girls is until I raised my son and daughter, who are 3 years apart.

I realized that although I had tried to give both my children the religious freedom I never had, it was not enough for my daughter.

Ultimately, she is the one who connected me back to my spirituality in a way I never could have done for myself. In watching her grow, I began to value myself more. In recognizing how precious she was, I realized how precious I was.

Ultimately this shifted how I began to think about both myself and my faith. I began studying women’s history and the suppression of the Divine Feminine in all faith traditions. I wrote a children’s book called The Girl God which describes some of that journey with my daughter.

I think as young girls, we begin to talk ourselves into a male image of God, when in reality it is completely unnatural to us. As Judy Chicago reminds us, “In the beginning, the feminine principle was seen as the fundamental cosmic force. All ancient peoples believed that the world was created by a female Deity.”

I saw this very clearly one day in talking with my daughter. She could not relate to a male image of God. But when I asked her about a “Girl God,” she lit up!

The Girl God is a story about how I was able to relate spirituality back to my daughter in words she could understand. I wrote this book for children; however, many women and therapists have contacted me to say that they thought the book would be helpful for women as well. My hope is that the book will be collectively healing for both mother and daughter, as they read through it together.

It was important for me to write interfaith books as I come from both a Christian and Muslim background. As I began to research the Divine Feminine, I found Her in every faith tradition! My hope is that women can work together despite our religious differences. We have much more in common than we might imagine.

I also see that sometimes there is a resistance within feminism to religion, which can result in putting women of faith down or into certain categories. I think this is a huge mistake.

The majority of women around the world belong to a religious tradition, and most are unlikely to leave their faith of origin. I think it’s really important to work with women and girls where they are at.

I believe that we cannot break the chains of our oppression until we address the roots of it. When we dig through what is there, we find that the Divine Feminine was often always there in the shadows. I would like to bring Her back into the light. I would like women of all faiths to know that it is not a “sin” to worship a female deity.

In my years working with the Divine Feminine, it became apparent to me that women need their own communities. I was drawn to the Red Tent movement – the work of DeAnna L’am, Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost, ALisa Starkweather, and so many other amazing women. The two things that appeal most to me about this movement is the strong communities of women it builds and reversing the menstrual taboo of shame that is present in so many religions.

Audre Lorde said, “Without community, there is no liberation.” I believe by returning to the Divine Feminine, we will reclaim our power, together, as women.

So many women are still waiting for our father or husband to sign our permission slips – whether it is for an abortion, birth control or schooling. This has been our indoctrination for thousands of years, so there is no blame in that. When we feel the sense of the divine within us, we learn that we do not need permission for anything. Many of the “rights” we are fighting so hard for are already things we innately possess.

When we recognize, both individually and collectively, our value as women, the world will change. The image of a masculine God is built on patriarchy, which is a vision of control through violence, whether actual or implied. When we honor the divine feminine, beating a woman becomes as unacceptable as burning down a church or a mosque. When we return to the divine feminine, rape will become inconceivable.

How can you pillage what is sacred?

When we return to the divine feminine, we will stop trying to “save” women in other countries and realize that we have problems of our own to conquer. We will realize that each of us is capable of becoming our own savior. We will re-discover our rich herstory. We will come together as equals and change the world together.

Our collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has had a profound effect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. This negative influence can be seen in their life choices, partners and whether or not they will have financial security for the rest of their lives.

It also has an effect on the way their future partners will view them – and ultimately treat them.

Alice Walker says, “…healing begins where the wound was made.”

I hope our books will help to initiate that healing process around the world.

-Trista Hendren

Excerpt from Women's Mysteries Teacher Circle.  Read more from DeAnna L'am, Jane Hardwicke Collings, Christine Agro, Rachael Hertogs and Rebecca Funk here

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