|Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes|
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, which is grossly unfortunate. You can’t heal what you don’t recognize.
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.
“There were no religious images in the churches or synagogues of our childhood that celebrated the birthing powers of women. According to religion’s myths, the world was brought into being by a male God, and woman was created from man. This reversal of biological process went unchallenged. Most of us didn’t even notice the absence of the mother. Although we may not have been consciously aware of her absence in bible stories and sermons, her absence was absorbed into our being. Its painful influence was intensified as we observed the design of our parents’ relationship and the treatment of our mothers by our fathers and brothers. Our families mirrored the hierarchical reality of the heavens. In a society that worships a male God, the father’s life is more valuable than the mother’s. The activities of a man’s life are more vital and necessary than the mother’s intimate connections with the origins of life. The father is God.” -Patricia Lynn Reilly
If you doubt why this is important, ask yourself why women today own one percent of the world’s wealth.That means that men, mostly white Western men, own the rest. Women, by and large, are still dependent on men for that 99 percent. The way we interpret our religious scriptures validate that dependence.
If God is male, men are superior.
And women are, by default, inferior.
Sadly, I heard this message loud and clear growing up in a Christian home. I vowed that my kids would be raised the opposite way. I hungered to provide my daughter with a different foundation than what I was indoctrinated with. I wanted my daughter to know that she is absolutely wonderful just the way she is. I dreamed of raising her to the heights instead of burying her—as we do with most girls. I didn’t want her to spend most of her adult life unburying herself as I have—and continue to do.
I believe that spirituality is the place to start. Whether you are religious or not, the deep cultural roots of our faiths of origin affect all of us deeply. Nearly all world religions practice today on the foundation of patriarchy. But this need not be the case. The feminine divine can be found in all the world religions if you look for Her.
Alice Walker wrote, “…healing begins where the wound was made.” I believe most wounds women in the world today experience were brought upon by denying the feminine divine. This is done in both subtle and violent ways. If we want a better world for our daughters, we must begin to re-balance the divine feminine with the masculine.
The divine feminine is unconventional. She does not belong to any one faith tradition. In fact, she belongs to all of them.
She does not come to us as a Savior; rather, she is the force within us who empowers us to save ourselves. She loves indiscriminately; you do not have to be “good” to merit her attention.
As Mary Oliver reminds us,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
So many women are still waiting for their father or husband to sign permission slips for approval. 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.
Our collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has a profound effect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. This influence can be seen in their life choices, partners and 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.
We must radically change how girls are raised from birth. It’s so much easier than this never-ending un-doing most women seem to be stuck in. Just that alone is a full-time job. Something has to change. The Rev. Dr. Karen Tate recently wrote: “The Dalai Lama said it would be Western women who would come to the rescue of the world. Might it actually be Goddess Thealogy?” I happen to believe she is on to something.
God is not a man. We have been living a blatant lie for thousands of years. Women give life. The Goddess IS life. Until we collectively return to this truth, nothing will improve. Many of the world’s problems stem from the attempt to stamp out the truth and kill the Divine Feminine. We are coming into a time now where many women and men are awakening to the Goddess, but we are also seeing a lot of backlash around this. I believe now is the time where we must stand strong or She will be buried forever—and so will the rights, dreams and livelihood of women and girls the world over.
Amy Logan wrote in The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice, “Every time they butcher a woman for honor, they’re killing the Goddess.” I believe that’s true with every rape and murder of a female, and to a somewhat lesser extent, every time a woman is hit, verbally abused or forced to live in poverty. It is also true so long as we continue to live under a system that teaches us to hate ourselves.
Harriet Tubman once said, "I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves."
Women must break free of their own chains so that our daughters and granddaughters can someday be born free. There is still time for each of us to live a life on our own terms if we have the courage to stand up together now.
It’s time for us to become really intentional about what we want for ourselves and our daughters. We can’t do it alone. Women must come back together into circles and reclaim what is ours.
“It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We and know who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.”
-The Low Road by Marge Piercy
by Trista Hendren
Originally published in Over the Moon Magazine.