Hoi Sum August, 2011
The Threat of Female Spirituality
For those of you who may or may not know I grew up in a religiously abusive and patriarchal household. This is one of the main reasons why as an adult I was so drawn to Wicca, Paganism, and Goddess spirituality. I hated growing up in an environment where I was told I could not be a spiritual leader because I was born a woman. An environment where I was told that my deity, angels, demons, devil, prophets, pastors, disciples of Jesus etc. all were male and male only. I did not enjoy being told I was a second class citizen and that my only purpose in life was to submit to God and to my future husband (and of course have lots of babies). I felt so much anger growing up because I grew so tired of always being told my “female-ness” was a sin. It is hard for many women to relate to their religion or spiritual practice when everything in those systems is male dominated.
As history has shown us, my personal experiences growing up are not uncommon. Women and female spirituality have been under attack for thousands of years. Growing up in a strict fundamentalist Christian home I was not new to the idea that women should be kept down. In the Christian community I grew up in, God was never to be thought of as a female and women were never to lead spiritual activities over men. What has surprised me recently though is receiving this same female-based hostility from my fellow Pagans. It saddens me to see the gender wars of the patriarchal religions seeping into our Pagan religions and spiritual practices.
I completely understand the need for us to be careful of reverse sexism. The goal of the Goddess movement should not be for women to take over and to dominate men. People should be equal, no matter their gender. Just because people are equal though, does not mean they are the same. Men and women are different-equal, but different. Part of the purpose of the Goddess Spirituality movement is to celebrate these differences and to empower men and women to be proud of their differences. Women have been taught for so long that certain parts of us or the things we do are bad, ugly, wrong, or a sin. Teaching women to embrace their female qualities is an important part of fighting back against patriarchal culture. There is nothing wrong with women finding empowerment and purpose through a female based spiritual practice. It doesn’t mean they are men and God haters, it just means they are more comfortable connecting to a spiritual practice that is reflective of their gender.
I have always pushed for both single gender and co-ed Pagan events in my personal practice. I don’t want to completely exclude myself from men or male deities in my personal practice, but there are also times when I want to be with just women and the Goddess. All of the Goddess-Female Only groups I have ever worked with have always supported a fellow God-Male Only group and have made sure to have joint co-ed events whenever possible. So what is the issue with this set-up? I have no idea! Yet somehow year after year I get approached by Pagan men who aggressively and angrily tell me that I am being a supremacist by not allowing men into my women only rituals. They tell me that I can’t be a true priestess or have a complete ritual without the male counter-parts being involved. Obviously I do not agree with their sentiment and I find their aggressive behavior inappropriate, more importantly though, I find their behavior saddening. Why are so many men disconnected from the Goddess? What is the real reason behind their aggression towards female spirituality? Why are they so hostile to the Goddess and her priestesses? Where and when did this disconnect happen?
I think these are important questions and ones we should be addressing in the Pagan community. I have always loved the openness and non-structure of Pagan beliefs and practices. I hate when I see dogmatic rules creeping into our community. My personal beliefs and practices are just that, they are personal, they are my beliefs alone. It is my choice whether I want to work with Gods and Goddesses, Goddesses only, have co-ed rituals, or have female only rituals. Why is my personal choice so threatening to other Pagans and when will the hostility towards the Goddess and female spirituality end?