The word he was groping for but missing was objectification. Of course this is not a new thing (I spoke before at this Greek innovation of lessening women and Goddess power).
Early Christian and Jewish priests had some very odd ideas about the worship of objects (animism) and linked it to avarice and greed. Love of possessions was seen as “worship” of things. I’m sure you’ve all heard the “consumerism is making Christmas pagan” rubbish that gets to do the rounds every few years. The worship of an object however is not about greed. The thrust of avarice is ownership. Yet worship is to acknowledge, imbue, transcend or awaken an essence within an object. The worship of an object is to elevate it to sacred, holy. To believe it is more. Perhaps an expression of something spiritual or holy clothed in a physical expression of its divine force.
Objectification is reductive. The being is reduced to a visual composite of sexual stereotypes. Objectification lessens the subject being viewed. When it becomes titillation the narrative becomes focused not on the subject’s wants, thoughts or needs, but on the observers. Historically this is how women were controlled in a culture, art and religion.
So how do we solve this encroaching pornification? Firstly we have to acknowledge that pornography and it’s extremely exploitative and toxic ideas of beauty, sexuality and objectification are everywhere. The cultures are so saturated with them right now studies show that teenagers (boys and girls) thought only breasts that had been surgically enhanced were normal.
How with this level of ownership especially on the female form can we expect our Goddesses to not be influenced by this?
First off we need to be aware of the objectification. Name it. Call it out. It is happening more and more. From the satire of drawing male superheroes in sexual “female” costumes and poses to better and more honest nudity in films and television. Of course the answer is not objectifying men. That seems to miss the point entirely.
The second thing is to commission and make better art, especially divine art. I don’t think I own any art or divine images that depict the Goddess (any Goddess) naked (except for my tarot deck) and none that objectify them. This has meant I have made a lot of my own. Sex sells, and if it stops selling they will have to try something else. There are folks who sell reproductions of much older Goddess figurines. Ones that stubbornly refuse objectification.
Nudity isn’t inherently sexual. What we need, and maybe the Goddesses deserve, is to be whole. To be able to be powerful and frightening, and sexual and terrifying, merciful and present. To acknowledge the thinking, breathing, complicated being women are as people. Maybe if we stop objectifying women, the objectification of Goddesses will also cease to be an issue. Maybe then our warrior Goddesses will wear proper armour; our mother Goddesses will have stretch marks, menses and swollen nipples; our hunting Maidens will have muscles enough to draw their bows and skinned knees; and our Old Ones will be radiant with scars, deep lines and the beauty of age.
There is no new “pornification” or sexualisation of Goddesses. The extreme of the sexual and exploitative gaze has become more and more extreme but we have also finally begun to recognise it. What we can do is call it out when we see it. Put our money where our mouths are and keep fighting.