[Editor’s Note: This Introduction is from She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Volume 2.]
Gloria Steinem famously said, “God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there’s no turning back.”[i] It is the questions that keep me up at night long after I should be sleeping.
The first She Rises anthology asked the important question of Why? This question is very important for women. For most of my life, my questions centered on why a certain man was abusing me. Moving beyond this—into our own realm—is hugely important, and something some women are never able to do. Even women who don’t suffer abuse are often so bogged down by the disproportionate care-giving that females are expected to do that they never question the whys or the hows.
This anthology asks How? This question is equally important, as it propels us into greater thought and action.
List-making saved my life. My second marriage was hugely dysfunctional and abusive. I was gas-lighted[ii] so often I soon doubted my own reality and truth. It was only by beginning to make lists that I was able to see clearly again.
I started with a list of things my former husband had actually done. There was no emotion in it—just a simple list of facts that soon became over 4 pages. Soon he was no longer able to trick me into believing his reality. My next lists were about how to leave the relationship, how to care for my children and how to create the life that I wanted out of the shambles that were left. Eventually I composed a list of 45 things I required in a partner that birthed the most remarkable relationship of my life. It was actually the first relationship I had that contained not even the remnants of abuse.
Some of us are not sexually or physically abused, but quite a few of us are—far more than what the statistics tell us. Almost all women are emotionally, verbally abused or gas-lighted in some way. Most of us, I would argue, are also financially abused, but few of us realize it. I feel like a lot of Goddess circles like to keep it positive and not talk about these “downers” but I do not believe Goddess can fully emerge until we do.
Our individual and collective abuse as women keeps Her buried. Until we uncover this abuse, and bring it to light, I don’t believe we will see the change we need so desperately.
My spirituality is one of action: the warrior Goddess who will fight for each of her children. She is the warrior of activism. It is this vision of Goddess who empowers each of her daughters and gives her the tools to be successful in life.
When you look at the aspirations of most patriarchal traditions, it is submissiveness (in females) that is usually valued. And submissiveness hurts us all. I remember being told specifically as a girl, that if someone tried to rape me, I should just let him because it would be easier than fighting him—and he might kill me afterwards if I tried to fight. To a somewhat lesser extent, our submissiveness training teaches us to do the same with emotional and verbal abuse. It often seems so much easier to just let it slide, or to minimize it.
Looking back, I think it was an attempted rape that I did manage to fight off that was the last straw for me in terms of leaving the Christian faith. While I was still blamed for this violence in the same ways most women are, I had an intense awakening that (at least in my case) I had been lied to about not fighting back. Fighting back saved me from a much worse fate. Recent studies show a similar conclusion.[iii]
It was that same year that I first learned about Goddess. I forgot about Her for some time, in my yearning to get ahead after college. But when my daughter was born I realized if I didn’t return to Her, I would fail my child in the same ways I had been failed.
The easiest way to squash the Divine within each woman is to abuse her, whether that is physically, sexually, emotionally, financially or otherwise. As women are rising to their Goddess-potential now, we have a responsibility to our younger daughters to both nurture and protect them. Traditional patriarchal laws do not protect women and children.
I have been pleased lately to see the non-traditional ways women are taking care of their own, whether it be Gulabi Gangs, Warrior Sisters or the mother who recently went viral on You Tube—with more than 60 million views as I write this—after her ex-husband was only sentenced to 90 days of jail for sexually abusing her daughter. She successfully named and shamed this perpetrator in a way that he will never get away from. As Goddessians, I believe we must fiercely protect our daughters—biological or not—from predators. The time of abusing women and children—and getting away with it—is over.
I believe Goddess won’t be satisfied with coming out in any less than Her full nature and power—including Her anger and fury. We now have another opportunity to really bring out the social justice aspects and deeper meaning of Goddess.
My hows are both deeply rooted in radical feminism and embracing my sisters in all faith traditions. While that may sound contradictory, I have always been sort of a mixed bag. At this point in time, we need radical change and radical action. More than anything, we need to come together and listen to one another.
Our hows may be very different, but they all give us direction. The hows are our maps.
I am honored to join my Mago Sisters again to answer this important question.
[i] I quoted this in my Girl God book with permission from Gloria’s office years ago but I never knew the exact source. See Steinem, Gloria. Doing Sixty & Seventy. Elders Academy Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2006).
[iii] Straus, Tamara. “Teaching women to fight today could stop rapes tomorrow”. Quartz (June 11, 2015).