‘Divine Feminine’ is sexist

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Public License 2.0 BY

For the bulk of the past 10 years, I was involved with the Goddess spirituality movement in various shapes. This was after my disillusion with sexism within the Christian church and my own discomfort with the idea that Christianity and Judaism portray their God as “the father.”

I enrolled in a post-graduate program at a seminary majoring in feminist theology, to learn about this subject in a more systematic way.

I realize that the Goddess spirituality movement developed hand in hand with the second-wave feminism. The early pioneers of feminist theology such as Mary Daly and Carol Christ were also radical feminists and had valid analysis and critique of patriarchal religions, primarily the Judeo-Christian traditions. Proposals for alternative institutions such as woman-church deconstructed the foundations of Christian ecclesiastical paradigm based on hierarchy and patriarchal theology. At the same time, lesbian separatist movement adopted Dianic Wicca as the de facto official religion and its rituals began to be an important part of the emerging women-only communities.

In the 1990s, aided by the mass-consumeristic promotion of New Age books and emergence of third-wave feminism, Goddess spirituality began to enter the mainstream progressive America along with an increased social acceptance of Neo-Paganism.

This has created a problem that probably was not foreseen by the earlier generation. Just as third-wave feminism greatly shifted the definitions of feminism, the new iterations of Goddess movement — now adopting the phrase “Divine Feminine” — also began de-emphasizing the feminist analysis and praxis.

The notion of “Divine Feminine” is fraught with problems.

It reinforces the old gender stereotypes of how females are supposed to be feminine, and that Goddess is defined by patriarchally-constructed sex stereotypes of femininity such as compassion, empathy, and sensuality.

Great many “Divine Feminine”-focused and “Red Tent” groups are organized and led by heterosexual or bisexual women who are blissfully uncritical of this, and instead of consciousness-raising and organizing, they favor activities that are not only sexist but also border on cultural appropriations (such as Native American-themed ritual circles, henna, bellydance). Even worse, some of these women insist that “Divine Feminine” must always be “balanced” by “Sacred Masculine” and that women exist to offer sexual pleasures to men (they tend to be also heavily into so-called “tantra,” which is another egregious form of cultural appropriation).

“Divine Feminine” not only became highly sexist but also highly heteronormative. Queer women no longer feel home at many of these groups as conformity to sexist gender norms and heterosexist biases dominate these groups.

Furthermore, equation of “Divine Feminine” attributes with patriarchally-constructed gender stereotypes leads to reducing women to their reproductive capacity (The popular “triple-Goddess” of maiden, mother, and crone in Neo-Paganism was an invention of a man named Robert Graves) and also erases neurodiversity and experiences of women who survived psychological traumas. They should not be criticized for not expressing “feminine” characteristics such as empathy and friendliness.

Hijacking of the Goddess movement by anti-feminist actors has made it irrelevant and powerless in the fight against misogyny and patriarchy. Obviously something needs to change.

Lasara Firefox Allen’s recent book, Jailbreaking the Goddess, proposes several paths forward to bring feminist analysis back into the Goddess movement. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about it and read through it, as Lasara was in the past (in the early 2000s) better known as a sex teacher. The book touches important topics such as avoiding cultural appropriation and heterosexism, and separating Goddess spirituality from the idea of womanhood as a baby-maker.

The construct of “Divine Feminine” is a deification of the feminine stereotypes females are socially pressured into conforming. Instead of fighting patriarchal social norms, it merely validates them and gives them an aura of divinity. “Mother God” is as much a problem as “Father God” in this regard, as the very idea of mothering is so deeply entwined with misogynist, heteronormative, ableist expectations.