The State of Women’s Spirituality
I have just been reading a ton of women’s spirituality books, and have been somewhat disheartened. Writing on women’s spirituality seems to fall into two categories:
1) Sacred feminine/goddess worship: The general theme is that we have a special feminine power, and our main connection to mystic experience is through this. This feminine power is ‘sensual’, ‘connected to nature’, and more ‘from the heart’ then men’s power. We naturally connect to divinity through this power, which manifests especially through our relationships to others.
2) Motherhood and wifehood are women’s special spiritual ‘work’: We are the ‘nurturers’ of the world, and the love we manifest as caretakes, especially as mothers, is the foundation for our connection to God.
Does this bother anyone else? They both seem to me to be updated versions of old steroetypes. What about women who don’t feel that nurturing? Or who choose to manifest their power in traditionally masculine realms? Or who, heaven forbid, don’t want to be mothers or caretakers? Are they excluded from a spiritual life? Many of these books seem to be saying that. In the guise of combatting patriarchy by celebrating womenhood, they end up defining us in the same way men did for centuries – as wives and mothers first.
It really is this strange trend that feminism wrought, when applied to spirituality. Many women spiritual writers in the last thirty years or so have focused on critiquing the ways the major world religions have excluded and persecuted women. And of course that is much needed. But the result has been defining feminine spirituality solely in terms of goddess worship and the sacred feminine, and too often these ended up being watered down to overused ideals like ‘nurturing’ and ‘sensuality’.
And what about the idea that spirituality is about moving past these kinds of identification altogether? Moving even beyond gender ideals, and experiencing pure spirit? This is the kind of feminine spirituality I am interested in – one that addresses the unique challenges many of us modern women face, particularly in balancing work and family and spirituality, but that ultimately moves us beyond these definitions altogether.