Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
There is a marketing movement afoot to sell things to women by telling them a product or service will help them “Embrace Your Inner Goddess,” “Be the Goddess You Already Are,” or other such nonsense. The implication is that this will be good for women, but I think it is misguided.
I have no idea what a Goddess would be or look like, but I’m pretty sure I would hate to be one. Looking at religion and mythology, there are two different kinds of Gods and Goddesses.
The omnipresent divinity, whether male, female, or somehow both, is either a Big Brother, eye-in-the-sky observer or an energy that is present within each element of reality. Either way, I can’t reconcile the idea of being that kind of godhead with the reality that I live in a human body with human limitations.
So, I turn to the other sorts of Gods and Goddesses, the ones who function as models of psychological archetypes. And I wouldn’t want to be any of them either. Stuck in one, or maybe two, modes of functioning, each God or Goddess is incomplete, the image of merely one facet of human personality. True humans are complex muddles of desires, limitations, vices, and virtues. A rich understanding of self requires acknowledging the fullness of our complexity, embracing the oddities, the quirks, the inconsistencies within us.
No archetypical Goddess has the full richness of humanity and no omnipresent Goddess faces the limitations of a single body and a single set of experiences that form each unique human being.
The argument for using Goddess talk to empower women claims that in order to value women, we must reclaim the value of the feminine that has been suppressed under patriarchy; we must celebrate the feminine and Goddess imagery is the ultimate celebration of femininity.
The trouble is, there is no such thing as femininity. Psychologically, men and women are more similar than different. Physically, there are distinct differences between men and women, but the association of certain certain psychological traits with men and others with women does a disservice to everyone.
Love, compassion, nurturing, and capacity for sacrifice are not feminine traits. They are human traits. Emotional depths and intuitive knowing are not feminine traits. They are human traits. They are undervalued components of humanity and have been projected onto undervalued humans, but they are universal. Like all human characteristics, different people embody them in different proportions, and their expression can be encouraged or discouraged by society.
The people I want to spend my time with are driven, passionate, strong, interdependent, and compassionate. Whether they are men or women is irrelevant. But, because I include both driven and compassionate in my list of desirable traits, I tend to hang out with people who float around in the gap between gender stereotypes – people who express the mix of human richness.
The best way to empower women is to empower people, whole people: strong, driven independent women: soft, compassionate, nurturing men; gentle women; tough guys; everybody.
Generally, when women are encouraged to embrace their inner goddess, they are being encouraged to value the part of their personality that is categorized as feminine instead of other parts of their personalities.
Which brings me to fluffy bunnies.
“I didn’t say I’d never slay another vampire. It’s not like I have all these fluffy bunny feelings for them, I’m just not going to get way extra-curricular with it.” — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The term fluffy bunny is used as a term for someone focused on love and light, often in the context of Wicca, without respect for the darkness that is also part of the natural order. Fluffy bunnies are naive, with unrealistic views of the good within the world. In the context of Wicca, this often shows up as an emphasis on soft, nurturing, mother goddess.
Have you ever seen an angry mother rise up to defend or protect her child or a tough mother pushing her child to embrace a risk or challenge in order to grow into a strong adult? Mothers can be tough, vengeful, angry, and stubborn – and that can be a good thing. And that’s just mothers. Women undertake many roles in life and there is room for softness and toughness in all of them.
I find most people who encourage women to see themselves as goddesses believe that valuing compassion and connection will make the world a better place and that this can be done by embracing goddess imagery.
I don’t disagree on the value of compassion and connection, but I don’t see goddess imagery as the best way to get there.
For one thing, either a goddess is a limited slice of nature or she is all of nature: good, bad and indifferent. Neither is a useful analogy to the limited complexity of humanity.
I would rather we get away from the whole idea and start embracing the wondrous complexity of the human.