Feminism: A 21st Century Goddess of Healing

Appeared on Feminism and Religion, October 7, 2013

The healing face of Feminism hovers just out of sight behind your shoulder, but is still always there for you, whispering encouragement and guidance whenever you doubt your own sacredness. Or maybe She has always faced you, bold and strong, with the features of an ancestress or hera pushing you to act on your unique gifts. Have you seen Her?

From the time I was five, in the early 1960s, when an inner voice told me that it was good to question the constrictions on the lives of the women around me, through all the years of making my way through the exhausting morass of life as a contemporary woman, Feminism has been a deep and ever-flowing well of strength and power to which I could always go in times of despair or indecision. Still, it has been by witnessing the trauma of other’s women’s lives that I first truly understood the importance of Feminism’s healing aspect.

Once I began to listen for it, I heard such great anguish in so many women’s voices in circle as they described how their childhood religions made them feel unworthy, left out, sinful and impure solely for being female. Women trapped in abusive marriages because their religion forbade divorce, women barred from their life mission because religious leadership positions are only open to men, women who simply do not want to marry and have children forced into a life they would not choose by religious definitions of women’s roles – I met so many women in each of these situations whose souls, and sometimes their bodies, were battered and in need of tender care. Even when the violence, belittling, and repression had a seemingly secular cause, how could these perpetrators see the divinity within women and how could women’s souls not be wounded by such abuse?

I had been active in political feminism, especially, since my teens, but suddenly I realized that all these women’s spirits had been so devastated by male-centric religions that the political progress I had set as my goal would never alone make them whole. Women’s souls must be healed and considered to be as worthy as men’s before women’s full equality, safety, and happiness can be achieved.

Now I see Feminism’s healing at work all around me, nurturing souls by honoring the sacredness in women in so many different ways. I remember my grandmother tutoring women in her community to read and write. I think of a woman in her 80s who stood in front of her friends and neighbors, perhaps for the first time, telling her story of a lifetime of domestic violence in order to let other women know help was available. I cheered an older woman who had finally found her voice in acting teach other women in a senior center drama class. We can all see so many examples every day.

I have seen three means, in particular, at work in these acts of spiritual healing. First, creativity is a direct channel to women’s expression of their own sacredness as each woman’s artist within guides her to where she needs to go. So often women who thought they were not good enough to be “an artist” or that they had nothing to say are stunned at their own genius that reveals itself in their creative works.

Second, listening in a way that shows that you really want to know what a woman has to say is, in itself, affirming of a woman’s sacredness. Focusing on a woman’s words without giving advice or trying to solve her situation, just acknowledging that you understand, has a magical way of nourishing bereft souls.

The third is kindness. So many women in our world have known so little kindness in their lives that even the smallest act – greeting the harried cashier at the supermarket by name – can be a numinous moment of healing. Simply being kind speaks clearly through action that you value and salute the inherent sacredness of all the women you encounter.

One of the best aspects of these practices is that they heal by meeting a woman wherever she is in her own journey. Even if we do not agree with the women with whom we interact on all aspects of spirituality, politics, or social policy, building this foundation of understanding and empathy as we honor each other’s souls can be the first steps to creating the bonds among a diversity of women that are both healing in themselves and important if we are to make widespread political and social progress.

Feminism is, to me, a dynamic political and social movement; but it is now also the healing spirit within all those who see and revere the sacred in all women. Thinking of Feminism’s healing aspect as a 21stcentury Goddess has brought Her power more fully into my life. As a Goddess, She would have two means to manifest in our world. One is the spiritual healing that women do for each other. The other is activism that changes society, a way of creating a healthy environment for all women to live in. Perhaps her sacred symbolic objects are a mirror to show each woman her own divine worth and a ballot to symbolize the activism needed to act on that. She would look like all women and speak all languages. She might wear a cloak of feathers to fly to all women in need of Her, flowers to represent the blossoming of spirit that is each woman’s birthright, and a seashell necklace as a reminder that our souls are as vast as the ocean. Her story might tell of a time of power, followed by millennia underground gaining the wisdom and strength that comes from sorrow and loss, with an arising in our present time to help us make our world one of equality, justice, and peace. May She shine brightly on you and through you.

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