The debate over the power of government to regulate and control women’s reproductive abilities —just one aspect of the war on women — builds on a long history of women’s subjugation. Women’s ability to connect, conceive, and create life has always vexed those who aspire to dominate. Starting in the second millennium BC, women were blamed for the advent of sin and childbirth was condemned as divine punishment. For a period, men even claimed that their “seed” gave life, relegating women to the role of incubators for their offspring. Women were further denigrated during the Inquisition, when our sacred knowledge of plants and healing herbs was destroyed or driven underground, and our mothers’ mothers’ mothers’ bodies were raped, flogged, and burned.
Women, like the earth, have long been viewed as resources to be managed. Although this perception is expressed more subtly today than in previous centuries, it is the root of widespread domestic violence, sex trafficking, rape, and femicide.
At the same time, we are also experiencing a resurgence of the Divine Feminine. Receptivity, desire for connection, making room for another: These attributes describe women’s most fundamental ways of being in the world. We connect; we receive people with an attitude of nurture and collaboration; we work together. What happens when we begin to envision God this way, as open and connected?
Although marginalized in the Christian traditions, the Divine Feminine understanding of God exists. The Hebrew and Christian Bibles contain references to God as a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15), a female bear (2 Samuel 17:8), a mother hen (Matthew 23:27), and Lady Wisdom (Proverbs 1:20-33). Other faith traditions place more emphasis on feminine qualities of the Divine.
You might ask if it matters. Does enlarging our understanding of the Divine have any real impact on our world and the war on women? I believe that when we are rooted in a more nurturing understanding of the Divine, we are empowered to love our deepest selves and release the destructive weapon of judgment, which we often wield first against ourselves and then against others. When we feel connected to a supportive, non-judging God, we can engage in power with, not power over or power against. By broadening our understanding of the Divine and our essential connectedness, we can forge new models of healing and collaboration. We can transform the dominant paradigm by changing it from the ground up.