!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Emerging Women .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Being a woman
In the Dance of the Dissident Daughter Discussion something came up that I thought deserved its own discussion. A couple of people mentioned feeling that using the feminine metaphors and names for God would be insulting to God. They mentioned that this was something they had to work through and examine. It struck me though to see it as insulting. I know that many here are not (yet) comfortable with feminine language for God and we don't need to discuss that right now (unless people want to...) , but I wanted to explore why it might be "insulting" to God. (and I don't mean to limit this to or put on the spot the women who mentioned this already, this is for all of us - men and women).

Are we ashamed of being female? Is being female inferior to being male or feel that way? Why is being labeled with feminine terms such an insult (he ___ like a girl???) (God our mother???)? Did your parents wish you were male (or rejoice that you were)? Did you do that with your children?

Why do we think these ways and what can be done to change it?
Technorati Tags: ,


posted by Julie at 11:10 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/22/2007 07:06:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Julie: Yes, I had that reaction and was shocked by it. I think I have tried for some time now to find names for God that were neither masculine or feminine but never had I made a conscious attempt to just refer to God in feminine terms. The fear of insulting God for me was clearly in part due to some deep down beliefs that women are not as valuable as men. As I continued to journal that night I also sensed that the feminine terms seemed "less inclusive...like I'm missing something" than the masculine. Finally, I wondered if it was heretical.

    Where does this come from? On the surface, I suppose some of it has to do with what I am used to. I rarely hear references to God that are not in the masculine, except the two I have used for a few years now in my own journaling to God. On a deeper level, yes, I think my parents affirmed male authority and superiority but in less overt ways. I have brothers and they went to private colleges while us girls were directed toward state schools, for example. And at the church I grew up in, my father was president of the church council and my mother served on the altar guild, which meant she set up things for communion and arranged flowers and so forth. Us girls often helped her. The faith community I recently left would not allow women in "leadership" positions. Although this was not consistently employed outside of no women pastors. After a time, I just could no longer avoid the obvious message there.

    Intellectually, I have asserted for some time that God has both feminine and masculine traits or energies. I was so surpised to find my heart believed something else. Really surprised. The wounds to my spirit went undetected until I recognized this. And now I am in the process of understanding their roots and what agreements I have made with the enemy about who I am and who God is and what I can expect from God and others.

  • At 1/22/2007 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I think there are alot of things about my image of God-the-father that have fearful connotations for me: God (who seems, for whatever combination of linguistic and cultural reasons, to come across as very male in most Christian tradition,) kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden when they test the limits; God gets so jealous and angry when "his" people worship false gods or lose faith in the OT that his anger burns against them and he wants (and sometimes does) kill them. This image, which obviously is not the whole of scripture, but is a sigificant part of it, comes across to me as an capricious, powerful, jealous male spouse capable of abuse if he is rubbed the wrong way. So I think maybe there's a fear that if I get it wrong...if the fundamentalist picture of God turns out to be right and I am a heretic -- well that won't just be a learning experience...so I fear insulting the male angry God image that might really have it in for me if I get it wrong.

  • At 1/22/2007 11:53:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    My reaction was similar to Nancy's. Intellectually, I accept that God transcends masculine and feminine and yet somehow is captured in each.

    Practically, though, the concept is much more difficult to implement. Like Nancy, I was surprised at my strong reaction to SMK's journey, her understanding of a feminine divine and the conceptualization of a faith journey in primarily feminine terminology.

    As I've pondered my reaction, I see two primary factors that have influenced me. The first is the assumption of a fundamental weakness of women. This can be seen in the feminine terms of an insult, like Julie listed. Recently, I was having a conversation with friends and several mentioned that they would never want a woman as a senior pastor because women are way too emotional and might cry. Traits that tend to be more characteristic of women are somehow less valued, considered "weak" or "inferior in strength". As a result, imagining God's female characteristics feels as if I'm insulting God in some way.

    The other factor SMK actually addressed in the book and has to do with a perception of a uniquely sensual image that comes with feminine conceptualization. When I say sensual, I'm not meaning sexual, although that can be a piece of it. Her concept of baptismal waters being seen as uterine waters stunned me. It seemed so physical, so exclusively woman and so intimate. Feminine imagery, at least for me, takes away much of the transcendental aspects of God. God becomes relational, touching me, interacting in a very sensory, physical way. It's a very different way of thinking of God than the more distance King image!

    What's interesting is that as I tried to grasp my issue with a more sensually based understanding of God, I looked up the definition. Not only is sensual defined as "relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses" it is also defined as "deficient in moral, spiritual or intellectual interests". That definition was telling for me as I journey to conceive of God's feminine characteristics.

    Regarding how to change these ideas, I'm so new in this journey myself, I'm not sure. I do know that as I raise my children, I'm careful about saying anyone does anything "like a girl," at least with a negative intent. I am learning to cherish the wisdom of women in a new way.

  • At 1/22/2007 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    I was meeting with one of mentors today and she pointed out to me that the word for "Holy Spirit" in the NT was neuter (neither m. nor f.) and that in the OT the Hebrew word was feminine! Yet many of the writers I find are furious if one dares to call the Holy Spirit "it". I haven't completely unpacked that one yet. It is a very touchy subject for all but the most "enlightened" men to discuss!

    My husband and I are raising daughters. I love them dearly, passionately, and we have spent many years worrying and praying over "how" we are raising them. It is one of the reasons we refused to home school them or send them to a Christian school. What world view would they receive? Would they understand the breadth and depth of what "Church" means or just the subculture we have been in? Can they see themselves as future global citizens? That they are gifted to serve the Church, wherever that may be in the world?

    Lately I have been thinking about this (and blogged a bit about it here) and have to say that we, as the church, do not do a good job of teaching our WOMEN how to be WOMEN, let alone teaching our girls, teens and young women what to be. It isn't just about what we DON'T want them to be (boytoys or a 3D man magnet), but more about showing them what they CAN be, with their unique set of gifts, personality, interests, etc.

    We have to get beyond roles, responsibilities and hormones. What is the true difference in expressing my femininity vs. other "things" about me? And how do *I* bring my femininity to bear on my ministry? I am not a dude with ovaries... I am a woman by God's design!

    I'm still on this journey - probably lifelong - to uncover and learn this...

    Great question! :)


  • At 1/22/2007 02:14:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Traits that tend to be more characteristic of women are somehow less valued, considered "weak" or "inferior in strength".

    Yes, exactly.

    I don't think most people (and I include myself in this category) have a good understanding of how much our culture has affected the way we think and act on an everyday basis. (I assume that the same thing could be said for those who lived outside of the western world, but I don't have any personal experience in this area.)

    In every culture there is a list of norms by which we frame the rest of our society. In our culture these norms are: white, Christian, male, wealthy, educated, heterosexual, and able-bodied/healthy. (Have I missed any? :) )

    The further away one is from these norms the less likely they are to 1) have a say in the way things are run on many levels: spiritual, political, social, etc 2) have access to positive role models who share and/or messages about their "differences."

    The more that one fits the things listed above often translates into a life in which one has access to experiences and opportunities that someone who doesn't fit as well will not have access to....but it also means that one lives with a certain amount of fear that these privileges will be taken away and of a fear of the "other" or of the "unknown."

    I think this is at least part of the reason why some will say degrading things like "you _____ like a girl," or "that's so gay."

  • At 1/22/2007 09:25:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    For me I think it is a couple of things...
    First, I have been taught to "fear" God and God mostly was referred to as Father. Indirectly, I guess I have linked that to a punishing Father. The "world" around me put women in "certain" roles and the boys were "placed in certain roles". So, my resistance (until recently) was FEAR Based. Fear that God would be angered if I related in feminine terms. I would be punished. The other connection is that Jesus was male. In the world I was raised Jesus is God; God is Jesus...therefore, God is Male.

    I don't feel like I am ashamed to be female, however, I catch myself all of the time acting in subconscious ways that do not align with that thinking. I defend myself in marriage, and if a conflict arises...I am the bad guy causing problems (what I think and my husband will say). Many times I feel I am just causing conflict. I now am carrying that into other worlds, my family, my job-at church etc. When I feel I am standing up for myself/women I feel like an annoying, emotional, loudmouthed Bitch...but then I realize, I think that because that is how strong women are perceived in the "world" I was raised in. I will question myself and beat myself up. If I feel dismissed, "It must be that I am not communicating well". At church I still fight the feeling "that the men know what they're doing, so I need to back off". I respect many of them for the years that they have done what they do, the vision they have, the experience and knowledge that they have; in turn sometimes I forget that they are not women. I can't expect them to understand the position of a woman, just as I don't understand the pressures they have as men. In that, I remind myself that I need to speak up.
    I do agree with SMK that our patriarchial world has really impacted our thinking of God. I know God is not male, but if I think about "God Speaking" I hear a male voice.
    I don't know what it will take to get away from this thinking. I am trying hard to drop the "He" thinking of God around my children. I have made comments to my kids that God is not male or female...but it is hard, because they are young and it is still above them (shoot it is above me). I try to monitor what they are watching or seeing that would create those thoughts...but we are surrounded. I encourage my kids all the time. I am trying to make sure my daughter feels empowered, smart, and able bodied. I think so much of my thinking of God has been the connection to "society". I am hoping to change that some, so that the "feminine" will be easier to mesh with the masculine.

  • At 1/23/2007 01:33:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe


    You are facing so many complex challenges in your life and even from within yourself, and I really admire your self-awareness and the way you press on in your journey, committed more to the truth than the status quo.

  • At 1/23/2007 09:00:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks Jemila,
    Sometimes I feel like I spend my life analyzing over and over again. It grows tiring. I know that we have to keep pressing on. About the time I want to throw in the towel, strength shows up and I keep pressing on. I'm a glutton for punishment ;). Thanks again for the encouraging words.

  • At 1/23/2007 01:04:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Michele, I'm praying that Mother God will help you be compassionate with yourself. Let her hold you sometimes. I too am prone to a great deal of self-analysis and it can either be positive or it can turn into a kind of stressful striving, without a spirit of rest and grace. sometimes I just have to remind myself to come aside for a mug of hot chocolate or whatever is soothing and refreshing, so that I can keep going without drying up in exhaustion. So I'm ordering you a metaphorical fair trade hot chocolate, to be sipped at your pleasure :)

  • At 1/23/2007 05:02:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks, I appreciate it.

  • At 2/14/2007 08:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Hello all. I am so happy to have found this site! Wow, amazing. I have been feeling like some sort of rebellious oddball and I am relating to all of you so much! I've been studying woman in history, woman in the church, woman in church history,plain old church history and more...much for.... for over 10 years now.I've recently left my Church of many many years.It's been hard times for myself & my family. I think we have problems thinking of God as anything but male because God Himself refers to Himself as He. Jesus told us to pray like this "Our FATHER.... I think that is one of the reasons we as woman (& men too) think there is something more "glorious" about being a male verses being a female. How can we get around it? It's painful. I think. Very much so. I can't rise above the feeling that God relates to male, and we are some strange "off shoot" of the "real thing." I am immensy more knowledgable than I was 10 years ago.... but I feel like I gone full circle...Hummmmm....very disheartening. Anyway, it surely is refreshing to share with you. I think I need women who understand more than more knowledge. Seems Iam in the minority at my previous church.Or maybe other woman just Keep silent... I can't "keep silent" any longer. I'll explode. Love to hear from any or all of you, and thank you all bunches.



Links to this post:

Create a Link