Elevate Difference

Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Issue 9

What a journal! Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Issue 9 is a beautiful and inspiring electronic resource. Thinking about Goddesses is this edition’s theme. Editors Lise Weil and Hye Sook Hwang present fourteen articles made up of personal essays and poetry complete with moving artwork and pictures. What is Goddess worship? As a follower of Jungian theory, I am intrigued by the concept of the divine feminine—a fundamental force in the human psyche existing to be made conscious—a sacred element that brings unity with one self and nature, ultimately bringing balance to the masculine energies that have usurped our culture. The writing featured in this journal suggests that the urge towards spirituality advances the feminist cause rather than undermines it.

“My journey to Goddess was not about searching for something to believe in but more about looking for how to believe in myself,” writes Vanita Leatherwood in her personal essay "Testify," in which she recalls her battle between religion and sexuality and how turning to the Goddess led to greater “self-alliance” and empowerment. The same idea resonates throughout many of the fabulous works presented. There is a sense of wonder as you read these women’s stories; most of the writings here are fluid and embody a tone of profound sensitivity. Each of their personal philosophies seem to secrete from a place of deep knowing and you can’t help but feel that these women have become stronger as a result of reclaiming the lost feminine element in their lives.

Two essays particularly ensnared my curiosity. First, in "When hens were flying and God was not yet born," Luciana Percovich questions the responsibility of women and not just men in facilitating the climate of oppression. Acknowledging the opposing masculine and feminine forces, yin and yang, within the female body is vital in awakening consciousness; balancing these aspects would be to challenge “deadly envies” and “hierarchy” which exist in our society. In her current research about female cosmogonies, she discovers that in the same way as the X chromosome contains the Y, creation stories in the Early Times before God regard a ‘She-energy’ that encloses the male—the first sex is female, not male, as the ancient male narratives uphold.

The second remarkable proposal by Judy Grahn contends that menstruation lies at the root of all cultural practices. In "Goddess is Metaformic," she puts forward in convincing fashion the theory of Metaformic Consciousness—whereby any object natural or material holds menstrual significance; an object as simple as a pot becomes a symbol of the womb. And of course these objects or “metaforms” include deities. Exploring this notion in the context of South Indian society, Kerala in specific, where Grahn conducted her research, she explains that girls or “maidens” are worshipped as Goddesses during menarche (the first menstrual period). The powerful and primal energy of Shakti is evoked at this time and believed to flow through the adolescent who undergoes a menarche ritual that is celebrated as a kind of awakening or rebirth of consciousness as well as a transitory period.

In an interesting contrast, the poetry by Katie Manning, "First Blood," "Well" and "The History of Bleeding" encapsulates the shame and guilt felt by women in biblical times, where patriarchy construed the natural cycle as something unnatural and unclean. I am nonetheless quite gripped by Grahn’s idea as it contructs a female experience of the world and this is the feeling you consequently get after considering each of these passionate academic, personal and creative articles. By connecting everyday objects and the natural world to the sacred and feminine, we begin to respect, revere and heal our self and the Earth. As the title of this issue of Trivia suggests, Goddesses are entirely worth “thinking about” for this reason.

What is problematic about the reliance on the feminine principle however is the return it signals to the polarization of gender—the factor at the root of patriarchy. Whilst "feminine" is not equated with "woman" nor "masculine" with "man" in the context of the divine, they are still intimately allied. As the Goddess experiences in this installment unearth, this spiritual predilection is still a positive step towards creating a system that values a woman’s experience of the world. I loved learning about Amaterasu, the Japanese Sun Goddess and Inanna—a Mesopotamian deity with an array of attributes that include aggressive lover and warrior, and, in reading about how these powerful symbols influenced and strengthened the lives of these authors, I found the material enlightening.

Trivia: Voices of Feminism is an authoritative journal of great worth. The bonus: it’s free to access.

Written by: Payal Patel, June 20th 2009

That's a very good point you've made, Charlotte. Thank you for your thoughts.

I'm sorry, thank you, PAYAL, for this review.

Thank you for this review, Lise, especially your criticism in the last paragraph. As a student of mythology myself, I understand what these writers are attempting to describe. But uncritically labeling one end of a pole "feminine" and another "masculine" when the opposites are asexual -- e.g., mattter and energy -- merely repeats and reinforces a gendered understanding of the world. And that has real consequences for real women and men.

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