The Goddess Mentality – Part 1

 

Painting by Jan Styka in which Athen inspires Odysseus to take vengeance
Painting by Jan Styka in which Athen inspires Odysseus to take vengeance
The Call of Perseus by Edward Burne-Jones
The Call of Perseus by Edward Burne-Jones

I remember being a somewhat insensitive adolescent male – well, insensitive and confused, actually. I mean, why did some women object to traditional roles, and why did they reject pursuing what I had been taught they had always pursued? Why wouldn’t they want men to regard them as beautiful and attractive? Of course, who gets to decide what is beautiful or attractive and the purpose that this serves? Although this was and is a complex, nuanced area of debate, I see now that many of the objections were against being defined by the expectations and desires of men. Let me say as a man that these are not always bad, but I know also that they are certainly not always good.

Zeus and Thetis on Mount Olympus (1811) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Zeus and Thetis on Mount Olympus (1811) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

 I’m afraid the title of this post might promise more than it can possibly deliver. Let me concentrate on an irony. In the 1960s and 1970s, I heard arguments that women should not be placed on pedestals and treated as goddesses because this created impossible expectations and societal pressures which they could not hope to satisfy. Oddly enough, such unrealistic standards also have a tendency to sell real women short by ignoring  many other facets of their skills and personalities.

Detail from Pearls of Aphrodite by Herbert James Draper
Detail from Pearls of Aphrodite by Herbert James Draper

Perhaps due to my age, I am struck by the contrast between then and now. While it is true that many women felt empowered by strong female characters from various works of fantasy during the time in question, it seems to me that this approval is much more prominent at present. I’ve even read at least one allegedly feminist post on the virtue of the goddess mentality. Why might this be? Perhaps it reflects the fact that the need to improve the ways in which women are regarded and treated is ongoing and that people who feel disadvantaged or mistreated may be prone to seeking exaggerated examples of equality or even superiority.

Pallas Athena by Jan Styka
Pallas Athena by Jan Styka

With all the emphasis that feminism receives in current society, this raises some interesting questions.  Does feminism meet the needs of women, or does it leave them isolated and even more vulnerable to male exploitation by stripping away conventional protections? Then again, what does “feminism” actually mean? There are a number of definitions out there, and the version to which one subscribes is of importance when considering the previous question.

bvs4

Okay, now I’ve done it. I was originally going to make this one post, but I have the distinct impression of choking on more than I can swallow. Before I bring down on my head the wrath of over 50 percent of the human race, please allow me to defer continuing this discussion until next week. Don’t excoriate me yet. Trust me – I’m a man.

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18 thoughts on “The Goddess Mentality – Part 1”

  1. Just leaving the link above because its easy to get confused about the issue and there are so many people out there with negative agendas who seek to muddy the definition of the word.

    The idea of being pedestal, or the Goddess Mentality, was not something all women had to worry about, only Straight, cis-gender White women. Women with other identities are treated differently, and uniquely, under sexism, and feminism alone is not enough to address how sexism intersects with disability, or transgender status, or being a WoC.

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    1. Thank you for the link. I will check it out when I’m off work. Please understand that I’m trying to stimulate discussion, so I appreciate your contribution. I had this inane desire to stir the pot a bit, but I think this sort of exchange can be helpful if done properly. Also, I’m not done yet. There are a couple more posts coming on this topic. I don’t think I’ll be able to come close to satisfying everybody (I’ll ask questions for which I don’t have definite answers), but this topic interested me and was worth a try.

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      1. True.
        I would be very wary of anyone claiming that we are all on the same page , or that’s there’s only one kind.

        There’s probably as many different types of feminism as there are women, because each group of women is going to have different ideas of how to practice it.

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  2. For all intents and purposes, I am a Feminist. But as someone who CHOSE a more traditional feminine role, I think this goddess mentality is in error as long as it is intentionally removed from its cultural history of being tied to the special role women play in reproduction. Biology dictates our role as nurturers, at least for the first few years of new human life. When Feminists divorce this biological reality from their philosophy, their ideologies necessarily suffer an incompleteness. Just my thoughts:)

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    1. Your thoughts (as everyone else’s) are welcome. Thank you for contributing. I was a little apprehensive about doing this little series because of the potential for people to get upset. As long as we’re all civil (which you certainly were), this could be a good exchange. Take care.

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    2. See, I disagree. I refuse to allow the idea that just because I’m a woman I’m automatically nurturing. Plus I’m no longer capable of having children, so how does this traditional role work for someone like me. There is also the idea that Black women have been cast in the role of being everybody’s Mammy or caretaker ,which is why I won’t allow that to be my philosophy. Too often it is that idea that women are natural caretakers that’s been used as a reason to exploit black women’s labor. This philosophy also does not take transgender women into account. This is what is meant by intersectional Feminism. What works wonders for you isn’t universal. It’s only working for you.

      That’s said, I do think that the Goddess Mentality gets corrupted when it’s taken out of context from its traditional roots in the roles of women in religion itself. But I also dont ascribe to that either, as I’m an atheist. For me that discussion is just intellectual an exercise.

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    3. I disagree with the idea that my biology dictates that I be a caretaker for anyone. Too often that philosophy has been used to exploit and devalue black women’s labor, this claim that we are natural nurturers.. It’s is not a universal philosophy that works with all women. I’m not religious, I’m not a nurturer, I don’t have, and never wanted kids, and now can’t have any. So where does that philosophy leave women like me, or transgender women, for that matter? This is a philosophy that works only for you personally. Not all of us. This is where the idea of Intersectionality comes into play.

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      1. Um… men don’t lactate. Only women can. Up until the very recent discovery of adequate substitutions for breast milk, this biological reality dictated the roles women played. Simple as that.

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      2. If you’d like to learn more about how trans women fit into this biological model, do your research on PNW Indigenous tribes and their matriarchal society. Just because our current cultural climate is skewed doesn’t mean it has always been this way over the course of human history. But again, it’s shortsighted to view the issues you raise as being novel. And I resent the fact that the Goddess image has been appropriated by modern individuals and wrested away from its RELIGIOUS vestiges. You can disagree, and claim you are not a nurturing individual, where do you fit in? I am also not a nurturing individual, but my body sure as hell is. Once those hormones took over, my primitive womanhood kicked in. I can never look at Feminist theory the same way after that experience. Naomi Wolf’s “Misconceptions” is another good read if you are interested in what I’m relating here.

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  3. I think what a lot of people miss… is that the role of women, and of men, is better when opportunities are equally available AND then each man and woman can choose the role that fits him or her best.

    Saying “a woman’s place is in the home” ignores all the women who want to do other things. It also ignores men who would happily accommodate such women because those men kind of like being in the home. Meanwhile, fighting against that stereotype does harm to the women who want to be in the home and shouldn’t be made to feel as that is wrong if they want to be there.

    It’s like trying to tell people what they should or shouldn’t wear… You shouldn’t cover up too much… don’t reveal too much either… do what I want, not what you want! We all get needlessly wrapped up in trying to dictate to others without regard to what they might want.

    Some women are oppressed into situations they don’t want… Others would like to choose those situations without it being forced upon them… and all manner of variations of alternatives exist too!

    On equality… some think equality means there would be 50% male/female split in all occupations… but that assumes all women and all men want to do the exact same things! We know that isn’t true. The problem isn’t that we need (or have a lack) of 50% split across the gender… the problem is that men and women are made to feel like they are wrong unless they want certain things.

    We need to eliminate the barriers, let people choose what they want… and if more men choose a thing… or more women choose a thing… that’s fine! A world where everyone has the same chance, and can choose their path… that should be the goal.

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