Friday, January 21, 2011

embracing the faces of the goddess

How do you make peace with gender roles in your practice/identity?

In the past few years, I have become far more “domestic” than I ever thought I would be. I knit, I crochet, I can, I make candles, I sew and I work in education. In a nutshell, I embody a fair amount of stereotypical gender roles ascribed to my sex, which is particularly ironic given that I refused to learn all those “girly” skills from my mother because there was no way in bloody hell that I was going to be a “good wife”. Oh, did I mention that I also got married just over a year ago?

Life really does have a way of humbling us when we least expect it!
Anyways, back to the topic at hand…

One of the things that draws many people to this path is that it revalorizes the female and puts it in a position of balance with the male. But that balance seems to get a bit muddled for me as I delve into some of the stories that we tell in the “wicca” path, for example, the idea of the stag king and the goddess. I’ve heard of events where the men compete for the role of the stag king and I find myself cringing at the gender based division of this activity.

By the same token, often activities assigned to women (all voluntary for both genders) tend to valorize their domestic role and rarely try to create a role for woman outside of her assigned gender role. Is this because women don’t ask for it, or because experience has shown that they don’t tend to participate, or is there a darker, more sinister reason behind this absence of the female quest in our society?

And what do I personally make of this when I myself embody those female roles, even though the feminist in me is somewhat ill at ease with the fact that I am happier knitting in a circle than chopping wood?

As a female I don’t always identify with the virgin queen or the mother goddess, especially since I am neither in my everyday life! I don’t want to be the virginal huntress (Diana) or the goddess of prostitution (Inanna). I’m not just a healer (Brighid), not am I solely an analytical thinker (Athena). And yet, I am all these things and more. And I do find myself identifying and valorizing the “female” arts quite a bit in my own life.

I find myself often wondering where is the fine line between being proud of being a woman and all the things ascribed to my role as “woman” and renouncing the stereotypes and reclaiming my other roles.

I wonder if learning to navigate this paradox is what really shapes and defines us as people. Some women (or men) will lean more towards their ascribed roles than others, and some will lean towards their gender role while also defying it, and some will defy it completely. I hover somewhere in the middle, fluctuating between acceptance and defiance, and I suppose that knowing loopholes and not blindly accepting my gender role, is what makes me a stronger woman. (Or at least, I like to think of myself as a strong woman). But perhaps I need to remind myself to get out of my comfort zone from time to time, and explore the faces of the goddess that I’m sometimes less comfortable with (Kali, Hecate), as well as be less dismissive of the faces of the goddess that I want to kick in the ass for being so seemingly meek (Persephone, Tara).


  1. Great topic! I, like you, am very "domestic" meaning I like all things typically considered feminine. I have had the HARDEST time with this socially. People always question why I wouldn't want to "be" something (insert some non-creative well paying job) as if I am nothing if I don't work in Corporate (used to, don't anymore.) The womens movement was always about choice, but in truth and practice it took a lot of women's choices away. It diminished "women's work" and encouraged women to mimic the men these same women complained about. Oh sure it was about sharing roles, not defining roles to gender - but do couples share roles? Well, since most of the women who worked full time in the company I worked in (including myself) left work and then picked up the kids and went grocery shopping or did other errands on their lunch time, while the men just left work, went home and waited for dinner, I'd say NO. Most of the younger unmarried women had a boyfriend who had moved into HER place and 9 times out of 10 the woman made more money than he did (and a lot of times he was or became unemployed) and the woman did all of the household tasks. That's why so many women are resentful. Spiritually I became empowered by The Goddess, without having to forfeit my femininity.She teaches us that the feminine is powerful, life giving, enriching, important and vital. We don't have to have a "title" or chop wood to be perfect. Yeah we can have it all if we want - but do we really want to DO IT ALL?? Sorry - this is so long.

  2. Hi Aine,
    Thanks for your well thought out comment. I love comments, they always make my day a bit brighter.

    I do agree with what you've said. Honestly, it often feels for my generation we've been told that we can have it all, but once we actually try to do it, it quickly becomes apparent that we can have it all, but at what cost?

    I want to be a strong and independent women, but my generation needs to remember that being strong and independent doesn't mean we have to reject some of the more feminine ascribed roles! In fact, for me, those roles have been very empowering.

  3. Thank you for becoming a new follower over in my little corner of the world....Welcome!

  4. In hindsight, I can see that I never pigeon-holed myself, I could be strong or weak, depending on the situation and the mood I was in. I always preferred being outside cutting the grass or working in the garden, hammering nails and fixing things alongside my dad. I hated cooking and 'housework' . . . still do, but I tolerate it because unfortuantely, society still views the house as the woman's domain and if it's a mess, well you know where the eyes are going to land.

    I guess it's all about striking a balance and embodying all of the attributes of the Goddess/es . . . in the end it's up to us to decide who or what we want to be. I consider myself to be independent and strong, but I still like to have the door opened for me!

    Great topic and I hope I made sense up there!

    Blessed Be,

  5. For me the key is to disrobe from all of the labels and allow my heart to guide me. I happen to be one domestic diva but that does not mean I'm the stereotypical 1950's housewife. It just happens to be my nature. Also, I don't think that meak or mild-mannered have ever been uttered in the same sentence as my name. Bottom line, if we just tune into our organic self and kick those labels to the curb, everyone would just "BE".

    Awesome post! I am so happy I found your blog. Thanks for coming over to my humble abode as well!

  6. Thanks ladies. I think there is so much to be said on this subject and it's fascinating to see how other women feel about the issue. I struggle a lot to articulate what makes me uncomfortable about the way feminism has become a dirty word, the backlash towards "female" roles, and my own ambiguous feelings about being both a RARG feminist and a crafty, homebody wife.

    But I agree, we should just allow people to BE instead of worrying about everything else!

  7. I used to be rebellious about never wanting to do 'women's work' either, but have found myself becoming quite a domestic witch over the past few years. I can cook, I can darn the hell out of some socks, I enjoy crochet and sewing, but I haven't given up on my 'unladylike' attributes such as cursing like the worst kind of sailor or sauntering up alone and ordering exactly the type of beer I want at the bar.

    I've learned to disassociate myself from any labels, whether they be housewife or tomboy and have grown so much more comfortable in my own skin. As for feminism, I consider myself a feminist in that I am all about women's choices on all fronts and will respect any woman (whether she wants to be a career woman or a stay at home mom) so long as her path is her own. :)


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