On Faith: Faith and Feminism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 14, 2011 — 23 Comments

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

“The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God,” former President Jimmy Carter said last week. Many traditions teach that while both men and women are equal in value, God has ordained specific roles for men and women. Those distinct duties often keep women out of leadership positions in their religious communities. What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

If the goddesses are suppressed, if they are erased from history, reduced to lesser roles, or turned into demons, then there is no divinity that reflects the female experience. Instead of being the originators of life, subduers of injustice, and the source of all sovereignty, women are instead bearers of the “original sin.” No sane philosopher or theologian can claim this doesn’t change the very nature of a culture, or the way we perceive gender. Imagine for a moment how different the ever-raging debate over legal access to abortion, or even contraception, whether for or against, would be if women were seen as the final holy arbiters in the matter of creating life. I can only guess we’d see something very different from the parade of old white male politicians exclaiming about “moral” issues and threatening basic health care for women in the process. Once you open your mind to that first exercise in a world with goddesses it’s hard not to think of dozens, hundreds, more. Female priests and feminine divine pronouns would hardly skim the surface.

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Well said Jason. As a Daughter of Goddess, I thank you.

  • I noticed a couple regulars have decided not to submit an article on this topic. Where's the good Father? 😉

  • Sadly, even a cursory look back through history (and around and polytheistic societies today) puts paid to the idea that goddesses in the religion = power for women in the society, certainly not automatically…

    • Jennifer Parsons

      Thank you for pointing this out. I'd love to think that veneration for goddesses or even Goddess would translate into greater power and autonomy extended to women, but history shows this has not necessarily been the case. By the same token, supporting gender equality does not necessarily translate into worship of any goddess. The Vatican's rejection of the the Divine Feminine is a symptom of its male chauvinism, not the cause.

      Still, modern Pagans have come to feminism through love of Goddess (or goddesses!), and vice versa. I wonder what we have in our approach to gender equality and female divinities that our Ancestors did not?

  • lynn

    Bravo, Jason.

  • Star Foster

    I had every intention of ignoring this new wave of interest over God's Wife and feminine Divinity until I read Jason's On Faith article. He nailed it. Well done!

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Yeah, he done good!

  • A cautionary note: Worshiping a goddess does not make a person feminist. I've encountered plenty of pagan misogynists who are barely even aware of their misogyny – Putting women on a pedestal is actually not much better than putting them under one's feet. Feminism is seeing women as totally equal people who are not a monolith, who are smart enough to make decisions about their own lives and bodies, who make up 50% of the human race and therefore deserve to have 50% of the voice. Recognizing feminine divinity is very important, but recognizing feminine humanity is much more important.

    • Ursyl

      Well said!

  • Dennis Nock

    jason , well done lad ……..i am truely happy that there a people like you out and about commenting and making noise in a pagan context so that our voices are heard in a major news paper , and also the washington post for allowing our positions to be heard , and that we’re here. thank you to you both Kilm

    • I completely agree. You do very well by us, and your efforts are not going unnoticed. Thanks so much for your commitment to representing Pagans.

  • Thanks for that wonderful essay, Jason! I tried to comment on the Washington Post page but somehow it wouldn't let me!

  • Thank you, Jason, for this amazing response.

  • The female commentators were uniformly against religiously-proscribed gender discrimination, which was not at all surprising. What was surprising, and heartening, was that a majority of the male commentators were also in the anti-bias camp. Small steps, of course, but all journeys begin this way.

  • Fire

    Bad Pagan! Mustn't poke the Christians with pointy sticks,,,,unless you've brought enough of them for everyone so we can all join in too.

    Rev_Ellen wrote:

    That's where I wanted to say…"Priests are married to God, so God must be a WOMAN!!!"

  • harmonyfb

    ::chuckle:: If he'd tried that explanation at my kindergardner's class (where 3/10 kids have lesbian parents), he'd have gotten a rude awakening.

    • Fire

      If that's the case, wouldn't their spouse be their wife?

      More importantly, do lesbians refer to their partner as the old ball and chain when they're out with their friends too?

      harmonyfb wrote:

      "::chuckle:: If he'd tried that explanation at my kindergardner's class (where 3/10 kids have lesbian parents), he'd have gotten a rude awakening."

  • Amy Hale

    Just wanted to say nicely done. Good strong essay for that audience.

  • No no no. God is a man!

    It means the priests are homosexual 🙂

  • Yes, everyone should read your full excellent WaPo Post. WTG, Jason!