Most days I am not certain that anyone really cares about what happens to girls. As a mother of a soon-9-year-old daughter, this burns me.
Because I also have a 12-year-old son, I often end up watching movies I wouldn’t chose on my own. Last Friday, we went to see The Avengers sequel, and I left feeling angry. There were two sheroes shadowed by testosterone; both were highly sexualized. After all the hype over Joss Whedon and his “strong female characters” I began to wonder if the Sheroe we really need is Goddess.
Saturday night we had a lively discussion after dinner with my son’s best friend. I shared my observations on the movie and asked for feedback. They told me the only girl heroes they could think of had “huge boobs.” I asked them why they thought there was not equal amounts of sheroes in movies like this and whether they could think of any movies that were comparable in budget to the Superman, Batman, and Spiderman movies that continue to come out year after year.
The reasoning they gave me was enlightening. “All the girl heroes are just so boring.” For boys at an age obsessed with breasts, this comment was telling.
So, I asked them if they thought it would make any difference if God weren’t a guy. After all, aren’t Gods and Goddesses our first and most important heroes?
Neither boy is unfamiliar with my thinking, however both seemed deeply perplexed by this question. They left the dinner table without answering it, taking their plates to the sink as they exited.
The next morning, Jada Pinkett Smith posted the following to her Facebook wall:
“Here’s what a 12 year old girl asked me today:
“Ms. Jada, do you think girls will ever really matter as much as boys, since God is a man?”
The comments to this post were equally enlightening. Few people seemed to question whether God actually is a man. Even those who did still, for the most part, used masculine language to describe “Him”.
I do not believe women can become liberated so long as we hold on to these teachings and beliefs. Many feminists are insistent on ignoring God altogether, which doesn’t address the problem.
Religious thought seeps in early and is very damaging to girls. If God is a man, and “He” is everything that is good and superior, it is easy to conclude that we as females are, in fact, beneath males. Whether you practice a religion or not, this still has a profound effect on our collective thinking.
My daughter is fearless and radical in her promotion of Goddess. It was her that made me rethink my own assumptions about God when she, at the age of five, could not relate to a male God. Her natural rejection of God as male caused me to completely change course in how I was raising her.
At 7, my daughter started telling boys in no uncertain terms that God is a girl. They would shout back angrily that there was no way that was possible, but she was unshaken. Her friends would tell her—privately—that they believed God was a girl, too.
And male authority seeps into everything. Women today still own only one percent of the world’s wealth. That means that men, mostly white Western men, own the rest. Women, by and large, are still dependent on men for that 99 percent. The way we collectively interpret our religious scriptures validates that dependence.
I vowed that my kids would be raised differently. I hungered to provide my daughter with a different foundation than what I was indoctrinated with. I dreamed of raising her to the heights instead of burying her—as we still do with most girls. I didn’t want my daughter to spend most of her adult life unburying herself as I have—and continue to do.
I would argue that we don’t really want girls to have power. Our society pats itself on the back for promoting a little bit of it, but is scared to death of going all the way. When I have approached organizations that profess to support ‘girl power’ with The Girl God books, they usually (politely) run the other direction. A few sheroes are fine here and there, so long as they’re sanitized, but most people draw the line at Goddess.
Alice Walker wrote, “…healing begins where the wound was made.” I believe most wounds women in the world today experience were brought upon by denying the feminine divine. This is done in both subtle and violent ways. If we want a better world for our daughters, we must begin to refuse the superficial empowerment given to placate us and replace it with what can truly nurture female power.
The sheroe girls need is Goddess. We bend over backwards to thank and congratulate men like Joss Whedon who provide us with a few female sheroes, mixed into the background, but these sheroes are easy for men to swallow because they don’t have to give anything up.
Imagine a world where girls learned to be powerful instead of submissive through our churches, mosques and at home. Imagine a world where their Sheroes were Goddesses instead of sexualized supersheroes.
Our collective spirituality has largely been tainted to fit the needs of men and those in power. This has a profound effect on the self-esteem of girls and the women they become. This influence can be seen in their life choices, partners and financial security for the rest of their lives. It also has an effect on the way their future partners will view them—and ultimately treat them.
It’s time for us to become really intentional about what we want for our daughters. If we continue to attempt to superficially empower girls through movies like The Avengers, we will never overcome the root of our oppression.
Trista Hendren is the author of The Girl God series. You can read more about her projects at www.thegirlgod.com.