The resurgence of Goddess centred feminism, activism and spirituality washed across the western world like a wave during the 1960s, though it began to gather force decades earlier. Some fifty years on we are perhaps legislatively closer to finding a partnership or equality with the masculine forces of our world. However, women continue to be less well paid, still strive to conform to male fantasies of the perfect female body, the corporate glass ceiling still looks fairly intact from where I’m standing (though there’s an illusion of a ladder up to the next floor), post menopausal women are still cast aside in the media and rape and domestic abuse of women is still intolerably high. As a sex, we’re still frightened to speak, to take our power, to assert our womanhood, to bask confidently in it.
This generation of working mothers – many raised by pioneer and second generation career women – are struggling even more with the burden of ‘having it all’. Having it all might be possible, but only if you’re not doing it all, only if you operate in a parenting and life partnership that shares responsibility equitably, and that’s rare (or can afford a domestic household staff to effectively run your life!). This current generation of 28 -54 year old women are more burned out, sick and over medicated than ever before. It is not surprising that between 60% and 70% of ME Chronic Fatigue sufferers are women, and that figures from the US state that currently, 1 in 4 women are on antidepressants as opposed to 1 in 7 men.
Not only are we overburdened and stressed out as a sex, we’re also numbing our emotions and suppressing our anxieties like never before. As women, were are so far removed from our centre, that it’s leading to dis-ease at an unprecedented rate. If this isn’t the time for goddess, spiritually centred feminism and activism, when? If we are not the generation to honour and reverence that goddess centred womanhood we’ve re-connected with, then who, and if we don’t connect and create networks and webs, then how are we to nurture the next generations of balanced, caring, humane human beings that this world so badly needs? Women influence. Our children imprint upon us, we fundamentally shape their identities, if we’re too medicated to feel and respond to the emotional ups and downs of life, how can we teach our children to cope in a world made raw with it?
I can’t stand by and watch us raise yet another generation of girls who are ashamed of their bodies, who call their bleeding fertility a curse. Neither do I don’t want to keep having conversations with painfully embarrassed mothers who just don’t know how to talk to their daughters about puberty and healthy, positive awakening of sensuality and sexuality and yet, I find myself still having such conversations.
Part of the problem is the fragmentation of society. Whereas in the past, close community living would have meant that younger women would have benefitted from the confidence and guidance of older family matriarchs who’d gained a broader perspective on life. Now, most of us work and live away from our roots, families are not bound in quite the same way and neighborhoods, towns and villages are often commuter bases rather than communities. We’re increasingly isolated, and too frantically busy keeping our heads above water to reach our and connect. An ant depressant popped twice a day are a more convenient solution to pain, hurt and disappointment than a good few hours of talking it out with friends.
The rise in women’s groups, both in cyberspace and in actual, in terms of Red Tent movement, Goddess circles and temples, reading and writing groups and so on is a positive and direct response to all of this. Having stretched the invisible elastic so far, we’re bouncing back to community, to gatherings that support and celebrate womanhood, that allow us to explore all that it means to be woman. Importantly, it is by sharing and celebrating our experience of womanhood, of its challenges and richness, of the sheer depth and potentiality of our sex, that we will find the encouragement and strength to go back into the world as essential woman, not as numbed, high performing, emotionally controlled humans, but as highly empathetic, emotionally responsive, sensual, powerful women, who hold the future of this planet, in our words, in our actions, in our love and nurturing as well as in our wombs.
That is why Goddess centred feminism, activism and spirituality matters – it’s vital. It is the force of compassion, education, understanding and empowerment that determines our future, that will redress the balance, but it still feels as though we’re just in the foothills of the climb. The Return to Centre Retreat series I founded in 2011 is a very small contribution, but it brings some 16 women of all ages together each year, and most stay in touch, visit each other and form deep, supportive friendships who are really there for each other. Cath and I who organise the retreat are there to devise a programme of activity, share goddess stories and facilitate. It is the women themselves who support and counsel, encourage and propel each other through the issues and difficulties they bring to the retreat. Some are now developing their own work with women, which was a core part of our aim. Ultimately we must support more women to support more women. Every group, every red tent, every temple, every online community every project plays its part, it spreads a little enlightenment, each woman it touches is empowered and so we inspire change in the world, one woman, one sister, one daughter, one mother at a time.