On Being Authentic: Thank goodness for spiritual leaders like Marianne Williamson. Her honesty about her daily struggles, her political beliefs, and her life is encouraging. She doesn’t claim to be a fully enlightened being. She simply shares her truth, and this makes her a highly effective leader. Though people with “all the answers” might be comforting for a little while, they are eventually dis-empowering. To me, something seems off when spiritual leaders cast everything in a positive light and do not share their personal struggles or their honest opinions. For example, if a spiritual leader is an American, perhaps he or she should honestly share whether he or she cast a vote for Clinton, Trump, or a third party. Maybe some spiritual leaders stayed home and ate ice cream and that would be worth reporting as well. I enjoy knowing what people honestly think, not in order to be manipulated by their thought process but to know how their mind works.
Some spiritual teachers might want to draw in the biggest crowd, so they do not implicitly state where they stand and offer encouragement after the election results to help us on our journeys. Though encouragement and empowerment is awesome, I find this stance a little “tricky” or “sneaky.” I prefer a blatant honesty about one’s journey. From the beginning, I have known that my expressions will offend some people, speak to others, and mean a great deal to others, but the more authentic I am, the more there is a chance for someone to recognize me as a voice that resonates with their own voice or offers a new perspective. In a short while, I’ve tasted the hatred that some men have for women who differ politically or spiritually from their own beliefs, but I’ve also heard from many kind men and women who understand my journey. I teach tolerance for various viewpoints in the classroom, and this type of tolerance is desperately needed in our American culture. I see this all too clearly now.
Divine Feminine: I think of Marianne Williamson as the priestess archetype of the Divine Feminine, an archetype that is the least understood in our patriarchal culture which all too often subjugates women’s spirituality or recasts natural/mystical practices as “evil.” Recently, I pulled A Woman’s Worth off my bookshelf and remembered reading it as a young woman in my twenties. I thought I would be a lot farther along the path by now. I had no idea I would face what I’ve had to face and overcome in this lifetime. I also thought I would see a lot more female leaders and examples of the Divine Feminine in our culture than we currently see, but perhaps many of these women are, like me, just now finding their voices.
Several quotes from A Woman’s Worth stood out to me because all too often in my professional and personal life I’ve observed both men and women weigh in heavily and negatively about women as leaders. For every priest archetype, there is a priestess counterpart. For every warrior, there is a warrioress counterpart. And God, that beautiful, all-loving force, that creative center of life is also found in the Goddess. Our language and history may favor the masculine versions of these archetypes, but the divine feminine is real, valid, and beautiful. These energies are found in both men and women, so it is to all of our benefits to recognize the Divine Feminine.
Women’s Voices: The idea of women’s voices mattering as much as men’s voices is of great importance to me, not only for myself but for the thousands of women I have known as a teacher and professor. I have read their inner-most thoughts, their research, and their responses to life and literature. Their voices deserve equal space in society. Williamson’s quote about female power still rings true more than twenty years after its publication date.
“Female power transcends what are known politically as women’s issues. Female power has to do with women taking an active part in the conversation—whether in the public arena or at the dinner table—and having the same emotional space in which to do so as men. It means women not having to fear punishment of any kind. It means women not having to worry that we’ll be considered unfeminine if we speak up. It means women really coming out to play and getting support for our playing—from men as well as from women….We will not be free until we can speak our minds and our hearts without having to worry that men will crucify us, women will crucify us, the press will crucify us, or our children will be ashamed.” —A Woman Worth
Going forward, may we all pay closer attention to women’s voices and give these voices the same reverence, the same excuses, and the same grace we grant men. Instead of calling a woman an “angry feminist,” try calling her a passionate voice advocating for basic, decent respect for all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, political beliefs, or religious beliefs. Try calling her strong and brave.