Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2002)
Religion. Carol Christ. “Why Women Need the Goddess”
[Students and professors, please read.]
Like everything else in the universe–the food chain, weather patterns, conservation laws, photosynthesis, etcetera–women did not evolve independent from men, or men from women, we evolved together. Regardless of the saying “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” we are both actually on Earth (now you know), we are more alike than different, and where we are different, we compliment eachother. We are both capable of abstract thought, and we both have the same needs that make us wonder why we are here–these things do not discriminate between male humans and female humans–these are general human needs. Carol Christ feels that patriarchal religions who believe in a male God are leaving women out of the answer to “Why are we here?” or that they see women’s purpose as lower than men’s, and she comments on the feminist alternative in her essay, “Why Women Need the Goddess.”
I appreciate that Christ understands the significance symbols have psychologically and politically, that she sees the effects of symbols on people’s attitudes and feelings (not just that those attitudes are reflected in the symbols), and that she feels a symbol system is harmful (not only to the individual but to society) which promotes the mood that female power is inferior or dangerous and not to be trusted. I appreciate that Christ understands deep-seated symbol systems (like addictions) can not only be rejected, but must also be replaced with a new (hopefully better and healthier) symbol system to fill the hole left by rejection of the old system, because in times of cognitive overload, the mind will revert back to the familiar old symbol system if a new one is not in place. And I appreciate Christ’s emphasis on a symbol system that affirms “female power, the female body, the female will, and women’s bonds and heritage”.
I can relate to her mention that women are separated by their subordination to men in patriarchal societies, when their loyalty to the man they are attached to overrides their loyalty to those of their own gender, even in a mother-daughter relationship. I can see the need to examine the symbols and their implications in such societies, and I can appreciate Christ’s reluctance to give the Goddess symbol-system any set interpretation, as it conveniently leaves room for upward evolution.
Carol Christ recognizes the need to replace harmful symbol systems with new ones, specifically harmful ones which devalue women with new ones which affirm women. I think Christ would have benefited from growing up in a family which fully embraced the essence of what Jesus taught, and I acknowledge that the religion she was exposed to (taking from her understanding reflected in her essay) was harmful to women. I think it would be even more beneficial to include men in any new symbol system (or “remember and invent” the old one she came out of to be all-inclusive), as belief in the Goddess is no less exclusive than what she perceives as belief in a male God.
P.S. I found Christ’s definition of a will similar to Rand’s definition of selfishness; Christ’s “disregard for the will of others” similar to Rand’s “brute”. I appreciated that Christ could see that submission to God is not exclusively required of women, but equally of men in the bible, and that women’s capacity for evil is as great as men’s.
“Why Women Need the Goddess.” The Philosophical Quest: A Cross-Cultural Reader, Second Edition. Ed. Presbey, Gail M., et. al. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2000. 194-202.