Contemporary Feminist Approaches to Judaism,
Christianity, Islam and Goddess Worship
by Johanna H. Stuckey, Inanna Publications, 2010
“Women’s Spirituality” is a brilliant overview of the transformational efforts by historic and modern feminists within the “big three” monotheistic religions, and is also a portrait of feminist Goddess Worship, defined as a revolutionary new spirituality that has the potential to “alter the spiritual landscape of the West”!
Stuckey says that feminist religious thealogy, working from the inside or outside to make patriarchal religions more hospitable to women, is new, experiential and experimental, with the focus on issues of sexism and the lack of female leaders. Monotheistic religions have been responsible for shaping negative Western attitudes toward women, and she examines the history, tenets and worship practices of each.
From its beginnings, the Hebrew Bible stated than “men rule over women” and Judaic women’s roles and limited spiritual expression were located in the domestic sphere, separate from the official temple-sanctioned worship and ceremonies. It has only been since 1983 that women have been allowed into Judaic seminaries and to be ordained as Rabbis. Today, Judaic feminist visionaries and scholars are working toward recovering Judaic Goddesses and historic women and their contributions, and developing a feminist vision of equality for all - a “post-patriarchal Judaism” - that will allow women to analyze the sacred texts, take part in public ritual, and fill leadership roles.
In early Islamic history, Muhammad’s wives and daughters, other heroines and religious scholars, and warrior women who fought in key battles had pivotal roles. However, as the Islamic world expanded, the dynasties became completely male-dominated, and women were discriminated against, veiled, denied access to the religious community, bound by law and restricted to the household. As it is still very dangerous to declare oneself a feminist in Muslim countries today, many live and work in the West.
She goes on to fit the work of feminist activity and theology into four overlapping categories: (1) Revisionist, the least extreme, that argues correct interpretation will reveal a liberating message at the core of a religion (2) Renovationist, which identifies the core message as well as elements of sexism, and either denies those elements or seeks to replace them with feminine texts and images (3) Revolutionary, which forces a religion to its limits by importing language and images from another tradition ie. Goddess Spirituality, and (4) Rejectionist, that decides a religion is completely hostile to women and leaves it behind, usually going on to create new spiritual traditions.
A reflection of Stuckey’s long-time involvement with the women’s movement as a feminist, scholar and teacher, this comprehensive work will be useful as an textbook in leading-edge curriculum, and as a resource for women on a spiritual path and/or devotees of Goddess Spirituality.
Author Johanna Stuckey is Professor of Women’s and Religious Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada, and was a long-time contributor to the journal www.matrifocus.com (now archived online).
This review originally appeared in "SageWoman: Celebrating the Goddess in Every Woman" Issue #79 Connecting to Gaia www.sagewoman.com