As a “Baby Boomer” growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I was taught that proper English meant using the word “man” to mean all humans and to use the masculine pronouns “he”, “him”, and “his” when referring to both males and females. For example, it was grammatically correct to say, “Each student is to use a pen when completing his written assignment,” even though both girls and boys were in the class. A masculine pronoun was also used when the gender was unknown such as, “a teacher is expected to assign homework to his students every day”.
The Male Advantage
The problem is that masculine pronouns conjure up a male image, creating the sense that only men and boys are being addressed, leaving the women and girls invisible. At the very least this gives the impression that the male experience is what matters. This is especially true in a religious context that predominantly uses male pronouns when referring to the divine. The perception is that the divine is male which empowers men’s experience with divine preference.
“Without feminine images of the divine included in our religious upbringing, women’s true sense of being made in God’s image has no grounding. Without sacred accounts praising the innate gifts of the feminine, we do not grow up believing in them as divine qualities.” The ABC Path toward True Wisdom, p. 139.*
Finding OUR Way
Men have had the advantage of the pronoun “He” in reference to the divine for generations, with the story of men’s sacred experience dominating our spiritual history. As women envision an abundance of images referencing “She” who is the Source of our courage, passion, intuitive wisdom, remarkable strength, and immeasurable love, Herstory will take shape offering a more inclusive spiritual narrative for the human experience.
Becoming comfortable with aspects of women’s lives seen in a divine context is a step toward seeing a woman’s image representing the divine. And becoming comfortable seeing a variety of women’s images and experiences as metaphors representing the divine is a step toward seeing the divine in ourselves. This is a relationship with the divine that men have experienced since the image of the one God became “He”. ( This is taken from my blog post “Pronouns Affect Perception”. Click on the link for the complete article.)**
Questions for Circle Discussion:
- What images of men’s spiritual journey and/or aspects of men’s lives are honored as divine in the religious stories you are most familiar with?
- What aspect of your spiritual journey can you envision as a sacred experience specifically connected with being a woman? What image or metaphor captures the divine nature of that experience?
These two questions are designed to stir a dialogue and engage us in weaving together the threads of our spiritual journey as women, creating a tapestry that depicts OUR way.
The process involved in personally considering these questions is as powerful as the responses. Therefore, two alternative questions are:
- Where did these two questions take you? Which question had the strongest affect on you?
- What insights surprised you most as you pondered these questions?
To get the most from your Circle gathering, read the Circle Guidelines.
*The chapter reference for this theme is from The ABC Path toward True Wisdom: A Woman’s Guide to Trusting What She Knows in Her Heart Is True, Valiant Vision, p. 139-143.
** Lampmann, Teresa. Pathways to Trusting Your Heart Blog, “Pronouns Affect Perception”, July 26, 2018.
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©2020 Teresa Lampmann