Thursday, April 19, 2007

a little the(o/a)logical/sociopolitical aside

Heather at Hathor the Cow Goddess is a lot more crunchy than I am, or possibly than most human beings, I don't know:) Usually, though, she inspires me and as with all mothering influences, I take to heart her perspectives and assimilate them into the ever-evolving complexity that is my parenting approach. Just sayin'.

Today she referenced an article on Christopher West's website Theology of the Body (a project by late Pope John Paul II, apparently) about breastfeeding and I'm so glad I read it. It's eye-opening to read about non-pagan religious perspectives relating to the female body, because they have influenced nearly everything about our culture's attitude toward women.

The article's very positive and in defense of the sacred beauty that is a woman feeding her child. I love reading this- a Catholic seeing the biological as sacred is very cool. (I think I don't give Christians enough credit for celebrating the magic of the body, maybe because my knowledge of the faith comes from feminist critical texts and ancient history more than experience with the modern church.) I feel the most powerful connections to the sacred through primal, body experiences like nursing, sex, dancing. It excited me to see breastfeeding elevated to the sublime in another religious context.

A little thing itched my brain and irked me though; this quote: "For those with the purity to see it, a nursing mother is one of the most precious, most beautiful, and most holy of all possible images of woman."

As amazingly Goddessy as motherhood is to me, as deeply as the experience has empowered me as a woman, this standard in which motherhood is the most perfect thing woman can attain, oh it just grates the feminist mind. Women create great works, do serious good, explore new... Gods, am I writing this in 2007?... sounds like the passionate simple grrlpower essays I wrote in junior high. My point is, are we still stuck in the Madonna/Whore thing? Is my power still solely defined by my reproductive organs? (If so, I seem to have less every day.) According to this guy, apparently. Sigh.

Why does it have to be "Motherhood is sacred, therefore, the highest best thing a woman can be is a mom," or, alternatively that putting motherhood first is a betrayal of feminist work. How complex of a thinker do you really need to be to realize that we can both celebrate the sacred experience of motherhood as well as the infinite range of other choices a woman can make?

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P.S. In typical Heidi fashion, I'm second guessing myself and trying to soften the tone of this post, and I look again and see that he's written "one of the most precious, most beautiful, and most holy of all possible images of woman..." and I thought maybe I should lay off, delete the post. So I tried to think of other positive female Christian icons and I can't think of many outside of the Madonna & the Magdalene (don't get me started on how she's misrepresented.) But, as mentioned, I'm not highly educated.

Enlighten me- what are some powerful stories and images of women in your faith? How does your religion view motherhood? What's your take on my rant? What's the atheist perspective: Is it silly to elevate a very simple mammal act to have spiritual significance? Is that a symptom of how egotistical our species is? Should I maybe not be thinking so much and just shut up and go pump?

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