If permitted spare time, I try to work on cleaning out my inbox in several e-mail addresses I’ve acquired over the years. A form of backup during my undergrad was e-mailing drafts of essays to myself; so, I have dozens of attachments mostly of religious studies papers. Oddly, I don’t seem to have my favorite academic papers. Regardless, below is an excerpt from a brief essay critiquing elements of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel Dance of the Dissident Daughter, which details her spiritual awakening of the Divine Feminine and an article by Rosemary Ruether entitled “Feminism, Future Hope, and the Crisis of Modernity.” I suppose I’m highlighting these excerpts because the feminist beliefs I possess are often a surprise to people, even ones I know, because I likely do not prescribe or act like their constructed idea of a feminist.
The term “feminine” can be problematic. Kidd utilizes the word frequently especially in relation with the Divine as well as with instinct or wound. The first question to arise is what is feminine? Is it an essence? Does it possess particular attributes? Is it definable? Because after all, it seems feminine is not exactly tangible. Also, the term itself seems to be a concept and product of patriarchy. It is the other half of the dualistic pair of feminine and masculine. Each one is assigned particular characteristics to the sexes. Feminine becomes dainty, feeble, delicate, quiet, and passive, and masculine embodies aggressiveness, rationality, stoicism, and emotionless nature. What one term entails in attributes, the other cannot. From a personal perspective, the term feminine can be just as limiting as any other construct of patriarchy because the word implies gender specific nature, which does not exist. One way to remedy the connotation of feminine is for it to be redefined. Though Kidd does not blatantly define feminine, from the readings, it can be assumed that feminine, in her novel anyway, is the female presence, or lack there of, historically and present in the areas of religion, psychology, sociology, and language.
Though patriarchy is appropriate in relation to women, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s term kyriarchy seems more befitting to detail the oppression of people. Fiorenza defines kyriarchy as “a socio-political system of domination in which elite educated propertied men hold power over wo/men and other men” (Fiorenza). Kyriarchy comes to mean “lord” or “master” that “rules” or “dominates” (Fiorenza). Kyriarchy details a side of oppression feminism sometimes forgets; the oppression of less powerful men. Indeed, the majority of women have been oppressed, but so have men in relation to power and privilege and both sexes are exposed to particular conditioning which is designed to ensure the continuance of power being held by particular men in society. Feminism typically desires a future of egalitarianism, but if the experience of victimizing and oppression is relatable or correlated with only one sex, there remains an imbalance. To say only women suffered from the societal structure of patriarchy or kyriarchy is to ignore the stories and oppression of another minority. Kidd cites the feminine wound, but in reality, it is the human wound, and it is shared by all those oppressed.