Relating to deity

My answers to week 3 of The Mystical Seeker’s Year.

The first questions are to do with whether you give deity a human-like form or personality, or whether it is more like a force or energy.  Also, whether the form of this personified deity, or the kind of energy is masculine, feminine or genderless.

This, for me, is complicated.  I both recognise deity as an abstract force AND I like to indulge my desires to personify the spiritual with representations and forms.  The abstract force seems genderless and sort of distant.  But I also recognise forms.  These can be gods or goddesses.  I feel a strong connection to the feminine and so recognise many powerful goddesses in my personal devotion, such as Aphrodite and Athena.  When I try to personify the wild mysteries of nature, some of that distant, unfeeling but awe inspiring and powerful presence, I do often picture the antlered god Cernunnos.  When I reflect on the aspect of nature that I feel I can connect with and feel a sense of nurturing and love from, then I do feel that this energy is feminine but I am also capable of seeing this feminine force as an abstract energy and not personified either.

So my answer is complicated.  I recognise both a genderless force or energy, and this represents power, mystery and also wisdom and insight and it’s kind of impersonal.  But it is somehow also capable of manifesting as a feminine force of compassion and nurturing, and I can have a relationship with that.  When I indulge in my poetic desire to connect with symbolic representations of the divine, and picture deity in human-like form, I often picture the mysterious and powerful antlered god, or I connect with strong goddess figures like Athena or Aphrodite.

In answer to the next question, I try not to relate to deity as a parent figure.  The impersonal aspects of deity (the genderless force and the antlered god) are neutral or distant.  The feminine force feels nurturing, so I suppose you could say it is an idealised form of mother.  Certainly that fits the whole “mother nature” thing, and I can sort of relate to that.  However that’s not related to my actual  mother and I think that sort of concept could easily turn unhealthy, especially if your relationship to your parents was less than ideal.  Athena however does remind me of my actual mother, which put me off of her at first.  But I realised those qualities of wisdom and strength that she represents were qualities I sorely needed, and yes my mother was strong, intelligent and honest, so I suppose Athena does represent some of that.  Aphrodite feels somewhat like a lover (but not exactly, deity is deity after all) and it was important to have a strong, powerful goddess who was also sexual because I have a lot of problems in my sexual life and I desire strong, powerful women, so I felt like I needed a goddess to bring those needs to.

The whole complement or opposite thing, with regards to the gender of deity is a little hard for me to answer because although I was born physically male I am transgender.

Finally the question about names and labels.  I talk a lot about nature or The Universe when describing deity in the abstract.  I do not yet have a name for the nurturing, feminine energy as I have only just discovered it during the course of all these questions.  The personified gods that I honour of course have names – Aphrodite, Athena, Cernunnos.  There are other deities I have had an interest in – Shiva, Hermes, Dionysus, Odin, Thoth.  These did not come to mind when contemplating my relationship with deity and the answers to the previous questions though, which is interesting.

I get confused when answering these questions whether to focus primarily on my abstract concept of deity or to also acknowledge my indulgence in symbolism and my interest in these historic deities, which has made my answers kind of complicated.  But both sides of my spirituality seem important to me, so whatever.

Something feminists never address

I’m socially awkward.  I probably suffer from social anxiety.  And I have a hard time approaching women.  Always have.

I also support many feminist causes and concepts.  Although women have many freedoms today, and are accorded with something approaching genuine equality in many fields of life.  There are still horribly sexist attitudes that many men hold towards women.  There are still shocking  statistics when it comes to domestic violence and sexual violence against women.  And there is still a lot of day to day harassment of women by men.

I do not want to detract from any of that.  I am not some whiny misogynistic MRA.

But there is something I’ve noticed about the reality of the situation when different kinds of men approach women.

Those who are awkward and shy often approach women in a clunky, clumsy way that then comes across as unintentionally creepy.

Meanwhile the men who hold quite sexist, disrespectful views about women when they are talking about them to other men – have no difficulties in approaching women for either casual sex or relationships, as they are confident about approaching women in a way that does not seem creepy.  Many of those same men will go on to mistreat the women in their lives.

I’m not saying that it’s never the case that the man who seems creepy actually is creepy.  Neither am I saying that the suave, gentlemanly man who remains a perfect gentleman when he’s in a relationship with a woman doesn’t exist.  Both of those types of men exist too.

But the vetting process of “let the man approach me, and we’ll see what kind of man he is” is unreliable and can often be unfair on shy guys.

I’m not sure  the alternative (let women approach  men every once in a while) would necessarily work out any better, for women at least.  But it certainly is the case, I think, that many of the awkward, uncomfortable approaches of men on women could be eliminated if the more socially confident person would make the advances, no matter what gender they happen to be.

Ok, I’m trans.  So my feelings are partly because I would like to be treated like a lady by the women I’m attracted to – and because I hate feeling forced into a male gender role.

But I honestly respect women.  In fact I often admire and envy them.  But like almost every other human on the planet, I have sexual feelings.  And I find them hard to express in a way that is comfortable, for myself or for the other person. I’m socially anxious, so already uncomfortable, and I’m socially clumsy too.  And sometimes it’s fine and they let me down gently.  Sometimes it’s a bit awkward at first and then blows over.  Or sometimes I accidentally give them the creeps.  And something inside me dies. Because I never wanted to play that role in the first place, but the tension got too much for me and waiting in vain never gets me anywhere.

And meanwhile I observe men succesfully navigate these situations all the time – and many of them make horrendously sexist jokes and comments about women.  And I can’t help but wonder: feminism wtf?! Why aren’t you addressing the double standards of courtship rituals?  Why are so many of the statements you make in direct contradiction to the reality I observe?  Why aren’t you giving women the mental tools to make a more accurate assessment of the character of men who approach them.  Because there are far more well-meaning men who come across clunky and awkward, and far more sexist men who are suave and confident – than there are creepy guys who seem creepy or suave gentlemen who really are gentlemen.

Maybe there are no right ways to navigate the difficulties of our social courtship rituals.  Maybe there is no way to ensure that women choose the good men over the bad.  Maybe there is no way to ensure that men who mean well give a good impression when they do the approaching.

But at the very least we should strive to create a situation where there is true equality between the sexes – a situation that is a lot more fair for everyone.  Let whoever is the more socially confident one make the sexual/romantic advances, no matter what gender they are.

Simple really.  No more “lesbian sheep syndrome”. No more shy men accidentally making themselves out to be jerks because of social anxiety or else remaining isolated and alone for the rest of their lives.  No more confident women wondering when that nice, shy man they admire will make a move on them.  No more arrogant, sexist men getting an unfair advantage over the more careful, anxious man.

Why do feminists never address this?