10 of Susan L.M. Goldberg's Greatest Hits
June 6, 2013:
1. A Biblical Feminist Confronts The Girls Goddesses
In the 1970s, feminists revived goddess worship. Their reasoning: to Jews and Christians, God is male so we’re going to start our own She-ra, Man-Haters Club and have our own goddesses instead. Far be it from me to criticize someone for starting their own clique, but their disturbing lack of logic has rained on the chick parade ever since.
Compare the following Biblical account:
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”
...with the following historical account:
The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. ...most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads ...Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple... It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home... There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.
Prophetess or prostitute -- there’s a million-dollar question. Why represent the Living God when you can enslave yourself to unknown men in service of a sculpted woman?
The irony deepens when one continues to read (not stereotype) the Bible to find that Israelite women didn't need to waste their time fighting to be equal to men; they were busy fulfilling their own unique role in society. Created with an intrinsic spiritual link to God, women were the first teachers of Torah to their children. They managed their homes, families, and finances. While other women served gods and goddesses by sacrificing their bodies and their children on pagan altars, Hebrew women were called by their God to birth, raise, educate, build, and prophesy to their nation. Long before American women decided they needed equality, Israelite women were divinely empowered.
Yet it's this revived goddess theology, not biblical feminism, that has trickled down from yesterday's second-wave feminism into today's pop culture to the point where the term “goddess” has become a compliment slung about among women anxious to buy t-shirts, mugs, and jewelry encrusted with a term of ancient slavery. Nowhere is the pop-goddess trend more evident than on television, where women continue to be defined and glorified through sexual acts. Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and the "Backdoor Teen Mom" have all reached stardom through cut-and-dry video prostitution, while fictional shows like HBO’s Girls provide more high-brow, intellectual goddess-fodder, which the graduate school-educated critics crave.
I struggled with trying to love Girls. If you're Jewish (check) and from the New York area (check), pop culture dictates that you’re supposed to idolize Lena Dunham. Her success as an ingénue (or perhaps inge-not is more apropos) is impressive, although not totally surprising: Judd Apatow has launched many a young star's career. Yet to the critics she is the goddess of cutting-edge media. Dunham is a prophetess to the Cult of Hip, calling forth her own good fortune through her Girls character Hannah Horvath’s self-defined “voice of a generation” declaration.
In all fairness, Dunham is riding the wave of praise being thrown at her. While she may be reveling, Hannah Horvath and her compatriots are unraveling. In fact, this reluctant viewer was pleased to find the hidden appeal of Girls lies in the stark contrast between the critical glorification and the truly inglorious nature of the characters for whom they rave. These women (and men) are not heroes. In fact, they are as painfully human as is their creator. Yet, according to the critics, these women have a major responsibility to goddess culture. For the PC-mongers, Dunham has failed in her role of earth mother to the more tan among us:
It’s not enough because there are people who are alienated, who routinely experience erasure of their own experiences for the sake of a joke or to set up a plot. There are those that would say it is her own right to write about whatever she wants, to exhibit characters in whatever way she desires. That’s true. But if we don’t evaluate our own privilege as white females than what are doing? How do we move forward? ...What it comes down to for me is this. If feminism isn’t intersectional, it means nothing. Am I implying that all shows must be perfect reflections of diversity? No. But at the very least, they should not promote or play into trite racial or ethnic stereotypes.
While for the "We Have Arrived" Bitch crowd strutting in their slut walks, Dunham's show is a vehicle for the salvation of our culture:
Despite the ups and downs of the season, Girls remains one of the most interesting and emotionally resonant looks into the inner lives of women and allows for discussion of our personal experiences. Through this season, we’ve had discourse on female friendships, bisexuality, mental illness, rape and consent amongst so many other issues and these are all extremely important conversations that can illuminate what we need more of in our media and culture and what desperately needs to change.
At a glance, these are dichotomous critiques, yet both share a core belief feeding the goddess mindset: the demand for self-sacrifice on the altar of the culturally defined greater good. Whether Dunham is using her white privilege to lift up minorities, or exposing the painful realities of her OCD to focus attention on mental health issues, the expectation is the same: Dunham is the promised lamb to be sacrificed on the altar of Girls.