For as long as I can remember, hearing everyone refer to God as “He” has not sat well with me.
At church we prayed to the Father and the Son. Before mealtime we prayed, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” Before bedtime we prayed, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
And the list of praises to “Him” goes on and on. At some point I asked my mom about the absence of women in prayers. I wanted to know why “She” wasn’t included with “He” when it is “She” in fact who gave birth to “Him.” It was then explained to me that God is not a man but instead a spirit. My response, and I clearly remember saying this, was, “Then why call God ‘He’?”
At some point I started to whisper my praises to “Her” during all my prayers. I had to acknowledge the feminine aspect of life. A father cannot be a father without a mother. Creation and birth are given to this universe through the womb of a woman. So why is the role of “She” not as important as “He” in many religious practices?
As a mother, I’ve made it my duty to educate my children on the importance of women and how vital it is for society to acknowledge feminine power. Women are born possessing the power of creation and its infinite potential. In other words, we give birth to all existence, including our own. What does that make us? Is that not a description of a God?
My soul yearned to show appreciation for the feminine aspect of life. Then the idea for my book, Feminine Transitions, came to me. From there, I discovered a whole new world of feminist projects, bloggers, artists, books, etc.
One book that immediately captured my attention, via a post on Facebook, was The Girl God by Trista Hendren. The title alone is powerful. Combine that with the beautiful paintings by Elisabeth Slettnes which are included, and the book is a stunning, luminous beauty. I have finally found a children’s book I can share with my daughters that expresses the significance of a woman in a “Godly” manner.
For this article, I interviewed Trista about her experience with The Girl God.
Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes
>>What is the “Girl God”?
The Girl God is the feminine form of God. She is the mother, daughter and sister in all of us women. She is the woman who gave birth to each of us and to life itself. She is grace, compassion and love.
>>How did you come up with the idea?
I had tried to raise my daughter as both a Muslim (as I had converted to be) and a Christian (as my family had raised me). One day she sneezed, and we had a discussion about what that meant in Islam. I had taken for granted that she knew what I meant as I blessed her, but she did not.
The discussion was enlightening for me. I realized I had failed her as a mother. I had used what I had known to raise her as best I could, but somewhere deep inside me I knew that same system had failed me. I had succumbed to materialism in the pursuit of “raising a family.” But in doing so, I had lost touch with my own core values and what I needed in order to thrive as a woman. I realized that because I had lost touch with myself, my daughter would not have a fair chance at life. If I did not honor my truth, she would really struggle to honor hers.
I wrote the original text of the book in about 15 minutes after this conversation with my daughter. It has changed some grammatically, and in small details, but the original story and message is still very close to the original. In a way, it has been sort of an apology and an amends to both my daughter and all the women of the world. It is also a love story to my daughter and to myself. It is the story of the love our Divine Mother has for all of us and how empowering it is when we embrace her love.
>>What do you want little girls to walk away with after reading The Girl God?Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes
Alternative views of well-known scriptures, as well as new ideas from feminist thealogians, and the strength that comes from knowing they are beautiful creations of the Divine Feminine.
>>Do you think that there is a lack of appreciation for the feminine in religion? If so, why?
Yes. I think it is not only not appreciated but intentionally stamped out. This has benefited men but hurt women. All of the world religions originally come from a place of social justice and all of them contain some aspect of the Divine Feminine if you look hard enough.
>>What was your first recollection of praises to “He” and not “She”?
The first idea I had that God could even be a woman came when I purchased Patricia Lynn Reilly’s A God Who Looks Like Me in college. That was a transformative period in my life. I had come into both Women’s Studies and Islam at the same time. For whatever reason, I did not finish the book then. Perhaps I was not ready for it. But I kept it, despite numerous moves over a 15-year period. As I was going through a divorce about four years ago, I finally finished the book and was blown away.
>>Finish the sentence:
A woman is…powerful
Creation is…transformative and necessary.
When I think of pregnancy I think of…new life. A chance to also re-birth yourself.
What I love most about being a woman is…fluidity.
I want to change…the inequality of the sexes. The foundations of this inequality for me are in religion, sexuality and economics. Religion is the most powerful force in most of our lives. Until we get to the root of what we believe and why, we cannot really change anything. A change in the way we view the divine—especially when we can imagine the divine as feminine—will change the inequality of sexual norms and economics. And then, women’s lives will change.
I want my daughter to know…that she is worthy. That she does not have to constantly sacrifice herself for the sake of others—as so many of us women do. That her aspirations are just as important as anyone else’s.
If I could change anything with The Girl God, it would be…that women would come into themselves much sooner. So often it seems that women wake up after 30, 40 or 50 years. I want girls to know their worth from the get-go and hold onto it.
Alyscia Cunningham is an author and an accomplished photographer who has contributed to such outlets as National Geographic, Discovery Channel, America Online and the Smithsonian Institution. She graduated from Montgomery College with degrees in photography and web design. She has exhibited her photography throughout Washington, DC, Maryland and New Orleans, LA. Her photographs have been published in several books including The Best of Photography 2011, Beauty Around Us, Endless Journeys and Homes of Color Magazine. Alyscia’s goal for the near future is to shoot still for cinematographers and work in commercial portraiture. After the production of Feminine Transitions, Alyscia plans to publish other photography books on other subjects of femininity.
Editor: Jayleigh Lewis