Mansplaining The Goddess

Mansplaining the Goddess has to be a new low. The term “mansplaining” comes from Rebecca Solnit’s essay (that became a book) called Men Explain Things To Me.  She deftly skewers the sort of males (yes, i know, not all men) who assume that they automatically know more about any given subject than a woman.

The book is rad, but it will likely make you furious. Solnit draws some fantastic conclusions.  They go way beyond – say – my typical experience of a taxi driver telling me how websites work.  Or even pompous “let me try to simplify this so that you might be able to understand it” lecturing.  (Solnit is a Sun-Mercury conjunction Cancerian with those two hooked up in a Grand Trine with Neptune + Chiron. )

Sadly, I am accustomed to a particular style of person feeling the need to tell me all about subjects I am informed on. But until recently, nobody has tried to mansplain the Goddess to me.  It was on Facebook and apropos of nothing, he launched into “Medusa had no real power” — “I hope you understand that Medusa only had her head full of snakes lent to her by Apollo”  and on and on.

It ignored that there is an extensive background to the Medusa myth way before the Grecian version. See Barbara Walker and Helene Cixous’s work on the topic for a start. An iconic example: A.L. Frothingham’s essay Medusa, Apollo and the Great Mother was a paradigm-alterer.

The guy also assumed that I knew nothing at all or had never studied mythology. And, it was odd to have a man lecturing on my improper interpretation of a goddess. It was textbook mansplaining and pompous trolling for attention, BUT it also made me question my reaction.

WHY did it feel so poignant? Then I recalled how, during a traumatic and challenging girlhood, how thrilled I was to discover Isis, Persephone, Medusa, Ishtar, and more. Their powers blew my mind, the ordeals they survived, their temples and stories.

Their roles were so broad but shrunk down with patriarchy into a Holy Ghost, Virgin Mother, and Whore of Babylon. By the way, parthenogenesis, which is when you can conceive and give birth to a baby with no man being anywhere in orb, is a classic goddess attribute.

Along with their magical strengths and status, a lot of them were unabashedly whores, spinsters, witches, single mothers, or cat ladies. Some had multiple lovers – others sought solitude in wild enchanted retreats – those choices did not define them.

They went on quests, ruled realms, moved between dimensions, time-traveled and did magic.  Ancient Queens, priestesses and everyday women alike visited their temples, had shrines to these female deities in their homes, prayed to them and attempted to develop their relationship with this energy via dreams, hymns, art etc.

Read at the right time, books such as Goddesses In Everywoman, Women Who Run With The Wolves and The Women’s Encylopedia Of Myth and Wisdom are life-altering.

The Facebook troll mansplaining the Goddess was just a particularly pitiful version of a long line of men discrediting feminine strength and divinity.

Or, acknowledging it but saying it was merely on loan from men. So if you’re not “nice” enough, they could presumably grab it back. This Christmas I am going to be raising a glass to the Holy Ghost who was, according to the Gnostics, Sophia – the Goddess of Wisdom.

Thoughts?

Image: Unidentified Bronze Age Minoan Goddess called the “Mistress of Wild Animals” – Akrotiri 

76 thoughts on “Mansplaining The Goddess”

  1. No doubt your ex’s sister was annoying about over-explaining the obvious. But she wasn’t a mansplainer.

    Mansplaining, as Solnit defines it, is a symptom of patriarchy because so many men assume that women know less than them, even in the face of evidence to support womens’ expertise. Solnit was once in a situation herself in which a man explained her own book TO her, even after her friend piped up and said “She’s the author of that book!” He didn’t even apologize for his error. That kind of assumed authority is about power, not personality traits. It’s different because it’s so widely experienced by women, specifically in their treatment from men. Men Explain Things to Me is a fantastic book if you haven’t read it!

    I get what you’re saying about how you think more men would be mansplainers, but a few women have the obnoxious trait of arrogance. But those kinds of “not all men” arguments undermine the work of feminism. Yes, there are always outliers. That doesn’t mean they need to be considered next to the larger phenomenon in equal weight. The larger phenomenon is the point.

    1. I also work for equality, hoping that someday we can see people only as individuals, and not as part of a larger group based on gender/sex/race, but in my opinion we aren’t there yet. So what I mean when I say that “not all men” arguments undermine the work of feminism is that they distract from the larger point — that patriarchy is a social power structure disproportionately affecting women, and though it’s often experienced through individual interactions, those interactions add up to a larger social pattern.

      For example, in my work with sexual assault and rape culture, I have learned that although it IS true that men can be raped, it’s important to consistently acknowledge that most rape victims are women. If we give truly equal attention to the fact that men can be raped, we are supporting a basic inequality of patriarchy: that despite the female majority among victims, we give equal focus to men. I don’t mean to dismiss male victims of sexual assault. Patriarchy affects men too! It’s just that it’s statistically less likely to happen to a man, and 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime — that’s the crux of the social phenomenon.

      I find that there are always quite a few people who respond to stories about the patriarchy with some comment to the effect of “women do that too”, or “not all men do that”, and while it’s probably true of the individual or the experience, when all of these comments are added up, the actual effect is to neutralize the argument about the patriarchy by making it a case of individual behavior.

      It’s like countering “Black Lives Matter” with “Blue Lives Matter.” Nobody is saying that the lives of police officers DON’T matter. The BLM movement is intended to draw attention to the murders of black people in America at the hands of police. To argue that blue lives and black lives get equal time is to ignore/attempt to neutralize the power dynamic.

      I appreciate your engagement with me and please know that I respect your thoughts. I understand where you’re coming from re: your story about individuals, but these are my arguments from a social justice standpoint.

  2. Sorry this happened to you, Mystic! So ridiculous…mansplaining is a recurring theme in probably every woman’s life. A Sagittarius guy who found out I was an astrologer started mansplaining Astrodienst to me and tried to continue even after I told him that I used it frequently. It does not, for some reason, occur to some men that they could just ASK about your familiarity with a topic instead of launching into a monologue.

    I consider it my role in these situations to stop him cold, tell him I already know, and ask him a difficult question about the philosophy/ethics/details of the topic. It places the awkwardness squarely back on his shoulders — he, after all, is the one who created a foot-in-mouth situation. And sometimes simply walking away is the only solution. I refuse to stand there nodding and smiling through a mansplaining monologue.

  3. I liked Annie’s quip about her live show ‘Public Cervix Announcement’….lol.
    She broke many boundaries did that lady regarding sex, her and Barbara Carellas teamed up in the 90’s to create Sex Positiveness as an antidote to HIV+ negativity that abounded at that time. Applied homeopathy ‘if sex can kill-so can it cure’.

  4. I am so there
    Lost count of how many times it’s happened is week.
    The difference for me is, I simply don’t engage.
    I can’t waste my precious time on morons.
    I just withdraw completely and know this is not the place I am supposed to be. It was sad at first. Now I’m tired but I don’t need to throw more energy at swine. I didn’t see it before. Now it’s a sign “jerk alert “

  5. Barbara Walker also did an I Ching of The Goddess.
    Colour plates in middle of book that are very powerful.
    Just looked and saw it was a gift dated 1987! Given to me by what was called at the time A Radical Feminist Lesbian who i remember saying to me ‘you are a natural feminist’. Probably resulting from all girl schooling, working with women for many years in fashion and styling and a single mother who worked in what was then an exclusive male domain in management. Was also called a Macho Woman when Macho Men were the buzzword as men are appealing for sex but it’s women that are my companions for everything else.
    Yes Madonna’s speech was truth in fishnets 🙂

  6. Year of the Phoenix

    A couple of my favs right there! I too had the joy of discovering our shared buried history with these but the first inkling I had was Jitterbug Perfume – a novel which revealed Celtic pagan goddesses got me going!

    My classic manslaining experience was very recent, a friend of my eldest sister mocked me for using a fan on a hot day as there was already a breeze, when I said that I was especially warm with the hot flushes – he scoffed and told me it would be years before I would be having those could of course he would know more about my body than I could ever…..

  7. Love all the goddesses. I’ve reclaimed my personal power again recently and I’m feeling strong, grounded and powerful.

    Hard to say which is my fave but I love the ancient Egyptians especially Isis. Also Artemis the warrior archer / huntress.

    Great post.

  8. Women Who Run With The Wolves was a life-altering read for me. On Sophia, I recommend Love and the Soul by Robert Sardello. I am making a list of the books recommended in this and the previous post. It seems very appropriate in the aftermath of the Full Moon in Gemini.

  9. Oh, and by the way, dumb fuq dude mansplaining to MM: The first thing that stuck out to me regarding your argument was your incorrect reference to Apollo. If you’re going to mansplain, try to at least know what you’re talking about, sweetie – it was actually Athena (yes, a goddess!) that gave Medusa her “power”, if that’s how you’re framing it.

  10. Ah, yes – that perennial favorite mansplaining!

    LMFAO @ a guy trying to explain the mythos of Medusa to *the* Mystic Medusa – I hope you roasted his ass real good, girl!! In that same position I would most def make his dick feel as small as his brain (and have, many a time) – verbal emasculation comes real easy when you have a Hadean-flavored Gemini Mars. Don’t fuq with my intelligence, ever – I fight back. I won’t start it, but I’ll sure as hell finish it.

    I feel ya, though – try working in a very technical industry for over a decade where 99% of the people around you are men. Some of them were lovely, but I would totally be a millionaire if I had a dollar for each and every time a guy *thought* he was going to mansplain something to me. I say “thought” because as soon as I open my mouth it becomes very apparent you’re not dealing with a garden-variety ANYTHING, let alone “ordinary” woman! I can understand why they would judge a book by its cover being the girly looking little thang (Hello, Venus!) that I am. But I am also Pluto Rising – looks are deceiving and there’s way more than meets the eye here.

    At this stage of life, I welcome the mansplainers as I do enjoy making and serving Humble Pie. Because my knowledge comes wrapped in package they don’t expect, I take great delight in shocking the hell out of people like this. I have the Sun & Uranus in tight aspect, and they never see it coming – it’s actually quite fun. As long as someone isn’t being a jackass about it, I’m otherwise pretty low-key about my interests and areas of expertise. There are people who have known me for years and have no idea at all about my esoteric interests, for example, while there’s another faction that doesn’t have a clue about my technical career. Keep ‘em guessing, I say!

    As far as proposing that any power held by a female deity is “not really theirs”, go fuq yourself, dude. This is the spiritual equivalent of the practice of female genital mutilation, and this Lilith in Scorpio gal ain’t having any of *that* shit! IMO, men harboring this kind of philosophy have a deep-seated fear of the Divine Feminine. I would wonder about their relationship with their own anima – I’d be willing to wager there are more than a few psychological complexes going on and would be super interested to know what his relationship with Mommy Dearest was like. Men who seek to disempower women in this way and keep them subservient to a patriarchal paradigm should stay as far away from me as possible – like, preferably another planet.

  11. Yes I saw that comment and was initially driven to write a big let me explain this to you stupid man etc then thought, that’s playing into his game. Great to see your reaction and response. Some people are all intellect and no magic or soul! His ignorance is astonishing

  12. Beautiful, Mystic.
    Just like Clarissa PE – your blog was, ‘Read at the right time’, balm to this feminist, cat-loving, moon-dancing, tarot-reading, sign-seeking soul… xo

  13. Interesting but I have been experiencing this phenomenon from women lately. As in female family member who recently became a Nurse lecturing me on the importance of patient mobility in a hospital setting. Really? I’ve only been a Physical Therapist working inpatient at hospitals for 18 years. She is talking about getting mothers who have delivered a day or two earlier out of bed. Me? I get people out of bed the day after major heart surgery with full stacked IV poles, wires going into their heart, chest tubes, etc coming out of them. For 18 years but what do I know about it? laughing.

  14. VenusInCancerMarsInScorpio

    well in hindu myths the male-god power is not really theirs unless supported by the life-giving energy of a female goddess (vishnu-lakshmi, shiva-sarasvati).
    there are individuals (men and women) who attain some magical power alone, but the source of it is mostly dual in nature, male+female

    but then: nothing in nature is more natural than anything else. i’m sure there’s a myth to support any life situation/worldview

    1. I think even the Arjuna-Krishna thing was fluid in gender, deep in its passionate friendship, loving in the physical and sensuous. But in that culture it takes a Goddess to be able to move through the boundaries of “free sex” (it’s become a political term, much to the surprise of local politicians in that country), rather than an earthly woman.

  15. I feel as this post echoes some things I’ve been seeing lately, in my life and the news. That is, as there is a greater awareness of the ‘decline of white male power’, that there are some trying harder to re-assert it. There is some grieving going on too. I think it is a hard thing for ‘white males’ to process and come to terms with. Masculinity is being re-invented and this is tumultuous for some. Who am I if I am not defined as superior in relation to ‘other’? For women, sudden re-expressions of ‘old’ ways of being (like this guy mansplaining and diminishing Goddesses) seem suddenly more stark and outrageous. This all seems to me the birthing pains of an emerging new era of equality…. See this link.. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/15/pale-stale-males-blamed-brexit-trump?CMP=twt_gu

  16. Toasting too to the goddesses that guide us and to MM who tells us their truths. Uni is over for 2 weeks so time to have some fun at last. I shall call my new van Persephone in honour.

  17. I read as much Rebecca Solnit as I can, But may I also offer up a couple other titles: The Moon Under her Feet by Kintsler, implanted in my mind more than 10 years ago and is still up front in my consciousness. And of course The Red Tent is th retelling of a tired bible story but from a woman’s perspective and it is riveting. They were good books for a budding young feminist.

    1. I read it, and was so moved that I cried. Then I watched it on YouTube and was so disappointed to hear and feel the hate and bitterness that seeped into her delivery of that wonderful speech.

      Just my experience. xx

      1. Thanks vikingwoman. I’ll look at my Lilith. I’ve been examining my own beliefs about power this week and life has graciously served up some learning experiences. I feel like Lilith is trying to shape me into a more whole and powerful woman but I’ve spent a lifetime playing nice. Really, really nice. Liz Green says there’s an Amazonian termagant aspect to me… She’s been repressed and is starting to seethe and bubble.

        In the past I’ve found (and still find) raw anger frightening.

        Perhaps that’s why I responded to Madonna’s speech with judgement and rejection.

      2. Ooh. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself there. It wasn’t judgement and rejection. I heard bitterness and hatred and it held a charge for me that is currently being addressed.

      3. Just saw mars is moving into pisces! I’m not an Astro hacker, but my sun and mars are in Pisces. Sun in 8th house, mars in 7th.

      4. Got a lot of buried (and at times explosive) rage in my chart, my dear, and even for me living with a Mars Pluto Square, a Merc in Aries, in t-square with Uranus and Sun, i will also attest to the fear of exposing my buried rage. Though it happens before or after, due to my Sag Asc, Jupiter in Sag Rising up out of Twelfth.

        You can respond as you like and do. It’s the thinking afterward, not the guilting, that refines the potency of that pure rage. I’ve no doubt you will channel the judgment and the tears into deep understanding. Be all right with you xx

    2. I’ve always liked her, not always her music or choices, but she is a strong woman doing whatever the fuck she wants to, and she is vilified and scorned now that she’s over 40 — men are allowed to age and still be ‘sexy’ and provocative but women are not.

      Love that speech. In a world of Britneys and Mileys who are feted because they’re still young and perceived as submissive to men/the music business, she is her own woman. Go Madge!

  18. What a beautiful post!

    It’s a perfect time of year to bring this up and you almost have to thank the guy for demonstrating the mansplaining, just to we could have this rich and uplifting discussion.

    And it’s good for me to hear as I can, if not mansplain, Gem-splain, jumping in on any opportunity to express the knowledge stored in my head. Not everyone wants an rave on the origins of whatever, just because they brought it up. So it’s a reminder to me. Wait until they ask! Live isn’t one long game of Trivial Pursuit.

    I wonder what the astro-propensity a guy would have to be a mansplainer? I’ve known a few that had a LOT of planets in the 3rd house, a strong Mercury or Gem …

    Other ideas?

    1. Lol, I recently woman-splained something to a man about men, but with Gem Rising I will now think of it as gem-splaining incident.
      My partner is multi Gem but he comes across as a Uranian being Aqua Rising; he is too indifferent/respectful to ‘splain anything to anyone.

      1. I have Gem rising and try to be more conscious of listening rather than filling the gaps with my weird knowledge of trivia which sometimes peeps don’t need or want…

    2. My partner is a massive, massive mansplainer — 1st house Cap mercury, Sagg sun and Neptune rising, 7th house Gemini moon-Mars retro. He has vast receptacles of knowledge and can and will talk! Endlessly.

    3. Hehehe… ah yes, I can ‘splain’ and I suppose it’s my mutual reception of gem/jupes and saggi/merc. Wait til they ask… !

      I wonder sometimes if the mansplain (it could equally be ladysplain I guess) is more about demonstrating some prowess and impressing or seeking feedback that fits more with hey look, I gave you this…do you like me? Rather than you know nothing and I am the all informed one around here… of course, they’re out there as well.

      Hehe, I imagine life can be one long game of trivial pursuit (or anything else someone choses) if that’s a preference but I think it’s when we assume it’s also someone else’s preference things can go off track.

      I think online dialogue has generally become a lot like that as well. Perhaps it’s to do with the way relationships are formed or the version of relationship we have online? It seems to be born of a fact and share kind of base, I share something you know, you share something you know… so maybe it’s more prevalent in cyberspace?

      Where it crosses over (and it’s probably personality rather than gender or… it’s a big dose of resentment/dysfunction or some other challenge for that individual) is where we see unsolicited authority and ranting for no reason, they’re not in on the discussion, just there to prove a point.

      Btw, did I just lady-splain? I bloody hope not as it was just sharing another thought on it but I can come across all authority on things sometimes myself and I’m just saying what I know… it’s likely a Cap Mars thing 😉

    4. Gem-splain!

      Fantastic word Kimmy! God, I’m terrible at this and also extremely aware of it, especially when the person’s eyes glaze over when I “casually” bring political philosophy into a discussion about something inane like work

    5. That’s horrible. I’ve had a few arien’s bring me to tears… I’m not much of a fan of confrontation, it’s the lack of intellect that gets to me.

      Strange, I don’t much about Dylan either!

      1. I don’t know that much about him and have never really been drawn to learn, I was thinking about your comment and wondering “why is it so” and it struck me that he just seems like a bit of a misery guts and might not be much fun. I’m sure I’m wrong but that’s the impression and you know Gemini and impressions.

      2. As a misery-guts Gem, I love him passionately. My first favorite song, not radio but the one I learned to play on the piano that made my soul cry at age 7, was Chimes of Freedom. I went to college in Minnesota because of him. I am also a Girl from the North Country, though… <3

      3. I love Emmylou Harris’s version of Every Sand. Am rethinking my allegiance to all Jokermen/Tricksters of late, if such conceptas allegiance even apply. >:(

    6. I honestly think just about every man living in the patriarchy is prone to man-splaining. I don’t think it is intentional or malicious–I just feel like it is a natural behavior in response to living in a society that perpetuates the idea that what men have to say really is very important.

      And the thing is, everybody perpetuates this–and it’s not going to change until we all recognize it–and it’s not necessarily going to be easy.

      Studies have been done with groups of men and women where, even though the men actually speak more, more time, more words–when asked, they actually report that the women spoke more. It really makes you wonder about the “chatty cathy” kind of stereotypes about women.

      Like, the idea that women talk SO MUCH is actually just another tool to keep us quiet. Another way to make us second guess our words.

      This has been really difficult lately because of the US political landscape. I know I am not the only one who is so over the patriarchy…

      1. In both studies of classrooms and meetings/conferences, men talk about 70% of the time and women 30%. Teachers are more likely to call on boys for answers. And when women actually talk only 40% or 50% of the time, men perceive it as women talking the majority of the time. They are so used to having more airtime and having their opinions taken more seriously. Also interviewers (and other men in the conversation) interrupt women much more often). I quickly googled to find some evidence but I have read this several times before.

    7. THAT SAID–I did have a Gem sun friend once in an acting class, and a student who was doing a scene where she was pregnant was getting movement direction from the teacher– when he felt the need to chime in with his opinion–

      THE TEACHER WAS A PREGNANT WOMAN–LOL

    8. My husband has a ninth house Jupiter in Aries, Moon-Pluto-Mercury conjunct in libra, and a Leo rising. He loves to learn and remembers it all. He also has Uranus in the third at 29 libra. He’s not a condescending mansplainer but he loves to talk and explain. He’s very emphatic about what he knows and believes.

    9. Oh you’ve probs got nothing on the Jupiter-in-Sag-‘Splain, Lady! And life is not one long game of Philisopho-Pursuit, either.

      Didn’t respond immediately this post came out because i just had to reflect on myself as blowhard-splainer.

    1. Yeh mate, don’t dog my cats!

      Was asked this week, “Do you ever call men bitches?” My reply, “Mostly it’s men.” This was met with a laugh and, “I’ve never been called one before.” I laughed in reply, “Stick around.”

      Ah, gotta love my mates.

  19. I soooooo needed to read this.This to infinity. Im heading into crone stage…and im just getting a taste of personal power emerging. Re reading this a few times and will ponder a longer response.

    I am working on re-telling some myths in drama form…its been calling to me for the last year.

    1. Yep! My favorite lines from this post follow:

      “Leaving aside their magical strengths and status, a lot of them were unabashedly what today would be called whores, spinsters, witches, single mothers or cat ladies.”

      I am walking assuredly into the realm of unabashedly being what I am whatever *they* want to call me: witch, crone, single mother, spinster, cranky bitch 😉

      And, yes, Mystic, I raise a toast to Sophia with you!! Here here!

Leave a Comment