“To be a man you must have honor . . .
honor and a penis”
~Shinnosuke Nohara
“The Brotherhood of the Groveling Allowance”
Shin chan

I often joke with my husband that he’s lucky he married a dude. I’m not your typical “girly-girl.” I don’t wear make-up and I’m not a big fan of heels or jewelry. A guaranteed hit for a gift for me is anything involving Star Wars. And for special occasions, like birthdays or our anniversary, my preferred dining experience is Buffalo Wild Wings. Generally speaking, not exactly what one thinks of when they think about wives.

The biggest challenge with gender roles (or, more appropriately, stereotypes) is that they can be very constricting. Often to the point of making it hard to be who we truly are. I’ve never fit well into the specified role of my gender, and even though I’m very happy to be a female there are a lot of ways in which I don’t match what is typically expected from people who have my gender assignment.

And the conditioning in regards to our roles starts at birth. When my daughter was born I was adamant about trying to dress her in gender neutral colors and avoiding the pastels that people associated with little girls. Good luck with that. It was incredibly hard to even find anything that wasn’t pink or pastel, whether it was clothes or Legos. And it’s not like it mattered anyway. By the time she was three, society had already made its mark. She was begging for Barbies and wearing dresses every day, despite my desperate attempts to fight the stereotype.

Occasionally you’ll hear about the child who tries to rise above it, like the Star Wars thermos girl, or the boy who wanted to dress as Daphne for Halloween. But even those stories only get press because the kid has been the object of ridicule or bullying for stepping outside of their assigned roles. I’m sure that because of this, fewer people are willing to admit their affinity for things that are not typical for someone sharing their genital ownership.

What does any of this have to do with spirituality? You’ve probably noticed that I try to avoid using the term God in most of my entries, leaning more towards terms like the Universe, Creator, Higher Power, Something Other, etc. Part of that is due to the loaded images that the term produces in the minds of most people, particularly those of us with a familiarity with Western traditions. While the idea of God is helpful for many people, for just as many of us the term God comes with a lot of baggage, not the least of which is the idea of a powerful grey-haired old man running the show.

The challenge, as I see it, is that we have a tendency to anthropomorphize everything, from animals to inanimate objects to our idea of deity. In some ways this can be helpful, because it creates a connection; a way to relate to something in a way that we understand. On the flip side, however, it can be very limiting. Just as our views of gender limit how we perceive ourselves and those around us, assigning a gender to a god (or even a goddess) limits that Being to only what we can imagine someone of that gender can or should do. Additionally, we lose some of the mystery when we only think of the divine in human terms. It’s so much more than that. I find that to throw out the idea of a gender for the Unknown we open it, and ourselves, to greater aspects of understanding.

God, the Universe, Something Greater, Divine- however we name it, what we can conceive of it falls so short of what is genuinely possible. We are restricted by our language and experiences, which cannot ever begin to fathom a Power that is so far beyond anything we know. We are already limited in our understanding of the Universe by the fact of our humanity and mortality. Assigning a gender to it, especially with all our preconceived notions of what that entails, only makes god smaller.

Look at your own imagining of the divine. Are there ways that you restrict your Something Greater by the terms that you use? In what ways have those ideas hindered your relationship with a power that is beyond what we know? Examine your image of a deity and see where it falls short. Open yourself to all the possibilities that go beyond what we know.