When I was a little girl, I wanted to be my dad's daughter. He worked long hours and when he came home, he usually shut down. I wanted him to be my daddy so bad, but whenever I clung onto him, he would look at me like I was some strange creature who had wandered into his house. My mother told me once that I asked her if I even had a dad, he was gone so much. But one day, my sister got an erector kit for Christmas and she didn't want it.
My poor dad, trying to keep us girls interested in engineering so that maybe one of us would fulfill his dream of becoming an architect, painstakingly tried to intrigue my sister with the kit. She couldn't have cared less. I, however, was fully attentive, watching my dad build, intent on proving to him that I was interested. Slowly, he picked up on a pair of small gray eyes watching his hands, itching to build along with him. The last time my dad and I had connected was when he had to watch me for the night and he started to read me The Hobbit, instead of my mom's child-friendly books. I was probably five. At nine, we connected over a stupid erector set.
I tried to impress my dad anytime he was home. I listened to his music and tried to strike up a conversation with him about David Bowie. I read Dune and tried to prove to him that I understood it. I watched crappy horror films with him and learned to make snide comments at the TV. But then, I ruined it. There was a science/math program for girls when I was in junior high, trying to get girls interested in things other than, oh, I don't know, language and arts? It makes no sense to me now, probably because I ended up studying English literature. My mom signed me up for all these practical lectures. My dad saw the one class related to architecture and signed me up. And do you know what I did in that lecture? Do you know how I broke my dad's heart? I snoozed in it. Never again would my dad bring up architecture or engineering around me.
I was a little Athena girl in the making.
Goddesses in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen fills in where others have failed. I am, of course, talking about my favorites, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Because as much as I love Freud and Jung, no matter how brilliant I think they were, they were definitely men of their time. Freud said that women were only castrated men and that they could never be psychologically complete because they'd never be a full man. Doesn't take away from Freud's brilliance for me, but I don't really agree with that theory. Jung said that the unconscious part of a female is expressed through an inner masculine personality, her animus. This is supposedly similarly true for men. However, by divvying up traits into "masculine" (dominance) and "feminine" (sensitivity), it gets kind of vague. I mean, what are masculine and feminine traits? And many Jungian analysts have developed this theory further. Jean Shinoda Bolen herself is a Jungian analyst.
Before I read this book, I had never really read anything that focused on female psychology. I took Freud's theories to apply to both men and women, while ignoring his stuff on women. I also had never read a book where someone analyzed Greek mythology in a way that made so much sense. Having a fascination with dream women, the idea of the great goddess and Bolen's explanation of it was a bit of a revelation. The only way you can take power away from an idea is by splitting it up. The only way that a patriarchal society could take away power from the great goddess was by splitting her up into different ideals. Some goddesses were revered for their feminine attributes (Demeter, Persephone), while others were looked down upon (Aphrodite, that sly vixen).
There's no such thing as a woman who is entirely Athena or Aphrodite. And at different times in a woman's life, a different goddess may be in her. Not that I am saying "goddess" as in, the goddess is speaking through her. More, she's showing aspects of that archetype. Bolen breaks up the goddesses into three areas: Virgin, Vulnerable, and Alchemical. Virgin goddesses are women who can live without men in their lives. These include Artemis, Athena, and Hestia. Men didn't have much of a part in their mythology. The only exceptions were not romantic in any way. Artemis thinks of men as brothers, Athena is only looking for heroes, and Hestia's in her own little world. The vulnerable goddesses cannot live without men in their lives. They've also had men screw them up in some way. Hera was cheated on, Demeter was raped by Poseidon, and Persephone was kidnapped. And Aphrodite applies to both vulnerable and virgin.
I found Goddesses in Every Woman to be an absolutely fascinating book. If you're like me and you have an interest in psychology, or if you have an interest in analyzing literature, I'd say read it. Because all of the Greek archetypes are still in literature and popular culture.
I think, as a human being, I have to read Gods in Every Man as well. It's not just, "If you're a woman, you should read the one on goddesses and if you're a man you should read the one on gods." I think reading both will only help in understanding people more, regardless of gender.