When I first heard of this book by Sue Monk Kidd, best-selling author of The Secret Lives Of Bees, I was more than a bit intrigued. The full title is: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. I had read an excerpt of it on Amazon and knew this was the author’s personal story which was sparked by a confrontation in a drugstore where her fourteen year old daughter worked. Her daughter was kneeling on the shop floor staking items on a shelf when two middle-aged men walked in. One commented to the other, “Now that’s how I like to see a woman–on her knees.” I am not sure now what I had expected from this book. The title does give the game away but I ended up still being quite surprised. If this book had been written a few decades ago, I would have been less surprised I think. This is the story of Sue Monk Kidd’s spiritual journey from this point on.
Sue Monk Kidd is a Christian who was a long time baptist and professional author who use to write for Christian publications. Throughout the book there is no hint that she was ever mistreated or oppressed because of her gender. So how does Sue Monk Kidd end up on a spiritual journey researching old religions of a feminine Goddess? This fact is never quite clear but only subtlety hinted at towards the end of the book. Part of me wishes that the author had been a bit more open as to what truly pushed her into this journey. I wanted to understand and empathise more but found it difficult and felt the author was holding something back which she didn’t want to share with a public audience. However, I do respect her courage and candour in the parts of her journey she does share.
I have known of women who preferred to think of God as a mother figure rather than a father figure because of their history of sexual abuse. It always felt perfectly reasonable to me and I have always supported their choice…because of their abuse and because I believe that we are all made in the image of God–male and female therefore our feminine and masculine qualities all come from God. In fact, I have believed this since I was a child. However, my traditional and cultural upbringing always had me referring to God as ‘He’ or ‘Father’. What I realized as I pondered on this book was that when I played with the idea of thinking of God as feminine ….ok…this may seem a bit strange but I felt it very self-noteworthy…is that somehow God as She felt more sexual while God as He felt genderless to me. This is not to say anyone is wrong to think of God as female. This is me self-analysing.
The book has been embraced and rejected by many. One Amazon reviewer said this book was required reading at her bible college! I don’t agree with a lot of the author’s conclusions. Although I do believe there is a history of patriarchy within the church and evidence of it in the bible, I disagree with Christianity as a whole being patriarchal. Jesus believed in equality for men and women. Also, if you believe in the inherent traits of masculine and feminine, then Jesus Himself exhibited both….well, as we all sometimes do.
Do I recommend this book? I couldn’t relate to it in a personal way which surprised me as I have experienced gender-oppression many years ago. However, the book is well-written, well-researched and fuel for thought. Read it if you are in a place in your life where this may help your faith and not hinder it. Or you may decide to read it to aid your quest in compassionate growth as it may teach you to understand and empathize the spiritual journeys of others.