The Courage to Sin


What is it to be a woman, in the fullest sense?

I’ve been sitting with this question now since January 5th, the day I read that Mary Daly had died.

It’s not that I hadn’t thought of this before, doing the work I do. Coaching is all about this. And, Unabashedly Female? This blog reflects my experience in living this question, What is it to be female?

But, a quote I read, penned by Mary, in one of the columns celebrating (make that celebrating/vilifying) Mary resonated so deeply. Right away my mind (that lovely roommate I live with) said, “Yes. OMG, she’s a genius. Mary Daly brought it.”

You see, I hadn’t heard of her until last year. For anyone who has read the scholarly works of the feminist movement, Mary Daly is well-known. But, even though I reached womanhood in the seventies, and even though I personally witnessed the way the feminists of the second-wave were vilified, something that still haunts me to this day, I didn’t really read feminist scholarly works. When I first read some of what Daly wrote last year, albeit the tamer bits, I was blown away by the ideas she brought to the table.

Here’s the quote that got me:

“Ever since childhood, I have been honing my skills for living the life of a Radical Feminist Pirate and cultivating the Courage to Sin,” she wrote in the opening of “Sin Big,” her New Yorker piece. “The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a woman trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.’ “~ Mary Daly (from Jan 5, ’10 article, “Mary Daly, pioneering feminist who tussled with BC, dies at 81.)

“For a woman trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.'”, is a bold, bold statement.

“For a woman … ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin’.


Mary Daly was one courageous woman. For many, she was way too out there in her feminist radical philosophy. She was confrontational. She pushed the limits of what it means to be a feminist, hard. She set the parameters. She was willing to go toe-to-toe with the deeply held principles of patriarchy, the structure that espouses, and enforces, domination as a way of life. Many found her to be just as oppressive as those she was confronting.

As I searched the Internet in these last few days since her death, I have found a very wide spectrum of opinion about Daly, her philosophy, her manner, her life, and pretty much everything else you could think of.

Mark Vernon of the wrote, “She was an audaciously creative spirit; an awkwardly witty, deadly serious writer. She arguably did more to stretch what is possible to think in contemporary feminist theology than any other.”

At the end of Vernon’s post, the comments created a stream of back and forth banter that, in itself, was telling of the spectrum of opinion on feminism, and the still very-much-present gender upheaval, that exists in the world. Even after her death, controversy still surrounds Mary Daly.


But back to my question, What is it to be a woman, in the fullest sense?

As I consider the ramifications of Daly’s statement, that to be fully this female that I am is ‘to sin’, it points to the most basic premise that we, as women, are already sinners simply by being, by breathing, by existing. Basically, this is the whole Eve complex. Our fall from grace. The idea that we women are responsible for sin.

It then follows that if we do something to minimize our fullness, meaning we learn how ‘to be’ in the ‘not-fullest sense’, then we mitigate our sinning potential, so to speak. We minimize how much of a sinner we are.

I have to admit, when I am really honest with myself, much of my 53 years here on this earth have been filled with an underlying, nauseating sense of something being wrong with me, solely because I am a woman. And, I know I have minimized myself in order to not feel this sickening sense of sinfulness.

If I could somehow be ‘less womanly’, ‘less seen’, heck, just ‘less’, then I would feel less, meaning I wouldn’t have to ‘feel’ being a woman.

To see it in this raw form, though, to see it so bluntly equated, woman=sin, felt sickeningly true, not intellectually, but somewhere in my psyche. Some part of me believes this. Hmmmmmmmm….. But, where did this come from? Where did I learn this?


One of my teachers, Adyashanti, speaks of the word sin and its meaning, which in his words means ‘to miss the mark’. Upon researching this, I discovered this explanation:

Sin & Evil: In the Aramaic Language and culture that Jesus taught in, the terms for “sin” and “evil” were archery terms. When the archer shot at the target and missed the scorekeeper yelled the Aramaic word for sin. It meant that you were off the mark, take another shot. The concept of sin was to be positive mental feedback. Sin is when you are operating from inaccurate information and thus a perceptual mis-take. When you become conscious and aware if the results of your inaccuracy you have the option to reconsider what you have learned and do as they do in Hollywood, “do another take.” By the way, where the arrow fell when it missed the target was referred to as evil.

So, this derivation of sin would have been about the time of Jesus.

Diving further into the etymology of the word, I found this explanation of the word sin, one that comes from more recent times:

Etymology: Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; akin to Old High German sunta sin and probably to Latin sont-, sons guilty, est is —
Date: before 12th century

1 a : an offense against religious or moral law b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible <it’s a sin to waste food> c : an often serious shortcoming : fault
2 a : transgression of the law of God b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

This is the etymology that Mary Daly quoted, a derivation of the root that means ‘to be’.

If we move forward in time, forward to where the patriarchy as world paradigm has become firmly entrenched, in most of the world it is believed, either overtly, or covertly, that women are the lesser gender. It is here, within this worldview of male supremacy, that sin has moved from missing the mark to simply being human, to simply being a woman.


Now, granted, we can toss this whole thing out if we don’t believe in this most strict sense of what it means ‘to sin’. Or can we? We learn to make meaning through what we are taught. We are taught with words and we are taught through behavior. We are taught through culture. We learn to make meaning within the culture we swim in.

Things have changed greatly in how women perceive the idea of sin and sinning. Or have they?

Perhaps on the surface of life, in this culture, much has changed. And, intellectually this just doesn’t make sense. But what do we believe, somewhere down in the shadow?

And, what about emotionally? What about our deepest conditioning? What about the stories we made up as young girls? Not so much the stories about what we could grow up to be or do, but the stories about our core worth? Stories we began to tell ourselves about our nature as girls, and as time progressed, as women? What about the feeling of being a girl, then a woman, in a culture that is based on domination?

I know that, until recently, I have lived my life with the unshakable sense that there is something less valuable about me, simply because I was born in a female body. While intellectually I knew this wasn’t so, somewhere in the recesses of my psyche lay hidden beliefs and fears that this body is sinful, that my womanhood was somehow dirty and bad. I see it reflected in the media, in quasi-pornographic programming showing women being beaten and tortured, raped and abused. I see it reflected daily in the myriad ways women are objectified, repeatedly, to sell everything from hamburgers to beer to cars to razors.

It is my experience, and in the experience of many of the women I have worked with to awaken to the divine feminine within, that we swim in this notion that to be a woman in the fullest sense is to sin. We swim in the cultural sea, and we swim in our own internalized pool of it. It’s a deep and dark pool that lies in the shadow, far from the light of Spirit, far from the light of the Goddess, far from the light of the God I know. We carry this pool around inside us. That’s the kicker. If we hold conditioned beliefs, that are unconscious, we swim in our own little pool of perceived sin.

This pool is the only pool that really matters, for it feeds the negative, compulsive, shadow thoughts that keep the inner-patriarchy in place. And, it’s the only pool one can change. But, when we do clean our own pool, the big pool becomes a little clearer and cleaner.


Sitting with Mary Daly’s statement, I have read it and re-read it. Writing this post has been like a long labor. I’ve written, and re-written, until I could wind my way around to something I already knew, but needed to see in a simpler form, for anything true is really, really simple at its core.

“For a woman … ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin’, when she is trapped in patriarchy.

“For a woman … ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin’, when she is trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet.

And, when she’s not trapped in patriarchy?

Ah, woman ≠ sin.

As you can see, I’m a lover of logic and math. But, I’m even greater lover of the Mystery, which is the Mother of math. This Mother is the heart of existence. This Mother holds us all in her womb, the womb of truth. If we’re willing to hang out here, the truth will be revealed.

As I sat in the Mystery with Mary’s wisdom, this oh, so, young part of my psyche cried out with very familiar mantra:

‘be small and silent and agreeable = be safe and loved and wanted’.

Here was the part that keeps me believing, even when I know on so many levels this is crap.


I know this. I know it is only the stories I tell myself. But, when the stories are woven into the fabric of the culture, into the belief systems that keep the patriarchy in place, it can be so hard to step back far enough to see the obvious. I had to see the equation woman = sin, I had to feel it, I had to sit with it, I had to open my heart to the part of me that believes this seductive lie.

It is seductive. It seduces us with its promise of safety. It beguiles us with the promise that if we give ourselves away, we will be wanted. In believing this lie, I can settle down into the oh so sickeningly comfortable familiar arms of, ‘I will safe’.

Of course, the equation is different at different times for different women.

Sometimes, it looks like:

‘be like a man = be safe and loved and wanted’


‘be asexual = be safe and loved and wanted’


‘be youthful, sexy, and beautiful as hell so every man will want me = be safe and loved and wanted’

or simply

be silent = be safe.


I have done a ton of work to disengage from this cultural story. It’s not only cultural, it’s familial. We, all women and men, learn our story of illusion at a young, young age, from parents who also were taught these seductive lies.

Much of what I’ve done has allowed my mind to once again trust my heart and my body.

When I drop down into this sensuous female body I exist in, I can feel the dark richness of the feminine, the dark loveliness. This is oh so different than the darkness of the shadow.

From my own experience, I know that this is the place from which my own internal power flows forth. This place within the depths of my body and my heart, is the place where I am the fullest in every sense.  It is the place where I feel wholly holy female.

Here, in this wholly holy female place, I am no longer ‘trapped in patriarchy’. It has no power. It does not exist.

In reality, the only thing that is real is what is here, now.

The patriarchy is an illusion, a story, albeit a powerful one because so many minds have agreed to uphold it, thereby granting it power.


In remembering Mary Daly, perhaps we can focus on truth, your truth as a woman. This truth stands alone from academic philosophy and theology, cultural conditioning, and gender differences. This truth is free to question. This truth is to know, and to be, you in the fullest sense.

Thank you, Mary, for your fierceness and your courage. You certainly weren’t perfect. You were controversial. You didn’t ever shy away from stating your beliefs, wholeheartedly. You stirred things up. You pissed people off. But, you blew the conversation wide open. You shined not just a light, but a high-beam on the shadow of this culture, a shadow that only harms women, men, children and everything that is living.

Who knows how history will hold you and your ideas, but I do know that you have added to the conversation, a conversation of possibility where all women and girls might one day know, relish and celebrate the fullness of what it is to be female, while also coming to know their healthy masculine side, and where all men and boys might discover the beauty of their feminine side, so that we all might live in true gender respect and harmony.


This post has been the most difficult I have written. It felt as if I was giving birth to something so much larger than my own understanding, and I was. I have been giving birth to the raw courage to sin by being fully a woman in all my fullness in THIS paradigm we swim in, the paradigm of patriarchy.

We don’t live in the time of Jesus, when sin meant to miss the mark. We live in the patriarchy, where women are seen, way down deep in the shadow, as being sinful, simply by their nature.

To me, having the courage to sin does not mean to spew anger and hate at those that hold power. It means to do the work it will take to come to know myself through experience, not by way of what I have been told it means. It means to question what I have made up about myself, my worth, the world itself and my relationship with it.

It means to be fully female, to embody the divine feminine, to disentangle one’s being from the powerful structures that keep us believing in our own powerlessness. It means being that which we are, divinely female, embodying the life principle that, by design, created us to bring life into life.

It means to step into this power, to stand and speak, and to give my whole-heart support to other women and men who are willing to stand, speak and step into their own personal power.

As it turns out, it is only my own knowing, my own courage I can birth, but by sharing this knowing, I hope to help crack apart the tightly held beliefs about the prevailing structure we hold so tightly to.


Look out your eyes onto the world.

There is nothing written on it.

There are no words.

There is no etymology.

For women and men, the beliefs we hold and the meaning we place on it, is simply in our minds, in how we think we see the world.

The world itself is empty of all meaning and all belief.

It is empty of all that we attempt to make of it.

It is here, in this emptiness, that the mind can rest.

It is here, in this emptiness, that we can know the simple elegance that we are.

It is here, in this emptiness, that we can know our divine inheritance.

It is here, in this emptiness, that we can know the goddess, not as story or image

but as the coming and going, the birth and death, the dance of light here in the world of matter.

It is here, we are safe, loved and holy whole, simply as we are.

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44 Replies to “The Courage to Sin”

  1. here you go again – starting a conversation the world needs to have.

    thank you.

    having only read it twice, i’ll undoubtedly be back many more times to savor, digest, articulate, but my initial, unpolished responses are (in no particular order)

    ~ agreed: this is not about who’s been harmed more by patriarchy because yes, men have been harmed, too.

    ~ agreed: all my life i’ve felt less than because i’m female (eve). the baptists who contributed to my upbringing, quickly tired of hearing some young girl ask why eve was the bad one when adam had (and exercised) a choice. eve, after all, was just willing to share. adam could’ve said no thank you. getting no answers to that (no engaging answers, that is), i brought it to “their” attention that every culture has a genesis myth. they didn’t want to hear that either.

    ~ we tend to feel the need to defend what we BELIEVE, but what we KNOW comes from a deep well of knowing and stands quietly, confidently on its own. this is what i’m initially taking from your last section.

    ~ this deep knowing sounds like your wholly holy female place.

    ~ what you’ve done here, sugar, is start a conversation that can move us from railing and foot stomping to action and forward motion.

    ps: “my mind . . . that lovely rooommate i live with” makes me smile.

    ps2: though i behaved like a feminist (mostly just on the inside), i didn’t catch up with the feminist reading list till i took myself to grad school in 2003.

  2. A couple of things hit me about this post:

    1. “The patriarchy is an illusion, a story, albeit a powerful one because so many minds have agreed to uphold it, thereby granting it power.”


    2. “We don’t live in the time of Jesus, when sin meant to miss the mark. We live in the patriarchy, where women are seen, way down deep in the shadow, as being sinful, simply by their nature.”

    On item #1, this articulates so well what I have known to be true my whole life and have not spoken because I couldn’t put that knowing into words.

    On item #2, I’ve long felt that something is amiss in the way the time of Jesus has been interpreted, and my father always tried to tell me it was a different time back then…what you say clarifies just how different a time it is now and was then and makes me want to dig deeper into that, and into myself, my Self.

    Like Jeanne, I will be back to read this again, at least many times, because there is so much to think about in the ideas to bring up here. Thank you for giving me (us) this thought provoking deliciousness of your wholly holy female self.

  3. Julie I heart you. This post is too big for me to even comment on until I read it at least a couple more times. This is definitely a conversation we should be having. Thank you for laboring over and birthing this. It’s beautiful.

    ps: “my mind . . . that lovely rooommate i live with” along with Jeanne this makes me smile too.

  4. Wow. Fascinating, informative, beautiful, and courageous. I honestly feel like I’m going to have to sit with the one for a while before I can articulate any coherent thought. For now, I just know it’s damn good food. Thank you.

  5. I read this and thought, I have never applied the word sin to myself or anyone else for that matter. I’ve existed outside the sphere of that notion. Perhaps because I was not raised in a religion. I only ever thought in terms of right and wrong and that as it applied to our behavior on earth, not to ourselves as being right or wrong people. So your post gives me insight into a whole way that some other women are thinking. (Maybe because my background is Jewish, even though we weren’t raised as anything, I always realized that Jews went through a matriarchal line of descent.) But women have had to fight for their position in the world and while we’re doing ok in the U.S. so much of the world is woefully inadequate. In the U.S., we may be doing better than ok. Have you been reading about how the percentages of women in college, studying medicine, etc. are outpacing those of men? Having a personal bias that woman are a bit more capable, I wonder if soon we will be carrying all the load! Anyhow, as an aside and example of the importance of all feminists no matter how “out there,” about 10 years ago I was walking behind some young women at our annual Bakersfield Women’s Business Conference, and they were saying, “Why do they keep talking about women this and women that. I’m tired of women’s lib stuff.” I butted in, and said, “I’ll tell you why. Because when I was 16 and so excited that I was at a legal age to work, I went to Baskin Robbins, but they told me women weren’t strong enough to scoop ice cream. And I had no recourse. That’s why it’s important.”

    Thanks for all of yourself that you put in this post.

  6. I love reading the wisdom of every woman here – all these carefully crafted and heartful responses to your words, Julie, and to Mary Daly’s spirit.

    Just yesterday my twelve-year-old daughter and I were discussing feminism. It is a regular conversation in our household. We were on our way to auditions for VDay, an international campaign dedicated to Ending Violence against women – in those spans and spaces of the world where BEING a woman is BEING sin… where Patriarchy isn’t the veil, it is the concrete brick thrown against every woman’s head. This year, instead of solely performing the Vagina Monologues, we are performing Eve Ensler’s second piece, A Memory, A Rant and a Prayer. The piece I read was about a woman whose son died in Bosnia. I started reading the monologue and started crying. I couldn’t stop crying. I stopped in pieces – but when it came time to “end scene” I had to sob for a moment in place before my friend and director, Hester, gave me something lighter to read to help me pull me out of that moment and back into the world. It was about womanhood and motherhood and love and loss and pain and… hurtfulness and unconsciousness and… so much more.

    Women supporting women, loving, empowering and engaging one another.

    Beloved Susan Reep, the wise woman who posted here above me – is a fellow “Burn the Witch” artist. We have been a part of an All Women’s Art Show here in Bakersfield for several years where we, the artists, are more than sort-of in-the-face of the Art Community in town… basically collectively screaming “We’re not going to take this anymore!” Susan and I are some of the “senior” women and I love helping the younger women to “get it”….

    Yet, sadly, in my Women in American History class that I took for fun last Fall, when the question was raised, “Who in here considers themselves to be a feminist” I was the ONLY ONE TO RAISE HER HAND. I didn’t know it, because I was taking notes or something… and then when it came my time to share, I stood up and was like Norma Rae with a photo of my then ten-year-old-daughter in my hand saying, “See this photo? It is titled Feminist, Age 10”. I can’t remember what else I said. I was so on fire. By the end of that class session, the younger women (and one man) were getting it.

    Thank you, Julie, for being such a strong voice and advocate for women.

    I know I will come back to this post in the days and weeks to come, gleaning more every time, I am betting.

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  8. You gave me goosebumps. I too need to digest, reread, digest more before being able to formulate coherent thoughts. This takes me back to college and my feminism classes – so loaded with *important* thoughts/feelings/awarenesses. I’ve lost some of the fire for this discussion in raising a child and yet, I have a daughter, so it is the most important discussion to have. (but it would be if I had a son too.) Thank you.

  9. Julie,

    I got chills! I also need to reread your post for there are so many layers of meaning, a multiplicity of nuances dancing together in a feast for our Spirit and Woman hearts.

    Yes, thank you for dismantling patriarchal culture in such a brilliant way. Goddess is speaking through you giving birth to this powerful message for NOW.


  10. Thank you all for your gracious comments. I know it can take courage to leave a comment, but they help us deepen this conversation.

    Jeanne – “what you’ve done here, sugar, is start a conversation that can move us from railing and foot stomping to action and forward motion.” I hope so. And, I love that you’re a part of this conversation. I look forward to carrying this forward with you. Thank you, dear one.

    Dian – you are welcome. Thank you for your love, your wisdom, and your willingness to be vulnerable. I’m glad some of what I wrote put some things into words for you.

    Olive&Hope – I love you, too. I look forward to your coming back, and to you, me and all these other women moving this conversation forward.

    Emma – Thank you for partaking of this ‘good food’, and I would love to hear from you after you’ve had a chance to digest some of it.

    Susan – I so get what you are saying about the word ‘sin’. I’m glad you’ve been outside of it. And, that you are vocal to those young women that don’t remember earlier times. Thank you for sharing your insights here.

    Julie – I can just see you with your daughter. What a powerful moment that was for you, reading the script. As in so many things in life, the effects of patriarchy range form subtle to egregious. I feel that we women, here in the west, have the opportunity to make things different for those women in the world who day in and day out, face egregious forms of violence. I love our long-time connection, all from the Internet.

    Alana – thank you for stopping by. Yes, it’s an important conversation for the benefit of all our children, and in a different way, for girls. I look forward to having more conversation with you.

    Marjory – love that you got so much from it this time reading it. It is a beginning, with much more to articulate and share in conversation. I look forward to more times with you.

  11. I am breathless with inspiration. What a beautiful post. Im also grinning because right across the street from my home, there is a long path, through an orchard and a biodynamic farm which leads to a place called Mary Daly Field – and until today, I had no idea who Mary Daly was. Thank you for telling me about this priceless person… and for so honestly exploring your own experience. (again and again.)

    1. Amy, Thank you for your comment. How amazing that Mary Daly’s name is right there across from your home, and you now know who she was. I so love that.

  12. wow! There is a lot here to think about…looking forward to rereading. My first thought: The words structure (and I include the concept of sin in the structure) and swim made me think of this: if the netted salmon swims upstream to shape-shifting bouyancy. She may find her other krilly self, the one that fits through the netted holes that catch salmon. The idea of stepping outside of limiting structures has been a theme that keeps popping up in many forms for me. I agree, to be the full person/woman we need to be aware of and then try to step outside the structure and limiting beliefs.
    Thank you 🙂

  13. Sheila – yes. i love that. ‘She may find her other krilly self, the one that fits through the netted holes that catch salmon.’ And, shape-shifting buoyancy. What a great metaphor to envision from. To discover one’s shape-shifting buoyancy. It feels light, like it’s free.

  14. Julie — wow… it was a labor of love, this article and I am so glad you found the freedom you know is yours at the end. I loved the equations…they were simple and free… I could just look at them and understand the discourse. The power of symbols is amazing. I think our conditioning is about the body being sin and that associated with the feminine because the masculine is the head and the transcendent, but I think you said this. Also I want to say something about power. I think we are afraid of our own power… and with women the power is in embodiment….but you know this too! Anyway I loved watching your train of thought and your powerful brain and heart. I think women have to stop being afraid of their power and all of the stories we tell ourselves about why we are not living it is just crap…. so easy for me to say. HA!!

  15. Julie,
    I’m so glad you reminded me that this post was here. I read it in January, but apparently I needed to read it again today. Your exploration of the etymology of “sin” is a balm to the wounds of years of believing that woman = sin. And when you say, “I’m even greater lover of the Mystery, which is the Mother of math. This Mother is the heart of existence. This Mother holds us all in her womb, the womb of truth. If we’re willing to hang out here, the truth will be revealed,” I take a deep breath, ready to hang out and rest with the Mother.

    1. Angela, I’m glad you came by to read it again, today. Balms are wonderful things to soothe those pains that were placed upon us, without our consent. We now can know the untruth of them. Instead, the mystery can reveal to us what we’ve been all along…sacred.

  16. Dear Julie,

    Thank you for having the courage to not only write these words, but to share them. I can imagine how difficult it was. The equation of women and sin has been whispered and shouted at me for as long as I can remember: from the pulpit, the playground and the classroom; from television, magazines and books; from strangers, predators and lovers – even from friends and family. Whispered and shouted so pervasively and so vehemently that I found it in my mirror, my makeup, myself: that I was wrong, that I was unclean, that I brought darkness into the word – all because I had somehow made the mistake of being female. And it is hard to find the courage to sin; the courage not to apologise for who and what I am: a woman, wholly and holy.

    You are beautiful.

    1. Dear Eloa, Thank you for your words. They are a balm to me, to the pain I have felt in my life from others’ beliefs about women. Somewhere inside we all know this is not true. But when you hear it from those you love, whether spoken or unspoken, and you are very young and need their love to survive, then you begin to believe it about yourself.
      It can feel so hard to be what you are without apology, yet at the same time completely freeing. Both, together. And, totally worth it. Wholly and holy. You are beautiful. Blessings, Julie

  17. What a great entry, Julie. Took a sabbatical from blogs, but glad I ran into this one today.

    You feed my soul.


  18. Julie…. Julie, Julie… Thank you. I will try to STUDY this, and metabolize this, and cherish you for writing and researching this…. Thank you!

    1. Kandice, thank you for coming by and sharing your experience. I’m glad the article was here at the time you were meant to find it! I look forward to knowing more about you.

  19. When I was young, I was too loud. I talked too much. I wasn’t anybody’s favorite.
    When I was in corporate America, my VP told me “If a man said what you said, he’d be considered smart, but when you say it, you just sound like a bitch.”
    It’s frustrating. So frustrating.
    I don’t feel that the world is devoid of meaning, except what we give it, but I do believe that we have it within us to open the eyes of those around us to the beauty and power of being women.
    Thanks for sharing this powerful post!

  20. I have what might seem a kind of counterintuitive reaction to this post. For me, I don’t feel such a vehement shock and recognition and rejection of the culture’s equivalence between sin and women. I see the whole dynamic from a different perspective.

    I have known about the etymology of sin meaning missing the mark, for a long time. The etymological connotation to archery is in Hebrew as well, and I think Judaism in general has a different take on sin than Christianity does. To me, the idea of sin is not such a poisonous one. Judaism has always had great acceptance of the way we always do fall short of the mark we are trying to achieve. There’s a deep wealth in the tradition, in how to respond to our own shortcomings which is not condemning, that is accepting and life-affirming. A spiritual practice of the difficult but sacred art of returning to our intentions, falling short, returning, and falling short again. Rich with humanness and humility, recognition and mature forgiveness, with virtually no judgment or condemnation at all.

    Also there is almost no genderedness to this conception of sin, in Judaism. Not that there is not plenty of sexism in Judaism, don’t get me wrong, and not that women don’t get it in other ways. But the sexism doesn’t really get played out here, in the context of sin. As regards sin, the whole community is considered “beinonim”, meaning those in between. The people who are 100% good or 100% bad are both, in a certain kind of sense, philosophically uninteresting. It’s in the troubled and complex ethical domain in between all-good and all-bad, where life is. Where the community lives, and where community-ness itself is. And in the community-based ethos of Judaism, both women and men are recognized as absolutely essential to the larger health and viability of life.

    In fact, this process of falling short and returning, called “teshuvah”, is considered to be of paramount holiness. That the person who has sinned and moved through that difficult process of returning, is considered to be greater, even holier, than the person who has never sinned. That in this respect humans (the tradition clearly includes both men and women in this) are even considered to be higher than the angels, because angels cannot sin, and therefore cannot move through the sacred life-craft practice of teshuvah, of returning.

    I think the virulence of sin=women, which is so ringingly challenged in this post, is pretty specific to Christianity, actually. And we live in the contemporary Western cultures informed by Christianity. As a Jew in this culture, I don’t deny that this is present. But in a very personal way, I don’t have that deep recognition and rejection of the equivalence of sin and women. I know what you’re talking about, certainly. But it doesn’t ring true to my experience. Judaism shapes a very different way of approaching “sin”. (Jesus would also have been shaped by this different cultural approach to sin, by the way.)

    As regards the sacredness of femininity and women, to me one way of saying it, is that Life itself is sacred, and Life itself is female. Not precisely that the female is divine, but that the divine is female. (If that contrast makes sense.) Because life is clearly female.

    And yet, life is always that falling away and returning. Life is always in the complex between, where both individual human women and men are, in community, and where the essentially feminine process of growth is. Growth, and movement and flow, and choice and consequence, and pain and healing, and the transitions from newness and hope, through failure, through death, to hope and potential, birth and rebirth, again. The sacred, feminine cycle of life.

    And of course life is where the falling away and missing the mark and coming back and missing again, is. That process which we grow from. That’s a holy process, a feminine process. A sacred process, one that makes human life more holy than the (genderless) angels. Not a thing to be hated and condemned as “sin-full”.

    So in a certain kind of contradictory way, I almost would agree that sin=woman! But of course, with a very different understanding of sin.

    Ah well. Always the maverick… and always with a too-long comment as well. 😉

    Thank you, Julie, for your love and respect, your truth and acceptance, and your generosity, humanness, and humility. Your unabashedly female, defiant and tender, embodied response to the sacred is a continuing revelation to me.

    1. Dear Karen,
      Yes, yes and yes. In Jesus’ time, sin was simply to miss the mark. It was later that it changed to ‘simply to be’. I appreciate your sharing the differences for you. It’s wonderful to know about all the different ways to see this. Ultimately, it’s about simply being what one is…sacredness living in a body. You see me well, sister.

  21. Thank you Julie, and welcome

    You MUST read Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements, who says a sin simply is an action that goes against you, and that women or sex being sin simply is a lie (being very concise here)

    Like you say, it’s all in the mind, this lie is one of the Agreements you once made and you can simply break it, feel better, and become free

    The terrible atrocities committed by the Church – subjugation of women was the first, and many have followed

    Women are great, women are strong, women are the wonders of this world. Women give birth, women create, women are goddesses.
    Men are weak, have not much purpose in life but short endurance and strength – it is them who are constantly looking for purpose

    Have you ever walked passed a Kinder Garten or elemenatary school yard? All the crying, yelling and screaming, that’s 95% boys’ work

    You might want to read the Gospel of Thomas ( and my thoughts on that; it showed me an entirely different PoV on the Bible, written way before his words were twisted and turned by the frustrated powerhungry males of the first Church.
    However, small parts of it seeped through (

    “They can’t say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ You see, the kingdom of God is within you.”

    Break the agreements you disagree with Julie, simple as that – I’m glad you did this one and are so beautifully relating about it, and inspiring others to question their own


    Martijn – male, in case you wonder 😉

    1. Thank you, Martijn, for your sharing here. I have read that book. It’s great. Thank you for the reminder. Break the agreements on all levels.

  22. A wonderful post. It is always interesting when one deconstructs the assumptions, myths, and language we use to make sense of the world. So much of it goes unexamined, accepted as presented — a source of much anger, disappointment, and mis-understanding in the world. You have done a great job of starting that here and I thank you for sharing it in a forum from which the rest of us can benefit.

    It is my belief that our ultimate purpose is to be ourselves in the fullest sense — to find and reveal the divine within. That is a winding, scary, difficult process that is also the source of joy, happiness, and contentment. How wonderful to see it presented as “sin.” I’ll check out Mary Daly’s work.

    Consider me one more male fully in support of sinning big.

    1. Eric,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It’s wonderful to be having this conversation with men and women who see purpose is to be ourselves, utterly and completely.

  23. Hi …

    A wonderful post and, judging by the number of replies, quite timely and necessary. I believe that when any woman navigates the barriers to her own power, it is scary, intense, profound, and extremely difficult. What’s scarier to me is that many women are just not aware of their potential, sleep walking, you know? It makes me sad to see how many of us accept our place in this culture. I mean, it’s no fun being called a bitch or treated with anything less than respect (and working in Corporate, it happens frequently), but the alternative is laying down. I think maybe I’ll just step back quiet and start my own revolution, on woman at a time.
    Take care!

  24. Hi …

    A wonderful post and, judging by the number of replies, quite timely and necessary. I believe that when any woman navigates the barriers to her own power, it is scary, intense, profound, and extremely difficult. What’s scarier to me is that many women are just not aware of their potential, sleep walking, you know? It makes me sad to see how many of us accept our place in this culture. I mean, it’s no fun being called a bitch or treated with anything less than respect (and working in Corporate, it happens frequently), but the alternative is laying down. I think maybe I’ll just step back quiet like and start my own revolution, one woman at a time.
    Take care!

  25. Julie,
    I’ve been wanting to blog about you for ages. I keep dreaming up and discarding ideas. Enough already. I read this post with my jaw open. Your insights are sparking.

    How about an interview? I can send you questions and you can answer them? Or to make it easier I can call or Skype you and just take notes. I don’t want to add to your content burden.

    Maybe something about/around Valentine’s Day? If we like it I can post over a HuffPo.


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