Mother’s Day, Purity Culture, and The Divine Feminine

Being A Woman Is Way Past Enough

For most of my life, I’ve found a strength in being an independent woman entrenched in a culture (which part of that I’m not sure…could be American, could be Appalachian, could be my personal culture) that says “I can’t accept help.”

My own personality of being a strong-willed person seems to blur those lines to an almost indiscernible image. Or, at least I let it, for a portion of my life. As part of my personality, I have also always felt the constraints on what “being a woman” meant to me. I grew up wavering between the feminine and masculine constraints of what a “lady” was allowed to express in my small town Christian culture.

I think because of the combination of my personality and social context, I didn’t understand or realize that entire dissent was a valuable choice…or I would’ve taken it.

I would’ve dealt with the discriminatory comments and not assented to wearing my hair down. I would’ve worn the gym shorts instead of the dresses. But I fought my way through both and settled somewhere in the middle place with the help of those around me.

I don’t need or want the extra that society has added to the words “female,” “femme,” “woman,” “lady,” etc. in order to flourish in this life. Growing up a woman is its own difficult journey without full inalienable rights…then add the layers of oppression if you aren’t white, cisgender, straight or straight passing, etc.

Feminine Autonomy

To give you an image of the journey, if you’ve seen the show 1883, the teenage character Elsa Dutton spends most of her time away from “civilized” culture as in she’s on the range, road, frontier, etc., as they call it. I won’t digress into a critical commentary on the show, though it is very tempting.

Anyway, when watching the show I began to see myself in Elsa’s character as she tosses the social expectations for herself (because she first of all has the personal autonomy to do so). She cuts off the dress and sleeves that constrain her person for something that is intuitively herself. Over the course of the show, she truly settles into that identity without all the extra that is assigned her by her family, culture, society, etc.

For that I am jealous, grateful, and excited that someone else broke the stronghold of what social femininity said about their lives and found the divine somewhere in the midst of it all.

Making Demands of Her Body

And yet, in light of all that—I’m having trouble finding the right way to say this—I have an inkling that purity culture, women’s lives, and Mother’s Day are interwoven in some really hurtful and problematic ways.

I started to notice the sting of this as a teenager in church when Mother’s Day Sunday rolled around and the single woman in her twenties or thirties had to sit begrudgingly through yet another Christian service that was weirdly focused on Mother’s Day. So many awkward eye glances in her general direction wondering, “Will she ever get married and have children?” or belittling comments like, “Here, you can have a flower too since you’re a lady.”

Like, first of all, I know I’m a lady (but also, what if I’m not? Will that press the purity culture panic button?).

And second, I don’t want your flower, your pity, or your expectations of what my life will look like.

So, for the single woman, the day becomes expectant. And for the woman hoping or dreaming to have children, it can become a place of shame.

For the woman who doesn’t want kids, it becomes social pressuring and coercion into something she knew she would not want, nor for that matter her hypothetical partner (for more research on this special type of misogyny, listen to women’s’ experiences about being denied hysterectomies).

And who’s to say any of these women need or must have partners?

Reproduction and Her Divine Majesty

Why is it that I never hear about the guys who couldn’t or didn’t become fathers on Father’s Day? Why is there a public element of shame on Mother’s Day for those who for various reasons did not or could not reproduce? Why is a woman’s worth tied to her production and reproduction?

Even the idea of “barren women” places her ability to reproduce before her worth.

But her divine image is not tied to that. Her godliness is made up of exactly who she is, as she is.

She is wonderfully masculine.

She is endearingly witty.

She is perfectly loud.

And she will continue to defy expectations because the Divine continues to defy expectations. She will continue to uplift those who wonder, “Ain’t I a Woman?” because they were not given the same rights as her.

Abolish It. Yup. Just Stop.

Anna Jarvis (the founder of Mother’s Day as we know it) knew the dangers of a holiday that had run rampant. A holiday that was an easy ticket to mass marketing of jewelry, flowers, and gifts galore which reinforce the social femininity that isn’t really about her, but someone’s ideal of her.

Instead of a day of civic empowerment for women’s leadership, it became a single decoy day to honor the contributions of a population that often do not have the voice, vote, power, money, or influence to create a better future for those whom they bore.

Let’s think theologically about what’s said and unsaid behind all of this:

Is the day really about her? Does it really say aloud all the things about her that are true the 364 other days of the year?

Maybe for you. It doesn’t hold meaning for me.

I think her worth isn’t in her production. Her worth isn’t in what she contributes for others.

Her worth is in God, the divine feminine.

Her worth is intrinsic and goes beyond the paradigm of flowers in an uncomfortable church service.

So for the love of all that is holy—including her—please stop.

Take the time to equalize the load that women bear. Take the time to listen to their stories. Take the time to deconstruct who and what you think a woman is. Take the time to be in her place for a fraction of your life so you can see what the chains are.

Then you can sit while she runs. Then you can let her legislate her own body. Then you can see how she uses the platform to uplift others who have something valuable to say.

Then you can see how she dismantles the world to be more compassionate, more in tune with the divine, and more for God’s sake.

I know I don’t know it all, but I also know that the constraints of “womanliness next to Godliness” is a dang trap. A purity trap. A reproduction trap.

A trap to which she did not consent.

Heather Moore (she/her) is a native Appalachian, millennial, nerd/gamer, and serial hobbyist who specializes in thinking and writing outside of the institutional box, calling out injustices, and coming alongside people in the messy beauty and quagmire of life. Click here to read more by Heather.

Feature image by Karolina Grabowska on

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