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Goddess 2.0: Goddess Movement Beyond the Baby Boom

What can we do to make sure that the Goddess Movement lives beyond our generation?

I've asked myself this question many times. Recently I asked a room full of Goddess Scholars[1] to consider: While some young girls are lucky enough to be invited to rituals, and some are educated about the Goddess by their families, many girls, young women, and nascent queens have yet to discover Goddess. If they're not in our homes or attending our public rituals or our workshops, where do we find them? Or perhaps the better question is this: Where do they find us?

The Goddess Movement Yesterday, Today, and ... Tomorrow?
We second-wave[2] and third-wave[3] feminists have created an impressive body of scholarship about ancient goddesses and about the practices, people, sites, and cultures associated with them. Likewise, we've created contemporary practices and traditions based on our needs, perceptions, and desires and also on the information we've gathered about how, where, and when the Ancient Ones were worshipped. We haven't done this alone, or in a vacuum. Women younger than the baby boom, Pagans of many traditions, and non-pagan women and men have studied folklore, folk magic, esoteric traditions and practices, findings from archaeology and other sciences, and source materials from history, all of which have contributed to knowledge of ancient goddesses, gods, and paganisms.

Powerful waves of Goddess awareness and feminism do, historically, recede.[4] So asking what we can do to ensure the survival of the Goddess Movement beyond my generation is not a naive question. It's a question that all Goddess Women, of all generations, should be considering.

Technology, Goddess Studies, and Connecting Cross-Generationally
The 70 or so women at the Goddess Scholars Symposium covered all the named generations except the very youngest, Generation Z, which has until recently been lumped into Generation Y. My presentation, given as part of a panel on "Technology and Goddess Studies," addressed the role of the Web in the dissemination of information about the Goddess, Her scholars and Her practitioners.

Generations on the Web
As of March 2009, 74.4% of the North American population uses the web. That's the world's highest per capita use (Australia/Oceania is 2nd; Europe is 3rd), but total North American web use is only 15.7% of worldwide use.[5] For younger users, the Web has become living room, media center, youth center, library, and card catalog. Research makes it clear that if Goddess Women (second- and third-wave both) want to connect with younger women, we need to meet our virtual daughters and granddaughters on the Web. In the U.S., age groups[6] commonly considered in studying the web are:

"generation"
Gen Y †
Gen X
Baby Boom
WW2 / GI / Silent
age
under age 30
between 30 and 44
between 45 and 64
over 65 years old
population
currently about 74 million
currently about 49 million
currently about 77 million
currently about 55 million
% online
(approx.)
90%
80%
68%
50%
characteristics
-Strong views on community
-Instant gratification
-Free spending based on trends and social network recommendations, but worried now about getting a job
-Respect expertise regardless of age
-“Digital natives”[7]; tools have become almost invisible
-Limitless possibilities (until current downturn)
-Individualism
-Free spending (but worried now)
-Comfortable with technology
-Task oriented web use, but broader use (banking, shopping, in addition to email, information)
-Social and cause-oriented
-Free spenders, but stressed about retirement now
-Becoming familiar with technology
-Task oriented web use (email, health and travel information)
-Remember Depression and war
-Cautious spenders
-Family, home, structure, loyalty are most important
-Older members of this group (75+) are least likely to use web
† includes "Generation Z" - ages 14 and under - thought to be too young to characterize in the ways the other generations have been

Generations in the Library
Among some women of the Baby Boom and WWII generations, there is a concern that younger people are limiting their sources of information and inspiration to what they can find on the Web. The Internet is sometimes seen as a medium that is replacing the much older print technology. Are those concerns well founded? According to a 2007 study[8] of American reading patterns (considering only print materials):

  • One in four adults had not read a book in the previous year.
  • Excluding those nonreaders, the readers averaged seven books that year.
  • Women read more books than men, except for history and biography.
  • College graduates, Democrats, liberals, and non-churchgoers read more than the contrasting groups.
  • Analysts blamed the Internet, among other things, for the low number of books read.
Who Goes to the Library?[9]
An average of 53% of U.S. adults said they visited a library in 2007. Notice that after GenY, the percentage goes steadily down.
Age Group
Age Range
% Who Visited Library
Generation Y
18-30
62%
Generation X
30-44
57%
Baby Boom
45-64
46%
WW2 / GI / Silent
over 65
42%
72+
32%

The Library/Web Connection
Internet users were more than twice as likely to patronize libraries as non-Internet users. More than 2/3 of library visitors used computers while at the library: 65% looked up information on the web; 62% checked library resources online. "Scroll forward 10 years and [the GenYers’] younger brothers and sisters are now the most avid library users," said Lee Rainie, co-author of the study and director of the Pew project (see endnote 6). Those children are likely to go to the library expecting to use the Internet – even to find their way to relevant print materials. For GenY and GenZ, the Web is a primary source for finding what books they want to read.

Why Goddess Scholars and Practitioners Must Engage Online
The members of Generation Y, as described above, are savvy users of the Web and also the largest group of library users. They expect more than Goddess information on the Internet; they expect Goddess scholars and practitioners to discuss, create, connect, promote change and community, and respect expertise regardless of age. They are not passive consumers, but co-creators. They know they have to read multiple sources and make up their own minds about accuracy and bias. They have “information hunger” (see endnote 9) – and they’re used to a complex, fast-moving, full-color, non-linear web experience. They scan for what they want, and reject a page quickly if they don’t find it. They expect short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and lots of headings, multimedia, and white space.[10] They use simplified spelling, but they’re highly skilled at setting up a search. If the serious archeological, philosophical, and historical Goddess work and the community of scholarship and shared discussion aren’t happening on the Web, the members of GenY (and their younger siblings) won’t be likely to find their home in it.

Conundrum Answered: Using Social Media to Connect Across Generations
Five years ago, the doorway to the Web was up a steep flight of steps, requiring tech skills and determination. Today, anyone who can type can cross the threshold easily, thanks to Social Media. The now familiar tools of Social Media are blogs, microblogs, and wikis (like Wikipedia), and now social networks dominate the marketplace of shared experience and ideas. The way to learn about these things is to visit them and set up an account. The way to participate actively is to start contributing. If you post it, they will come.

At its most basic, Social Media is a category of sites based on user participation and user-generated content. But more fundamentally, it is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, both personal and professional. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue into dialogue. It democratizes information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It's also a meritocracy of knowledge. Anyone can say anything, but opinions converge as they do in face-to-face conversation, based on the value of what is said.

List of Social Media Sites and Tools[11]

Notes

  1. Symposium: Self and Goddess: Personal, Political, Spiritual, May 14, 2009. Sponsored by the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology.
  2. "Second-wave feminism", Wikipedia. Accessed August 5, 2009 at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism>.
  3. "Third-wave feminism", Wikipedia. Accessed August 5, 2009 at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism>.
  4. See "Christine de Pizan," "Protofeminism," and "History of feminism," for example. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_de_pisan>, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protofeminism>, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_feminism>, all accessed August 3, 2009.
  5. This section consolidates information from Mascarenas, Janelle “My Generation”, SME Toolkit. Available 5/13/2009 at <http://us.smetoolkit.org/us/en/content/en/5175/My-Generation>; Morrell, Roger W., Christopher B. Mayhorn, and Joan Bennett, “A Survey of World Wide Web Use in Middle-Aged and Older Adults,” Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 42, No. 2, 175-182 (2000). DOI: 10.1518/001872000779656444. Accessed 5/13/2009 at <http://hfs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/42/2/175>; Susannah Fox and Mary Madden, “Generations Online,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, 1/22/2006. Accessed as download 5/13/2009 at <http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Generations-Online.aspx>.
  6. “Demographic Change and Local Government: A Review of Issues,” Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. Accessed as of 5/13/2009 at <http://www.mrsc.org/Subjects/Governance/DemogOver.aspx>.
  7. Coined by blogger Josh Spear <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_Spear> and Aaron Dignan.
  8. “Poll: One in four adults read no books last year,” MSNBC.com, 8/21/2007, reporting on an Associated Press-lpsos poll. Accessed 5/13/2009 at <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20381678//>.
  9. “Generation Y biggest user of libraries: survey”, Reuters, 12/30/2007, reporting a survey by Pew Internet & American Lie Project.
  10. Agger, Michael. “Lazy Eyes,” Slate, 6/13/2008. Accessed 5/13/2009 at <http://www.slate.com/id/2193552/>.
  11. Adapted from "Social Media," Wikipedia, Accessed 8/6/2009 at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media>, and the author's own list of social media sites.

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MatriFocus Cross-Quarterly
is a seasonal web journal (zine) for Goddess Women and others interested in Goddess Lore and Scholarship, Goddess Religion (ancient and contemporary), Feminist Spirituality, Women's Mysteries, Paganism and Neopaganism, Earth-based Religions, Witchcraft, Dianic Wicca and other Wiccan Traditions, the Priestess Path, Goddess Art, Women's Culture, Women's Health, Natural Healing, Mythology, Female Shamanism, Consciousness, Community, Cosmology, and Women's Creativity.

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