It has sold out to the new world religion.
Religion has never been a fan of gender equality. In fact, these traditionally patriarchal institutions have a long history of torture and suppression of women and girls. Women were burnt, stoned or drowned in the name of God, and teachings were created and bastardised to profess women’s inferiority. We thought the bra-burning of the 1970s set us free of religious dominance over the female spirit, and many great strides have been made. A large proportion of women around the globe have the ability and opportunity to participate equally in society. We have never before been more independent. But independence does not necessarily mean freedom. Feminism is now bound by the dogma of a new world religion. It is now beholden to materialism.
Let’s Define Religion
Religion is a term that can cause some consternation and confusion. In this article, it is defined as:
a set of designated beliefs, behaviours, and practices.
Religion is a set of doctrines provided by someone else and founded upon the notion that someone or something has power over your success and happiness.
Religion is distinct from spirituality in that the latter is our broader sense of meaning and purpose in this world. Religion may or may not be a part of your spiritual circle. Some may despise organised religion, reject all external spiritual teachings and find their sense of meaning in the world. Others may find great peace and inspiration in religions such as Christianity and Islam and honour their teachings. In this case, their spiritual circle is dominated by religion. People choose (consciously or otherwise) how much their sense of meaning is driven by external dogma and how much is taken up with their uniquely defined individual purpose.
Materialism As A Religion
I posit that materialism has become the religion of the modern world. Materialism is defined as:
a value system preoccupied with material possessions and the social image they project[i].
It places overwhelming importance on physical objects and believes that these, and their inherent statements about identity, are the most important things in life.
Materialism fits the definition of a religion in that it is:
- A set of beliefs, behaviours and practices. Materialists believe that the right phone, shirt or car or skincare product will make them happy and show success. So they watch people who appear successful and happy, find out what phone, shirt, care or skincare they use, and then set about replicating these possessions in their own life.
- An externally driven dogma. These beliefs and behaviours are founded on the prime concerns of appearance, image and what others think of you. They are based on the tangible world of being seen to have and do the right things. A person’s sense of worth is established through objects and possessions, being merely the superficial layer of their full existence.
And while we all like to think of ourselves as strong and independent adults, there are gods in this religion dictating standards of what makes a great life. These gods disguise themselves as marketers and politicians. Marketers manipulate your greatest fears and your deepest desires to make you buy stuff. Politicians pull the policy strings to ensure all the economic indicators are moving in their favour – employment, GDP, business confidence, consumer spending. Growth is good, and growth is fuelled by people buying stuff! Growth will get them re-elected and preserve their power.
With the religion of materialism, what you have becomes more important than who you are. The true, full and beautiful you tend to get lost in the fuss around maintaining facades. The dangers of a materialistic preoccupation are real and were foretold by the 18th Century poet Lucien Jacque:
“Humans are nourished by the invisible. We are nourished by that which is beyond the personal. We die by preferring its opposite.” ~ Lucien Jacque
Materialism creates death and destruction in all aspects of our lives. It reduces our sense of wellbeing.[ii] and reduces the amount of attention we have to give to our relationships. The research shows that when the materialistic values increase, life satisfaction, self-image and contentment with romantic relationships decrease.[iii]. People are also more likely to pay for cosmetic surgery when they place the greatest importance on the tangible and material appearance of things, especially themselves.
Moreover, rather than having us feel part of a tribe, materialism breeds a sense of loneliness and isolation. In turn, this loneliness promotes more consumption, as more things are sought to fill the emotional void.[iv].
While women may revel in the new independence – the ability to work, buy things, and show them off to the world, this religion ultimately leaves them sad, anxious, and alone.
The Impact of Materialism On Sexuality
If you are willing to agree that the modern religion is materialism, then for most people, their driving purpose is material success, with all of the associated trappings of tangible goods and acknowledged identity. Their values revolve around possessing more “best things” and having the right appearance. They are fundamentally afraid and insecure but plaster these doubts over with possessions – of goods and labels. So, it is inevitable that these values and behaviours will feed into how they understand and express their sexuality.
They will not define their own gender identity – they will have it defined for them by what is trending on TikTok that day. They will not be true to what they feel is attractive – they will be driven by what they are told is crackin’. They will aim to own the best labels (sexy, hot, tight, thick, smokin’) and seek to rid themselves of the inferior labels (slut, whore, loose, cheap, nasty, skinny, wanker). They will desire to have the best boobs, butt or biceps possible and work to acquire the “right” boyfriend or girlfriend.
Concerning pleasure, they will allow the sex marketplace to define this for them – allowing porn in all its forms to dictate what they should enjoy. And when it comes to intimate connections, they will focus on the most tangible of artefacts – sex. In fact, other people’s desire to have sex with them will signify their level of worth in the world. Instead of our sexuality enabling greater self-knowledge and a connection to our higher selves, we possess and use it to gain recognition, acceptance, and as a yardstick of success. This is what I call sexual materialism.
Materialism Trumps[v] Feminism
Feminism is defined as:
the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Looking through the lens of materialism, it could be argued that this mission has been achieved. Women now have the right to be told what they should look like, what they should wear and what they should buy with the money they earn. Women have the right to buy into the dogma of what being feminine means and how they should express this in the world. Women also now have the right to be sucked into the sexual marketplace and to sexualise themselves within it.
While the objectification of women is still prevalent, this has been well and truly overtaken by women’s subjectification. No longer are we beholden to men to make us sexual objects. We are perfectly capable of doing this for ourselves. Thanks to materialism, our sexuality has become a key means of securing attention and acceptance in this crazy commercialist world. The mantra these days is
“If you’ve got it flaunt it…and if you don’t have it Get it!”
This is the way materialism works – preying on insecurities and fears to not only buy more, have more, but to have the right things. The bar of success for women has been raised again. No longer is it enough to participate in the world. Now you have to “have it” as well.
The fact that cosmetic surgery is considered mainstream speaks volumes about how we have let materialism subvert our rights to be our full, free, true and beautiful selves. Allowing others (largely men[vi]) to inject, cut, suck, laser, tattoo, and tear our bodies is frightful. But when this is done to show we can meet the beauty standards of a materialistic culture, this is both abhorrent and disastrous. In my mind, this behaviour is eerily similar to punishments dealt to our female ancestors to enforce their compliance with the patriarchy. Materialism has us changing ourselves and seeking confirmation of our feminine worthiness outside of ourselves. As long as this continues, feminism is lost.
And as long as we worship the gods of appearance and possession, the sisterhood will always be a subordinate sidekick and feminism would have sold out to materialism.
Humanity Loses Out
Not only does feminism fall at the feet of materialism, so does the inherent power of the masculine, and ultimately the whole of humanity. When your sense of purpose is rooted in having stuff, you will never be content. There will always be something more to have. When you are a materialist, your life is driven by the dictates and dogma of what other things you should have or should be. You lose your sense of autonomy and an individual sense of purpose. You lose your ability to understand and share your unique gifts with the world. You lose, your community loses, and the whole of humanity loses.
Our sexuality is an incredibly powerful resource, but the pull of materialism is pussifying it. While we are distracted with our busy lives, it is stolen, smashed, mangled and sullied, and then sold back to us in pretty packaging at an exorbitant profit. It is not just our debt levels that are suffering as a result. The preoccupation with sexual materialism is repressing our whole human evolution.
Materialists are not activating the important second element of spirituality – being true to something bigger than yourself – and are sacrificing their great contribution to a broader community. Whether it be their family, neighbours, profession, all other humans or all creatures on the earth, they all lose out because the materialist is obsessed with their aims for domination and ownership. This loss of greater meaning is devastating and is shown in the increasing prevalence of violence, addiction, depression, and our planet’s destruction.
A New Definition of Feminism
The rise of materialism makes me feel that I need my own definition of feminism, which goes deeper than the superficial pull to economic equality. For me, it is not just about having the ability to compete on an even playing field as men. It is about my inalienable right to be respected for not just what I am but who I am. It is the desire to be appreciated not only because of my biological sex and gender identity but for my authentic feminine form and powerful feminine energy. It is the ability to live freely and fully as the hairy, emotional hippie I am, with my saggy boobs, greying hair and evolving sexuality.
When I define it like this, feminism is less of a social cause and more about individual empowerment. It is less of communal consciousness and more about individual connection and conviction. Perhaps it is only (as Jung suggests) individual spirituality and a sense of purpose that is the antidote to the continued subjectification of women and the anti-feminist regime of materialism. It is only by breaking free of the masses that the unique feminine can shine.
That is my opinion. I would love to hear yours!
[i] Leavitt, Chelom & Dew, Jeffrey & Allsop, David & Runyan, Samuel & Hill, Edward. (2019). Relational and Sexual Costs of Materialism in Couple Relationships: An Actor–Partner Longitudinal Study. Journal of Family and Economic Issues. 40. 10.1007/s10834-019-09617-3.
[ii] Tim Kasser et al., 2013. Changes in materialism, changes in psychological wellbeing: Evidence from three longitudinal studies and an intervention experiment. Motivation and Emotion. DOI 10.1007/s11031-013-9371-4
[iii] Leavitt, Chelom & Dew, Jeffrey & Allsop, David & Runyan, Samuel & Hill, Edward. (2019). Relational and Sexual Costs of Materialism in Couple Relationships: An Actor–Partner Longitudinal Study. Journal of Family and Economic Issues. 40. 10.1007/s10834-019-09617-3.
[iv] Rik Pieters, 2013. Bidirectional Dynamics of Materialism and Loneliness: Not Just a Vicious Cycle. Journal of Consumer Research, DOI: 10.1086/671564. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/671564
[v] The use of the term here is intentional
[vi] Gender Bias in the Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency: A S… : Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open (lww.com)
Jung, C. G. (2014). The Undiscovered Self: Answers to Questions Raised by the Present World Crisis (Routledge Classics) (1st ed.). Routledge.