REVIEW: Divine Women – When God Was a Girl, BBC Two Television Series

Bettany Hughes

A current series on BBC Two is shaking up the bubble of religious misogyny that the Catholic church and fundamental conservatives don’t want you to know about.

Bettany Hughes, anthropologist and author of The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life and Helen of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, has appeared in several programs for the BBC and PBS highlighting ancient history and women’s place in it: Helen of Troy, The Minotaur’s Island, and When the Moors Ruled in Europe.

Hughes’ latest foray into the world of highlighting women’s contributions to world history is the BBC Two series “Divine Women.”  She brings to light information about women’s involvement in religion, not only as supreme mother goddesses and priestesses to the masses, but goddesses and women as true forces to be reckoned with (think Kali), when women were revered for their ability to both create and defend themselves and their loved ones as they saw fit — essentially, these females were in complete control of their bodies and their own desires, a great reminder for women today!

Women’s independent nature has repeatedly been attacked for centuries in the form of witch trials and anti-suffrage movements.  The inherent fear and jealousy that many men have toward women was first cultivated by the patriarchal, imperial regimes of antiquity in the original #waronwomen that we are fighting to this day.

Hughes’ soft-spoken, well-educated British delivery lessens the blow of shockingly empowering information, that heretofore, only we Pagans and heathens seem to have known.  Elevating women to the status of not only equals in religion, government, and society, the evidence shows women were actually viewed as superior to men just as female goddesses overshadowed male gods.  This may come as a surprise to religions that forbid women to be priests or governments that refuse to allow women to fight on the front lines of battle — all because we have vaginas, the part of woman men love and fear simultaneously.

In reading a review by a clueless male UK writer, he thought the first episode was slow, meandering, and overall lame. When I confronted him on Twitter, I substantiated my arguments with facts (and passion), and he accused me of being a “bot.”  I guess that’s the social media version of when women are “emotional” or “high-strung,” we’re just experiencing the effects of being “hormonal” at “that time of the month.”  He again proved that the average man simply cannot tolerate an empowered, strong, kicking-butt-taking-names woman — similar to the insecure men who banded together to erase women from history and religion, relegating women’s only value in society to giving birth to healthy sons and cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking meals, raising the kids, and laying back for lackluster sex whenever the husband was horny.

Whether you believe in a duality of a higher spirit or not, the time has come to re-write the his-story books that erased women from its narrative. We regurgitate the names of male generals and the battles they waged and call it “history.” We revere the “Founding Fathers” with no regard for the women who were our “Founding Mothers.” This series, “Divine Women,” is a brilliant step in the right direction of getting accurate information about women’s true role in the history and the her-story of the world.

For now, UK audiences can watch it on BBC Two. When it hits the DVD section of Amazon, I am definitely buying it!

Agree or disagree?  Leave a comment!



  1. The series is highly recommendable indeed.

    I do disagree on two things regarding your comments, though 😉

    First off, the term “history” derives from Latin/French. There is no etymological relation to the English pronoun “his”.

    Secondly, you complain about history books “erasing women”. Now, history books focus on political events. So, they focus on people who had huge political power in their respective times. And during the recent 3000 or 5000 years, the vast majority of those people *were* men. There just *were* few women of huge political power. Historians can’t change that. The only thing they could do is change their focus.

    When it comes to the “Founding Fathers”: Afaik, this term refers to the signatories to the declaration of Independence or the US Constitution. Now, how many of those were female?

    (Btw: In German, it is pretty common to speak of “the Mothers and Fathers of the Constitution”. There *were* some women involved in creating it, and most people want to point that out)

  2. One more thing: The last 10 or 15 minutes of the second episode cover the role of women in the early Christian church. Basically, their point is that this early church offered a bunch of opportunities and new freedom to the women in antiquity. Until the council of Nicaea in 325 AD, women could become Christian priests and even bishops, and it seems, both genders were considered to be equal in general.

    Now, you often refer to women having been oppressed for the past *2000 years* in particular. I assume this number refers to the rise of Christianity. If so, you might want to think about referring to the past *1700 years* “only”. If referring to the past 2000 years instead, you may do the early Christians wrong.

    Btw: In general, you can’t compare the early Christian church with the institutionalized churches of nowadays. It seems the council of Nicaea was the Fall of Christendom in many respects. There may even have been a lot of truth in Christianity beforehand. If so, only traces of it remain nowadays.