‘The Dinner Party’ Reminds Us of What Patriarchy Erased | Sojourners

‘The Dinner Party’ Reminds Us of What Patriarchy Erased

In the famed feminist art installation, Sophia stands as a cross-cultural symbol of a female God.
A picture of Judy Chicago's art exhibit called "The Dinner Party." There are unique plates, glasses, silverware, and tapestries depicted for esteemed women across time (mythological and historical) around a triangular banquet table.
The Dinner Party / Judy Chicago / Eric Wilcox / Flickr

IN RATTLING THOSE DRY BONES: Women Changing the Church, activist and author Susan Cole writes an essay in response to the question, Why do I remain in the church? In her answer, she shares how she healed her relationship with God through the figure of Sophia, who she defines as “the Wisdom of God, the divine imaged as female.” Cole writes, “Through [Sophia] I have discovered in a whole new way, divine presence within myself, within my sisters, within all that is.” Cole’s portrait of a female God, filled with kindness and joy, stands in stark contrast to the millennia of androcentrism that shapes Christian teaching and practice. The treasure of the Christian female godhead remains buried, but it can be uncovered.

Sophia sits (metaphorically) at artist Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” the famed feminist installation anchored by an enormous triangular banquet table, 48 feet long on each side. From 1974 to 1979, Chicago scrupulously created unique, historically precise place settings for 39 “guests of honor,” female figures both mythical and historical, ranging from Mother Earth to Georgia O’Keeffe. An additional 999 names appear written on tiles surrounding the table. According to Brooklyn Museum curators, at Chicago’s table Sophia stands as a powerful “creative force in the universe” and a cross-cultural symbol of a female God. And the elements of Sophia’s place setting — a flower plate with watery petals and a runner made from remnants of a wedding veil — symbolize Christianity’s role in “the downfall of female power, particularly religious power.” On a grand scale, “The Dinner Party” reminds us of what patriarchy has erased.

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The cover for Sojourners' September/October 2023 issue, featuring a blue illustration of a woman praying. You can see tendrils of her nervous system glowing through her skin. She's surrounded by black bramble, stained glass windows, and a church building.
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