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The British Museum has good reason to put together the exhibition Feminine Power. After all, when girls are actually being advised, with the full endorsement of the psychological and medical establishments, to surgically remove their breasts in an attempt to become male, misogyny has reached a new apogee.
See, for just one example, the harrowing interview recorded here. Clipboard-bearing curators at this show collect viewer responses and display them on a large screen. And that may be part of the point. Back in the s, the goddess movement, which also attempted to scramble the divine feminine across cultures, was lambasted by a series of scholars.
The New York Times , for example, issued a blistering review of publications that recklessly fused disparate divinities. In The Triumph of the Moon , Ronald Hutton went so far as to suggest that the foundational facts of the movement were wrong in the same way it is wrong to say that Manchester, not London, is the capital of the United Kingdom.
But memory is short. A new generation seems unaware of such effective deconstructions, and so a goddess conflation—this time with more scholarly attention to distinctions —has been attempted again. Visitors to this British Museum exhibition are immediately faced with a nude Inanna whose Akkadian name was Ishtar , the ferocious forerunner of Aphrodite.
She stands naked and exposed, just as men like King Sargon the Great of Assyria wished her to be. She is sometimes known as Astarte or the Canaanite goddess Anat, but whatever one calls her, she was merciless and vindictive. Using Inanna to advance female empowerment, as the exhibition intimates, is comparable to prescribing crystal meth to combat mild depression. Here is just a taste of what she was like in her original context, according to no less an authority than William Albright :.