IN SEARCH OF THE CHEON IL GUK WOMAN:                                                                        Reflections while reading Sheryl Sandberg’s LEAN IN~

by Robin Debacker


“A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”(p. 158)

I haven’t always been aware of a gender bias per se. Like Ms. Sandberg, when I was a college student I felt we had been liberated and had moved past all that. I also shied away from any association with the word feminist, as those women seemed like such man-haters.

Now, however, I’ve become more aware of the disparities (in the workplace, and in the culture at large) and the subtle and not so subtle messages that women keep receiving from their male bosses, their partners, and even other women.

I recently offered to give the Sunday message at church, as I was inspired about all the Goddess/Feminine Principle writings out there that I’ve been discovering recently, and thought I could talk about the Cheon Il Guk Woman easily (Cheon Il Guk being a term Rev. Moon coined to refer to the place where the male and female principles are equal, balanced and harmonized.) However, on Saturday night I found myself curled up in a fetal position moaning about not being able to face the audience the next day. What happened? I had not expected to feel so SCARED.

I was surprised by the introduction that the MC gave me (he is a man), about the message today being “a little subversive” and so we best prepare ourselves^^. I wondered, why would talking about the feminine aspect of God or humans be considered subversive, but then I remembered, it IS subversive, and that’s the point. Women have not had that freedom, and we all know it on some level. Women feel scared to speak up, and men feel scared when we do.

The fact is that I didn’t know for sure who or what the Cheon Il Guk Woman is, and that was hard to admit publicly, or even to myself. I am confused and have been for a long time about my own femininity, and what it means to be a woman. In my 20’s I became aware of feeling resentful toward my mother for not being a better example in that department, and later toward my husband for not being a stronger masculine force. I’ve felt more like a man than a woman in the relationship with him, often being approached or addressed first when we’re together, and that is confusing at best, and depressing at worst. 

Part of the program involved breaking into small groups of 2 or 3 people to talk about what the word “feminine” means to each of us, and share what we think is blocking women today. I sat with 2 other elder women like myself. One of them said that her daughter and friends complain that the matching candidates all seem to be more like boys than men. I knew what she was talking about, as it was my experience with my husband, but I didn’t have an answer.

I got through the talk, but I felt sheepish about not having said much more than that we are all still searching for the Cheon Il Guk Woman. Who is she? I wonder if she’s gotten over her resentment, or if I can get over mine. I do know she’s still fighting, and gaining ground, and that I’d like to be her friend and supporter.

Looking back on this experience, and reading Sheryl’s book, I’m reminded how important it is to have “the conversation.” To lean in to the problem rather than avoid the painful part of conflict resolution. We need to examine our church culture, our school culture, our workplace culture, and our family culture in order to identify the barriers that are holding women back, and to point out gender inequalities when they happen. It feels scary, on both sides, but everyone benefits when we do.

As I walked back to my seat, one of the young 2nd gen girls in our congregation caught my arm and smiled. “Thank you so much,” she said enthusiastically. “Can I have a copy of your powerpoint?” I felt a surge of joy. If she had found inspiration then I could rest assured. One lone voice speaking up, even with fear and hesitation, can make an impact and shed light for others also groping around in the dark.


  1. What comes to me as I read your honest and heartfelt sharing is that what has been missing all these years is the experience of God’s Grace. The DP theoretically came on a Christian foundation, a foundation imbued with the love of God and the Holy Spirit, with forgiveness and compassion.

    Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

    This foundation has not been honored but has been replaced by a more Old testament type mentality of judgment and fear.
    Without the type of love Jesus demonstrated in his lifetime, we feel poor in spirit and vulnerable to the opinions of others. Without that love, the ideal of GIG will never take off. Love gives it wings, love elevates us and makes us feel safe in God’s embrace.
    The author and teacher who speaks of grace the best, in my opinion, is Caroline Myss. I was trying to find a video of her talking about it and found the audio of her book on grace.

    You asked about the CIG woman: My vision of her is that loves herself and she is letting Grace fill her. She moves with confidence. Others love to be in her presence. She is honored and respected by the CIG man. The feeling is mutual. In love, position does not matter anymore. They see each other from God’s point of view. The “I see you” from the movie Avatar comes to mind. A relationship on that level would be priceless, wouldn’t it?

  2. Like you Robin, I did not identify myself as a feminist when I was young, and I was looking for a real man not a boy. However, after menopause I find myself noticing the subtle gender biases and seeking more equality. I think we have to consider the hormonal influences in the roles we take on. Women only have a certain time period to be mothers, and how we manage that may be different for each woman. The point is to know yourself, and flow with what is right for your own being while respecting what others perceive to be right for themselves.

    On the other hand, my youngest son feels very strongly about men’s rights. His experience through his school years is that girls and women are favored, and the true male is being suppressed. Being the youngest, he has probably also felt his sister and mother were dominant forces in the family. So much of what we perceive is determined by our personality and experiences, it’s hard to generalize about these things.

    To strictly define a true man or a true woman would be spiritually damaging to the uniqueness of each human being. We have to find our true self first with mind and body focused on our higher purpose, and from that center we can flow with the many changes life brings. I believe that is the whole purpose behind the discipline of staying sexually pure until we are adults, so that we can fully understand and respect ourselves before bonding with another.

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