Calling God “She” — It’s Just Another Pronoun!

"She" - Digital image by Marg Herder

Many people believe (even at a subconscious level) that to refer to God using female pronouns is just plain wrong, if not heresy.

I am constantly amazed at the linguistic contortions people will go through to make the point that, while God is not male or female, we still must use male pronouns to refer to “Him.” Other writers assert that God is spirit, not gendered in any sense of the term, but they still use “He” and “His” exclusively throughout their argument.  (Google “Is God male?” to see what I mean.)

I understand that to refer to God using male pronouns is not necessarily an attempt to assert God’s masculinity (though, certainly, it is for some).  Instead, since many languages lack a gender neutral pronoun that can be (non-pejoratively) applied to living beings, using a gendered pronoun becomes necessary.

But I also understand why the male and not the female pronoun was selected by authors, translators, and everyone else involved in the creation of the Bible. It’s because of the longstanding belief that the male version of a human being is superior to the female version.  It’s patriarchy, folks, plain and simple.

So for me, calling God “She” serves as a bit of an antidote to the venomous anti-female bias inherent in Judeo-Christian history.

When I call God “She,” it reminds me, every time I say it or write it, that half of the human beings here on Earth are not “other,” and in fact, those people who identify as female are also created in the image of God.

With that said, I am not attempting to “gender” God when I say “She.” My use of female pronouns doesn’t evoke in me the image of a human being, or even some big ol’ goddess hanging around in the sky.  Instead, when I say “She,” when I think of “Her,” I get a full, warm, compassionate feeling in my heart. I get a God-of-Love feeling.

When I say “He,” I don’t get that same feeling. Maybe it’s because of the image of God I absorbed during my childhood, the scary dude who sat up in heaven and “judged the quick and the dead.” Maybe it’s because everyone I’ve ever met who makes it a point to exclude LGBTQ people calls God “He.” I don’t know.  But I do know that “She” just feels more like a God-of-Love to me.

This might be different for you.  But there’s no right or wrong in it!  It’s just a linguistic choice we are all free to make.

God is no more female than male. God is God and, as such, God is certainly not something that can be contained or fully described in any linguistic symbols we might come up with.  There are no words that could possibly accurately and completely represent that particular referent.

But we do have occasion to want and need to talk and write about God, even though all the linguistic terms we use represent God in some type of image that is limiting.

You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. Deuteronomy 4:15–19 (NIV).

To linguistically portray God as a father, or God as a woman giving birth, or an eagle, or a sacred wind, all of those things put a limiting image up to represent God.  And, for that matter, so do the three letters, G-O-D.  All the ways we choose to refer to God are images, all are limited representations, all are potentially idolatrous symbols. But all our metaphors and ways of referring to God are not necessarily idolatrous.  Only potentially.

For me, without the use of pronouns in my writing and talking about God, it becomes very difficult to linguistically represent the aspect of personal connection I feel.  And for me, “She” fits better.

Sure, I’ll still wonder, when someone refers to God as “He” all the time, if they have really thought about why they do that.  And if given half a chance, like maybe right now, I might suggest to them that it could be interesting to explore any aversion they feel about using female pronouns for God.  They might want to consider what stops them from allowing God to be linguistically linked to the beauty, value, and spiritual worthiness of half the human population.

But in the final assessment, I don’t think any of us is qualified to tell anyone else how to refer to God. We just aren’t. So maybe the best we can do is approach each person’s way of referring to God with compassionate curiosity, remembering our perception is always lacking, and our written and spoken expression is always inadequate to illuminate what is most important.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” First Corinthians 13:9–10 (NIV)

I’ve been calling God “She” for a number of years.  I’ve written previously about how I started doing this (“The ‘She’ in My Pocket” on this website, and “The Power of an Unexpected Pronoun” on the God Is Not a Guy website).


Lē Isaac Weaver
Lē Weaver identifies as a non-binary writer, musician, and feminist spiritual seeker. Their work draws attention to: the ongoing trauma experienced by women and LGBTQIA people in this “Christian” society; Christ/Sophia’s desire that each of us move deeper into our own practice of non-violence; and the desperate need to move away from an androcentric conception of God.


  1. Maybe using male pronouns exclusively for the divine (for God, or Being, or whatever) is like what Carol Adams calls (albeit about something different) an “absent referent”–“He” used for God is to use something other than God, i.e., a human construct. Since God is always more than, something other than, human it does not fit to use male only language. I suspect the same could be said about feminine pronouns, but as you so well articulated, there is indeed a visceral and affective aspect between gender language (this is certainly true for me given my family of origin). My challenge is in the pastoral context–however many times these issues arise in small groups, I realize just how deeply embedded these male images and/or monikers are present in so many church folk (most of the well-meaning). And after discussing these issues they turn right around and go back to “Father” or “He” or “mankind.” The struggle is never-ending. A good word is your article!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Robert. I think you are so right about how deeply embedded the images and words are. I know it was hard for me to get there, even though at the time I was trying to do so I was feeling estranged from Christianity. Maybe it’s just one of those barriers we will have to keep chipping away at. Grateful for your thoughts. Thank you.

  2. I’m Christian. I’m feminist. But I oppose to this.
    Calling God “she”, unless you’re an atheist who thinks God is just a concept that you can freely twist, isn’t a simple grammatical choice. God, when inspiring his Word, openly and repeatedly referred to himself as male. This doesn’t mean men are superior or that God is patriarchal. It is *HIS* choice.
    I’m sure you refer to Leelah Alcorn as “she” out of respect, even if it doesn’t feel “good”, don’t you? Why not show that respect to God too, then?
    God bless.

    • Ah, but Alex, God doesn’t always refer to God’s-self as He. Many metaphors refer to God in female terms. From Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s article on this website:

      However, a cursory reading of the Bible reveals many metaphors for God. And a small amount of theological thinking suggests that all human language about God is metaphorical. God is both mother (Ps. 131:2; Isa. 49:15; Isa. 66:13) and father (Ps. 103:13-14; Rom. 8:15); rock (Exod. 32:4; Ps. 95:1) and fire (Exod. 3:1-6); pillar (Exod. 13:1) and eagle (Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11), midwife (Num. 11:12, by implication); Shekinah or Shekinah God (Exod. 40:34-38); and shepherd (Psalm 23; Luke 15:4-7; John 10).

      There are even more than this where a feminine Hebrew noun is used to refer to God or an aspect of God.

      I certainly do refer to Leelah Alcorn as “she” out of respect, and it feels wonderful and affirming to me to do so. Because Leelah was a human being. “She” describes the gender she preferred to consider as her own.

      I call God “She” because I believe that describes God as aptly as does “He.” Not because I’m an atheist. LOL. And I never said that calling God “She” was a simple grammatical choice. I said it was a deeply personal and meaningful choice.

      I am glad you count yourself a feminist. But I will paraphrase what I said in the article, namely, it could be interesting for you to open yourself up to exploring the aversion you feel about other people using female pronouns for God. Nobody’s asking you to do it. I’m only explaining why it’s important for me to do so.

  3. No matter what metaphores have been used, God, Father, Son, Lord and he, are the titles he’s chosen and therefore the ones we are to use out of respect, to honor him.

    My desire to call God he is not a sexist one — just seeking to respect his choices.

  4. Great article. In my opinion and experience as a male, once you open yourself to referring to God as “She” it changes everything. If you acknowlage that God is not exclusively “He,” and you allow yourself to be open to the various places in scripture where God refers to God’s self in feminine metaphors, you recognize the equal value of women. Once you cross that bridge, patriarchy no longer makes sense. Long held opinions and actions begin to be challenged.

    It becomes very uncomfortable when you realize that an inaccurate concept of God has been your justification for marginalizing women and being part of oppressing the female gender. Once you struggle with that reality and accept your responsibility, you begin to value women as equal image bearers of God. This altered concept of God leads you to understanding God as a loving, gentle, gracious, mothering God. You no longer have to make God a cosmic macho man.

    If you’re not careful, you begin to view others in a different way and you recognize other unfounded phobias and biases in your heart. Soon you release thoses phobias and grow to value and love even people with a different sexual orientation.

    As it progresses, you realize that male dominance has led to a long history of violence among people and the destruction of the earth. You want to see those patterns change so you begin supporting personal and political actions that will hopefully change the tide. You can no longer be satisfied or accept the status quo.

    Ultimately, this one simple change in the pronoun you use referring to God, can make you passionately desire to be more like Christ. Wow, what a mess that becomes. It all becomes so inconvenient. Had I held tight to a concept or image of God that was exclusively male, I might have never fallen down this slippery slope.

    Actually, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I highly recommend it .

  5. Jesus tought his disciples to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

    Should we be going off of personal feelings, or Jesus’ teaching?

    What else should we change about God to be more appealing? Many people leave out the “Just” God. Many people leave out the “Jealous” God. A loving God is much easier to handle.

    The scary thing, for some, is to realize that the Bible clearly lays out gender roles. Not gender value, but gender roles.

    It’s not hard to imagine that a God who brought order to our universe would have a plan and structure for how the crown-jewels of his creation should live their lives.

    Again, this is not a value proposition. It is a Biblical proposition. Wives submit to your husbands, husbands love and HONOR your wives and be willing to lay your life down for her as Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the church.

    Bringing God into earthly squabbles like this diminish His holiness and our effectiveness. It causes division.

    I am convinced the Holy Spirit is capable of piercing the hardest of hearts, without us needing to change who he is.

    • Thanks for expressing your understanding, Steve. It is so nice when we can discuss concepts like this in a respectful way. We don’t agree about this, clearly, but I’m glad you felt free to explain your position. Thank you.

  6. “וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם”
    “w’hääretz häy’täh tohû wävohû w’choshekh’ al-P’nëy t’hôm w’rûach élohiym m’rachefet al-P’nëy haMäyim.”
    “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:2

    Fun fact: “rûach”, the Hebrew word for “Spirit” used here and 400 other times in the Old Testament, is grammatically feminine. So in Hebrew your last sentence would read, “I am convinced the Spirit of God is capable of piercing the hardest of hearts, without us needing to change who she is.” And the Greek word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter, so New Testament-style you’d use “it”. But wait – the New Testament also calls the Holy Spirit “parakletos (“counselor, comforter”), which is masculine, so you’d have to go back to “he”.

    So the Holy Spirit can be, and is, referred to with grammatical agreement features equivalent to “she” “it” and “he”, all within the Bible. What this says to me is that human language is too limited to accurately describe our Creator, that God clearly doesn’t actually care about grammatical gender, and that grammatical gender is altogether stupid and we’d all be better off if English finished what it started and did away with it all together. Then we could all refer to God as [un-gendered animate third person pronoun] and put this whole debate behind us.

  7. We’ve only ever referred to what we with our finite limited brains imagine God is. Were someone to capture all that God is in a word, that word would BE God. Therefore all words used to refer to God are equally valid and inadequate. Show me God with your actions and I will know the character of the one you cannot describe with words.

  8. Wonderful article, Le! I am pleasantly surprised to find my way back to EEWC today and the first article I’m drawn to is your’s. We hung out together several years ago at the Justice Conference in Philly. Hope you are well!

  9. In Aramaic the language Jesus spoke God was called He when He manifested in a masculine way and she when he manifested in a feminine way. In Aramaic there is no gender neutral pronoun. Remember God’s image is male and female. He appears as both but is Spirit.


    Only 1 % of British Christians think God is female, while 36 % think God is male. Interestingly, more female Christians believe God is male (41 %) than male christians (30 %). God as a man, it’s how pictures show him, as a white old man.

    But what’s wrong with this picture? Everything. It is idolatry to make an image of God. And it is sheer foolishness to think, the Creator would be anything like a dude. Or a woman.

    Great Spirit is what God is.

  11. God is Spirit, and Spirit has no gender. Spirit has no physicality. Not in the sense that we do.

    We as humans have gender. Some languages have gender. In the Finnish language we have no gender. So there is only one word to describe both he and she.

    Language is something that creates pictures or images in our mind. Then we start to believe those images. At the same time we lose touch with reality.

    If our language is leading us astray, we must lose our language, in order to get hold of reality.

    Spirits have their own languages. Everyone can understand that. Open your mind, open your heart, and you can feel what spirits have to say.

    God, being the Highest Spirit of all, knows everything, but how can we ever reach that All-Knowledge, if our minds are shut with language?

    In Finnish language there is only one word describing both Lord and Mister. They both must mean a male person. Now, if we hold our vision of God as a Mister, as a man, we are totally lost in our view. Therefore, no matter how hard we try and how hard we believe, there is no understanding of God whatsoever.

    As God is Spirit, so are we. But we’ve been fed with notions and images of men.

    There’s the first sin.

  12. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to refer to God as Father.

    Do you suppose Jesus had a personal agenda against women when He chose the term Father to refer to God?

    It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:

    ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”

  13. Hi Scott.

    You ask, “Do you suppose Jesus had a personal agenda against women when He chose the term Father to refer to God?”

    No, I don’t. I am aware that, in prayer, Jesus liked to address God as “Abba,” or father.

    But I wonder if you might consider all the times that Jesus portrays the God figure in parables as female. I think Jesus felt it important not to limit his portrayal of God using only male terms and subjects. Instead, he seems to find it necessary to portray God in gender-expansive terms.

    Thus, I see Jesus affirming that there is nothing unreasonable about understanding God as genderfull.

    In one of the closing paragraphs I write:

    “But in the final assessment, I don’t think any of us is qualified to tell anyone else how to refer to God. We just aren’t. So maybe the best we can do is approach each person’s way of referring to God with compassionate curiosity, remembering our perception is always lacking, and our written and spoken expression is always inadequate to illuminate what is most important.”

    I am not telling you how you should refer to God. I am not judging you based on how you refer to God. I am just telling you why I refer to God as I do.

  14. Being female, I rather say “she/her” when referring to “god” as we know however, I take backlash from others because of it. I do find it easier when I’m around people who believe that god is male to refer to god as “thy” or “the” instead she/her and he/him/his . To be honest, I don’t give a hoot if people get upset by that, just the way I feel 🙂

  15. God is God, He was never meant to be explained, and He is not a “limited representation” as you reffered. We humans cannot comprehend God, and we can try but the bible says we will never be able to because our minds are limited, but we know one thing for sure: He is a man, a loving father who gave His son Jesus Christ to be sacrificed for our sins in our place, in order for us to have the opportunity to be saved. If we don’t accept this offer it’s not that we will face anger, because God is good, but there is no life without God, and so the destiny is death. And last but not least, the bible is not there for humans to change what they don’t agree and make their points, it’s the word of God to be obeyed and followed. In Deuteronomy 4:2 says “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” I Hope you study the bible with your heart open to the Holy Spirit!

  16. Keneli B, you say that without realizing that the many English translations have changed what the manuscripts actually say. Simply put, the English texts don’t and can’t give us the full view of what the Bible says. So by calling God something that’s in the original languages, is not harmful nor is it changing anything.

  17. Does anyone have any advice on how to attend traditional Christian churches when I feel so left out as a feminist woman? Every male pronoun, masculine description, and sermon about the various men in the Bible, has become difficult for me to get past. I’ve been a big participant in my church, singing on the worship team and helping in the kids area. But since I started waking up to feminism and noticing the patriarchy all around me- I struggle to find anywhere I feel I belong anymore. The voice of God in my head sounds like the religious leaders I’ve come to find invalidating so that’s difficult too. I’m not sure who to talk to about any of this, because all my friends are devoted Christians who don’t see any of the problems that I do. Any advice or help is appreciated.

    • Brooke, I’m a CFT Council member and a retired Presbyterian clergywoman who served as a a pastor/co-pastor for some 25 years, and then a seminary professor (teaching preaching, worship, and church administration) for 18 years beyond that. Most importantly, I “hear” you on your frustration over male-oriented church language and preaching, and experiencing yourself as a stranger in the land of patriarchy!

      I grew up in a church that had evangelical leanings, but never in my development there (amazingly) did anyone tell me, regarding my emerging call to ministry, that women couldn’t do that: no one was ever less than encouraging to me. It was only when I arrived at seminary in 1973 that I encountered male classmates– lots of them– who thought that the handful of women students were only there to find husbands (!?) and then wouldn’t have a great need to continue. Somehow I had never encountered such astonishing stupidity before, and it took only about 24 hours for me to become a raging feminist! But over the years I have encountered many churches and clergy of the ilk you describe, and know how exhausting that environment can be for feminist members like you. Gratefully, my husband (also a retired pastor) and I landed in retirement at a little Mennonite congregation, originally a roving house church, that eventually built just down the street from us. They are an unusually progressive community of wonderful folks who by design have never called a pastor; so that church members cover every task, from rotating on preaching and worship leadership to cleaning the bathrooms– all very egalitarian. So when male-dominant language pops up on occasion, the rest of us are able to accept and understand its context since we’re not already exhausted from putting up with that focus all the time!

      Although female leadership doesn’t always indicate a feminist theology, it would likely be worth searching out Christian communities with female pastors or at least with women on the associate pastoral staff. There are now increasing numbers of Presbyterian, Methodist, and UCC churches, among other denominations (even Mennonite!), that do have such female/feminist leadership; so hopefully you might find one or more near you by perusing neighboring churches’ websites. The way various congregations describe their mission can also be good indicators: progressive and inclusive involvements like active ministries with the LGBTQ+ community will usually point to more expansive theological positions as well.

      I wish I could be of more help, Brooke, but at least this may be a starting point– and indicate to you that there are many of us out here with a similar outlook to yours. I’m delighted that the CFT website has been such a lifeboat for you, and hope we can keep feeding you and connecting across the miles!

  18. Hi Brooke,

    In response to your questions about being feminist and remaining in the patriarchal church, I have been on a lifelong search to find a church where I feel at home. I was raised in the Disciples of Christ Church. I was often told it was the “thinking man’s church.” Even at nine years old, I questioned why it was thinking men and not thinking people. I remember one “Women’s Sunday” thinking; God is a man, Jesus is a man, the pastor is a man, the deacons and elders are men, where are the women, and why are the only women I am taught about prostitutes, virgins, or mothers? Didn’t they do anything else? That thought eventually became part of the title of my book, Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers: Question Teachings about Biblical Women.

    I became a Roman Catholic when I discovered Mary, a female I could pray to. Now I am a roaming catholic. The patriarchy and hierarchy of the Roman Church do not feed my soul. I have been most comfortable in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The two that I have attended have had fabulous women pastors. The leadership is very progressive and has produced statements on guidelines for inclusive language, women and justice, caring for creation, and more. All are welcome at the ELCA. The snag is the resistance from people in the pews. Many are uncomfortable and don’t see the need for inclusive language or looking at the reasons for a statement about justice and women. EEWC is a very comfortable place, especially when we can meet in person.

    Conscientization is when marginalized people begin to wake up to their marginalized situation. It is like my childhood experience when I was told it was a thinking man’s church. I knew I was not a man, and I was in the church. That tiny crack in the patriarchy let in the light for lots more questions. If you can open a little gap with your friends, you might be able to talk to them. Right now, they don’t see a problem.

    Dr., Sister Mariam Therese Winter wrote the book Defecting in Place: Women Taking Responsibility for Their Own Spiritual Lives. That might be helpful.

    I hope this helps a bit. Please feel free to contact me if I can answer any questions.



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