Gender is on my mind

Perhaps it is just coincidence that as I finish off chapter 3 of

Sex and the Serpent

, I have begun to see the biblioblog world differently. I am becoming more and more aware of how insidious sexism is, how it is institutionalized, how it is around us in ways we don't recognize, how what we do or don't do fosters it without our knowing it. A simple thing like a blog roll and who is on it can make a huge difference. If that blog shows up on 200 other blogs every time the author posts, consider how that multiples her voice. Consider the thousands of readers of our blogs who might look at that blog roll and see her post and think, hey, that looks interesting, think I will go over there and check it out.

I am keenly aware that our time is not a feminist time, but a negative reaction to it, or some would say against it. I have even noticed a turning back for women, as if we are so exhausted with the fight, that we are hunkering down in the trenches and retreating just to try to keep some of the ground that we have gained over the last thirty years. And men continue to dominate the churches, men continue make more money for equal work (in fact we are now losing ground in this stat the last time I looked it up), men continue to dominate the courts and the senates and the congresses, men continue to dominate institutions of higher education, men continue to dominate the corporate world. What is happening in the majority of homes, I can only guess, but I do know this, domestic violence is continues to plague our country and it is statistically the men who are violent to the women and children they live with.

My suspicion is that much of the male domination continues because deep in our communal psyche the bible reigns, where women are dominated by men from chapter 2 of Genesis, and depending on your interpretation of Genesis 1:27, perhaps even from chapter 1 itself. In fact, Paul read Genesis 1:27 in a radically patriarchal way, understanding it to mean that only men are created in the image of God, leaving women to be the "glory of men" (1 Cor 11:7). The male domination we experience today is not just social, something that can be changed through reasonable measures we take in society-building, because the domination is divinely ordained. It is fixed, something that God set it in place and women deserve because they are the temptresses and sinners who wrought (and still wreck) disaster on men and the world. No matter if we agree or disagree with this, it is out there among us, in the communal consciousness. Matilda Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were right. The biggest obstacle to the equality of women in our society is the bible, the Genesis story in particular.

I have been lamenting this for a long time, but now I am becoming angry about it. I have taught on the subject of women and the bible for fifteen years, and yet it is now as I write about the subject that the hundreds of years of suppression, the hundreds of years of divine sanction for male authority and domination, the hundreds of years of women's often willing silence is rolling over me. At times is is hard for me to write because my feelings of pain are so strong.

So today I want to leave you with some words I wrote yesterday for chapter 3 of my book, about the women in Corinth who faced Paul and his patriarchalism, women who read Genesis 1:27 very differently from Paul - to mean that they too were created in God's image and should no longer wear the authority of their husband's on their heads:

"From Paul's argument we can gather that the women in Corinth had removed their veils (at least while worshiping) in order to align their social lives with their spiritual experience. They had mobilized their church by making their spiritual experience a social reality. Since they had been baptized in Christ and received his spirit, they believed that they had been recreated in the androgynous image of God. As such, the strict gender hierarchy of their immediate world had been abolished for them. Freed from these constraints, they tore off their veils, toppling the male hierarchy and dismissing the now-illegitimate authority of their husbands. This is an astonishingly brave action for them to have undertaken, since it would have marked them to other Jews and Romans as licentious women, even adulteresses, a point which Paul takes great strides to press home."