I Used to Be Kind of a Feminist

I attended my sister’s graduation from South Carolina School of Leadership this weekend and heard some pretty awful things that were really quite normal in context, but from the outside perspective I bring these days, I heard them with some measure of shock and dismay.

A female graduate asked to speak about what her time at SCSL meant to her, said she had felt that she was “pretty much all right” when she came to SCSL and came to get closer to god and learn about faith.  “But,” she said, “I used to be kind of a feminist about relationships, because when I was a child, I saw women being weak in relationships and I decided I didn’t want to be like that, and then when I went to the marriage class, I learned how marriage works best when the man is the head and women are submissive and that’s not being weak.”

Another one taught to ignore the evidence of her experience of real life and indoctrinated into the patriarchy.


  1. says

    I love how she doesn’t *explain* how marriage works best that way or how submission doesn’t equal weakness. (Actually, the second part I agree with, but it requires a LOT of context, because weakness often masquerades as submission, and then it’s not cool.)

    Does marriage work best with the man in charge when the man is a sociopath? Or a deadbeat? A rapist? A thief? “The man” includes these sorts of people, and whenever I’ve mentioned this to people like the woman in your post, they say, “Oh, no, of course not, but those are rare exceptions.” Well, sociopaths are about 2% of folks – that’s 1.2 billion people worldwide, more than half of which would be men, since men are more likely to be sociopaths – and I would imagine the percentage of deadbeats and rapists to be even larger, though there will be some overlap among the categories. Hardly rare.

    People who say that shit should be forced to sit through lectures by people who have “submitted” to men like these. In fact, they shouldn’t be allowed to sleep but one night a week until they’ve met with 300 of these folks. That might give them some idea what they’re recommending.

  2. Firebird says

    Well, she only had about 2 minutes to give a highlight of what the program meant to her, and she was speaking to a “friendly” audience – the kind of parents who would send their kids to SCSL would be like mine, to whom “feminism” was code for what’s wrong with our society, a dirty word.

    In any case, I would imagine the marriage class she referenced did tell her what to do in those kinds of situations, and while I can extrapolate from my own experience, I would be extrapolating the worst kinds of advice, since that’s what I learned, and I didn’t want to assume – it could be that she got some moderate advice. Not likely, but it could be.

    Back when it was important to me, I looked up the famous quotation that “god hates divorce” and found that it also says in the same sentence that god hates violence from men. Malachi 2:16 NIV: “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment.”

    On the other hand, what I’ve heard, from passages in the New Testament, is that the woman is supposed to submit and pray and let god change the man. It’s what I heard on radio programs and in church, and specifically given to my mother as advice. It’s what my mother uses as an excuse for not protecting my sister and I from my adoptive (her biological) father’s abuse. He has recently been diagnosed as bipolar with borderline personality disorder, so he’s one of those psychopaths you are talking about, and pastors trying to counsel them regularly told Mom that the problem in the relationship lay with her not submitting, or worse, with her having too close of a relationship with me which led him to natural jealousy. (Which leads an adult me to think pastoral counseling should be avoided if they don’t have real psychological training, because of that load of bs.)

  3. Firebird says

    I thought about including in the article a discussion of my personal relationship, and decided that would be too…livejournal-y. But in any case, an outside observer would see us as fitting the typical model of female submission. There’s more to it, of course; but it’s actually something I return to thinking about from time to time, wondering how it fits my worldview as a feminist.

    It occurred to me as ironic that I was so offended by the young lady’s comments when in fact I was in a mostly typical relationship (in that sense, my relationship is still cohabiting outside of marriage and biracial 0_0). Before writing the article, I mentioned the experience to my boyfriend, and his comment was to mimic a TV zombie and say something about brainwashing. And that, at heart, is what bothered me most. I was not surprised to learn that SCSL believed in or taught women to submit in marriage. I was disgusted by the effective brainwashing described after hearing the young woman use a keyword (feminism) that is important to me.

  4. says

    I know many unhappy women who think this. I don’t blame a lot of them that live in India, because this is the easiest way for them to get and keep a mate, but the better educated ones just leave me baffled and sad. People have a long way to go before they start to be intelligent.

  5. Dom Camus says

    What fascinates me about stories like this is not what this woman was taught but why this “teaching” had any impact whatsoever on her views and behaviour. It’s not like she was four years old at the time.

    If I “taught” her she could fly would she jump off a building as a result?!

  6. says

    Just to make sure, my comment wasn’t intended as criticism.

    Dom Camus: the human mind is a wonderfully flexible thing for manipulation by peers and social pressures; sadly, not so much with arguments. And I mean any human mind, though a knowledge of social pressures and their effect as well as a commitment to following the arguments can help you resist (but does not make you immune).

  7. Mary says

    is that the woman is supposed to submit and pray and let god change the man.

    I’ve also heard of this advice being given directly to abused children, too.

    Makes me really happy that I don’t live in a religious country. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Christianity or whatever, but it scares me how easy some people misuse religion to justify racism, sexism or like in this case teaching women to be slaves. It’s one thing if you’re into kinky sex, but submitting to someone for 24/7? That doesn’t sound kinky but unhealthy.

  8. Robin says

    I… uh, what? I was hoping that this “marriage class” isn’t a mandatory part of the school’s curriculum, but after taking a look at their site, it seems unlikely. Which means that all of their students (or at least all the women) are being indoctrinated into outmoded and potentially harmful worldviews. It’s people and practices like that which turned me away from organized religion years ago.

    I have to wonder how that young woman feels about marriage in which there is no man…

  9. firebird says

    It hadn’t really occurred to me, but the school rooms 4-5 of each gender together and has extremely strict rules about cross genderal contact (my sister made a comment about finally getting to hug a male friend after graduation and absolutely no dating is allowed), in order to avoid “distraction” from god. I suppose they simply ignore or disbelieve in non hetero desires and leanings.

    Another student asked to give a 2 minute testimony like the girl’s above said that he was thankful for the no dating policy because he now had a set of brothers he was close to no matter who he dated.

  10. says

    Generally, when I have heard why “male headship” makes for the best relationships its because of notions of harmony, confusion, etc. The assumption is that egalitarian=chaos or that people(women) in these relationships tend to be extremely unreasonable in their wants, desires and even their ability to communicate with another human being.

  11. Patrick says

    Originally Posted By RobinI have to wonder how that young woman feels about marriage in which there is no man…

    I strongly suspect that this is the real reason for all the frothing opposition to same-sex relationships and marriage. They have so much cultural investment in a gendered hierarchy that relationships that completely sidestep that hierarchy are a much bigger threat than equal relationships between men and women.

  12. wondering says

    And this school was meant to teach LEADERSHIP? It sounds like they completely failed in that mission; at least in regards to their women students.

      • Dani says

        :shudder: The interviews with daughters and fathers living the Quiverfull life were disturbing enough, but the testimonies of these women are simply heartbreaking. I hope that SCSL girl’s view of submission doesn’t lead her down that path.

        • Firebird says

          I haven’t read much about Quiverfull, but I’ve heard about it. I know someone who believes all forms of family planning, including abstinence within marriage and the ineffective natural family planning method, are ungodly because you should just have however many kids god chooses to give you.

          She’s currently on food stamps and has been, with her 7 (8?) children and her chronically unemployed husband, for many years.

          In any case, I heard about Quiverful from a mutual friend of ours, who is torn between lunacy and reality.

  13. Alara Rogers says

    See, my feeling is that if you can’t be egalitarian, then women should be in charge of the family, and given the stereotypes they believe about men and women, I don’t understand why *they* don’t see that.

    In the real world, men are more violent than women by orders of magnitude (90% of all murderers are men), and men are more easily detached from their children than women (I think this is actually biological, personally, given that male mammals simply don’t father… but that it’s heavily mediated by culture. You can program a male human to be a good father or you can let nature take its course.) If you give money to people in developing nations, women spend it on their families and men spend it on themselves. And in nature, mammals exist in units of mother-child with males attached, not male-female with children attached. But I don’t expect these folks to look at the real world for their ideas.

    However, I might expect that they would look at their *own* stereotypes. They believe “women are gentle” — well, gentle people are more likely to accept input from everyone under their leadership and seek a solution that benefits all than they are to self-aggrandize. “Women are emotional”, but “men are justified in getting angry when they are disobeyed because that is male nature” — well, anger is an emotion, and empathy is a better trait in a leader than anger, and Christianity *preaches* this. It’s not like this is a warrior religion that says it’s great to bash people’s heads in. “Women are better with children than men”, and “marriage exists for the sake of the children”… well, if marriage exists for children and women are better with children, why the *fuck* are you putting men in charge of the marriage? That’s like saying you’re going to put the IT guys in charge of a construction project. No matter how smart the guy who programs your computer is, he doesn’t know as much about building things as the guy who builds things for a living. If women are naturally better with children and marriage exists for children then WOMEN SHOULD BE IN CHARGE OF MARRIAGE.

    I mean, it’s insane clown logic. “Men are ruled by their sexual desires, so women need to carefully control their behavior so as to avoid tempting men” really means “Men are weak, and think with their dicks. Women are intelligent and in control of their own actions all the time.” How does this not translate to “women should be in charge?” “Men are stronger than women.” Yes, physically, but since Christianity preaches that the meek shall inherit the Earth, physical strength needs to be counterbalanced with spiritual strength, and there’s no implication that men are spiritually stronger than women if women have to police their own behavior to allow men to control themselves. “Men should provide for women.” Yes, and sales and marketing should bring in customers for the business, but if the person running the business is a marketing guy who knows absolutely nothing about the widgets the company makes, the company will make crappy widgets that no one wants to buy. The person in charge of what the company actually *makes* has to be someone who understands what the company makes, and if the “company” makes healthy children, why is the person whose responsibility it is to provide funds to that project in charge, rather than the person who is actually doing the work? The fundraising department does not actually run most colleges, as much as it may seem so.

    By all of their own stereotypes, proper “Christian headship” should involve the wife being in charge of all the family’s decisions, but being respectful of her husband’s input. And the husband should be willing to provide input and suggestions, but understand that the final decision will always be his wife’s, because she is closer to the children, and the children are the reason for the marriage. Thus, men will never get justifiably angry at being disobeyed, because wives cannot disobey their husbands, as wives are in charge; wives are thought to be empathic and gentle, and are physically weaker than their husbands, so they will not beat a disobedient husband, but will naturally seek to find a way to persuade him to obedience (of course, if he’s not obedient, in the end, then he is committing a crime against God because God plainly intended the woman to lead the marriage, since marriage is for children and women are better with children.) The decisions that the family makes will be based on empathy and love for children and the knowledge of what is good for the children and what they need, rather than the man’s sinful desire to increase his own social status. Hey, just the historical fact that women were a lot less likely to drink away the family’s money than men were, ever, should suggest that the natural way God intended things to work is that women were supposed to be in charge of the family! And you can tell this is true because God made women weaker than men, and thus intended to prevent physical abuse and domination by the leader of the family, because God is Love and Jesus Christ preached that if someone should strike you, you should turn the other cheek rather than strike them back. Women are better at nonviolence than men, therefore women are closer to the teachings of Jesus, therefore women should be in charge.

    Of course, it doesn’t work that way. The religious beliefs serve to prop up patriarchy; patriarchy doesn’t evolve naturally from the religious beliefs. So the fact that nearly everything they think about men and women, and nearly everything their religion teaches that doesn’t directly pertain to men and women, should suggest that women should be in charge, doesn’t manage to contradict the direct teachings they have that women should be subservient to men, is because the religion *exists* to make women subservient to men. And given that this is pretty much the opposite of what Christ taught, if Christ was real and was really the Son of God, there are a lot of so-called followers of His who are seriously torquing Him off.

    Now personally, I believe in egalitarian marriage, because I don’t actually believe women are better people than men (less violent people, on average, but this doesn’t stop individual women from being more violent than individual men, and violence is only a negative trait when it is not used in self-defense anyway, so being less violent doesn’t inherently make a person better than another.) But if someone’s gotta be in charge, the person who can’t do nearly as much harm by beating the “submissive” partner, who would have a *much* harder time raping the “submissive” partner, who is biologically more likely to be closer tied to the children and who by current cultural gender roles will almost certainly spend more time raising them, and who has been socially taught to consider the feelings of others before making decisions, is the one who ought to run things in a family. Hell, making the person who spends their time “making a home” subservient to the person who’s stereotypically supposed to spend most of their time out of the home would be like making a nation follow an ambassador to the UN as their leader, rather than the domestic leader who’s in the nation listening to the nation’s problems most of the time.

    • Attackfish says

      I have to disagree pretty profoundly with a biological reason for male humans to bond less well with their offspring, and the idea that mammal males as a rule don’t to any child rearing. Physiologically, men who spend enough time around infants get comparable levels of the bonding hormones associated with nursing mothers. And as far as mammal fathers, red foxes hunt while the mothers are trapped in the den nursing, bringing her back food. This sounds rather fifties, but they also play with and socialize their cubs, and later teach them to hunt as much as the mother does. Closer to home, marmoset males frequently take care of their infants, and assist the mother in giving birth. There are others, I’m just too lazy to look.

      Now we as a culture are probably tapping into a biological mechanism that keeps men from bonding as closely with their kids; fathers who spend less physical time in the presence of their kids as our culture constantly teaches us is the right way, don’t produce those bonding hormones, but the same thing would happen if our culture traditionally had women leave their children home with the fathers. The mothers wouldn’t have that cozy bond.

      • Casey says

        Yeah, I figured she was just being “hypothetical” and calling these neo-con-Christians on their insane troll logic bullshit…it’s an interesting inversion.

      • says

        The biology suggestion is horseshit. I’m in the process of double-checking my assumptions by reading books on evo-bio sex differences, and so far, I’m only getting more appalled at the low level of objectivity in this field.

        Here’s an innate, hardwired difference between the sexes: men are generally taller than women. No amount of socialization is going to change that, therefore it is indeed innate.

        But if socialization can change a supposedly hardwired trait, then by the logic of Earth, it was never really hardwired, was it? It was always a plastic, flexible choice – at most, perhaps, a tendency that’s stronger/weaker in one sex than in the other.

        I’m currently reading a book, the author of which is totally a gender essentialist, looking very hard (and usually resorting to anecdotes about her kids) for hardwired sex differences to explain why her little girl turned out girly even though she (the author) is an Exceptional!Woman! And even SHE insists repeatedly that what differences studies have suggested exist between the sexes are so statistically insignificant that something like 40% of each gender will totally defy it.

        • Korva says

          Speaking of books, do you know “Biological Exuberance” by Bruce Bragemihl? It’s about homo- and transsexuality in animals, but in the initial chapters that highlight and debunk prejudice in the scientific community and history, there is a little about gender in humans too as I recall (as homophobia and misogyny as so deeply linked).

          Definitely a great book to hit certain “This is unnatural!” jerkoffs over the head with.

      • Alara Rogers says

        Male mammals who help with the young are actually pretty rare; it’s much, much more common in birds, for obvious reasons. There are species that do it, but it’s not the usual mammalian practice.

        But the whole thing is bullshit. The truth is, the reason women are “better” than men in so many ways that pertain to the running of a civilized society is that women don’t have enough power to abuse their power, and that women are put in charge of the kids by society. Give women power, and we’ll be assholes too. Put men in charge of kids, and they’ll be priotizing children above themselves too. The point I was trying to make, though, is that based on the stereotypes the Christians believe in, and based on a cursory examination of the real world (where you see mammal “fathers” mostly completely ignoring their young, and where you see women being primarily involved in raising children), it should be immediately obvious that if you have to have one sex be in “charge” in a marriage it should be women.

        As I said, personally, I believe in egalitarian ideals. There are too many asshole women and decent men to establish a “rule” that women should rule men any more than men should rule women. But one of the arguments these folks often make is “well, someone needs to be in charge.” Well, if someone needs to be in charge, then based on their OWN STEREOTYPES, it should be the woman.

  14. Dani says

    I’m not a fan of when people use “feminism” as some sort of dirty word. However, more than getting into that, I wanted to comment on the girl’s use of the word “submissive” and how that’s often taken horribly out of context. I don’t know how this girl views it (i.e. is she more Quiverfull, or is her view slightly more accurate?), so this is more of a general commentary on and my interpretation of the subject of submission as seen in the Bible. All Bible passages are quoted from the English Standard Version.

    Certain people like to equate “wives, submit to your husbands, as in the Lord” with “husbands, go ahead and beat the crap out of your wives!”, but that’s a gross misinterpretation of that particular passage of the Bible (Ephesians 5:21-33). There is a tendency to confuse Biblical submission with “subservience”. Subservience is akin to being a “doormat”. That’s not what Paul is talking about in this passage. Context is key, especially when reading a document that has been dated to the first century C.E., and it’s best to read the entire chapter to better understand the above-mentioned verse. Of course, there’s also the centuries of misogyny perpetuated by the church that needs to be worked through to even get to the original context, unfortunately.

    First of all, Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, and, before verse 22 (“wives, submit to your husbands, as in the Lord), he is addressing both men and women together. Verses 17-21 make up one sentence, and it is interesting to note that Paul ends this sentence with “giving thanks and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, SUBMITTING TO ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:20-21, emphasis mine).” So, the idea of Biblical submission is not just a “wife thing”.

    The passage immediately following the verses about wives submitting to their husbands (verses 22-24), is also extremely important, especially in response to the kind of misogyny-disguised-as-Christianity that turns wives into doormats. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (verses 25, 28…the entirety of Paul’s message to husbands is in verses 25-33).” I wonder what would happen if husbands stopped and REALLY thought about those verses and what they mean. Christ died for the church; that’s what Paul means by “as Christ loved the church”. That’s not some lip-service “love”, that’s the real thing. Because of this, I don’t buy that women are supposed to be the only ones sacrificing something in a marriage. Nor do I believe that this passage is saying that “husbands = God”. Jesus (God the Son) was doing the will of God the Father (Matthew 26:39b “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”).

    Examples of women throughout the Bible also convince me that submission from a female perspective is NOT the same thing as being a repressed, subservient, or invisible. Eve, when she was created, was called “ezer” (the word usually translated as “helpmeet” or “companion” in Genesis 2:18) – a term used only a few times in the Old Testament; most of the time, “ezer” is used to refer to the type of help God brings to Israel! Esther, saved her people (Book of Esther); Ruth risked everything in order to provide for the mother of her dead husband (Book of Ruth; for good historical commentary, The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Custis James is an excellent read); Deborah was a judge of Israel and went with her people into battle (and she was married while doing all of this, too) (Judges 4-5); Abigail went behind her husband’s back to make up for the insult he had given to David and to save her household from David’s foolish plan for revenge (1 Samuel 25); the wife of noble character described in Proverbs 31:10-31 “dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong” (verse 17); Mary was chosen to be the mother of Christ (and was only the second person an angel of the Lord appeared to in several hundred years!); the last people at the crucifixion and the first Christ revealed his resurrection to were women (in a time when women were considered natural liars). So, I don’t think that submission in a Biblical context is “weak”; however, the way the girl in the article mentions being “feminist about relationships” gives me pause.

    One last note, about the Quiverfull/Stay at Home Daughters movement: In everything I’ve read about it, the daughters always talk about how they want to be like their fathers and emulate their fathers and live to help their fathers, etc etc; all of the education they choose to receive (and education is really emphasized by this movement) is for this purpose. I’ve never heard their mothers mentioned as examples they want to strive to emulate, just their fathers. What this says to me is that these girls are being raised to value what, according to their subculture, are masculine traits, not feminine ones. What happens, then, when they get married and have to content themselves with the “female” (according to Quiverfull) role in the relationship?

    • says

      If we do take it in context, we also have Paul telling women to sit down and shut up when men are talking, explaining that men have nothing to learn from women, and that women cannot have any kind of leadership roles. Paul’s misogyny is notable, and it requires a great deal of cherry picking to come up with a non-misogynistic viewpoint of the teachings of Paul regarding women. The bible, as a whole, teaches that women are less valuable than men, have fewer rights than men, and yes, should be subservient to men.

      • Dani says

        There’s actually quite a bit of controversy among New Testament scholars among what those verses (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-14) actually mean. On one hand, Paul is seemingly telling women to be seen and not heard. On the other hand, in 1 Corinthians 12 (another debated passage, though it’s generally accepted as a cultural mandate unique to that period), he is telling wives to cover their heads when they pray and prophesy…in public; the church he starts in Phillipi is started with mostly (if not all) women (Acts 16:14-15, Phillipians 1:1-11). Paul commends Timothy’s grandmother and mother for their influence on him (1 Timothy 1:5). He works closely with and praises many women (Priscilla (married to Aquila), Phoebe (who delivers his letter to the church in Rome. The word he uses to describe her, diakonos, can either be translated as “servant” or “deacon” (Romans 16:1), plus the other women he mentions in Romans 16 – Mary, Junia, Julia, etc). Plus, in Galatians 3:28, he says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

        Here is a link to an article (a PDF) by Frank Viola, author of the book “Pagan Christianity”, about his views on the verses I mentioned above. He has a more egalitarian view on women in the church, but even he mentions that these verses are tough to accurately interpret. It is from the Mediography section of his website

        It’s unfortunate that many churches that have an opposing view to Viola’s treat women like second-class citizens. They say that women are just as valuable as men, but then do nothing but tell them what they can’t do! (Or, they just don’t talk about them at all).

        This is something I am still trying to research and figure out; when I was younger, I took a more traditional view of women in leadership roles, but, once I hit college and began meeting women in leadership roles within the church, I began to rethink my position and realize that I wanted to look into for myself.

        • says

          Yeah, I’m aware of the existence of apologists, however, I am quite capable of reading the passages for myself and forming my own opinions, just as I did when I made the decision to leave the church. I’ve read multiple translations on my own.

          I have no interest in reading the works of someone trying to redefine words and phrases when I am capable of reading those same words and phrases on my own with full comprehension, as well as able to see how those words have been used throughout the years by the system that originally wrote the words and thus were quite aware of their original meanings and intents.

          • says

            It’s absolutely true that there’s far LESS misogyny in the Bible than a lot of God’s followers would like us to believe. No argument there.

            But Paul was a misogynist. He praises Exceptional!Women!, as all misogynists do. He appreciates women who stick to their womanly role and don’t try to do things better left to men – like, actually preach or something. His version of advocating celibacy was actually a rejection of marrying women rather than praise for whatever boons celibacy might confer.

          • Dani says

            GardenGoblin: I’m sorry, I was not saying that you aren’t capable of reading and interpreting for yourself; if my comments came across as implying that, I apologize. It’s very natural for me to include sources and examples when I write about most things; I don’t so that because I think that other people are dumb or because I want to tell them how to think, I do so because I want to share where I’m getting my information from. I’m very research oriented, so when I write about, well, pretty much any subject, and have an opinion that’s based on or influenced by something I’ve read, I want to share that as well. Again, if my comments came across in any way as condescending or rude, that was not my intent, and I’m sorry.

            Jennifer: I’ve always had a completely different interpretation when I’ve read Paul. The only section where I can remember him talking about celibacy is 1 Corinthians 7, and he always seemed to address men and women equally there. Like, when he says “the wife does not have authority over her own body, the husband does”, he then says “likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, the wife does” (vs 4); later on, he addresses both men and women in saying that someone who is single can concentrate more on pleasing God (vs 32-35). Sometimes he addresses them both at once (like when he says “brothers”; that word, depending on the context, can refer to siblings in a family, both male and female).

            “It’s absolutely true that there’s far LESS misogyny in the Bible than a lot of God’s followers would like us to believe.”
            Wow. That is so profoundly true, and very sad and infuriating because it is so true.

            • says

              See Garden Goblin’s more recent comment. You really are acting as an apologist for the Bible at this point. While I am willing to acknowledge that some people insist there’s misogyny in it that just isn’t there – for example, preaching that Paul’s remarks about women being silent in church mean that women can’t serve as clerics – you appear completely unwilling to acknowledge that there is still plenty of misogyny (that Paul said WOMEN should be silent, not PEOPLE).

              When we enlarge it to the OT, as GG has just done, your argument is completely fucked. I mean, that’s how modern societies got the idea of rape as a property crime against men, sort of like stealing someone’s car for a joy ride and then wrecking it. And while the OT has some Exceptional!Women!, so does the Republican party. Doesn’t mean their policies aren’t still on the whole “White Men First.”

              If you want to argue that a Christian doesn’t have to be a misogynist, we’re way ahead of you – got Christians writing on the site and everything. If you want to argue that Christianity is not entirely misogynistic, that’s true, too. But if you want to argue the Bible is not misogynistic, I humbly submit that you wouldn’t recognize misogyny if it took up residence in your back pocket and talked to you in a very squeaky voice.

          • says

            “It’s absolutely true that there’s far LESS misogyny in the Bible than a lot of God’s followers would like us to believe. No argument there.”

            It’s also true that there is far MORE misogyny in the bible than a lot of followers, particularly of the apologist bent, would like us to believe.

            I’ve had apologists try repeatedly to claim that Numbers 31:7-18 was an act of mercy, not rape, and that the women in question would have gratefully married their saviors.

            They also claim Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is about love, not rape, but when asked where the woman got a choice on the matter, are remarkably silent.

            Judges 5:30. Rape.

            Exodus 21:7-11. How to sell your daughter into sexual slavery

            Zechariah 14:1-2 God promising rape.

            Judges 21:10-24. Rape.

            I’m sorry, but the bible may just be one of the most misogynistic books ever written. Any text that promotes rape is an abomination, and any sect of followers that try to justify the rape are sick.

          • Dani says

            I don’t believe Judges 21:10-24 is meant to be looked at as a good thing. It ends with “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”, which seems to point to the above story of the war with the Benjaminites as being a chaotic event in a time defined by chaos.

            But, yeah, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, and Exodus 21:7-11 are some of the most troubling passages for me in the entire Bible. Granted, there’s a lot I don’t know or understand about the Old Testament, but, still…questioning God for me usually revolves around passages like these.

            I don’t really buy any of the explanations that apologists have told you, either; they are either shaky at best or just plain wrong. It seems like an attempt to just smooth things over and not face the difficult questions these passages bring up for those of us who follow the Bible (questions I don’t have an answer to, and, while they don’t stop me from believing in God, they’re issues I certainly struggle with).

            • says

              The answers are simple: God never suggested that women should be regarded as anything but property. There is actually no evidence to suggest Christians or Jews are expected TO see them as anything other than property – valued property, perhaps, but still property.

          • Dani says

            Hmmm…I can’t see it so simply, because I don’t believe Jesus would have died for property, or that God would have made property in his own image. But, I think this more influences my belief that, not only does a Christian not have to be a misogynist, but a Christian *shouldn’t* be a misogynist.

            I have one quick question: I realize that I completely missed one of your posts, the one where you said “You really are acting as an apologist to the Bible at this point,” and I was wondering what you were speaking to in my post before that (where I commented on Paul’s writing about celibacy), or if it was something else?

            You guys have sure given me a lot to ponder! It might have to wait until the end of the semester, but I want to go back now and look into Paul and what you said about the women he praised being “Exceptional!Women!”, as you called them. I’ve never heard it put like that before, and it’s worth looking into.

          • says

            But god did NOT make women in his image. He made MEN in his image, then women from men. According to the Bible.

            I could never reconcile my Catholic-influenced upbringing with the fact that I think I am a complete human being.

            • Firebird says

              I remember being in church and praying and unable to shake the feeling that God must hate me because he made me a woman – if he had loved me, he would have made me a man. Not because men have it better in the world – if I was going to complain to god about the situation he placed me in, giving me a home life complete with abuse, fanatical religion, and both parents with diagnosable mental disorders would have topped that list – but because I could never shake a feeling of guilt for being a female, a feeling that I was approaching god with 3 strikes against me just for my gender, something I couldn’t do anything about.

          • Attackfish says

            also, according to the NT, Jesus died for the sins of everyone, including slaves. But the bible definitely asserts that slaves are property. Therefore…

          • Dani says

            Attackfish: Hmm…I’ve never thought about what you said about the slaves.

            JT: I’ve always taken Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea…” to mean both men and women, one, because the word translated as “man” is the generic term for “humankind”, and, two, because the pronoun in the next sentence is “them”, not “him”.

            • The Other Anne says

              I’ll believe that “man” is synonymous with “humankind” as soon as “woman” is as well. Or, for that matter, any other pronoun that describes a person. As it is, “mankind” and “men” and “man” refers, IMO, to men. Not all people. I do not hear the phrase “mankind” and identify myself with it. I hear “for all mankind” as said by Neil Armstrong and feel left out. When people make the argument (and my progressive dad has made this argument to me as well–I immediately smashed it to bits) that man and mankind refers to all human beings, it feels like what is actually being said is that humanity is by default male and that I should be totally okay with myself being called a man because being called a man is inclusive.

              • Casey says

                I remember not so long ago, when I was wallowing in smarty-pants hipster privilege that I wanted to start talking all “old fashioned”/archaic by using “man” and “mankind” as a plural for all humanity/genders/sexes…then I remembered all the schwarmy douches I knew on the internet who would try to defend their sexism with that excuse of “I JUST REFER TO EVERYONE AS MAN, DURR HURR”…Nowadays it even bugs me when people call me dude.[/tangent]

                • Attackfish says

                  And what is with the term “She-bro”? seriously? This is aside from the fact that bro culture is pretty hostile to us ladies anyway, bros before hos and all.

                  • Casey says

                    The concept of being a “she-bro”/honorary maleness/exceptional femaleness doesn’t irk me as much as some DOUCHE on an imageboard I frequent conflating a woman who has lots of male friends and sticks up for them ’til the bitter end and doesn’t take shit from nobody as being a femme-dom…WAT? Strong-willed woman = dominatrix? WAT WAT WAT (I guess it’s slightly better than just being written off as a bitch but that’s still SO INCREDIBLY fucking stupid)

              • SarahSyna says

                Actually, according to what I’ve read at least, man did used to be a gender neutral word that simply meant human. Saying ‘That man there’ was the same as saying ‘That person there’. The way people would indicate gender is by adding things like ‘Wer’ (male) or ‘Wyf’ (female) to it. Werman and Wyfman. It’s only in more modern incarnations of English that man came to mean male, and the word ‘mankind’ is probably a leftover from when it was neutral.

                • SarahSyna says

                  I’m not excusing it by the way, I’m just saying that it didn’t start out with that connotation.

                  Though I find interesting (in a horrorified kind of way) that a word meaning human became the word for male.

                  • Attackfish says

                    and the “Wyf” part of that has come down to us as “wife”. The old word for woman survives as the word for a married woman.

                    • SunlessNick says

                      I saw that on a show called Balderdash and Piffle (which is about finding the origins of quirky words and phrases), from the awesome Bettany Hughes. I found it depressing too.

                • Casey says

                  Oh yeah! Because of that, I insist on calling female werewolves “wyfwolves”. 😀

                  (this is an aside, but I’m sick of people calling female humanoid robots “androids”….THEY ARE GYNOIDS, DAMMIT!)

          • says

            @Dani, okay but then why were women made from Adam’s rib?? That’s made after the fact, after Man, god’s true creation.

            I do not like what religion tells me I am: lesser, a derivative of the True Human, Other. Made to serve, breed, bow and scrape. No thanks.

            Religion isn’t the only guilty party. Philosophy in general can be very male centric. Heck, there are a number of Objectivists in my family. Objectivism is an atheist philosophy founded by a woman, Ayn Rand, but she is very woman-hostile and thinks herself a special snowflake (to say nothing of her extremely privelege-laden political and economic views). Only men can achieve True Human Greatness. Women must Hero-Worship men, for that is their place. It’s the same crap in the oldest religions and philosophies.

            Feminism is the only place I feel like a human being. And I don’t agree with every feminist out there and I am not politically compatible in every area. But they believe I am a person. That’s HUGE.

            • Firebird says

              If you read some secular Biblical criticism, from scholars of a linguistic/historical bent, you will find that the first creation story in Genesis 1 and the second creation story in Genesis 2 were written by two different authors (or religious groups) likely at different times of history with different focuses in mind when writing. While Christianity and Judaism hold that they are one story, written or perhaps dictated by Moses, scholarly criticism pretty much shows that’s not possible. So as to why? Because the other religious camp told the creation story a different way, and the redactor/editor who came along later and put it all together into one book decided to just put one story right after the other instead of only including one story or the other, or cutting them together verse by verse (as s/he did with the story of Noah) or cutting them together in the middle (as with one of the sin/plague stories in the desert) or separating them widely in the text (as with the two stories about Moses getting water from a rock).

          • Dani says

            JT: You’re right; that IS huge.
            I guess for me growing up, church (specifically, my youth group) was one of the few places where I felt like a complete person. None of the older Christian role models in my life, whether it be my parents, or my youth pastor, or my college pastor, ever made me feel less than complete or inferior when compared to men. That really affected how I thought about faith when I got older and began thinking and questioning faith and religion for myself. In fact, while I knew it existed, I didn’t experience sexism from fellow Christians until very recently.

            As for Genesis, I always read that as, God waiting to create Eve so he could show Adam how much he couldn’t do it on his own (of course, that didn’t stop Adam from blaming God for making Eve when they *both* ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). Not in a “man, I need someone to boss around way”, but an “I can’t do this alone” kind of way. The Hebrew for “helpmeet” is “ezer”, and is used most of the time in the OT to refer to God when He gives help to Israel. (“Strong helper” might be a better translation, but even that isn’t completely accurate) To me, that doesn’t say “weak” or “helpless”.

            As far as making Eve from Adam’s rib, versus, say, creating her from her own pile of dirt…that just said to me that they were both human. If they had each been made from separate piles of dirt, I think that would have made it easier to say one pile of dirt was inferior to the other, or that only one was human, and one was some sort of “other” (and it’s easy enough for people to do that now). That doesn’t take away from my issues with the rest of the Old Testament, but, if some misogynist would say to me that the Genesis account makes women inferior/lesser/stupid/*insert gender stereotype here*, I feel like I would have a much better time responding to them with Genesis 1-3 the way it is now.

            (Also, side note, but your comment about Ayn Rand reminds me of one of the poets Mary Wollstonecraft slammed, who wrote about how women should be nothing more than pretty flowers.)

        • Dani says

          I forgot to put this in my last post, but, I feel like I’m starting to argue just to argue, and that *never* ends well, so I’m probably not going to post a whole lot more in this thread. It was a very interesting discussion, though. While my friends (of varying belief systems) and I talk about religion all the time, I think this is the first time I’ve had a discussion about it from a strictly feminist perspective, and it gave me a lot to think about.

          • says

            Part of the problem is that the bible was written by men, from the perspective of men. To be even more specific, it was written by men who were already part of very misogynistic cultures with patriarchal societies.

            Even if it was ‘inspired by god’, it was still interpreted (and reinterpreted) and written (and rewritten) and translated (and retranslated) by men.

            These men drew upon the perspectives of their lives, what they knew to be the ‘right and proper’ way of things due to what their cultures had already taught them. The misogyny was ingrained in them before they ever set pen to paper, how could it not come out in the bible?

          • says

            Dani, Jesus was egalitarian, but God certainly wasn’t. God supported the Israelites invading lands that looked good to them, and killing anyone who got in their way. God was okay with women as property (c’mon, there are rules about how many camels you have to trade for your 353rd wife). God was okay with slavery.

            There is simply no reconciling God’s values with those of Jesus. And Jesus flat out said we should forget the old laws, because he was here to deliver the new. If you think about it, it actually doesn’t make any sense that Christians have kept the OT, since Jesus says it’s flawed, unless it’s to support an agenda of which Jesus would not approve: patriarchy without equality.

            Their track record speaks for itself.

            (Even more worrying are Christians who insist the Bible must be taken literally, but then pick and choose which rules to enforce: like, we can ignore the kosher deal, but the world will implode if we allow government (render unto Caesar) to define marriage a bit differently than the church does so as to accommodate the beliefs of an ENTIRE society supposedly enjoying freedom of religion rather than just the Christians.)

          • says

            Claiming that Jesus said the old laws were to be put aside requires seriously reinterpreting or outright redefining words in a manner that takes them completely out of context. The idea that Jesus said put away the old laws is really something invented by apologists in an attempt to make the bible seem more appealing by telling folks ‘oh, don’t worry your little head about those nasty bits’. On several occasions, Jesus condemned those that did not follow the old laws.

            Jesus may have been more egalitarian than god (hard not to be) but he was certainly no feminist.

            • says

              He did say flat out that ritual hand-washing could go – the rest is inferred from the general idea that it’s not following the letter of the law but the spirit of the law that matters. It doesn’t take a great deal of interpretation at all, and it’s standard teaching in some of the more realistic churches.

              The bottom line: the Bible is chock full of acts of hatred, bigotry and dehumanizing, and not only does God fail to get upset about most of it (which has to be interpreted as tacit approval from someone so powerful), but he actively supports it on several occasions.

              • The Other Anne says

                Not to mention that the one sin Jesus is repeatedly quoted as saying is the one unforgivable sin is blasphemy and disbelief. So, well, turns out I’m a worse person than, like, the actually bad people in the world that hurts others in various ways. Awesome?

          • Dani says

            Jennifer: And those issues are *rarely* talked about. Usually it is just said to be Old Covenant (under the OT Law) vs. New Covenant (Jesus). They are especially important, I think, because Jesus says He is God, so…what happened between the OT and NT? Two things make delving into these issues even harder:
            1) OT sermons are usually about someone like Moses or David (and not about his views on women, which I think were pretty poor), or some other well-known passage. I actually had a harder time finding outside research and books on the OT than I do NT (even on subjects like OT prophecies about Jesus, which I would think would be kind of important, considering there’s supposed to be several hundred of them…).
            2) True to society today, women’s issues aren’t frequently talked about from the pulpit (this is mainly speaking to institutional churches; from what I’ve read, the House Church/Organic Church movement is less hierarchical and has more of an “active participation from all members”, so that might be different). This is *slowly* starting to change, as more women get into theology and more men in theology look at things from a female perspective, and as both start to address some of the gender issues in the church, but it takes a while to trickle down to the pulpit.

            I think it’s good to keep the OT mainly because it’s quoted and referred to so much in the NT, so it helps to know where those references are coming from. But I do wish that more of the hard passages were discussed instead of just ignored, even if none of the answers are satisfying.

            • says

              Actually, women’s issues ARE talked about from the pulpit in many churches. Specifically, that women need to be submissive to husbands and fathers, do not belong in the pulpit, need to stop tempting our men with their devilish lusciousness, etc. That stuff’s of GREAT concern to a growing number of Christians, alarmed at women’s increasingly near-human status.

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