Revisiting the Tree of Knowledge

 

The Church Father Tertullian tells us “the woman should wear a simple dress, be mournful and full of repentance to suffer for her inheritance from Eve, the shame of being the one who committed the original sin and the guilt of being the cause of mankind’s condemnation.

 

 

 

That’s great, Tertullian. So I should stop writing immediately and repent for my feeble, womanish thoughts?

 

No such luck.

 

While Tertullian’s opinion isn’t held by many people in the Western world, variations are still visible in everyday life. In our society, there is a collective rejection of the feminine that was, in reality, born long before any of us would think to question where it came from. Any connotation with femininity (i.e. showing emotion, the color pink) implies weakness, in today’s society. How many times have we heard the phrase “Don’t be such a girl”? When did an association with the feminine become a symbol for weakness, or even evil?

It is necessary first to look at how women were perceived “in the beginning.” During the Neolithic period (10,000 B.C. to 3,500 B.C.), men were hunters and women stayed back to tend to their dwelling and children. Tasks were divided without any idea of superiority- that is, it was not “better” to be a hunter than it was to tend a garden. In South America, the society known as the Amazons was headed by women, who acted as warriors and spiritual leaders. In Mesopotamia, the Goddess Nin-khursag was worshipped just as much as the God Enlil. Celtic tribes worshipped a divine mother, as did the Native Americans.

With the rise of Christianity, and mainly the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, feminism in the western world would change forevermore.  Let me say first that I have no problem with the original Christian/Jewish religious texts, just the misinterpretation of those texts. For example, one third of American adults interpret the Bible as the literal word of God, when it is really a collection of anecdotes and historical accounts from various religious students. It is this literal interpretation (Eve being to blame for Original Sin and the condemnation of mankind) that helped create an image of woman as a temptress who leads God-fearing men to the Devil. Because of this incorrect conclusion, religious groups that still worshipped the Goddess were wiped out, often including the torture of women as penitence for the sins of Eve. The Adam and Eve parable provided a reason to bar women from obtaining clerical positions in the same way they had been priestesses in generations prior. Generation after generation, women were taught that they were inferior and made to feel guilty for the reproductive organs they were born with. Even Martin Luther referred to women as “magnificent animals” and did not consider them to be human.

So how does this history translate to our modern view of women? Women have won rights such as the right to vote, and certain religious groups allow women to be in the clergy. While I am grateful for these rights, they are still the rights that women already had at one point in history.

Now, problems with feminism are more psychological than anything else. For example, it has been scientifically proven that intelligent women are less attractive to men. A 2005 study by the University of Edinburgh found that for women, with each 16 point increase in IQ, are 40% less likely to be married. Men, with each 16 pt. IQ jump, increased their chances of marriage by 35%. Every day I see smart girls acting dumb so as not to scare off prospective boyfriends.

Intelligent, successful women are seen as threats to society. The widespread hatred of Martha Stewart is a perfect example of this phenomenon- she is a charismatic, successful and driven woman who happens to have made her fortune by- gasp!- being a fantastic HOSTESS. How dare she!

Many women claim to be feminists and reject traditionally held feminine roles, such as mothers or homemakers. I believe that this rejection of all things feminine is antifeminist as well, because shouldn’t we embrace the rights we’ve won while simultaneously being proud of all things feminine?

In conclusion, girls really have it harder than guys. I’m talking about the historical reasons why we collectively have a very skewed perception of women and feminism, and that girls are forced to search for an identity in a society that praises them for being beautiful, but punishes them for being intelligent.

Published in: on December 5, 2008 at 8:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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