Why Women: Part 2

If God made man and woman equal, then where the heck did misogyny come from?

A solid definition of “misogyny” is in order here, I think. There are those who think misogyny is limited to acts of physical harm to women and those who think it’s misogynistic to hold a door open for a woman, so for the sake of clarity, let’s ask the Oxford English Dictionary:

“Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”

Wikipedia (a model source, I know, but I don’t have an encyclopedia handy) clarifies that Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.

God created a sinless world. Hatred did not exist. Dislike did not exist (what was there to dislike in a perfect world?). In a sinless world, there was no room for discrimination, belittling, violence, or objectification. In the New Testament, God has to tell husbands to love their wives (Colossians 3:19), but this command wasn’t necessary in the Garden at the dawn of time. Adam loved Eve without needing reminders. There were only three rules that God placed on man: to be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:28), take care of the garden (Genesis 2:15), and whatever you do, don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). There were no other rules necessary to make sure Adam and Eve played nice. There was no sin, no hatred and, by extension, no misogyny.

So what happened?

Enter this idiot:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).

The serpent is the Devil. Satan, the father of lies, he who led the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9). If there’s one thing this guy is really, really good at, it’s twisting God’s commands for his own purposes.

Eve replied, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” (Genesis 3:2).

(Eve takes God’s rule a little farther than God originally stated it. God never said touching the fruit would be a problem. In her defense, the law was given before she saw the light of day. Of course, God could have reiterated the law for her after her creation, but that moment is not recorded. It is just as likely that Adam told her touching the fruit would kill them. Or maybe she had made up her mind that she would not even touch the fruit to avoid being tempted to eat it. There are all kinds of possibilities here, but this digression takes us away from the point.)

The serpent scoffed, “You will not certainly die….For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5). The sad thing is that he didn’t lie–the fruit wouldn’t kill them, not immediately, and having discernment of evil as well as good would make them like God in that sense, but without His power. Satan made God sound like He was holding something back from her. How could a good, loving God place limits on the creation He supposedly loved? How could He? How dare He?

She took the bait. And Adam, who was with her (watching the whole thing and doing nothing to stop her), took it as well.

Sinless man was sinless no more. One act of disobedience was enough to tarnish them both irrevocably.

The blame shifting started immediately.

When asked why he took the fruit, Adam’s defense was “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). His words simultaneously blame womankind and God for his own sin. Here Adam first said the words that have echoed throughout history, from blaming Helen’s beauty for the Trojan war to blaming the female vote for a declining America to saying a rape victim “shouldn’t have gone out dressed like that.” History shows us time and time again how men have blamed women for men’s own shortcomings. And it started here.

God required punishment for all three criminals in Genesis 3. Eve’s punishment is painfully familiar to women everywhere:

“To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Painful labor is an understatement. Not only labor, but everything about the female reproductive system gives women pain from the time we hit puberty until the day we die. Every month, we’re reminded that we’re women with a painful sucker punch to the gut. It’s interesting to me that so many have justified discrimination against women on the basis of how our reproductive system works. Even in that aspect, our “labor pains” give us grief.

The second half of the punishment seems like less of an edict and more of a natural consequence of sin. Women’s desire would be for a man. Man would rule over woman. The perfect balance created in the garden was forever disrupted. Where once was harmony is dischord. Men would have to be told to love their wives when before it was a given. What was once intended to be the safest and most intimate human relationship was now a place of danger. Love could still exist, but it would always be tainted by a power struggle that was never intended to be part of the equation.

How many times have battered women been told to leave their abusive, domineering husbands? How many times have the women replied “But I love him” or “I know he’ll change?”

This is not what God wanted. This is not what God intends. What He wanted was a good world with good people, filled with harmony and beauty and love, without violence or hatred or death. Humans chose their own way. They chose evil.

And look what happened.

(P.S.: I know, I know, I’m not addressing the obvious question: “Why did God put the stupid tree of the knowledge of good and evil there in the first place?” That deserves a post of its own, but it’s a topic that, for now at least, doesn’t fit into my research. This question has been debated for centuries, so there are a lot of resources out there that cover the reasons why. This blog won’t be one of them. The reason that has always resonated with me is that God didn’t create robots. He created beings who were capable of choice. He wanted them to choose to love Him. They didn’t. God loved them anyway. It’s a long story, and we’ve barely started. Bear with me.)

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6 comments

  1. The Intransigent One · September 17, 2015

    Three things here:

    1. If God wanted to be worshiped by free beings, not robots, why didn’t he tell the truth to his creation about what the fruit of the Tree would really do? When you’re basing your free choices on faulty knowledge you’re not really free; only truth will set you free. God should know this, since he set it up that way. Yet he deliberately told these beings he loves so much, a half-truth. A half-truth that would be all of our undoing. Would Eve have chosen differently, had she known what would really happen? In any case, neither Eve’s nor Adam’s choice was truly free. Eve’s temptation of Adam can hardly be said to be sinful in this context; she has learned that the fruit will both give her knowledge/power and not kill her (at least not immediately as she had presumably been led to believe), so why wouldn’t she share that information with the man she loves?

    2. It seems to me, Eve, and women, got a raw deal. Yes, Eve sinned first. But Adam’s sin was no less than hers just because he went second. And, as you pointed out, Adam was presumably somewhere nearby while the snake tempted Eve, and did nothing. (Incidentally, God was presumably also nearby, and also said and did nothing. It would have been an excellent opportunity for him to come clean about what the fruit would really do.) Adam got punished with being kicked out of the Garden and having to toil the rest of his days. Eve not only got kicked out of the Garden and had to toil the rest of her days, she also got all that womanly baggage. God is supposed to be the ultimate source of justice, but I really don’t see how it’s just to punish Eve so much more than Adam.

    3. If you’re taking the Bible as the ultimate and literal source of truth, then you’ve now finished your inquiry. As you go through the rest of the Bible and find the various passages that justify subjugation and abuse and even rape of women, you can just refer back to this passage in Genesis and say, God is the ultimate source of justice. God saw fit to punish Eve, and all women after, and this is part of that punishment. Because that punishment came from the ultimate source of justice, the punishment is just. Therefor the subjugation, abuse, and even rape of women is just and divinely ordained.

    Liked by 2 people

    • E.A. Stephens · September 17, 2015

      1. That’s a very good question that I’ll need to ponder. The only answer I can give (off the top of my head) was that God did tell Eve the truth. Taking the fruit meant eternal death. Why He didn’t explain the full ramifications, well, I can only compare His reasoning for doing that with what parents do to explain things to their children: they may not give the full explanation of why (for example) going out alone at night is dangerous to a three year old, or they may not explain fully why taking candy from strangers is bad. A parent will spare the child nightmare stories of abduction and murder, and simply say “If a stranger offers you candy or a ride home, say no.” The adult knows why. The child doesn’t have to yet.
      Again, a very important question I wish I was better equipped to answer.

      2. My next post will talk about this point. 🙂

      3. Well…no. God’s justice (from what I have found) is not *endorsement* of men sinning against women–or any sin. All sin breaks God’s heart. Endorsing sin is contrary to the character of God. He does not smile on rape. Passages in both Old and New Testament condemn abuse. Again, I’m sorry I can’t respond to this point more fully yet, but I have a post scheduled that deals with this topic so I’ll be able to do that for you eventually.

      4. Me, too. 🙂

      Thanks for weighing in.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The Intransigent One · September 17, 2015

    Oops, four things.

    4. I’m really looking forward to how you’re going to deal with the Levitical laws, particularly Leviticus 22:28-29.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Timothy Pemberton · September 17, 2015

    Full disclosure: I am an atheistic, feminist male. I do, however, like thought experiments, and this seems like a great one to me (especially how the author is going to deal with Leviticus as is stated by another commenter). One of the main reasons I left religion was because of how misogynistic it was. I know the author would disagree, but I believe it is intrinsic in religion itself. Just wanted to point all of that out before I make my comment so one can derive any bias I may have. [I came across this blog via someone I know on Facebook posting it; I don’t go around trying to find things like this to make a ruckus on.]

    All of that aside, my first issue comes with the idea that only the devil figure in the story (he is not referenced as Satan by name) lied to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:17 most versions of the English Bible use some form of the statement “the day you eat it, you will die.” This is a non-truth on god’s part. Though not really relevant to feminism, I just wanted to point that out.

    My second issue comes with god’s punishment for the “original sin.” Why did he not make the punishments equal? Instead, he made the punishments come about in such a manner that it led to the demeaning of women (in the future, he directly commands this demeanment through quarantine from the rest of the community). Even though it can be argued that he did not want for that to happen, it is clear that because he is god (omnipotent/omniscient) he knew it would come about in that fashion and did nothing to change the outcome.

    My final issue comes with the statement of “How many times have battered women been told to leave their abusive, domineering husbands?” I absolutely agree that women should leave their abusers for physical and mental freedom from that abuse. However, when discussing this through a religious lens, one has to take the whole holy text as a whole. Later on in the New Testament, women are commanded to submit to their husbands. Now, which is the example of a woman submitting to her husband? 1) A woman leaves her abusive husband. 2) A woman stays with and follows her abusive husband. Obviously, the second option is the example of a submissive wife. I am not aware of any passages of the Bible (I could be wrong, and would like to be proven wrong here) that have a clause that allows women to leave if things are bad. It is just, “be submissive.”

    If you got to this point in my comment I thank you, ’cause I know it can be hard to get through an atheist’s thoughts on a religious blog. Know that I try to not be an “angry atheist” and am only here in search of discussion rather than name calling as so many of my contemporaries seem to be many times. Thanks to EA Stephens for undertaking this project and creating a dialogue about this issue of misogyny and feminism in the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • E.A. Stephens · September 17, 2015

      Hi, there! And welcome. WOW so many good insights and questions. You mentioned a lot of things The Intransigent One said, plus the whole “submission” issue. My study is definitely going to take me through those areas (submission, in particular, is a hard nut to crack). I hope I can do justice to God’s words on all these points and speak clearly.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 2 people

    • E.A. Stephens · September 17, 2015

      And you didn’t come across as an “angry atheist” at all. I can only hope that in turn I never behave like an “angry religious lady.”

      Liked by 2 people

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