Some Feminist Thoughts On Parshas Bereishis
This week we began reading the Torah anew - Parshas Bereishis. I confess that Bereishis is my favorite portion of them all because as an ENTP I like to begin at the beginning and establish first principles before launching into any conversation about the details. Also, in Bereishis we learn about Adam and Eve, and we do NOT learn about the real first woman, Lilith, and I marvel again at again at what goes down in this story.
Who was Adam's first wife and what happened to her?
---One version is that Adam didn't like her. And told G-d to get rid of her.
---The other version is that she didn't like Adam, ran away, and was confronted by angels who tried to force her to come back otherwise they'd drown her.
(There supposedly ensues a conversation between Lilith and the angels about her life's purpose, which is to kill infants in their beds, and a deal wherein she won't do it if they're wearing a certain protective amulet...this then morphs into the idea that she is the seductress who tempts otherwise good men and then spawns demon babies...that she is the "Queen of the demons.")
I was always kind of pissed at all of the above. The way Lilith was treated and the whole sexist tilt of the Creation story to begin with. I have always imagined Lilith as a tall, strong, muscular and beautiful woman with long flaming red hair, telling Adam to go fuck himself, really, when he started ordering her around.
Interestingly, she looks exactly like I imagine her if you check outAbout.com. So I guess redheads are stereotyped as these wild seductresses.
Anyway, the Lilith story turns out to be a compilation of ideas that already existed at the time, combined with rabbinic thinking.
It also turns out that it is only one of two options for the "first" creation story. The second is that the first being was androgynous.
In any case, what do we learn from all this?
--#1, The Torah is not sexist. People are sexist.--
When religious authority and the right to speak became male-centric, we ended up with very male-centric interpretations of history and law, founded in male insecurities and other psychological needs.
(This isn't the place to go into it, but there are numerous examples of this in the Talmud, so just leave that there for now.)
--#2, The rabbis are not infallible. The rabbis are not G-d.--
The rabbis from Day 1 have set up a situation where the woman is by default the problem in a domestic dispute. If the woman can't be "normally feminine" she is "crazy" and must be expelled from the family so that her influence isn't "catching."
(You can see this stereotype operating in Hollywood where the "good" women tend to be these very passive types who sort of fawn all over their families and have nothing on their brains besides their husbands and kids.)
--#3, The traditional "good woman" is founded on male narcissism.--
In any case, Lilith is out and then Eve is created "out of Adam's rib."
Now what does this mean?
It's very common to say "well she's his soul mate."
But the implication is so sexist. Adam (and by implication all men) is a narcissist. He can't be happy with his wife UNLESS SHE IS REALLY HIM.
--#4, Women with an independent identity are routinely penalized by traditional notions of marriage and relationships.--
In the rabbinic view, a A WIFE WITH AN INDEPENDENT IDENTITY IS A THREAT and by definition cannot really be "one" with her husband."
(Recall that Lilith had an independent identity, but this was tied to her mission as a destroyer of families, literally a baby-killer.)
THIS IS OF COURSE COMPLETE BULLSHIT.
--#5, A cowardly man blames his woman for his problems, throwing her under the bus, while a courageous one protects her.--
The Torah tells us in full what happened with the Fall from Grace - that first day, when male and female were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
After the sin, G-d goes looking for Adam - he's the man, right? The one in charge.
And G-d says, "What the hell happened? How hard is it to NOT eat an apple?"
Right away, Adam shows his cowardice - he blames the wife (not to mention G-d.)
"It's her fault," he says. "You gave her to me, and SHE gave me the apple!"
--#6, The Torah tells us that women naturally want to follow a good man and just as naturally want to oppose a bad one.--
The Torah uses the phrase "Ezer Kenegdo." What this means literally is "a helpmeet that is next to him and against him at the same time."
In other words, the man who acts good - the wife follows willingly and with joy and helps him in everything he does.
The man who acts bad - it's the wife's job to oppose him fully and endlessly.
The prime example of this is later on with the birth of the Islamic faith. This is really important for right now, obviously.
Abraham "takes" Hagar and she has Ishmael. (Consider that women have no rights - the Egyptian princess is taken, physically and sexually. No matter how well she is treated she has no liberty.)
Sarah sees that Ishmael is a bad influence on Yitzchak and says - Abraham you have to banish him.
Abraham doesn't want to listen, but G-d tells him that his wife is right.
--#7 - When you hurt the women you cause the world to be destroyed.
G-d's regret over creating the world, which is expressed in the Torah as well. The text says that the rulers of the world, the elite class, began raping the women from the common class. This was so intolerable that G-d was going to declare the whole experiment a failure...until Noah was born and He changed his mind.
(Even after women were cursed to be subject to male domination.)
--#8 - People are the problem, not G-d.
We got ourselves into the mess we're in and we can get ourselves out of it. G-d loves all genders the same. It is human beings who hurt each other through their actions and their interpretations and their rationalizations.
Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed, a sadistic brute, or a power-hungry liar.
All opinions my own.