Friday, February 17, 2012

The Glory of Woman, Part 2 of 4

Radical feminists believe there is no difference in nature/substance between man and woman. They argue that any differences are purely external and conditioned by society. On the other hand, so-called patriarchal thought -- the "male-dominated" philosophies, sciences, and religions -- believes the opposite and have traditionally classified the nature of woman as inferior, more emotional, and less rational. Radical feminists view such beliefs as a pretext for sexist oppression. In particular, patriarchal thought is accused of creating oppression with three theories:
  1. Woman is a partial man (Aristotle and Freud).
  2. Feminine as the second of two opposing principles (good vs. evil, strong vs. weak).
  3. Woman defined in term of man's needs.
I reject these theories. Catholic teaching rejects them too, but radical feminists aren't convinced. As it is apparent to me, they will read the Bible so narrowly, focusing on a few chapters disassociated from the rest of the Bible, and reinterpret stories to fit their accusations. This is not scholarship. A true scholar would shun the error of eisegesis (superimposing interpretation onto a text to make it fit the reader's suspicions) and embrace the objective method of exegesis (finding the author's original intentions).

The feminist Caroline Whitbeck argues that a "pure instance" of the third theory is "found" in the second Creation account of Genesis. She views the creation of woman as an afterthought: a drop-in replacement for animal companionship and existing only to fulfill man's needs. I object to both claims. First, I find Whitbeck disgusting to insinuate that Eve is like a better animal. (Framing the story this way is nothing but a malevolent attempt to slander Christianity.) An animal is irrational and property. The animals failed Adam because he wasn't looking for just any kind of company (e.g., a faithful dog), but an equal who can reciprocate love. Thus, Eve was created to be Adam's "suitable partner" (Gen 2:18) in her roles of assistant/helper/wife. Second, I suspect Whitbeck takes offense that Adam was created first, but the dilemma would exist even if Eve was first. The animals would have failed Eve too. In conclusion, there is no primordial power struggle in the Garden of Even -- just a community of love: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).

With regard to the first theory (i.e., woman is a "quantitative and qualitative deficiency"), Whitbeck does not accuse Christians of perpetuating this theory, but others do. As it is written, man was created from the ground and then God formed woman from the man's rib (Gen 2:7,21). Feminist Lisa S. Cahill claims that the rib taken from man’s side suggests the inferiority of woman. Christians must outright reject this theory and her interpretation. After all, man was made from dust, and he is certainly not inferior to dust -- it is simply the raw material upon which God acts. Likewise, woman was made from man, and she is certainly not inferior to man.