A Pox on the Patriarchy
- Caroline Criado-Perez
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And then, a bit later, he created misogyny.
Yep, ‘fraid so. For the uninitiated of you, let me tell you a little (her)story.
So, God’s created Adam, and he’s having a whale of a time naming animals and whatnot, generally being master of his domain. But sadly, poor Adam feels a little lonely. He needs a ‘help meet’ (Genesis 2:20) . A ‘fair / …winning soft…amiably mild’, compliant help meet.
So here is what God did:
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
Adam was delighted with his new toy:
‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:’ he said. ‘she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ (Genesis 2:23) Cue thousands of years of biblically sanctioned misogyny.
Now, you might wonder why Adam was so firm about etymologically debasing Eve to the level of subordinate (Wo-man) – or even, considering that he was given the power to name animals, subhuman [yes I’m a terrible zoosogynist]. This idea of her being somehow less than human is also reflected by the fact that he refers to her as ‘This’, as if she’s an inanimate object – not to mention that he speaks about her, rather than to her.
Well, the fact is, our poor hero had been burned once before, and he wasn’t taking any chances with those wiley women this time.
You see, this is the famous creation story, the one that most of us know – it’s the reason for that bit of apocrypha – you know, the one that says that men have one fewer rib than women. (May they be forever praised for their historic generosity!) But actually, in Genesis 1, there is a different take on how the ills of the world (aka, womankind) came into existence: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.’ (Genesis 1:27)
But?! How can God create men and women at the same time, and then later have man existing alone, and woman created all over again?
Yes, quite the conundrum – scholars have been raging over that one for years.
There have been many dry, academic answers to this seemingly irreconcilable issue, but the most obvious, and the one I’m now going to talk about, is the eye-wateringly simple one that, of course, the ‘female’ of Genesis 1 is not the same as the ‘woman’ from Genesis 2. But of course!
So let me tell you about Lilith – for that was her name.
The trouble all started with God really. Genesis reports that, after God had created them ‘male and female’, he went on to bless ‘them’ and to say ‘unto them’,
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.(Genesis 1:28).
See where I’m going with this? No? Clue: the repetition of ‘them’ should point you in the right direction.
Yep, that’s right, God seems to have spoken to them as a unit, and told them, plural, that they should ‘subdue’ the earth and ‘have dominion…over every living thing’. Oh dear God. Not smart.
You see the trouble was, this gave Lilith all sorts of revolutionary ideas. She thought it meant that she was somehow equal to Adam. So she refused to be his ‘help meet’. She refused to lie beneath him during sex. She just wanted to do her own thing and if that meant riding him like Lady Gaga, that was what she was going to do.
But Adam wasn’t up for that.
Nononononono, he said. You must be my sweet lady wife and receive my command when we are visited, to
And what thy stores contain, bring forth and poure
Abundance, fit to honour and receive
Our Heav’nly stranger.
‘May curses reign down upon your sexist head’, snarled Lilith. And she promptly flew to her spiritual home, the Red Sea [hello menstruation metaphor! How did you get there??]
Well, from then on it’s your typical story of unrequited love. Adam tried to chase her, dolefully crying out ‘Return faire Lilith! / Whom fli’st thou?’
But Lilith was having none of it. She stayed in the Red Sea, copulating like mad (and one assumes, on top) with various demons, cursing the three angels that God sent on Adam’s behalf to try to bring her back.
In the end, God had to have a private word with Adam – ‘look dude, you’re just embarrassing yourself now. Give it up, she clearly doesn’t want you.’
‘But I’m loooonely! So very lonely’, howled Adam. ‘And it’s not fair!’, his voice rising to a shrill yelp.
‘Oh dear, there, there’, said God. ‘Never mind, she is horrible, and I’ll punish her, don’t you worry. And as soon as we have time, I’ll make you a new toy, one that you can cope with, OK?’
‘But I want it NOW!’ said Adam.
‘Christ alive,’ said God, ‘OK, here we go’. So he put Adam to sleep and the rest is history. [as in, not her-story. Oh, you got that. Oh. OK. Just checking.]