Wednesday, December 4

Women and Discrimination

According to men, "Women are utterly and absolutely inferior to Men and are only good for bearing our offspring and providing us with sexual pleasure." At least, this was the dominant view regarding women among the majority of the world for a long time. Among some individuals, this still is a view that is held. Women were classed together with African Americans and Jews as being those under heavy discrimination. Indeed, there were male as well as female African Americans and Jews, but it was the females of the class who were looked down upon the most and considered absolutely inferior.

Simone de Beauvoir, in her 1949 Le Deuxieme Sexe, does a lovely job of laying out many of the issues that are raised concerning women as well as some of the history behind this gender discrimination. Men had (and in a sense, still have) considered women to be outside of themselves – that is, they are “others.” Unfortunately, many men still perceive women as sexual beings only, something – not someone – that is constantly objectified and lacking an identity apart from the male - an “other.”

This “other” has been around for as long as we have been able to form words: God is superior, we are the Others. Zeus is superior, Hera is the Other. Whites are superior, Blacks are the Others. In like manner, the majority view had been that Men are superior and Women were the Other, but in the past few hundred years (particularly in this last century) women have challenged these stereotypes, assumptions and social “rules” and have gained much more of a standing in society as a whole. Women are unfortunately not always treated as equals, however, and in many countries outside of the United States we find that women are still sold as sex slaves (the U.S. equivalent could perhaps be street prostitutes) and are also rarely given high positions of authority.

When considering how this reading relates back to our previous reading the question had been – what were the benefits of Christ’s act? This act of love was done for ALL people, including females, so that ALL could climb the ladder to reach God. When the Godman was on the earth, not only did he have male followers but also many female followers. Mary Magdalene (who is often mistaken for a prostitute, a supposed “fact” not actually in Scripture), Martha and many other female followers are recorded in early Christian writings.

Also, there are entire books of Scripture devoted to stories of women – the books of Esther and Ruth, for example. Stories of heroes such as Jael and Deborah in the book of Judges or the apocryphal book of Judith also bear out that the Judeo-Christian view of women is perhaps a tad more exalted than that of the time. Indeed, in various mythologies we see that women are created out of the head of the man (so that his mind is superior to hers) or from the foot of a man (so that she is “under” him). Yet in the Genesis account, Eve was created from the rib of Adam not to be a slave to him but was indeed taken from his side to stand side by side together as equals in love and in society.

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