"God created humankind in God's own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). In other words, the female as much as the male is a reflection of the Creator. They are created at the same time, and they are created equals. God blesses them and charges them together and gives the female, along with the male, dominion over the earth. In the next chapter, however, a different story is told. There God creates Adam first and only afterward, realizing that "it is not good that the man should be alone," decides to make a helper for him, fashioning Eve out of one of Adam's ribs and calling her "Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (2:18-22).

These two conflicting views of the female's role in the order of things scarcely need to be spelled out further, nor is it necessary to point out that, generally speaking, it is the second of them that has prevailed down through the centuries.

Little by little women have turned things pretty much around. They vote. They get elected heads of state. They excel in arts and professions that were once for men only. Some of the stuffiest men's clubs accept them, as do virtually all of the most venerable men's colleges. They are increasingly successful in getting equal pay for equal jobs. Major denominations ordain them. It has been a long, slow exodus, but finally it seems to be paying off.

Feminism can become another form of sexism. Knee-jerk feminists can match their macho counterparts in pig-headedness, aggressiveness, humorlessness, and bigotry. Their shrill voices can make the head ache. When they refuse to read King Lear because it's full of sexist language and bar males from their lectures and demonstrations because they're males, their efforts are apt to be counterproductive. But no matter.

Prophets have always been strident and a little crazy. They've needed to be. The prophet Deborah wouldn't have beaten the tar out of the Canaanites by issuing directives from her living room any more than Moses would have gotten his people out of Egypt by writing letters to the New York Times.


~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words


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