You know how I know this? Because I read the Ensign. And it wasn’t even the ‘rape culture’ endorsing line of “most women get the men they dressed for” article that’s pissing off so many women, and rightly so, because hello, women are raped in military uniforms and corsets and petticoats and the burka and when they’re still young enough for their clothes to be purchased in the little kids section, and sooner or later you have to stop saying ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘she was asking for it by dressing that way’ and admit that you’re excusing your own behavior and the behavior of a whole bunch of other people where we would justifiably put down a dog if he demonstrated that level of aggression. My dog understands no. My kid understands no. Your penis needs to learn to behave. Please, can we just stop with this idea that women are responsible for the conduct of men? It’s insulting to all the good men that I know, and it excuses the behavior of the bad ones.
But that’s not the point of this rage. It’s the way we instill a specific set of feminine virtues by the narrative interpretations we impose on the very few women included with any detail in our scriptural accounts.
“From the rib of Adam, Eve was formed (see
Genesis 2:22; Moses 3:22; Abraham 5:16). . . .
The rib signifies neither dominion nor subser
vience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to
work and to live, side by side.”
You know what, let’s change our reading of this. The rib is used to protect the internal organs of the body. The woman is necessary for life to be sustained. If you did not have a ribcage, you would probably die. So don’t piss of a group of women (ribs) because if you do, we will kill you. Just as logical an interpretation as the one given.
Of course, you have Sarai/Sarah whose entire existence boils down to her infertility and then ability to bear a son. Because what other purpose can a woman serve except to be sexual receptacles with no other purpose than to procreate and raise children. She couldn’t possibly have any other desire or role in her life.
And then Rebekah. Rebekah was moved by the Spirit to follow the servant of Isaac back to marry some dude she’d never met. Of course it was the Spirit who moved her, not the desire to get away from overbearing parents and the fact that every boy within a 25 tent radius had a face like a camel. And then when she finally sees the dude:
Rebekah veiled herself upon seeing
Isaac. This act, one writer observed, “was a sign
of her virtue, reverence, humility, and modesty
and showed respect for her future spouse.”
Such qualities indicated Rebekah’s “readiness
for a covenant marriage.” 2
I was thinking it indicated her thinking, “I’ve been traipsing across the desert on the back of this stupid camel for a month. I’m getting a bath and gonna wash my hair and fix my eyeliner before he gets a good look at me.” You know Rebekah could rock a cat-eye eyeliner.
And of course, what’s the big drama with Rebekah. Can’t have kids. You know what I’m thinking. Like father like son. I’m thinking the infertility isn’t the fault of the women. I’m thinking we’ve got some inherited low sperm count issues here.
Jacob loved Rachel dearly, but she could
not have children for many years, a great trial
for her. Although Jacob had not first been
interested in Leah (her great trial), she was
able to bear him children. The sisters sought
Jacob’s love and attention through giving him
Leah’s biggest problem is she isn’t pretty enough for her husband to love her. Think about that. Jacob is an ass to Leah. Because she’s not pretty enough. And Rachel’s problem is that she can’t have kids. Again it comes down to the uterus, because how does Leah finally get Jacob to overlook her face? She starts popping out babies. Boy babies. Just think of how much hatred and anger and hurt could have been avoided if Jacob hadn’t been an ass to Leah, but treated her with love and respect and treated Rachel with the same amount of love, regardless of her infertility. But nope. Not gonna happen. Instead he manages to damage the relationship between two sisters. I swear I’m gonna write a novel called Leah and tell the story from her perspective.
And then we get to Deborah. Deborah, a prophetess, though of course we must quickly point out:
In her role as prophetess, Deborah
did not hold the priesthood or possess ecclesi
astical keys but enjoyed the gift of prophecy in
a more general sense (see Revelation 19:10).4
How do you know she didn’t possess ecclesiastical keys or the priesthood? Women in the history of the modern church have had the power to annoint and to lay on hands. What makes it so impossible for her to have held some sort of keys?
She’s so powerful that the captain of the Israelite army refuses to go into battle unless she goes as well. I mean, unless there was some hoochie coochie going on there, why would a general want her there? Possibly because she had some sort of ability? Maybe? Possibly? Seriously, just give my female eyes the slightest bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, a woman can do something else than just be a mother.
Now, I’m not saying that my interpretation of the Old Testament is accurate. I wrote those examples with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. But this is the thing. When you tell women:
All the purposes of the world . . . would be
brought to naught without woman—a keystone
in the priesthood arch of creation. . . .
and you also tell them
She was designed by Deity to co
create and nurture life, that the great plan of
the Father might achieve fruition. Eve ‘was the
mother of all living’ (Moses 4:26).”
You essentialize them as mothers. And while mothers are awesome and wonderful and great and essential and I love being a mom, they are also one of many roles that women play. Yes, motherhood gets priority for a season, but a woman’s entire life is not spent actively mothering. But that’s what we’re told to prepare for. And that’s why infertility is so incredibly hard for women, especially women in the church, to deal with. It also leads to incredibly destructive behavior in women as their attention gets focused on competitive motherhood. And it leads to young women doubting the guidance of the Holy Spirit when they’re prompted to do things like go to graduate school or fulfill a different path than the traditionally followed one.
We also teach this message to men and boys. And what do they hear? Women are essentially for sex. That’s why they’re here. You need them for sex so you can procreate. That’s their purpose. Their only purpose. Sex and babies. Sex and babies. It’s no wonder when they look at a young woman, regardless of what she is or is not wearing, that they think sex. It’s what we’ve taught them to think about when they see a woman.
The fact that the article about women in the old testament leads right into the article about morality and women need to keep themselves covered so we don’t give men naughty thoughts is just symbolically resonant with the problems we have as a church discussing this issue. Maybe we should start thinking about not teaching our men (explicitly and subconsciously) that women are sex objects. Good moral after-marriage sex objects, but sex objects nonetheless.
(Yes, it’s a bit ranty. I know. I just get tired of ‘agency applies to everyone in the church except men in the presence of a mini-skirt.’)