When men made God a man: Religion, the patriarchy and the culture of misogyny
Women are inferior to men: “A man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”
1 Corinthians 11:7
Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other… As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.”
Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as widow.
From the Hindu text Manusmriti
The female’s defects … greed, hate, and delusion and other defilements – are greater than the male’s.”
When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house.
Deuteronomy 21:10-14 NAB
Police said the three men drove around while sexually assaulting the woman in the vehicle, before driving back to the same corner where they had abducted her. They then took her car keys and drove off in her car, as well as the vehicle in which they had assaulted her.
Helen Freund, The Times-Picayune
The theory goes, as I have heard it, that the first societies were matriarchal, but when men realized that they had something to do with conception, they ceased the worship and respect of women, embraced their greater upper body strength and more directly aggressive natures, raised a meaty fist, and clubbed the women to the ground. And thus was born the patriarchy.
As for when this happened, the debate rages on, but the posited number is in the range of multiple millenia. These dry words do not encompass the millions upon millions of women owned. Beaten. Ravaged. Sold. Murdered. Enslaved. Silenced. Destroyed. Can your mind encompass the number of raised fists landing to rend flesh, to break bones, to reduce a human being to a sobbing heap of powerlessness and agony? Can it? Can it encompass the number of women who have been pinned down, bodies opened by cruel hands as their most tender and sacred flesh is plundered and ripped?
I can. It haunts me. It ravages my heart. It brings back memories.
Patriarchy without religion makes this horror merely brutal. Religion gives patriarchal religion the sanction of sacredness: women’s usability and abusability systematized and given rule of law — and all in the name of love – or at least, the general principles of existence.
Patriarchy is what gave God the male gender. In Christianity, whether it was the direct and actual God or the putative descendant of God, the only womb involved was in the implanting of the Sacred Male in its nurturing container. No faith that can fairly be determined as patriarchal even entertains the idea of a gender-neutral god, at least not in its more original form, although some branches have been evolving. Men, who have only been moving away from the patriarchal in the last 90 years or so, saw that God was a man and that they were men, too, and therefore men were like God – divine and all-powerful — and women, not being anything like God, were far, far less.
So with God on their side, they began to quantify, in detail, all the ways in which women were worthless except as only barely animate property that could produce sons and saleable daughters at the man’s whim, along the way blaming women for the men’s own lusts and complete unwillingness to control their impulses.
Even today, the numbers are staggering. One out of every three women on this planet has been physically assaulted by an intimate partner, and these sources include reports by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, neither of which are prone to exaggeration. This means that in a world with 7.064 billion people where there are 1.01 men to every 1 woman, there are likely about 3.5 billion women. If one out of three women in the world have suffered gender violence in whatever form, these women would currently number something around 1.18 billion women will have been beaten, raped or murdered – or any combination of the three – in the course of a lifetime. And these are only the ones reported. With the act of reporting being potentially even mortally dangerous, I can only imagine how many more there are.
These are just statistics from domestic violence. Men feel quite comfortable being violent to women they have never met. So far the statistics I am finding say that of all the violence committed against women, 22 percent of it was perpetrated by strangers. Even 20 years ago, The National Crime Victimization Survey reported that, in the United States, women 12 and older suffered five million assaults of undifferentiated nature. That would mean that in a single year, 1.1 million women were assaulted by a man or men they did not know. At random. Because they could. And because the patriarchal culture, bolstered by the empowerment of God-given superiority, had created a world where the nullification of women’s humanity was divinely sanctioned.
But all the numbers in the world cannot give you the picture of what it looks like, what it feels like — the sounds, the impossible cruelty of it. It was just a little while ago that a woman dear to me was kidnapped at gunpoint. They threw her in a van, these three men, sanctioned by God as entitled to rule all within this world, encouraged by the Jewish and Christian scriptures to rape at will, created a hell in which this woman will have to fight to defeat and escape — if she ever can. In many societies, she would never be allowed out of her torment. In these societies, it is the woman who is shamed, who is blamed, who is rejected and repudiated – and even murdered – for the sin of having been raped. Often, the most savage of those who
brutalize these woman all over again will claim to be devoted members of their religion.
Stop for a moment and visualize this happening over and ever. Every year. Year after year. And ask yourself this: If faith was, in fact, faithful to its tenets of love and goodness instead of fomenting a love and glorying of war, the sanctioning of women’s inferiority, objectification, violence and ravagement, all in words putatively written by or divinely inspired by the God of many religions – would the brutality against women even exist? Would it be so intrinsic to the culture that it scarcely even warrants more than a moment’s mention – if mentioned at all?
For a moment, please consider the possibility of a world where faith was, in fact, faithful, power was gentle, and all people walked side by side instead of one five steps behind the other. In such a world, perhaps we would finally, finally see the day where women – and children – could walk without fear.
In my dreams…