What if the Women of the Bible Had All Been Feminists?

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Lately I’ve been enjoying Amy Richards’ Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. I’ve been meaning to read something by Amy ever since I heard her speak this spring, and Manifesta hasn’t been letting me down. Amy is the brain behind the Ask Amy advice column at Feminist.com, and a long time proponent of equal rights and empowerment for women. As a male who has lately begun to come to grips with all the varieties of sexism and patriachy present in the conservative Southern town in which I was raised, Richards’ writing is truly a breath of fresh air.

While Manifesta does everything from summarize the history of feminism to describe what still needs to be done by the so-called Third-Wave of feminism and outline resources for community activism, it also has some hilarious moments. Since a healthy chunk of the examples of sexism I can recall from my upbringing involve religion, I particularly liked the section where Richards and Baumgardner (the coauthor) raise a question: “How would Biblical history have been different if the women had been feminists, and had gotten together for a good girl talk now and then?”

After the ladies loosen up around the table, Mary Magdalene would begin by talking about sex workers’ rights, and returning belly dancing to its origin as an exercise for giving birth. Leah and Rachel would resolve their longtime sisterly competition by ditching Jacob, the man their father married them both to, and agitate for women to be able to inherit their own property. Rather than being synonymous with evil, Jezebel would be lauded for her business acumen. Hagar would receive palimony and child support from her lover, Abraham. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, might even befriend Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and Sarah’s slave; at the very least, she would empathize. Bathsheba, tired of looking for love from a poetic boy who couldn’t commit, would have the presence of mind to leave King David. Delilah would teach them about orgasms and exhort her friends to make sure they got what they needed in bed. Lilith would be full of first wives’ club advice for Eve, and Eve would be pontificating about the politics of housework. Eve would also recognize that she had been framed, and refuse to take the Fall for her man or her God. Ruth wouldn’t be saying “Whither thou goest, I will go” to her mother-in-law or anyone anymore; she’d be blazing her own trails. Meanwhile, they’d all begin to question why the hell Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt when her husband was busy offering up their virgin daughters to the marauders. (And why the hell she didn’t have a name.)

Man, I wish I wrote that. I mean, woman

6 Responses to What if the Women of the Bible Had All Been Feminists?

  1. “Meanwhile, they’d all begin to question why the hell Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt when her husband was busy offering up their virgin daughters to the marauders.”

    Yeah, especially since the marauders were gay. So, bad idea on two counts. Lot should have been turned into salt simply based on his massive failure to realize anything at all that anyone around him wanted.

    “Ruth wouldn’t be saying ‘Whither thou goest, I will go,’ to her mother in law or anyone anymore; she’d be blazing her own trails.”

    I sometimes wonder, what’s so wrong with following someone, especially–as in Ruth’s case–someone you love who needs you. Sometimes I feel like I can’t be a real feminist unless I want to start my own business and never compromise with anyone ever. But I haven’t read the whole book, and having met Amy I’m sure that’s not what she was trying to say.

  2. globalizati says:

    You’re right, that’s not what she’s saying. In that particular sentence, I think she’s railing against the fact that Biblical women almost inevitably fall into the rolls of followers. I don’t think Amy would say you have to start your own business, etc. to be a feminist. You can choose to do anything you want. The imporant thing is that you have that freedom to choose, and access to enough information and a liberated enough society in which to act that your choices are your own, not that of people with penises, like me, or the Biblical writers.

  3. Hey, I just realized that Deborah isn’t even in there, and she pretty much was a feminist. Though if she were a modern feminist I suppose she’d have been more openly political, agitating for all women to be accorded the same respect that she was.

  4. Yeah, that’s what people keep telling me, but I never feel like they really mean it…or at least, that they would like me a lot more if I did start my own business, or domestic violence shelter, or whatever.

  5. [...] not a new book, but over at Globalizati, we get a snippet from it that could lead to an interesting discussion: After the ladies loosen up [...]

  6. [...] What if the Women of the Bible Had All Been Feminists? – “After the ladies loosen up around the table, Mary Magdalene would begin by talking about sex workers? rights, and returning belly dancing to its origin as an exercise for giving birth.” [...]

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