Graphic by Kaitlin Benafsheha

Graphic by Kaitlin Benafsheha

If Adam Were Made From Eve: How Far Back Does Misogyny Run?

By Lina Savage

6 · 9 · 2019

 

 The genesis of our male-dominated, misogynistic world can be credited in part to the tale where Eve’s entire existence was created from body parts of Adam, validating a womans dependence on a man.  It was Eve, too, who was blamed for the origins of all sin that exists on Earth. The ancient story even derives the word “woman” from “man,” already hinting in its language that women are ultimately inferior.  However, contrary to these common depictions, the most authentic versions of the Old Testament claim that both Adam and Eve, man and woman, were created simultaneously as equals. Although I’m far from a creationist, I believe the origins of The Bible –  and the way that the stories are told – have given way to centuries of injustice towards women.

It wasn’t until more modern versions developed that the authors of the Bible - old, white men -  started giving women these demonizing, inferior qualities. In more ancient forms of religion, there were prevailing female figures who often possessed the same amount of power as their male counterparts.  Greek mythology in particular idolizes goddesses like Athena, Aphrodite, and Artemis. Through taking on masculine roles, all these goddesses possessed powerful qualities used to dictate decisions among mortals.  They were often given more power than many of the male gods, and they all, for better or for worse, were virgins.

It was significant in ancient greek mythology that these influential females did not need any form of male sexual satisfaction.  They were strong enough on their own to live independently, and in no regard were exploited solely for a man’s pleasure. They were idolized for their own vitality, intelligence, and bravery, rather than strictly their beauty.   

However, these goddesses’ virginity also perpetuated the idea that women in power cannot be sexual beings.  Essentially, if a woman wants to have a role side-by-side of a man, she must act like one. If she caves into her sexuality, then she is automatically deemed as weak, submissive, and perhaps worst of all, feminine.

For men, there is no separation between pursuing sexuality and maintaining power.  In fact, those two often go hand in hand. Countless numbers of men with authoritative positions, such as politicians, musicians, and movie directors, use their power in order to sexually dominate their submissive counterparts.   Women, on the other hand, are often forced to choose one or the other: sex or status.

Regardless, the most modern forms of The Bible, which are commonly accepted today, depict a story of how God created Adam, from which he derived Eve, who also is responsible for all roots of evil in the world.  Elaborations of misogyny in religion follow this set of basis, as only men are allowed to become priests, women are supposed to be inferior, and God himself is male. Abrahamic religions in general consist of solely male prophets, leading to the idea that only men can be deemed significant.  Perhaps the most dangerous part about it all is that they use their religion in order to justify their discrimination. This way, they can openly target and prosecute specific groups of victims, and it’s all okay, because their religion tells them that it is.

So what are the roots of today’s persistent misogyny? I interviewed Teofilo Ruiz, a medieval historian, author and professor at UCLA who was awarded the National Humanities Medal by Barack Obama in 2012.  

“There is social differentiation between male and female in original hunting gathering groups,” he tells me. “Unlike other species, humans have to take care of their babies for a long time, so that ties women to certain responsibilities. This is imposed by biology.” In this sense, he emphasizes that this form of misogyny will always prevail, simply due to these technical mentalities. However, Ruiz notes that our society dramatizes the divide between both men and women. And religion specifically has justified men’s attempts to make women feel submissive in all facets of life.

The Middle Age’s witch craze is one of the most prevalent examples of Christians using their religion to justify female prosecution, during which 80,000 to 100,000 women were either hung from their necks or burned at the stake due to accusations of their ties to Satan.  With large numbers of men being killed in large numbers due to war, an abundance of elderly widows were left vulnerable and without husbands. The main victims of the witch hunt were women over the age of 50, even though living that long was rare at the time, and the main accusers were divided evenly between both men and women.  However, the “crimes” they would commit, in which they supposedly exposed their relationships to the devil, didn’t seem satanic in the slightest. “The worst thing they did was to be themselves, to outmatch men sexually, to live without male control,” Ruiz said. “It is part and parcel of the long history of misogyny.”

When asked if he thinks there are still potential threats of “witch hunt” inspired misogyny that would occur in the modern world, Ruiz responds, “Its occuring right now.” He brings up the male-dominated Senate making decisions surrounding women’s bodily autonomy in recent weeks who he says don’t even know how the reproductive system works: “The hypocrisy is extraordinary.”  He elaborates about how the Christian religion has historically targeted vulnerable groups to prosecute which, in today’s age, is low-income women.

“Rich women can fly to states where abortion is legal in order to find the best doctors to give them abortion.  And then, they are free to leisurely vacation for the rest of their stay,” says Ruiz. “Poor women don’t have this luxury. They face the fear of 99 years of prison if they decide to have an abortion.”

This re-emerging war against women leads me to envision a world where Adam were made from Eve.  If only all prophets were female figures, if men in power had to sacrifice their sexuality at the expense of their respect, and if God was, in fact, a woman.  Then the world could have been a matriarchy, a place where women hold the power and men remain submissive. Where women dictate legislation about their own bodies, where all 50 presidents of the United States were women, and where men make 87 cents for every dollar a woman makes.  Where men rioted in the streets demanding equality. Where men had to worry about carrying pepper spray whenever they walked alone at night. Where men understood the true quantity of predators that approach you walking down the street, over the internet, or in the workplace. Maybe then everyone  could understand the importance of the word “feminism,” connotations aside.

While I would certainly never wish this type of discrimination upon anyone (feminism simply strives for equality), such misogynistic attitudes take place because centuries worth of history and cultural artifacts feed us baseless claims. The war against women has been so deeply rooted into our culture that “sexism” seems synonymous with “tradition.”  Misogyny is normalized in attempts to reconnect with “where we came from.” But if we looked a little closer at this history, we’d see a world where Adam and Eve were created simultaneously — as equal.