Upon reading Vivante’s “Women in ancient Greece”, I couldn’t help but think how the monotheistic religions royally screwed up whatever momentum women had gathered for themselves in the more polytheistic antiquity. Not only were there women-a-plenty in the pantheons and heavens, but some of them were responsible for what could be argued as the most “manly” of things; for example: Artemis, the hunter goddess; Athena, goddess of war and wisdom; and Aphrodite, goddess of sexuality. Granted, women didn’t have it perfect back then either; as Vivante reminds us that the women of Athens were arguably the most restricted women of antiquity, but I would argue they had it much better than those women under monotheistic religions of later years did.
Women may have been considered property in Athens, for example, but under Christianity, women are no better than slaves. But even slaves in the Bible are not divinely declared to be punished, they are simply those that need salvation from the Lord, and are destined to work for that under a master. Women, on the other hand, are divinely stigmatized through Eve. Eve got Adam tossed out of the Garden of Eden by being successfully tempted by Satan. Thus women are forever after considered deserving of the punishment of excruciating childbirth, and become a danger to men because of woman’s closeness to sexuality and temptation, considered a slippery slope to Satan. Indeed, in the Book of Job (which I had to study extensively in a religion course last year), one of the most famously told and disputed texts of the Old Testament, Job’s wife is argued to have told Job to “curse God” for all the horrible things God had been doing to Job to test his faith. The fact that she had apparently told Job to give up on God, and the fact that Job didn’t listen to her, clearly echoes the sentiment on women of the time; that they are easily tempted and strayed from God, and can corrupt their men if the men are not careful!
Now, I was raised a Catholic, and it was through learning readings such as these, that I realized how silly the whole ideology was; the fear of women and their sexuality through out the whole Bible is so thick it is almost laughable.
God, as the Almighty Male One and Only, and His stuffy qualms about women and equality of the sexes, pervades our present culture to such a degree that it is easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this. There were once other ideologies and theologies that considered women not a temptation into evil, but truly divine, as Vivante described in her article. I wish that we could celebrate the fertility and wisdom and sexuality of women today, to the extent that our ancestors of antiquity did. It has thus always puzzled me as to why humans feel the need to clutch so tightly to the black and white precedence of the past, even when it threatens our own well being as a society of the present, and future.