Are Women Human? (Celebrating International Women’s Day)
March 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Well … it sorta depends.

It depends on who you ask. It depends on the period of history into which you were born.

Then there are a whole category of men who think that women are definitely human, they are just not quite as good as men. Or they are as good as men, but not quite as advanced … sort of overgrown children. Why is this? Oh, because the men are afraid of the women. Now, the men have lots of very elegant reasoning … but the bottom line is … they are afraid. Men frequently establish second class status to things they are frightened of.
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Lemme ‘splain that a little bit. I’m no Biblical scholar. However, I play one on television.

Hah … as if. I wonder what a Biblical scholar would look like on television! All sarcasm aside, I’m no Biblical scholar, television or not. However, I’ve studied the question about women’s standing before God from a Biblical standpoint fairly extensively. I’ve read many pertinent books and studies. I’ve read all the pertinent scriptures in the original languages and with all the different interpretations you can imagine. In short, I’ve been there done that. Do I definitively know God’s heart on the issue? No. I do not. But I have what I think is a pretty good idea. Alot of people disagree with me. That’s fine. They’re allowed. I think they will be called to judgement for the damage that their misguided opinions are doing (otherwise known as sin). But that’s between them and God. It’s not my call.
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Here’s my theory … if you go all the way back to Genesis 1 you find this:

26Then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

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28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Here we see the very first indication of people … created together. At the same time. Both given dominion over the earth and everything in it. Both given equal stake in creation. Both as equal beings. Two peas in a pod as it were. Yin and yang, male and female. Equal in being, status, everything … all the way down the line.
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Things are clarified for us in Genesis 2:

18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper* fit for him. Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper* fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

*Briefly, the “helper” debate revolves around the idea that a helper must be in a subordinate position. I’m not going to get into a lengthy treatise here except to say that the Hebrew word (ezer – the root from which we get ebenezer, Israel and many other words, btw) which is used has many meanings which do not adequately translate into English. We have used a word which has very limited meaning to us … it might be asked why the translators chose that particular word and not another less loaded word? What cultural/societal needs were met by using this translation rather than another?

As you may or may not remember from Genesis 3 the male tendency would be towards domination. He must work to subdue the earth now … when we chose to be independent of our relationship with God, that was the evil that the male of the species would bring to the earth; dominance.

Here is the definition of dominance from

1. rule; control; authority; ascendancy.
2. the condition of being dominant.
3. the disposition of an individual to assert control in dealing with others.
4. high status in a social group, usually acquired as the result of aggression, that involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, as food, mates, or space.
5. the normal tendency for one side of the brain to be more important than the other in controlling certain functions, as speech and language.

However, if we read the first couple of lines of the “curse” on Adam we find something curiously interesting: “”Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ …” Recall for a moment, Adam’s response to God when questioned about how he knew of his own nakedness: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Ahhhhh … ha. Adam (and his descendants) have never quite gotten past the idea that it was all Eve’s fault. God is allowing him/them to live in that. “Because you have listened to voice of your wife …”

Now. What is the rest of that sentence? It’s not that she doesn’t have anything good to contribute the relationship. The rest of the sentence is “…. and disobeyed Me.” That’s fairly key to the whole operation. It’s not that Eve is really the terrible person here. Or that all advice from Eve is to be ignored. Or that Eve was less advanced and did not know what she was doing (after all she was also punished), but that Adam willfully and with eyes wide open, upon listening to his wife, chose to disobey His Creator. Listening to his wife wasn’t the bad horrible thing that he was being punished for. He was being punished for disobedience. Ultimately, he, and Eve, were being punished for the same thing that got Lucifer thrown out … pride. Hubris. Not unusual, since Lucifer (Satan, the serpent) was doing the tempting.

Large groups of men (entire civilizations that occupy large portions of our globe) have been operating under the fear that women will lead them astray ever since. Now whether or not this is a story/myth that is descriptive or prescriptive is of little importance to this post.

Now there have been whole civilizations that rose up and were quite successful where the men were not afraid of women. Native American cultures, ancient celtic cultures, African cultures to name a few. But the predominant culture that has consumed the globe is one in which the dominant men were afraid of women. I realize I’m speaking in generalizations and broad brushes. I realize that not *all* men are afraid of *all* women. But, generally speaking this is the case. In terms of our general rules and trends in Western culture which has spread throughout the globe at this point, men are afraid of, and feel the need to dominate women. They must demean them. They must overpower them and keep them in a position of powerlessness.

Here is some history for you. Jesus was the first feminist. Jesus was the first masculinist too, for that matter. Jesus taught that all human beings had worth and value. This was an earth shattering principle at the time. At the time only men had worth and value. Women and children were chattel. Do you know what that word – chattel – means? No, I mean do you *know* in your bones, what it means? I didn’t think so. It means that you have the approximate value of a sick mule. Children even less. Women were worth the labor and potential of the sons they could provide. Children were worth-less until they were of an age to provide labor. I want you to take a moment and imagine the life you might lead if your value were tied to how much work you could do and how many sons you could push out of your belly (especially since you have no control over that … and we now know this is a result of the sperm anyway). What happened to infertile women? Do you begin to understand why adultery was such a big deal? It was important to know who’s son your wife was carrying …

So, unless a woman could work and provide children, she was a liability to her husband. This process began at about age 14 or 15. LightGirl is 14. I shudder when I consider this possibility. Men did not speak to women in public settings. Men carried on their commerce separate from women. There were separate spaces for men and women in the Temple and synagogues. Men and women were separate and unequal. Jesus ignored all of that. I could say he changed it, but he really didn’t. He set a new example by ignoring it. He went about his business and talked to people. Now the people who most commonly listened to him were women … because they had the least to lose. But go into any church today and take a head count … you’ll still see more women than men. Women still understand that Jesus has come to redeem them. Women are far more open to hearing His message of self-sacrifice. Women can speak that message too. Who better than a woman to talk about how lay down your life for someone else? I’m sorry to say, but there are not many men who can speak to that with the same personal experience that the vast majority of women have.
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In any case, Jesus ignored the cultural mores of the time and spoke to women. He healed women. He discipled women. He accepted support from women. Women were amongst his band of followers. This was unheard of. There were no other rabbis in the land who had done these things. No other rabbis who spoke to women. Or healed women. Or taught women. Or accepted support from women. Or had women in their band of followers. It’s not that Jesus elevated women above men. It’s that he accepted them as equal to men.

So to answer my own question. Yes, women are human. Yes, we are equal in all ways to men. Men have nothing to fear from us, IF they will choose to follow God’s voice when it’s important rather than ours. But then we also have to be discerning about their voices as well. All of us are responsible to discern the call of God on us from the cacophony of other humans in our lives. Ultimately, that is what we are each called to … a loving dance with the Creator Herself. And anyone who attempts to interfere in that is just asking for trouble.


Read these other outstanding posts by women bloggers on women’s issues:

igniting the ember: emerging women finding their voice by Kathy Escobar
the world handicapped by half by Makeesha Fisher
The Voice by Makeesha Fisher
International Women’s Day by Julie Clawson
I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader by Kingdom Grace
Complementarianism Sucks: Telling Women to be Quiet in the name of Jesus by Pam Hogeweide
International Womens Day by Minnowspeaks

7 Responses  
  • Swinging from the Vine — The Voice writes:
    March 8th, 20085:44 pmat

    […] the world handicapped by half International Women’s Day I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader Are Women Human? Complementarianism Sucks: Telling Women to be Quiet in the name of Jesus Blogged with the Flock […]

  • Pistol Pete writes:
    March 8th, 20086:05 pmat

    To settle some historical debate, we could count women 3/5 human. That way we could guarantee Hilary Clinton would not be elected.

  • Jarred writes:
    March 9th, 200812:43 amat

    Fascinating thoughts and interesting points all around.

  • The Voice writes:
    March 9th, 20086:43 amat

    […] the world handicapped by half International Women’s Day I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader Are Women Human? Complementarianism Sucks: Telling Women to be Quiet in the name of Jesus Blogged with the Flock […]

  • Minnowspeaks writes:
    March 9th, 20088:40 amat

    One minor point of contention–the woman didn’t actually try to convience Adam of anything. He stood right beside her while the serpent talked to her, listened but didn’t speak. Then when she took the fruit and handed it to him, he ate it.

  • Sonja writes:
    March 9th, 20089:06 amat

    Hey, welcome Minnowspeaks!

    Thanks for the comment. I went back and read the story (again!). We don’t have a whole lot of information there … just 6 or 7 verses (maybe 10 sentences). So who was where and when and all of what was said is not really all there.

    For me, I find it hard to believe that Eve (and Adam) so completely disobeyed God based on that really short interaction with the serpent. There had to be more to the story and we’re just getting a condensed version. Say, several conversations/interactions, which Adam may or may not have been privy to. So when God comes in and says, “Because you listened to your wife …” to me that says there was some sort of conversation between Adam and Eve about this whole thing. Which does NOT let Adam off the hook for the choice he made to both go along with it and not convince Eve to not do it. But I will acknowledge that’s all pure speculation on my part.

    There’s just more there than is actually written. Which came to light when I tried to write it into a play for middle schoolers and things just did not add up.

  • igniting the ember: emerging women finding their voice « the carnival in my head… writes:
    March 9th, 20089:11 amat

    […] are women human? sonja […]

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