Phyllis Schlafly’s Positive Woman 3, Josephus’ Double Meaning, God Weighs Hearts in the Afterlife?, Sacrificing to Chaos, Both

1.  In my reading today of Phyllis Schlafly’s The Power of the Positive Woman, I read many of the same points that I encountered in yesterday’s reading (see Phyllis Schlafly’s Positive Woman 2, Josephus on the Age of the Earth, Why Dahood Says the Psalms Are Pre-Exilic, Ishtar and Ghost Whisperer, Pederasty).  Phyllis was saying that women in America have the options to work outside of the home, to raise a family, or to do both.  While she believes that a Positive Woman can pursue any of these options, she obviously believes that raising a family is the most fulfilling.  In contrast to feminists who view the role of homemaker as mind-numbing, Phyllis Schlafly states that “A housewife is a home executive: planning, organizing, leading, coordinating, and controlling” (46).  (I recall Nora Walker of Brothers and Sisters making this same point about her years as a mother when she was applying for a leadership position in a cancer research organization.)  Being a wife and mother gives a woman companionship, children who can take care of her when she’s older, and affirmation from others when they see her beautiful baby.  Mrs. Schlafly exhorts women not to complain about their household chores, but instead to have a positive attitude.  And she notes that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, for a job in the professional sphere brings its own share of drudgery and challenges (i.e., a difficult boss, obnoxious customers, etc.).

Mrs. Schlafly continually contends that women by nature want a man who will love them and children whom they can nurture.  To illustrate her point, she quotes or alludes to Golda Meir, Katherine Hepburn, Cherokee soprano Princess Pale Moon, Amelia Earhart, author Taylor Caldwell, Nancy Reagan, and others.  (On Nancy Reagan, my hunch is that Phyllis probably supported Ronnie over Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican primary for President, for, on page 44, she chides Betty Ford for staying in bed and leaving her husband to cook his own breakfast when he was Congressman, in contrast to Margaret Thatcher, who actually cooked for her man.)  She even refers to feminists she has encountered, who tear up at the prospect of becoming mothers.  Yet, she’s baffled that many women in their twenties are having fewer children.  She cites a study stating that “86 percent of the married graduates of Radcliffe College (the women’s division of Harvard University) in [the 25-29] age group are childless” (52).  She says that “the principal cause is the propaganda of the women’s liberation movement that motherhood is the least attractive role a woman can choose, and that the work force offers more rewards and more fulfillment” (53).

On the hierarchy within the family, her position is that the husband should be the head of the home, “the ultimate decision maker” (50).  For her, the husband is the President of the family, whereas the wife is the Vice-President.  For Phyllis, somebody in the family needs to make the ultimate decision, for a committee system “neutralizes a family with continuing controversy and encumbers it with psychological impedimenta” (50).  (BTW, on this note, check out John Hobbins’ post, Tim and Kathy Keller’s middle ground between traditionalism and feminism.)

Moreover, Phyllis Schlafly argues that the feminist movement is actually holding women back.  She makes this point on a few occasions, at the expense of feminist activist Bella Abzug!  On page 39, on the topic of why there aren’t a lot of women in government, Phyllis states:

The chief handicap of women candidates today is the bad image of politically active women created by the liberationists.  If the Bella Abzugs and other strident “spokespersons” of women’s liberation would quietly fade away, dignified and capable women would have a better chance of being elected to public office.

And, on page 41, she states: The women’s liberationists make the mistake of asking to be treated like men.  This has become so ridiculous that many a man is afraid to show a career woman such customary courtesies as opening doors for her, standing when she comes into the room, or paying the restaurant check, for fear she will cut him down with an acid liberationist retort.  The Positive Woman feels no need to be defensive about her womanhood.  She wants to be treated like a woman, and she knows that her chance for success in man’s world is increased by requiring men to treat her like a woman.  Thus, a most successful Positive Woman, former Premier Golda Meir, who spent a lifetime attending men’s meetings, once said that no man ever told a dirty story in her presence.  Men will respect and follow the leadership of such a woman, whose very demeanor requires men to respect her womanhood.  Those whose language asks that they might be treated like a man, as, for example, Bella Abzug, are not likely to become leaders of men or women.

Phyllis believes that one of the keys to a woman’s success in the “man’s world” is for her to embrace her nature as a woman, with all the chivalry that men will show her in the process. 

On this issue, Phyllis is interesting.  On page 17, Phyllis states that the Positive Woman can motivate, inspire, encourage, teach, restrain, and reward the man because his sex drive is stronger than hers.  On page 14, in arguing that men are physically stronger than women, she states that, “It was not the strident demands of the women’s liberationists that brought high prizes to women’s tennis, but the discovery by sports promoters that beautiful female legs gracefully moving around the court made women’s tennis a highly marketable television production to delight male audiences.”  (I like watching Venus and Serena myself.)  I highly doubt that she’s promoting women sleeping their way to the top, and her comment on women using sex to influence men most likely pertains to the marriage relationship; still, she seems to maintain that, when it comes to sex, women have power in their femininity.

At the same time, she obviously doesn’t believe that sex appeal is all that women have going for them, for her book is a showcase of intelligent and capable women, such as Dr. Dixie Lee Ray, a marine biologist who, in 1976, was elected governor of the state of Washington (40). 

Phyllis Schafly is not against women succeeding in the professional arena.  But she’s against feminism, which (in her eyes) encourages women to complain rather than compete, to blame society rather than work hard to create opportunities, and to alienate male coworkers with a negative attitude.  My impression is that she doesn’t think that sex discrimination is a problem in the U.S., for the government already has laws on the books to protect women (not that women should look to legislation to build their self-esteem, as far as Mrs. Schlafly is concerned); plus, according to her, many women don’t have certain high positions or as high of pay as men largely because they’re not willing to sacrifice their families for that kind of success.  But there are Positive Women who do succeed professionally, so it is possible in America. 

And yet, there’s another idea in her book, one that holds that women are happiest as wives and mothers.  For Phyllis, that’s just nature. 

2.  In my post, Phyllis Schlafly’s Positive Woman 1, Evasive Josephus, Hard to Translate, El the Boss, Complexity, I say that Josephus is writing for a Roman audience, and that shapes his presentation of Jewish history.  He doesn’t want to offend the Romans!  At the same time, Louis Feldman (in Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible) maintains on pages 49-50 that Josephus was also writing for Jews.  Josephus promotes proselytism, which wasn’t popular with some Gentiles.  He urges the Jews to keep God’s laws.  He criticizes Jewish intermarriage with Gentiles.  And he may even be appealing to Jewish messianic hopes, albeit in a secretive manner.  Feldman states: …just as in his highlighting of the anti-Assyrian prophecies of Jonah and Nahum, Josephus may have been appealing to his Roman readers, who would have recognized the geographical identification of Assyria with [the enemy of Rome,] Parthia, he may likewise have been appealing to his Jewish readers, who would have identified Rome, the destroyer of the second Temple, with Assyria, the destroyer of the kingdom of Israel… 

So one text can have two different meanings, depending on its reader.

3.  In my reading today of Psalms III: 101-150, Mitchell Dahood continues his argument that the Psalms assert some sort of blissful afterlife for the righteous, a view that isn’t held by many biblical scholars, who maintain that much of the Hebrew Bible lacks a rigorous conception of the afterlife.  On page xliv, Dahood quotes Proverbs 16:2, which refers to Yahweh as the weigher of spirits.  Dahood then cites scholar R.N. Whybray, who affirms: “While the statement in Prov 16.2 that ‘Yahweh weigheth the spirits’ probably shows that the author was familiar with the Egyptian belief that a man’s heart is weighed before Osiris at the judgment after death, the Egyptian doctrine of the after-life, which was a prominent feature of Egyptian religious belief and appears fairly frequently in Egyptian wisdom literature, has no place in Proverbs with this single exception, which may be a slip.”  But Dahood denies that it’s a slip, for such a concept also appears in Proverbs 21:2 and 24:12. 

Dahood apparently holds that the author of Proverbs believes in a judgment after death, since Proverbs appeals to a concept—that of a god weighing a person’s heart—which occurs in the context of post-mortem judgment within Egyptian literature.  But did the author of Proverbs necessarily adopt all of the Egyptian baggage of the concept when he included it in his book?  Maybe he thought that God weighs people’s hearts and judges them in this life, not in an afterlife. 

4.  In my reading for today of Theodore Mullen’s Assembly of the Gods, I learned more about the saga of Baal and Yam in Ugaritic mythology.  Baal defeated Yam, the chaotic sea, and thereby restored order to the cosmos, while also becoming its king.  But people still offered sacrifices to Yam because he was the sea (or in charge of it—I’m not sure), and they needed protection when they made their maritime journeys.  So the sea can unravel the order of creation, and yet people need to appease it for their own protection! 

5.  In H.I. Marrou’s A History of Education in Antiquity, the following statement on page 38 stood out to me:

In spite of this democratization Athenian education kept closely to its aristocratic origins: at the height of the democratic era Isocrates could still remember a time when it had been the special privilege of an aristocracy wealthy enough to be able to enjoy its leisure.  Indeed, as Plato insisted, it would always tend to be the privilege of an elite, since few were prepared to suffer the sacrifices it entailed and few could appreciate its advantages.

In those days, people could probably support themselves with a trade, so they didn’t see a need to learn about philosophy, or other academic topics.  I’ve often been torn between pursuing a simple job (e.g., working at CVS) and a life in academia (which I’m ardently working for as I study).  Academia has its share of intellectual jerks, extreme hyper-sensitivity, rudeness, and snobbery, plus I don’t always care for some of the topics that it considers important.  Yet, I like to challenge my mind with the profound issues in life, and I’d have trouble doing that for hours-on-end at a regular job.  But maybe there will be seasons in my life when I can do both.

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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