1. I just learned that Peter Graves has passed away. Peter Graves is known for various roles, but I honor him as Pastor Eric Camden’s father on 7th Heaven, Colonel John Camden.
Here are some posts that I wrote about him during the course of my blogging career, covering some of my favorite 7th Heaven episodes:
As you can see in the last post, I actually put Colonel Camden in my top ten list of TV dads because I admire him for learning from his mistakes.
2. During my reading today of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, I thought about roles and the expectations that society puts on people. The chapter that I read today was about the sociology field’s promotion of the Feminine Mystique, the notion that women can only find fulfillment as wives and mothers. As I read sociologists’ descriptions of gender roles, I felt a lot of pressure on myself as a male to be a breadwinner and successfully compete in a dog-eat-dog world. But I’m more like Jacob than Esau—quiet, contemplative, likes to stay in my camp, etc. I found myself envying the housewife, who stays at home, wrapped in the security of her husband’s paycheck, performing the simple tasks of cleaning the house. Of course, being a homemaker is probably a lot harder than it looks! I’m sure that I’d find the childrearing element to be quite a challenge. But, as a person with Asperger’s, I like security, along with predictable tasks. Maybe I can be a house-husband, married to a high-powered corporate executive!
Ms. Friedan portrays sociologist Margaret Mead as a complex figure. Mead discussed cultures in which women were dominant over men, and she also advised against pressuring children to conform to specific gender roles. But she also put so much emphasis on the value of women giving birth, that advocates of the Feminine Mystique used her writings to support their view that the primary role of women is as wives and mothers. According to Mead, men are envious of women because women can have babies whereas men cannot, and so men go out to conquer the world in other areas. Ms. Friedan acknowledges that Mead made a valuable contribution in that she encouraged women “to say ‘yes’ to motherhood as a conscious human purpose and not a burden imposed by the flesh” (138). Mead wanted women to celebrate their femininity, without feeling that they had to be like men. But the proponents of the Feminine Mystique used her insights to keep women in their “place.”
The part about forcing kids to conform to gender roles stood out to me, for Phyllis Schlafly points out in The Power of the Positive Woman that feminism has pressured kids to do the opposite. On page 216, Schlafly quotes psychologist Rhoda L. Lorand, who argues that “putting pressure on boys and girls to behave like the opposite sex is placing them under great strain…” Boys are made to feel guilty for feeling chivalrous, whereas girls are told to be ashamed of their desire to be attractive to a man and to one day have kids. Rhoda Lorand believes that the gender roles are biological, but here’s a thought for advocates of the Feminine Mystique and also for the feminists who want to perform their own method of social engineering on kids: Why not let the kids be themselves?
Ms. Friedan, on pages 144-145 of The Feminine Mystique, laments that the female students at her alma mater of Smith College are not interesting in discussing the national and international issues of the day, as were Ms. Friedan and her colleagues when they were at Smith. Rather, they are preparing to becomes wives and mothers. A blonde senior said that women are expected to go to college, but they’re deemed peculiar if they become too interested in a field of study. That’s the thing about society’s expectations: they’re not always reasonable! They can contradict each other.
On page 129, Ms. Freidan quotes Margaret Mead as saying: Some men think of women as too weak to work out of doors, others regard women as the appropriate bearers of heavy burdens “because their heads are stronger than men’s.” Again, contradictory expectations!
I suppose that I buy into both stereotypes. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity that, if his dog bit a child (or something like that), he would prefer to tell the child’s father rather than the mother, since the mother would overreact. The father would be more level-headed. Yet, women are strong. They have to be to support their husbands through hard times. And, when a man is about to bite someone’s head off, it’s usually the woman who is the voice of calm and rationality.
At an Asperger’s support group that I attended in New York, there was a heated debate about who had it easier: men with Asperger’s, or women with Asperger’s. A whiny man (not me) said that it’s hard for him because women reject him, and he has difficulty finding work. An abrasive woman then replied that women are expected to have their “sh*t” together because they’re girls, whereas men are allowed to be on the quirky side. I’m not qualified to judge which is easier. But I think that society’s expectations on males are difficult for me, since I’m told that I need to conquer, to succeed.
What I hope, though, is that I can find a way to support myself while being myself—to have a conscious human purpose as the person God made me. But life is not always roses. I need to learn to compete in some capacity, even if I don’t end up as the king of the jungle. And, hopefully, therapy, developing my talents, and getting advice from other people can help me to do that.
3. Louis Feldman’s Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible: On pages 190-191, we learn about Josephus’ attitudes on women, as they are compared with those of other Greek authors. Josephus portrays Salome Alexandra, a female ruler of Judea in the first century B.C.E., as lustful for power, dictatorial, and shortsighted. Josephus blames her for the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty. And he says that she acted in a manner that was unbecoming for a woman. Yet, he reluctantly concedes that she kept the nation at peace.
Josephus says that the testimony of women is inadmissable in Jewish courts because of their levity and boldness (Ant. 4:219). This may be an example of the sorts of contradictions I discuss in (2.): Josephus expects women to act in a manner that’s becoming, which means that they shouldn’t be in a position of power; yet, he considers women to be bold, not meek and mild.
Feldman then cites the Odyssey, in which Zeus punishes the house of Atreus because it accepted the counsel of women. Plato said that the punishment for cowardly men is that they be reborn as women. Aristotle stated that the woman is an imperfect human being. And the Hellenistic Jew, Philo, affirms that the Passover lamb was to be a male because the male is more perfect than the female, who is merely an imperfect male. I wonder how (and if) Philo explains (or explains away) the female sacrifices that God commanded: see Female Offerings.
4. John Van Seters’ Law Book for the Diaspora: On pages 65-66, Van Seters argues that Exodus 20:24-26’s command that the altar be made of unhewn stone is late. Ezekiel 43:13-17 presents the altar of the rebuilt temple as being composed of hewn stone. Van Seters contends that the author of the Ezekiel passage is unaware of the Exodus 20:24-26 law, presumably because it hasn’t been written yet. And, for Van Seters, one cannot claim that Ezekiel was discarding a rule he viewed as primitive, for the belief in the importance of an altar made of unhewn stones was big in the post-exilic period. Ezra 3:2-6 says that the altar was built according to the Law of Moses—which Van Seters interprets as “with unhewn stones.” And Van Seters cites I Maccabees 4:44-47, which refers to the Jews’ creation of an altar of unhewn stones. So Van Seters contends that the law in Exodus 20:24-26 is post-exilic and came after the time in which Ezekiel 43:13-17 was written.
5. H.I. Marrou’s A History of Education in Antiquity: On page 223, Marrou states that classical humanism didn’t think much of studying math above the elementary level, for it was considered barren and abstract. There were philosophers, however, who liked math because it taught people how to reason.
I took Calculus I in high school, and that’s the highest I went in terms of math. I skipped it in college. I myself find it barren and abstract, though there are plenty of engineers who make good money applying it! But one thing I admire about math is that it’s pure reason. Some people act like the humanities are the same way—that there are criteria for evaluating good arguments and bad arguments. But, personally, I find that such determination is often subjective and rooted in bias and presuppositions. Plus, there are people who take pride in being great logicians, yet they turn right around and violate the very rules they claim to honor (particularly the rule against ad hominems).
6. Marvin Pope’s Song of Songs: On page 99, Pope contrasts the Targum with Christian doctrine. The Targum exhorts the Jews to continue their job of implementing the Torah, even though the world is unfit for the presence of God and the messianic climax that he will bring. Christian exegesis, however, wants “the period of harrowing waiting to be arbitrarily foreclosed”, for it assumes the doctrine of original sin, which says that people are inherently corrupt, so the world won’t become fit for God’s presence before Christ’s second coming. Pope states that Christians fear they will fall into temptation, so they’re not banking the entrance of the messianic climax on their own performance.
I don’t think that the world has to be “fit” for God to intervene, for that’s why God will intervene in the first place: to clean it up. But it’s still a good idea to pursue justice.