Some Reflections on the Feminine Mystique, Spilling into the Song of Songs, While El Gets Drunk!

1.  One problem I have with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique is this: it implies that women’s self-esteem should be rooted in their professional accomplishments.  Granted, accomplishing stuff is a path to feeling good about oneself.  But what happens during the dry stages of life, when one isn’t accomplishing that much, or doesn’t have a lot to show for his or her effort?  Tides can also turn.  Can one feel good when one’s economic condition takes a downturn?  Moreover, what happens when a person succeeds and feels empty?

That’s why I can see the point of those who say that we shouldn’t root our identity in earthly things, which aren’t reliable, but rather in the love of God through Jesus Christ.  Granted, such a concept can be abused by perpetrators of the Feminine Mystique (the view that women can only be fulfilled as wives and mothers), as preachers tell women that they shouldn’t try to establish an identity outside of the home, for they should look to Christ to feel good about themselves.  This sort of thing has occurred in evangelical communities.  And, granted, trusting in a being I cannot see does not strike me as a sure way to feel good about myself, even though, somehow, it works for thousands (if not millions) of people.  So what’s my point?  I don’t know.  Maybe that the solutions people propose are ways to look at a situation, but they should not be absolutized.

2.  I finished my required reading of Marvin Pope’s Song of Songs last night.  Here are some quotes, along with my comments:

Page 205: Leaders of the contemporary Women’s Liberation Movement appear to have overlooked C.D. Ginsburg’s interpretation (1857) of the Song of Songs as a melodramatic manifesto for the emancipation of women.

Maybe they read Ginsburg and found him to be an advocate for the Feminine Mystique—albeit the version that acknowledges women’s intelligence to make them feel good about their role as homemaker!  Here’s a quote of Ginsburg on page 139:

While man, through his superior out-of-door qualities, or physical strength and courage, is the supporter, protector, and ruler of the woman; she, through her superior in-door qualities, her endurance and her charms, ameliorates his government, and sways his inmost heart.  Their different characteristics, arising from their different destinations, were designed to blend together so as to produce a happy harmony, and to make both one.

Yeah, why didn’t hard-core feminists latch onto that?   

Page 206: In the interest of disavowing sexism in translation of the biblical faith, [Phyllis] Trible stresses both the asexual and effeminate traits of the biblical deity.  The gynomorphic imagery, activity, and speech applied to Yahweh, especially by Second Isaiah, make him midwife, seamstress, housekeeper, nurse, and mother.  Accordingly, Trible concludes that Yahweh is neither male nor female.

I’m cool with that!  But it’s interesting how Trible’s feminist interpretation assumes traditional feminine roles and ascribes them to Yahweh—midwife, seamstress, housekeeper, nurse, and mother. 

Page 208: The sensuality of Eden is broadened and deepened in the Song.  In Eden the woman presumably worked as well as the man, but in the Song she definitely works, keeping a vineyard and pasturing flocks, 1:6, 8.  There is a strong matriarchal coloring in the Song.  The lovers speak seven times of mother, but father is totally ignored.  There is mutuality of the sexes, without male dominance, female subordination, or stereotyping of either sex.  Unlike the first woman, the lady of the Canticle is not a wife and her love does not entail procreation.  She actively seeks the man, desires him on her bed, rises and searches for him in the streets and squares, openly without secrecy or shame.

This is a cool quote.  The woman is like an equal of man in these comments on the Song of Song.  Would that satisfy Ms. Friedan?  Maybe, or maybe not.  She’d like the part about sex without procreation, as well as the theme of an assertive woman.  But she’d probably ask why the woman is looking for a man to feel good about herself.  As for the woman’s keeping of a vineyard and pasturing of flocks, she may say that this is housework for the family, so the woman’s identity is squelched when she does that stuff.  On the other hand, Ms. Friedan admires the pioneers, for the women pioneers worked side by side with their husbands.  So maybe she’d be ambivalent about the woman’s tasks.

Page 217:  The example of the father of the gods of Ugarit, reeling in drunken delirium, wallowing in excrement and urine, and collapsing as if dead, was on occasion emulated by the Israelites, to judge from the prophet’s animadversion, Isa 28:7-9…

El the fraternity brother!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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