juliespeaks

The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.

BARREN WOMEN

on February 12, 2012

Who is the founder of the feminist movement?  I could make a case for giving that distinction to Abigail Adams, wife of John, who deluged him with letters urging him to pass legislation allowing women to vote, but the women mentioned below preceded Abigail by a long shot.

THE WOMEN OF GENESIS

           The barren, deceitful women of Genesis may have upset God’s plan for the universe but – deliberately or not – they also challenged the patriarchal society in which they lived.  We begin with Eve who caused Adam’s expulsion from the Edenic Utopia God created. She was created to be Adam’s helpmate; instead; she becomes a catalyst for his demise.  Based on the assumption that God is trying to create an ideal world, she becomes  a stumbling block in His plans.

            A central component of this ideal world is propagation. Thus, any woman who does not conceive is in direct opposition to God’s wishes and, since fertility is a divine right of the male, barren women are obstacles to the acquisition of that divine inheritance

Sara tries to compensate for her inadequacy with a gesture that seems altruistic: she  gives her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham but all that does is circumvent her obligation, create rivalry, and produce an Abrahamic line that is divided and at war throughout the remainder of Genesis. The dynasty of Isaac and Ishmael is that they are warring parties throughout the entirety of biblical history.

Similarly, Rachel’s barrenness jeopardizes God’s goals. Like Sara, Rachel tries to overcome her inferiority as a barren wife by offering her maidservant in her stead. She is yet another woman who does not conform to the female archetype of fertile mother.

The women in Genesis also obstruct the ‘natural’ course of history. The first case in which this occurs involves Rebecca, who intervenes on behalf of her second born son, Jacob. Then comes Leah, who heavily veils herself, tricks Jacob and takes Rebecca’s place under the bridal canopy.  Rebecca’s violation of the laws of primogeniture result in Jacob being forced to flee his home and the enmity between the brothers endures.  When women such as Sara and Rebecca take assertive action, the result is battles and feuds.

Then along comes Dina, Leah’s only daughter, who also takes independent action by going out to ‘look over the land.’ To compound her transgression, she is raped, her sexual purity is lost and doubt is cast on the esteem in which her family is held.

Throughout Genesis, women primarily serve as hurdles to be jumped in order that the text’s value may be actualized.  What is one to make of these women who fail to conform to the norms of their society?  Are we, centuries later, to view them as role models? Feminists?

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