Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.
The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:
This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.
In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.
10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…
Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.
At a Shabbat (Sabbath meal) this past week, conversation veered into the political realm, as it often does when my husband and I are guests. We began to discuss the likelihood of Hillary Clinton running, the papers recently unearthed by my former colleague Alana Goodman, and about how Bill’s wandering eye could impact Hillary’s campaign. Around the table were three young people, ranging in age from about 9-17. Adult participants in the conversation soon realized that it was impossible to conduct a conversation about the Clintons with children present, and soon, the mother (rightfully) asked for a complete change in subject. Before doing so we reflected how sad it is that a president’s legacy cannot truthfully be discussed with innocent ears listening.
For how long can this mother shield her children from the topic? If Hillary runs, perhaps only a few more months. With the Clintons back in the news, pundits will be (and should be) discussing how ready America is to relive the sex scandals of the ’90s. Anyone who believes that Bill has learned his lesson need only look to Anthony Weiner to understand that old dogs can’t, and won’t, learn new tricks. Bill’s wandering eye, both in the past and, in all likelihood, the future, will be a topic of conversation for as long as a Clinton occupies the White House.
Sex has seeped into our culture to such an extent that we can no longer accurately define pornography. It used to be simple: Selling sex for money. Nowadays we Clinton the definition, questioning what is sex versus what is sexy, all the while wondering whether we’re artsy or just plain perverted. As a result, we not only question what constitutes pornography, but we question whether or not individual interaction with pornography is acceptable. For the sake of this discussion the latter is, of course, the more valuable question, simply because to the God who granted us free will, the choices we make are what ultimately matter to our relationship with Him and each other.
So, when it comes to drawing lines regarding porn and porn-related behaviors, the first question anyone needs to ask themselves is: What do you define as pornography and, more importantly, why?
The common definition of pornography involves “obscene writings, drawings, photographs or the like”. ”Obscene” is defined as “offensive to morality or decency; causing uncontrolled sexual desire.” Biblically speaking, there is no direct commandment proclaiming pornography evil. Yet, there are several commandments regarding acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviors. And, in relation to writings, drawings and photographs, God prohibits us from making graven images to worship.
When approaching any graphic material we must ask ourselves if we are in any way submitting ourselves to that image. In the case of pornography, are we submitting to uncontrollable desire when we confront an obscene image? Conversely, are we ascertaining authority from our relationship to that image? In either case, how will our relinquishing or claiming of control impact the choices we go on to make?
Porn advocates would argue that as long as a porn user remains “in control” of their porn usage, there is no harm being done. In a recent conversation, my editor relayed two stories to me. The first involved an older, fairly observant Jewish man who found Playboy harmless because his own father, a loyal family man, had a lifetime subscription. The second involved an Orthodox man announcing in front of his wife that he’d be going with his buddies to a strip club to celebrate a friend’s bachelor party, to which his wife didn’t bat an eye. Both are examples of the “no harm, no foul” theory at work.
One thing the mainstream media knows about Huma Abedin is that she is elegant. Time reported on how Weiner’s “elegant and accomplished wife… declared her love and support for him, visibly pained at having to speak in public as the sad, sordid details of his repeat behavior were exposed yet again.” The Wall Street Journal lamented:
Watching the elegant Huma Abedin stand next to her man Tuesday as he explained his latest sexually charged online exchanges was painful for a normal human being to watch.
What they’re less sure of is why this elegant woman would stand by the increasingly ridiculous Weiner. Time thinks, rather fancifully, that it’s because “divorce can still be stigmatizing in some social circles where parents are particularly ambitious about providing the absolute best environment for their children” – and because, well, Huma just “loves this guy despite it all.”
Most others, however, agree that it is because she is seeking power and influence, and thinks – however improbably – that Anthony Weiner is still the pathway to them. Even Weiner’s sexting partner Sydney Leathers said of the Weiner-Abedin union: “It almost feels to me like it’s more of an arrangement, or a business relationship, than a marriage.” She said she thought Abedin stuck with Weiner “for the power, for the fame, for the stature.”
Maybe so. And she also may be staying in it because Weiner’s indiscretions just don’t matter to her that much – not necessarily because they have a sham marriage, but because Abedin is approaching the marriage from an Islamic perspective.
Submit your questions about friendship, relationships, careers, family, or life decisions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice, PJ Lifestyle’s new advice column every Wednesday!
This week, one of my regular commenters asks for advice on his (or her) self-destructive sister. The situation is below:
Dear Bad Advice,
Please allow me to complain about my constantly-complaining sister!
Actually, I try not to buy into her mindset. The constant complainer “wins,” if you continually allow them to get under your skin.
Not only does my sister complain a lot, but she has made some very bad choices in her life: cheating on a good husband, refusing to reconcile with him, not doing anything about finding a decent job, constantly antagonizing friends and family, etc., etc. And despite all of her very bad choices, she always finds someone else to blame for her self-inflicted misery. She even blames our kind, responsible, loving parents, who did not spoil us, but who, according to her bizarre thinking, supposedly ruined her life by not preparing her for every possible situation which might arise due to her own mistakes. And if you get into a conversation with her, she will be sure to let you know this.
People like my sister seem to wallow in their own misery, and have a “grass-is-greener” attitude about other people’s lives, which is, of course, completely unrealistic. And, there are times when I just need to tell my sister what’s what, even though that always creates a firestorm, and there are other times when I need to break off contact for at least a while. My sister needs to take responsibility for herself, and until that happens, she will continue to inflict misery on herself and others.
- Not Into Sister’s Act
This is going to sound like bad advice, but don’t treat your sister like she’s crazy for going through some ups and downs.
We already knew that Franklin D. Roosevelt was a lousy president — the Depression dragged on for 11 years, mostly on his watch, so the proper word for what he did to the economic calamity is “extend,” not “end” it — but the strange Bill Murray comedy Hyde Park on Hudson makes clear that FDR was a horrible man as well.
The movie is principally about FDR’s habit of employing his mother to call up local women, some of them cousins, and send them over to be the president’s concubines at his country house in upstate New York. It’s made clear to the women that they’re not to be taken seriously, they’re not to say anything, and they’ll be discarded as soon as the president tires of them, and in this film by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) all of this is presented as merry good fun and entirely suitable behavior by the iconic figure of the party that “cares about women.”
Laura Linney plays Daisy, a second cousin who is hurried into FDR’s life for unpaid sex work. FDR flirts with her by showing her his stamp collection, then takes her for a quiet country drive in his car, which is operated exclusively by hand controls due to his paralysis. But apparently the president was able to maintain an extramarital love life that can only be called Clintonian, or perhaps Kennedyesque. (Why is it that our most priapic presidents tend to be Democrats? Is it because they enjoy doing to the country what they do to unsuspecting younger women?) A more astute director would have played FDR’s womanizing as yet more evidence of the imperiousness of a president who famously used to lie around in bed in the morning dreaming up a price for gold, for instance declaring 21 cents to be the right number because sevens are lucky and 21 is three times seven.
Daisy, quickly accepted as the newest member of the household (though not the only concubine present), gets to witness the events of the summer of 1939, when (or so this movie would have us believe) the fate of the free world rested on whether or not the king of England would eat a hot dog.
Don’t let this post lead you to believe I care about Kristen Stewart. When I told a friend that my editor had asked me to write about Kristen Stewart, that otherwise well-spoken girl’s response was:
“what are you going to write about Kristen Stewart?! That she’s a dumb ho who inexplicably cheated on EDWARD CULLEN and is one of the biggest paparazzi magnets ever — how did she think she wouldn’t get caught in public with a MARRIED MAN? HO. And, she aint even that pretty. BURN.”
I do care what people think of Kristen Stewart. Because it’s funny as hell. And my absolutely scientific survey of the girls gathered at my friend’s house to watch the Olympics last night proves, beyond any possibility of a doubt, that even the most pop-culturally unplugged female has an opinion on Kristen Stewart’s infidelity. My boyfriend adds, “Even I heard about that. Don’t you go quotin’ me.”
And then there’s my fellow PJM blogger Leslie Loftis, who writes about Stewart’s infidelity as a sign of the times – yet another young woman persuaded by others that she shouldn’t settle down too young, even if she’s met the “perfect guy.”
I won’t pretend to know anything about Kristen or her relationship with these two men – I don’t know what life was like in private moments between her and Robert Pattinson, and whether he was the perfect guy he seemed in public; whether Kristen was feeling vulnerable when she cheated, or if she just recklessly did something selfish as so many people our age do. Who knows if he wanted her more than she wanted him and she didn’t know how to extricate herself without hurting him so she waited too long and then did something dumb; after all, it’s not an unusual story for people their age — they just happen to be celebrities so we pay attention.
As stated already, I don’t care. But other people’s opinions on the scandal fascinate me. Because that’s the sign of the times cultural commentators are seeking in the tea leaves of celebrites’ lives. So what’s there to find?
Today the Hollywood-gossip and 20-something-fan-girl sets are reeling over revelations that Kristen Stewart cheated on longtime boyfriend Robert Pattinson with the married director of her latest movie Snow White and the Huntsman. There are many snarky comments about how Stewart was so bold as to cheat on one of the most sought-after hunks in Hollywood. The fans and gossips are combing through old interviews and appearances looking for explanations. The whys won’t be found in such details — they’re in our society, in what we teach young women and men about love and commitment.
These days, we tell teens that their 20s are for living their life, doing their own thing, experimenting, experiencing. So if a girl meets Mr. Wonderful in her early 20s, when things turn to serious talks about marriage and children, she freaks out. Her friends, her sisters, sometimes her mother — they have told her it is too soon. If she goes so far as to get engaged, we women stage interventions. Granted, sometimes marriage is too soon. Other times the couple isn’t a good match. But we don’t typically weigh the relationships with a little discounting of the judgment of a younger woman. We take her youth as the decisive factor.
In so doing, we create the very immaturity we use as evidence of their immaturity.
From Rielle Hunter’s interview with George Stephanopoulos:
GS:You would still walk up into that room six years later, knowing everything you know now?
RH: Would I do that again? No way.
RH: Absolutely not.
GS: So in the end, even though you got this lovely gift, of Quinn. The relationship was a mistake.
RH: I don’t, many things in the relationship was a mistake, but I don’t regret loving him.
GS: And you still love him.
RH: I do.
GS: And he still loves you?
RH: You’d have to ask him that, but I think he does. I mean that I feel that he does.
GS: So how does that work going forward? You have a daughter together. You are a family.
RH: We are a family but as last, the end of last week, John Edwards and I are no longer a couple.
Watching this interview, it’s hard not to notice Hunter’s vivid, immature fantasy life.
As she talks about her relationship with former presidential contender John Edwards, you can practically get whiplash as she swings between reality and make believe, going from giddy girl and back again to sensible woman.
David Swindle recently pointed out how sad it is when a 50 year-old man hasn’t grown up sexually since he was 13. Hunter demonstrates the female version of this aberration. Like most adolescent girls, she embraces idealized definitions of love, marriage and family.
Hunter says, “We are a family” but admits they are “no longer a couple.” This “family” only exists in her imagination. Just because her fantasy life produced offspring it doesn’t mean she’s built a family.
A mature woman knows that it takes an immense amount of self-sacrifice to create a family. You can’t just wave a magic wand and conjure up one.
Has Hunter inadvertently exposed the underdeveloped mental anatomy of a mistress?
Since there still seems to be some confusion about the difference between Man Vs Boy and Woman Vs Girl then let’s provide a concrete example to illustrate the behavior in action. This showed up in my Facebook feed today and it speaks for itself:
Updated: And before anyone else freaks out, yes, it’s faked. “Taelor Vega” doesn’t exist (as if the first name wasn’t obvious enough) and Johnny Heward is just getting his 15 seconds of internet fame.
But people still don’t want to understand the point I’m making. From the comments:
David, your argument keeps shifting. First you made this big spill about how you were shocked and considered it immoral for older men in their 30+ years to find younger women between the ages of 18 to 25 sexually attractive. Then you went on this red herring about how men should be able to tell the mental an emotional maturity of women based entirely on their appearance (completely ignoring our mother’s lesson about never judging books by their covers). Now you shifted to another red herring with an example of a proposition of adultery (whose validity I highly question). But this example does not support any of your previous arguments and is being used to distract everyone to just how poorly your previous two arguments were.
My argument, repeated again: there are two levels of sexual maturity. There’s the sexual attitudes you have as a teenager just going through puberty, the way you view the opposite sex when you’re a boy or a girl. Sex is just about fun and how great orgasms feel. But as we get older we’re supposed to grow out of this immature way of approaching sex. Why? Because living out teenage sexuality in practice — a life of promiscuity, a life in perpetual pursuit of the better orgasm — does not generate as much long-term happiness as a life of adult sexuality. Men and women treat sex like adults. They’ve found things in life more interesting and more meaningful than orgasms. Sex becomes less about me and my orgasms and more about nurturing intimacy between a husband and wife and then creating children.
But not everyone makes this leap. And everyone who thinks they’ve made this leap is always in danger of sliding back to acting like a boy or a girl instead of a man or a woman. So, to make clear for those who chose to selectively read my initial point: there’s nothing wrong or abnormal with a 50 year-old man being attracted to an 18-year-old female. But we as men should be attracted to her because she reminds us of a mature women. Not because she’s acting like a girl, wearing pigtails, flaunting her sexuality, trying to climb into bed with us, and allowing us an opportunity to be teenage boys again. At some point in a man’s development the word “girl” should no longer primarily inspire sexual longing.
Make sense? Men should pursue women, not girls. And being a “girl” means to be immature, like the fake woman above.