Today is a watershed moment for me. I have found an online resource complete with hours of video to help me fully understand for real what true womanhood is. And, once I’ve finished this course, I will be able to attend a conference designed to reinforce what I’ve learned.
One of my main teachers in this True Womanhood 101 adventure is Mary Kassian, author of Girls Gone Wise. A leading spokesperson (though not specifically a leader because that would not be biblical), Kassian promotes a complementarian worldview. You’ll want to read this book and spend some time on her website, of course.
As I am working my way through this wonderful and rather long study of womanhood, I thought I should pause and fill you in on what I am learning so far (truth be told, after four hours of watching videos and taking notes, I am a wee bit overburdened by what I’ve heard).
So, let me share with you the twelve major points of difference between males and females according to Mary Kassian. Even though she says each of these is clearly spelled out in Genesis 2 (and I’m sure she’s right but I just can’t quite shake my devilish responses) I’ll add some of my thoughts regarding each (I’ll indicate my responses in italics). If I pray really hard when I get done I’m sure I’ll be able to fully embrace my true womanhood because as I have learned God’s glory is firmly at stake if I don’t.
1. The male is the first-born of creation and therefore has first son status. As such the man is responsible for the human family and this has ongoing implications for all men. In other words, the phrase “be a man” means to step up and take responsibility for your families and, indeed, for society.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Kassian fails to understand that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two different creation accounts each with different language used for the divine and not, as she claims, one “big picture account” followed by the “zoomed-in account.” Then, by leaving out Genesis 1, Kassian deliberately avoids easily seen contradictions in her attempt at a literal reading. And, just for the record, claiming the male is deliberately created first is dishonest. According to many scholars, including Phyllis Trible, the word for “adam” is generic; it does not have gender attached and could more readily be translated dust creature or earthling.
2. The male is created in the desert and then put in the garden. This suggests the male was strong and could take the ruggedness of the desert.
Sometimes when one is supposedly reading a text literally and simultaneously seeking to attach specific insight to each detail, the result is bizarre and discloses more about the reader than the context of a passage or the passage itself. As in, of course the male was created in the desert; look how robust he is; a woman would never make it here.
3. The male is commissioned to work (as in tilling soil or some other labor). Kassian further claims based upon the command to men to work, they are physically and spiritually designed to provide for others. It is built into their DNA and that is also why it is so hard for them when men are laid-off from their jobs.
Right. I see how clearly this follows. And, since God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground, I’ve decided the only appropriate foot-gear is Tevas or Keens.
4. The male is also commissioned to keep the garden, meaning he is the physical and spiritual protector of his family and others. He is essentially to be in charge.
Makes as much sense to me as number three. But, I realize how prone to sin I am because I have been influenced by society’s lie that women and men are the same. Now where was it I heard that?
5. The male rightly receives spiritual instruction before the woman exists so he must pass on that instruction to her. In other words, the male has a special responsibility of leadership.
Ah. How easily Kassian overlooks the first creation account where we find humankind created—male and female—so that she can argue the woman was not present for such initial instruction. I’m beginning to wonder if Kassian’s entire speech will be based upon isolated passages taken out of context. Satan’s hold over me is obviously enormous.
6. Because the male has first-born status, he must learn to exercise his authority. So, God gladly gives the newly created male the task of naming the animals. Through this process God is mentoring the man to learn how to govern others. And this task is not to be shared with women, who do not share this authority nor this responsibility.
So, if I decide to accept Kassian’s notion that the male is being trained before the woman existed, let me then see if I understand the totality of her argument. Since the woman wasn’t created when the man was instructed to eat of every tree of the garden except for one, then, it seems the woman when she ate from that forbidden tree was actually innocent. Nowhere does it say that the man passed on this information before the serpent confronted the woman. She did nothing wrong and it was the man who forgot the divine instructions.
7. The female was created from the male and because of this rib-wrenching ordeal she is to have an attitude of respect for him because he holds the position of first-born. And, besides, men desire respect while women desire love. If we can learn this one insight, it will have radical effects on our relationships.
Kassian is basing an awful lot of gender-specific roles on the order of creation and this causes me to wonder a couple of insignificant (surely) questions. 1) Does first mean best or primary? I ask this because usually when I do something the first time, I improve upon it significantly the second time. So, I’m curious how we arrive at viewing first as most important or best. 2) If we impart meaning to birth order, doesn’t this mean the animals and even the vegetation should be seen as higher in status than humanity especially if we don’t see the two creation accounts as separate units?
8. The female is made for the male and not the other way around. This is clearly seen because Paul states in I Corinthians 11.9 that this is so.
Well, now. How is such an assertion that isn’t stated in the Genesis account to be doubted? And I really shouldn’t be bothered by the seeming contradiction of one of Paul’s other statements in Galatians about there not being male and female distinctions in Christ Jesus. Oh, the problem of complexity and context, of paradox and nuance. Such silly things get in the way of the plain meaning.
9. The female was created as a helper fit for a man and when she helps her man the most she is ultimately glorifying God.
Yippee! Deep down I’ve always longed to be told I was created as a natural counter-part to someone who wasn’t likewise created for me. Oh, to be designed so thoroughly for someone else without the same reciprocity, isn’t that everyone’s desire?
Mary: not even a word about ezer, the Hebrew term for helper that when used throughout the Old Testament refers to the kind of help God provides and nowhere employed to suggest subordination? Really? This doesn’t seem important to you? I guess it pretty much undercuts your argument, huh?
10. When given her name by the male, the woman accepts it suggesting all subsequent women are to defer to men. Just as seen in their different anatomies, men are to be initiators while women are to be receivers.
I think, Mary, you are really reaching for straws here. When the dust creature (remember, there is no gender specified until vs. 23) sees the corresponding creature, there is only one possible response: one of utter recognition, of companionship, of true equality. “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And now the dust creature is two and they are woman and man.
11. The female became the male’s perfect counterpart.
You’re a priori assumptions are getting in the way of good biblical analysis. And I’m getting tired. However, one quick note that has been nagging me a bit as I work through your bible study. Have you studied gender and sexuality? I ask this because it seems you take for granted many things that aren’t nearly so evident. For starters, isn’t gender more like a continuum rather than a binary or either-or construction?
12. The female unlike the male was created in the garden, a place of protection and comfort. Since she is more vulnerable and soft, she needed a place of safety. It’s kinda like the garden is her home. And just like the garden was the appropriate place for her to emerge, the home is the place for a woman and it should take priority over every other type of work.
I can honestly say I’ve never heard the garden-as-home analogy before. I’m certainly impressed with the mental gymnastics involved in creating this interpretation although I find it—I wish I could say laughable—saddening. I’m disappointed, Mary, because in your claim that you know how to make girls wise, you are teaching them how to twist biblical narratives to support your worldview.
Wisdom, the kind of knowing birthed by Sophia, invites wrestling and dancing with Scripture not making it say only what we want to hear.