I've avoided writing about some of my thoughts surrounding my current Sexual Disorders class simply because the subject matter just feels too personal. But after submitting my own Sexual Development Paper this week, I'm finding it difficult to think about much else so this may be a way for me to work through some of what I've been thinking upon lately.
I think I could spend of the rest of my life solely devoted to analyzing and making as much sense as possible of the first three chapters of Genesis. You may be wondering why I'm always so bent on going to the beginning...to the past...in order to understand the present and ultimately to understand where I might place my hope. I've been accused (even recently) of being obsessed with utilizing the past as an excuse for current short-comings or failures - so this is a touchy subject for me (and by "touchy" I really mean to suggest that I'm rather passionate about my perspective). The beginning of a story sets the tone for an entire book - it introduces themes, paints a picture of the setting and the characters, it constructs a context that helps us to make sense of how we got to where we are today. If people understand or are able to read the beginnings of our stories they will gain a better understanding of how we got to where and who we are today. And like our individual stories, the beginning of the one grand story offers us a context for which we can begin (or at least attempt) to make sense of things so that we will be able to determine where to go from here. The purpose of examining the past is never to stay stuck - but to determine where and how to move in the present toward the future.
And so back to Genesis where we discover that we were created in the image of God, both male and female - together, we were created as image-bearers. There is something of the essence of being a female that reflects the image of God and similarly there is something of the essence of being a male that reflects the image God. Both are necessary for the glory of God to be made most visible in the context of this world. I'm not sure how influenced I am by the cultural stereotypes and history of oppressive thinking that has infiltrated most systems and structures in our world, but it seems to that at least in part, the essence of being female has something to do with surrender, receptivity, an openness, a softness. Some may call it "weakness" - but I won't use that description only because of the negative connotations associated with that particular word and the images it may conjure up for many (if not most) of us. I am less familiar with the essence of what it means to be male (for the obvious reason being that I am not a man) yet I think it has something to do with strength, creation, penetration (I'm sorry...there's no way to describe such attributes without utilizing such sexually-explicit terms). Some may even ascribe "power" to the nature of masculinity, but again, I refuse to use the word on my descriptor list because of the ways in which that word has come to represent something it really is not. I don't think that these categories of masculinity and femininity are mutually exclusive by any means - and I also do not think that they grant us much direction (or justification) in terms of relational roles.
I've been specifically fascinated with what actually took place in the garden when Eve took the apple and offered it to Adam. In the past, I have been receptive to the theological perspective that in this scenario there was "role reversal" whereby Eve took the lead and Adam became the receiver/follower. But I'm looking at it through a different lens at this point in my analysis. It appears to me that Eve was indeed distancing herself from her gender-identity. In this particular scene she doesn't appear to be surrendering or receiving. I don't sense that she was open and soft to what God had laid out for her and her partner. But what I'm not buying is that Adam was taking on the "feminine role" in this scene either. He is equally rejecting the essence of femininity as he allows his companion to take a bite of the apple. There seems to be a mutual hatred toward what it means to be a woman, and they both kill that part of their relationship in hopes of becoming all-powerful - because after all the big draw for them here is to become "like God." They are deceived because they both believe that by becoming completely autonomous and powerful they will be more like God. Ironically, it is through the loss of feminine "weakness" that the image they had previously been able to clearly represent together is no longer as easy to identify.
Evil seems to be bent on destroying "femininity" and exaggerating "masculinity". Evil is intent on destroying the perfect union that God originally created. I have been accused of being a "feminist" many times, and so I feel the need to clarify a few things at this point. I am not suggesting that men are intent on destroying femininity. Men and women are both equally susceptible to the deception of evil and so we are all guilty of killing femininity and exaggerating masculinity. Plus, the label of "feminist" seems to suggest that one is "pro-female" and I would rather be called something like a "unionist" - someone who is pro-union between the masculine and feminine.
This isn't just some theological/philosophical perspective that is removed or detached from the reality we live in. We don't have to look very far to see the ways in which the essence of femininity is being violently attacked. We live in a world where violence against women and children (who interestingly enough seem to exude the same sort of "weakness") is rampant and horrific. This hatred of femininity is oozing out of how we, as women, view our own and other women's bodies. The violence we do to ourselves and other women is difficult to acknowledge and take responsibility for.
And isn't it interesting that the way in which God redeemed the world was to send his son made incarnate in the flesh. This son came into the world as a weak and receptive infant who grew up to be a man who fully exemplified the union of power and weakness. It wouldn't have had the same effect had he come as a woman. But as a man unafraid of embracing the essence of femininity with the balance of masculinity, God revealed his divine image. And evil still attempted to exploit his weakness - to defeat the weakness with excessive force and power...and yet, it was Christ's weakness and surrendering that ultimately led to salvation.
So here we are...two women who have done great harm to our own femininity - though in very different ways. Your wounds have led you to kill desire, surrender, receptivity. My wounds have led me to invite harm in my own desire, surrender and receptivity. How can we learn together what it means to reclaim our femininity for the purpose of union and ultimately the revelation of the glory of God? How can we reclaim the beauty we possess within and without? How can we help our daughters to know what we're only learning now?