New Internationalist

Women Are The Devil’s Gateway

January 1986

new internationalist
issue 155 | January 1986

RELIGION[image, unknown] Women as scapegoats
[image, unknown]

Women are the Devil's gateway
Eve bit the apple and the world's been in trouble ever since. At least that's how
one of the core myths of Judeo-Christian religion has been interpreted. Not
surprisingly that view has been heavily criticised by feminist theologians.
Here's a New Internationalist summary of the debate.

'I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent' I Timothy 2:12.

Quick exit: women get the blame. ELEVEN o'clock on Easter Sunday morning. The congregation stands as the organ heralds the entry of the sombre procession. Bishop with his peaked mitre, gilded shepherd's staff and colourful flowing robes, several male priests and deacons in ceremonial garb, numerous altar boys and male choir, process up and down the aisles before taking their places to lead in worship.

That all are male does not go unnoticed by two women in the predominantly female congregation. One leans over and whispers to the other, 'Here comes the march of the patriarchy.'

The 'all-male cast' of this Canadian cathedral is typical of Christian churches throughout the world. Despite a sprinkling of ordained women, Judeo-Christian religion is still largely a male domain.

Now, however, more and more women are challenging the assumption that religion should be the property of men only. Blaming women for all the world's problems is an age-old practice. Feminist historians have uncovered horrendous stories of the persecution of women at the hands of the established order. As many as nine million women are estimated to have died in the witch-hunts between the 14th and 17th centuries. But only in the past 25 years have women begun to reveal their anger, hurt and sense of betrayal. The pain has prompted stiff criticisms of male bias in religious practice, language and thought.

Women's private lives, too, continue to be scarred deeply by religious teachings. At a recent Canadian meeting on wife abuse a woman from the audience singled out the clergywoman on the panel.

'How many times,' the woman pleaded, 'How many times must I forgive my husband for breaking my bones and battering my body? The priest, the church, the Bible - they all tell me I have to forgive 70 times seven. My friends tell me I'm stupid for going back to him. What does it mean wives submit to your husbands?"

The women's movement made it possible to turn this kind of private pain into an organized, systematic critique of patriarchal religion. Jewish feminists began to examine traditional views that women were unclean during menstruation and that the religious life of Jewish women should be centred in the home. Christian feminists questioned St. Paul's teaching that the wife must be subordinate to her husband, as the church is to Christ.

Today orthodox Jewish women are still excluded from the praying community and seated behind a screen. Roman Catholic and Protestant women who want to serve the bread and wine are asked instead to serve church suppers. Women in every congregation still hear such phrases as 'God our father', 'sons of God', 'men of God', and 'the brotherhood of man.

In this patriarchal theology, writes American feminist Rosemary Ruether: 'The male is taken to be the normative representative of the human species, the norm for imaging God and for defining anthropology, sin, redemption and ministry.' The female, in contrast, is seen as 'subordinate and auxiliary to the male. Women never appear in patriarchal theology as representatives of humanity as such. Their normative position is that of absence and silence. When patriarchal theology mentions women, it does so to reinforce its definition of their "place" in the system.'

Feminist scholars also began to identify the relationship between the sexism women experience at worship and the biblical worldview. The creation story shared by Christians, Moslems and Jews is a cornerstone of the historical bias towards women. According to this Hebrew folk tale, Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit and thus triggered humankind's expulsion from Paradise. The identification of woman with evil, temptation and sin thus became a primary ingredient in Christian tradition.

While man was associated with the spiritual, the reasonable and the godly, woman was linked to flesh, matter and the world. Good and evil were given their clear sexual counterparts. According to this view women actually caused evil to come into the world. As a result they must atone for their collective guilt and redeem themselves.

How? Patriarchal religion says women are redeemed by willingly accepting their gender roles. They should bear children, keep their sexuality under control and be prepared to subordinate themselves to male wishes.

The victimization of women in Christian tradition is a major stumbling block for feminists. Blaming the victim, they argue, is inevitably self-defeating. It allows people to point the finger at individuals rather than at social systems. Sin and evil are thus personalized and defused.

Rosemary Ruether believes feminist theologians must 'unmask' this victim blaming ideology of sin. A patriarchal social system 'legitimizes the dominating power of the male ruling class,' she believes 'and reduces women and servants to subjection ... It both produces and justifies aggressive power over women and other subjugated people and denies a genuine reciprocal humanity'.

Feminist theologians such as Ruether see patriarchal religion as an enormous pyramid of oppressive power male deity over male angels (in classical theology there are no female angels), angels over men, men over women, 'man' over nature.

So in the past decade feminists have challenged assumptions that any form of oppression is 'natural', part of the created order. And such devastating critiques of the Judeo-Christian tradition have led many feminists to leave established churches and synagogues. A 'Goddess' movement has emerged in which women are attempting to reshape ancient worship and celebrate woman's creative power. Spiritual feminism has become an important aspect of the women s movement worldwide.

Still, many feminists choose to remain within organized religions. Those who stay obviously believe the women's movement can change the church.

Christian feminists in particular look at early church history and the life of Jesus for inspiration. In the community Jesus gathered around him women were treated as equals, playing central roles in the early church.

Jesus told his followers 'call no man Father, no man Master', and warned them not to 'lord it over others.' So many Christian feminists find affirmation and hope in Jesus' life and teachings.

Along with other liberation theologians they say the Bible puts God squarely on the side of the poor and oppressed. And that true liberation can only come when women can take their place at the very centre of faith - as subjects rather than objects.

Thanks to Mary Thompson Boyd, Janet Silman and Linda Murray for their research and advice.

Holy prejudice
Discrimination against women is not confined to
Christianity. The major world religions all have some
built-in bias - as these few quotations and stories show.

According to the Quran, 'Men are the maintainers (or in charge) of women. So the good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. And (as to) those whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in their beds and chastise them. So if they obey you, seek not a way against them.' (Quran 5:34).

Many Hindu religious texts describe women as deceitful and sexually provocative by nature. The following quote from the Devi Bhagaveta (1.5.83) is typical. 'A woman is the embodiment of rashness and a mine of vices. she is an obstacle to the path of devotion, a hindrance to emancipation. she is practically a sorceress and represents vile desire.'

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha's stepmother wished to become a nun. She expressed this wish to the Buddha several times and each time she was refused. Finally, on the advice of one of his disciples, he acquiesced. But even as he did so, the Buddha claimed that establishing a community of nuns would reduce the time in which his teaching (the dharma) would be effective from 1,000 to 500 years.

One of the morning blessings made by an Orthodox Jewish male: 'Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has not made me a woman.'

Research by Terry Flower. See the World Council of Churches' study Female Sexuality and Bodily Functions in Different Religious Traditions for more information.

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This feature was published in the January 1986 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 James Gillespie 31 Jan 12

    Response Pt. 1 of 2

    This might be a little rambling, but put together I think will make a solid case against the article itself. First, this author has an automatic bias against the Bible, calling it myths and folk tales. This goes to show that they are automatically antagonistic towards it, and in fact treating Christianity in the way they are accusing it of being. Further more it shows a severe ignorance in interpretation of the Bible. Any verse can be taken out of context when not placed next to Scripture as a whole and/or the culture it takes place. In fact I would say that there is not even one point in the article, directed at Scripture, that is even a valid point. Here is my take on it:

    Actually Scripture puts the blame on Adam for sinning not Eve

    Romans 5:12 (NET) 5:12 So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned –

    Hmmm….were does it say Eve was to blame? True the Bible says that Eve was the one deceived, but Adam was accredited the blame for he knew it was wrong and still did it.

    -blaming the Bible for the witch hunts, is like blaming the Declaration of Independence when someone interprets that as meaning of happiness can include murdering your fellow citizens.

    -When one looks at how Jesus dealt with women in the New Testament, it can clearly be seen that burning supposed witches at the stake is the last thing He would be associated with. In fact in His society it was perfectly acceptable to stone a woman who was an adulterous (actually both the man and women were to be stoned), but Jesus didn't follow that pattern.. Can't blame the Bible or Christ for the ignorance of people who claim to follow both, but directly act contrary to what it says.

    -the example used of the woman who was abused is laughably absurd in it's interpretation of Scripture. Scripture and Christ would have been aghast at the way she was treated and both would have condemned such treatment and given her a BIBLICAL way out of that marriage. In fact not only is Jesus quoted wrong, the entire context is taken away. Jesus never even said 70x 7 but actually 77 times.

    Matthew 18:22 (NET)
    18:22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!

    It was taken out of context in that it has absolutely nothing to do with spousal abuse! It was Peter coming up to Jesus asking how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. What Jesus was talking about was that if someone sincerely repents they are to be forgiven. This is not including insincere men who abuse their wives, which is in direct violation of what God's Word teaches. In Jesus day a MAN could divorce his wife for any reason (there is even a document case where a man divorced his wife for burning his meal). When Jesus was asked about this in Matthew 19:1-11, He said that divorce was only allowed for immorality, for which abuse obviously is All that was required was the man tell the woman publically that he divorced her three times and she was out. To top this off Jesus tells us that divorce is permissible in cases of marital infidelity (which would include abandonment, adultery and abuse). That woman has every biblical right to leave her husband. Add in Titus 3:10 that tells us to not have anything to do with a man who is divisive and she has a airtight reason for divorcing the sinful bum.

    -She also believes that biblical submission is to allow the abuse to continue. Anyone who believes that does not understand the biblical meaning of submission. Let's look at the verse she is speaking of in context: (plus another verse for good measure)

    Ephesians 5:22–33 (NET)
    ’5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. 5:24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 5:27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 5:28 In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 5:30 for we are members of his body. 5:31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 5:32 This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 5:33 Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’

  2. #2 James Gillespie 31 Jan 12

    Response Pt. 2 of 2 (please read Pt. 1 first :0) )

    -Wives are only to submit to their husbands in things that are godly. Men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. What did Jesus do to the Church? Did He beat her and abuse her? No, He died to save her. Jesus loves the Church so much that He sacrificially gave His own life for her. Likewise a husband is to love his wife with a sacrificial love doing nothing but that which benefits her, even to the point of dying to protect her. Abuse is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches! Ladies if a man loved you as Jesus loved the Church, why would you not respect him, if everything he did for you was done in love and to benefit you at even the cost to himself? No where in Scripture is abuse of women tolerated.

    -God reveals Himself in masculine terms. Who are we to tell Him that He is wrong for this? Jesus called Him Father, why would we not? Creating a 'goddess' movement, for whatever reason, can not be reconciled with the Bible. Telling God that He has to reveal Himself in any other way then He is, is the epitome sinful arrogance.

    -The view of this article emasculates what Scripture actually says about women.. Take for instance how Jesus treated women. He had female disciples and Martha's sister Mary sat at His feet to learn. No rabbi in His day would have done that. He allowed women to touch Him, even those who's lives were drenched in sin. No rabbi in His day would have done that. He spoke to women. Rabbi's would not talk to women. He saved a woman from being stoned. He was touched by a MENSTRATING woman and healed her and didn't stone her (as others would have for making them unclean). Scripture paints another picture than this article gives. Two women testified that Jesus had risen from the dead, but in Jesus' day women's testimony was not seen as valid. It was for God's Word. In the Romans 16:1 Paul speaks of Phoebe who was a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae. Wait I thought women were pushed under the pews and couldn't serve in the church? Hmmmm. But I close my case with this Bible verse….

    Galatians 3:28 (NET)
    3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

  3. #3 Some Dude 02 Feb 12

    Ive been pondering this idea my self, With what I have been through and what I see in women and stories from friends both male and female, sometimes I think they just may be devils. Look at women of today, I see more women cheat, lie, use and abuse (mentally) men, and manipulate men to get what they want until they have what they want and drop them like a bad habit.

    Also women in general are oxymoronic in nature, they all claim to want good men, but do you ever notice how when they find a good man they 9 times out of 10 either ignore him or of they begin a relationship with him either end up cheating, lying or manipulating him and if marriage is in the picture, taking him for all his money and leaving with the kids. And this is the woman who said she loved him so much... The woman that said until death do us part. I see this all too much in western society.

    I begin to believe at times that women do not actually fall in love. Instead the only thing that matters to a woman in a relationship is her interest level, and a woman who had an interest level 90% or more perceives that she is in love but is not actually in love. no person who actually loves could do what a lot of women here in western society do to men. No woman what loves a man would or could watch that man be broke to the point where he cant provide for him self or be happy at all because she is milking him for all the resources he has while she is sleeping with new men and denying him the right to see his children.

    Look at the amount of men who end up committing suicide because of women ruining their lives, how many women do you see doing the same? 0

    Women only care about men until they get what they want or decide to leave. I think a lot of it has to do with conditioning from a lot of sources here in our culture, but even in the beginning biblical books speak of deceitful women and even eve her self (who was created from a piece of adam((which one could argue that this could translate to, in the very beginning that there was only one gender, an asexual gender)) and after this second gender was created IE women, she chose to betray her mate by complying with the ’snake’ a serpent like reptilian creature who offered her an ’apple’ this apple being ’sin’ her dangerous, promiscuous, and reckless nature is what helped her decide her in her mind to ’take and/or consume the apple’

    Take a good look at our society and our women, and our female role models. The lady gaga's the beyonce's and so on. when have you ever herd any of them speak of equality? They may at times to sound politically correct but than the real message? - who run the word? girls!

    And in a sense this may be true now adays, every (straight) man is programmed and conditioned to do a few things but one of those things is to have sex in order to procreate. So women knowing this use that power over men to again, manipulate, deceive, control, hurt and destroy men.

    I dont know this is just my observations.

    feminists feel free to flame lol

  4. #4 Dana Leedy 03 Feb 12

    Very Interesting, I am a believer that women should not be Pastors or Bishops. They are a support system within the churchm, such as sunday school teachers, prayer groups.

  5. #5 Dana Leedy 03 Feb 12

    Very Interesting, I am a believer that women should not be Pastors or Bishops. They are a support system within the churchm, such as sunday school teachers, prayer groups.

  6. #6 Alyssa 25 Jul 12

    People think that all women are the devil and that females are the more evil sex and it's all because of a misogynistic past. At least it's not as bad as it was years ago.

  7. #7 Vlad 24 Jul 13


  8. #8 hud 29 Oct 13

    It's a statement of fact that women are the devil,if you dissect the noun women, what you have is woe of men. I am a victim of their manipulation.

  9. #9 Suzi 24 Mar 14

    woah woah woah. Estimates are more likely in the 60,000 range for deaths of the Witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (Linda Hults-- Witch as Muse, also see Brian Levack) That was during the peak of the witch hunts in the early modern period. To say 9 million women may have died between the 14-17 centuries is grossly over-estimated.

  10. #10 Lord Bone Galeyway XMiltonius 01 Nov 15

    Thats a real lie. Women is not Always the gate to hell. Even men where the problem. Many males where the devil's gateway and death's problems every day. I know that man. I'm cristian for my self, a male to. We have many history notes and many thing you still missing. Men where bigger to problems on many things. Men Always shouts of issue. so don't bescribe that women are the problem brother or you lie to every one who still living and those who are dead. Even god know what the problem comes to. Hate me if you want. BUt thats true as I say.

  11. #11 Christopher Michael 04 Feb 16

    Men are born knowing and have the code in them, the lazy parasites were to be led, now they think they lead you as they destroy the planet and every culture because some schmuck can't tell a bitch NO.

    Funny men mastered the world, if the girls think men didn't master them as well - WELL THEN THEY'RE RETARDS WITH TITS.
    Actually, it's why they crybaby about everything... because they're children... who don't work and only have angry excuses and lives of lies. They destroy empires, not men, men work together, women are all in competition with each other no matter who or where they are. And then fear and worry and shelf life come to mind. It all started with whores in London's ghettos... guilt tripping those who worked for free shit - NOW WHO DOES THAT SOUND LIKE AMERICA?! ’ )

  12. #12 Hahah 10 Apr 16

    I couldn't have said it better, in the bible it has been very clear from the first da this is scripture that has been passed down to translate English even a bunch of different terms for the dictionary the bible is intertwined with everything your a believer and you don't even know it see the devil works in wonders.. I think the Lord didn't want women to be of a authority because males are to take that role and always have, and going back to eve.. she was the one that tried to get Adam to eat the fruit before him.. so he could take the blame and have earth to herself... this are very simple stop looking for answers they are right in front of you, your jus to blend to see them or you don't think it's right, there is no scale of right there is just right and wrong, women munipulate starting at the age of 8 years oled and up testing her father to see if he's going to disipline her... daddy issues’ leading up to fornication, cheating, lying, using, women are to be silent because they will never find compermise and will always be looking for something more, if a male sets down with a female he loves he will do everything for that female... and a Shor while later that female betrays they male in some way... 97% of the time.. so we have given them power... you can't kill what you give power to... ;) no this is the craziest part of the bibleading is that it's said is that God is everything.. so if he's everything he is evil as well? So that kinda flips things now.. so in the end.. it comes down to God's judgement no one's else's.... had you gals going there didn't I ;) the Lord our God is awesome and there for he reigns, stop looking for monsters there all around us

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