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A Brief Biblical Historical Survey of the Subordination of Women. Patriarchy and Violence against Women (VAW). By Annick M. Brennen, M.A., Andrews University October 2011, Nassau, The Bahamas. VAW: A Human Rights Violation. The Case for the Eradication of all Remnant of Patriarchal Philosophy.
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A Brief Biblical Historical Survey of the Subordination of Women Patriarchy and Violence against Women (VAW) By Annick M. Brennen, M.A., Andrews University October 2011, Nassau, The Bahamas
VAW: A Human Rights Violation The Case for the Eradication of all Remnant of Patriarchal Philosophy
Definition of VAW Gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention.” (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women general recommendation No. 19, paragraph 7)
Definition of Patriarchy Patriarchy is defined as “a state or stage of social development characterized by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family in both domestic and religious functions, the legal dependence of wife, or wives, and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line” (Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language 2nd Ed. unabridged).
Features of Patriarchy • Family model based upon a male parenting at least one male child • The husband is the supreme ruler of the extended family • He oversees the family’s labors • He makes major decisions • He represents the family within the larger society • He is the religious leader • He defends the family honor
Principles Undergirding Patriarchy • Inherent within the patriarchal system are: • an imbalance of power between males and females • women as sexual property • the disenfranchisement of women • unequal favoritism toward children, specifically the first-born sons • the legal and economic dependence of wives and children • the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line.
Women as Sexual Property The basis for Women Subjugation and Male Dominance As documented and explained by John Temple Bristow in his book, “What the Bible Really Says about Love, Marriage, and Family, Chalice Press, 1994.
Women as Sexual Property The phrase, “women, slaves, children” appear frequently in ancient literature. In many societies during biblical times women were regarded as one of three classes of humans owned by others. Female children and female slaves were, in a sense, doubly owned. (Bristow, p. 7)
Women as Sexual Property • You shall become engaged to a woman, but another man shall lie with her. You shall build a house, but not live in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but not enjoy its fruit. Deut 28:30 • “The author of this passage placed a betrothed woman in the same category as a man’s house or a man’s vineyard. All three are a man’s property, possessions that may be taken away from him.” (Bristow, p. 7)
Wives as Sexual Property If my heart has been enticed by a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind for another, and let other men kneel over her. Job 31-9-10 “Job was saying, in effect, ‘if I have stolen another man’s wife, then let the same be done to me—let my wife be stolen.’ Job was not thinking of his wife as a person in her own right, with feelings and self-will. Instead, he spoke of her as an item of property, however precious that property might be.” (Bristow, p. 8)
Concubines as sexual property “Go in to your father’s concubines, the ones he has left to look after the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon the roof; and Absalom went in to this father’s concubine in the sight of all Israel.” 2 Samuel 16:21-22 A concubine was valuable not so much for who she was, but whose she was. If she belonged to the ruling patriarch or king, her actions may effect the course of a nation’s history. p. 11 Concubines as sexual property “Go in to your father’s concubines, the ones he has left to look after the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon the roof; and Absalom went in to this father’s concubine in the sight of all Israel.” 2 Samuel 16:21-22 A concubine was valuable not so much for who she was, but whose she was. If she belonged to the ruling patriarch or king, her actions may effect the course of a nation’s history. p. 11 Concubines as Sexual Property Go in to your father’s concubines, the ones he has left to look after the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with will be strengthened. So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon the roof; and Absalom went in to this father’s concubine in the sight of all Israel. 2 Samuel 16:21-22 A concubine was valuable not so much for who she was, but whose she was. If she belonged to the ruling patriarch or king, her actions may effect the course of a nation’s history. (Bristow, p. 11)
Adultery as a Violation of Property Rights “. . . adultery, according to the law of Moses, was not regarded as a crime against the male offender’s wife. Even though a wife was her husband’s property, he was not her property. Therefore, although a wife might violate her husband’s marital rights, he could not violate her marital rights—simply because she did not possess any such rights. A man could commit adultery, to be sure, but the victim—the only victim—was the adulterous partner’s husband. Hence, if a married man engaged in sexual intercourse with a unmarried women, he was not guilty of adultery. But if a married woman engaged in sexual intercourse with an unmarried man, she was guilty of a capital offense.” (Bristow, pp. 11-12)
Seduction and rape as crimes against sexual property If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins. Exodus 22:16-17 “A man who seduces a maiden, the law stated, must pay her father the amount normally given as a bride price for a virgin and then either marry her or not, depending entirely on the father’s decision.” (Bristow, p. 13)
Seduction and rape as crimes against sexual property If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “A man who rapes a maiden, however (but only if the commission of his crime is witnessed!), shall pay the victim’s father fifty shekels of silver and then marry her and never be allowed to divorce her. The woman herself is not given a choice over whether or not to marry her attacker.” (Bristow, p. 13)
Seduction and rape as crimes against sexual property Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman. 2 Samuel 13:20 “Regarding women as sexual property tends to focus attention upon those men to whom the women belong. Even when the woman has been abused by a third party, as in the story of Tamar, the seriousness of such a crime is evaluated in terms of its effect, not upon the woman herself, but upon the men who perceive her as “theirs” (i.e., wife or daughter or sister) whom they must defend. So this story shifts from Tamar’s plight to the question of what punishment her father and brother will extract from Amnon for his sexual crime.” (Bristow, p. 15)
Incest and Sexual Property “In the Old Testament, incest was defined according to the principle of sexual property, not of genetic proximity. Examples of incest: Nahor married his niece Milcah (Gen 11:29), Abraham married his sister Sarah (Genesis 20:12), and Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Genesis 24:15), Jacob married two of his cousins, Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:12). Tamar, the victim of her brother Amnon’s rape, talks to him into marrying her instead of raping her (2 Samuel 13:13). Her statement, affirms that marriage between siblings (at least with paternal consent) was regarded as permissible in that society.” (Bristow, p. 16)
Incest and Sexual Property “Even when the incest laws were changed (Leviticus 18:6-18), incest within Hebrew society was defined without reference to genetics. It consisted of engaging in sexual intercourse with the sexual property of one’s father, one’s paternal uncle, one’s brother, or one’s son, or—by extension—the daughters of the wives of these relatives. Incest consisted of taking and using another man’s sexual property.” (Bristow, p. 17)
Prostitution and Sexual Property “Because sexual moral codes were based on the concept of women as sexual property, prostitution in and of itself receives little if any condemnation in the Old Testament. We find no criticism leveled at Judah when he hired the sexual services of a prostitute (Genesis 3*)—who was actually Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law, in disguise (a different Tamar than the woman who was raped by Amnon). Moreover, Hosea stated that God will not punish prostitutes, since it was men of Israel who visited them (Hosea 4:12-14). In Fact, Proverbs 6:23-29 declares quite openly that it is better to visit a prostitute than to commit adultery.” (Bristow, p. 18)
Only husbands could divorce wives “In the law of Moses divorce could be initiated only by the husband. The possibility that a man’s wife might find displeasure in him and wish to divorce him was not even considered. This one-sided view of the matter originates with the attitude that regarded women as sexual property. Women could not initiate divorce, because they were their husbands’ property. In fact, a woman was expected to address her spouse with the phrase, lord husband.” (Bristow, p. 106)
Patriarchy and Violation of Human Rights • Most of the human rights granted to men are denied to women in the public and private spheres when they are sexual property subordinated to men in the patriarchal system or its derivatives: • The right to life, liberty and security of person • The right to own property • The right to free speech • The right to be safe from violence • The right to be recognized as a person before the law • The right to vote • The right to think freely • The right to believe and practice a preferred religion • The right to peacefully protest a government or group • The right to access health care • The right to education • The right not to be forced into marriage
Gender-based Violence in Biblical Times within Patriarchy A non-exhaustive classified list of examples of violent acts against women
Definition of VAW “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” (Declaration on the Elimination of VAW, 1993)
VAW: Mechanism to Enforce Patriarchal Order Violence is the expression of power as the capacity to inflict pain to impose order, control, and domination. Violence against women is one of the “main mechanisms for perpetuating the subordinate position of women in the patriarchal order that still predominates in our culture” (ECLAC, 2007) and violence against girls of all ages is the installment of this mechanism from the beginning of the socialization process.
Sexual and Psychological Violence • Rape perpetrated outside the household by a stranger, the son of a ruler: Genesis 34:2 (Dinah, daughter of Jacob raped by Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area) • Rape perpetrated in the streets with the consent of an intimate male partner and a stranger: Judges 19:25 (Nameless Levite, his concubine, and nameless host) • Rape perpetrated by a brother: 2 Samuel 13:14 (Tamar raped by Amnon) • Rape committed in armed conflict: Zechariah14: 2: • Forced prostitution of daughters: Leviticus 19:28-30
Sexual and Psychological Violence • State-perpetrated violence by an authority figure: • 2 Samuel 11: 2-4: David uses his royal authority to have sex with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite • Esther 2: King Xerxes uses his royal authority to order young virgins to come into his harem to compete for his approval and be selected as Queen • 1 Samuel 25:44: King Saul gives his married daughter, Michal, to another man while her husband, David, is alive • Wife forces female slave/servant to have sex with her husband to produce an heir • Genesis 16:3-5: Sarai orders her Egyptian slave, Hagar, to copulate with Abram to ensure lineage
Sexual and Psychological Violence • Aborting the fetus of an adulteress: Numbers 5: 27b, 31 • Women are declared unclean and are isolated when they menstruate and after they give birth: Leviticus 12:1-3 • Mental anguish of a childless widow drives her to copulate with her father-in-law to produce an offspring to her dead husband • Tamar, dressed as a prostitute, copulates with Judah, her father-in-law, to raise offsprings for Er, her deceased husband • Women and children taken as prey in armed conflict: Genesis 34:29
Femicide • Murder and dismemberment perpetrated by intimate partner: Judges 19:29 • Stoning of a woman because she was proven not to be a virgin when she married: Deuteronomy 22:20 • Threat of burning a pregnant prostitute: Genesis 28:24 • Murder of widows: Psalm 94:6
Traditional Harmful Practices • Marriage • Wives obtained by purchase: Genesis 29:20, Ruth 4:10; Hosea 3:2;12:12 • Wives obtained by kidnapping: Judges 21:21-23 • Levirate marriage: The brother is required to marry a brother's widow so that the deceased may have an heir Genesis 38:8,11; Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Ruth 4:5; Matthew 22:24; Mark 12:1 • Concubinage: Marriage for Hire • Marriage model based on economic disparity • Without a dowry, a woman may not be able to marry; therefore, she became a concubine • Concubinage was for the daughter of the poor including daughters of slaves
Traditional Harmful Practices • Polygamy • David had many wives: 2 Samuel 20:3. • Solomon had over 1,000 wives • Divorce • Disobedience of a wife to her husband, a sufficient cause for divorce, in the Persian empire Esther 1:10-22 (Vashti wife of King Xerxes) • In the Law of Moses divorce could be initiated only by the husband • Slavery • Father may sell his daughter as a servant: Exodus 21:7-11 • Forced marriage of captive woman, a spoil of war: Deuteronomy 21:10-14 • Female slave coerced into sex: Leviticus 19:20
Traditional Harmful Practices • Incest • A man sleeps with his father’s wife: 1 Corinthians 5:1. • Lot’s daughters have sex with and become pregnant by their father to ensure lineage: Genesis 19:35-37 • Nahor married his niece Milcah (Gen 11:29) • Abraham married his sister Sarah (Genesis 20:12) • Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Genesis 24:15) • Jacob married two of his cousins, Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:12).
Harmful Traditional Practices • Capital punishment for • marriage violations: Deuteronomy 22:20 • fornication: Deuteronomy 22:23 • Prostitution • Men can use the services of a prostitute with impunity: Proverbs 6:23-29 • Because women are economically deprived, they resort to prostitution • Human Sacrifice • Sacrifice of daughters and sons as food to idols: Ezekiel 16: 20 • Sacrifice of a daughter (Jephthah’s) as a vow to God: Judges 11:38
Economic Violence • Daughters may inherit only when there are no sons: • Numbers 27:1-8: The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah • The economic oppression and destitution of widows and women without a male relative: • 2 King 4:1, Job 22:-10, Job 24:3, Isaiah 1:23, Isaiah 10:2, Malachi 3:5,the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah in Ruth 1 and 2
Patriarchy is Inherently Corrupting • Patriarchy breeds corruption, polygamy, and a host of other abuses • The role of women is enforced using violence • The practice of polygamy and the reckoning of descent in the male line promote jealousy and discord among women • It is opposed to God’s original plan for marriage which is the union of one man and one woman in mutual companionship on the basis of equality • It misrepresents God’s character and will
Consequences of Patriarchy • Women are not human beings endowed with freewill, but “things” to be controlled by male owners—Complete subjugation to another human being, slavery • Establishment of an order of precedence in the home with husbands exercising unilateral authority, making most or all of the decisions, having the last say, controlling female behavior and activities • Deprivation of personal liberty and ability to make one’s own decision • Economic disempowerment of women, poverty, destitution • Violence against women in all its possible forms: psychological, physical, sexual, economic, etc. from the cradle to the grave
Consequences of Patriarchy • Denial of legal, marital, and parental rights • Denial of sexual and reproductive rights • Denial of development and career • Denial to participate in the body politic • Restriction of movement in the public and private spheres • Sexual exploitation for the owners’ financial gain (sale of women and bride price/dowry)
Consequences of Patriarchy • State codification and enactment of discriminatory and unjust laws to restrict women in the public and private spheres and keep them in a state of complete subordination to and dependence on men, thus normalizing and institutionalizing male dominance and women subordination • Churches refusal to confer ecclesiastical and pastoral authority to women • Women practice manipulation and use their sexuality to achieve a certain degree of power over men and obtain what they want, since power is otherwise denied to them. They become male pleasers. • Women are of value to their owners as long as they can procreate, preferably sons • Women either resist patriarchy or they enable and enforce it. When they resist patriarchy, they are labeled “feminists.”
The Mandate • States, civil society, politicians, movers and shakers, the Church, men and women must unite every where to denounce and eradicate all vestige of the patriarchal system. • Theologians, religious, pastors, priests have a moral responsibility to stop the misuse of Scripture, especially using texts without explaining its historical context and packaging harmful cultural and traditional practices into the gospel for universal consumption. • Religious leaders must stop perpetuating the subordination of women in the private and public sphere to maintain their monopoly on ecclesiastical power and authority.
The Mandate • Practice Christ’s example of power sharing: John 15:15: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. Revelation 3:21: To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. • Religious organizations must confront abusers, hold them accountable, require a change not only in behavior but also in the premise and patriarchal philosophy they use to justify their behavior. • Religious organizations must lead in the development of a model for male-female relations that is congruent with Christ’s teaching of love, companionship, mutuality, humility, service, harmony, and equality between males and females.
References • Bristow, John Temple: • What the Bible Really Says about Love, Marriage, and Family, Chalice Press, St. Louis, Missouri, 1994. • What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle’s Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love, Harper, San Francisco, 1988. • Kenner, Craig. Paul, Women & Wives, Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts, 1992 • United Nations, Study of the Secretary General, Ending violence against women From words to action, 2006