Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lilith and Equality

After thinking about the readings recently, I realized a stirring dark cloud that had been gathering some momentum in the back of my mind. It has been interesting to test my own personal mettle against the ideas offered here, especially the reading for tomorrow: oppression as systematic, race and gender both issues that need resolving, the notion of exchange, of denigrating a group. of capitalism and its effects, and so on. And all the while, the writers we read wanted a rewiring of society if not of currently-existing people themselves. Equality, equal plate, and non-subjugation. Which, to be quite honest, I agree with. It has been interesting, of course, realizing how some ideas I held or didn’t hold were the result of offhand comments made by men I trust. The story of Lilith and her relation to Adam seemed to call all this to question for me and complicate the desire we have for equality.

Lilith has a rich history, but one of the ones that is most forthcoming is one that explains the two biblical stories in the bible. As many of you Lifers and Searchers know, there are two purported creation myths in the Bible in Genesis. The first says that God created man, man and woman both in his image he created them. In the second, it says that God does not think it is good for man to be alone and makes a woman from Adam’s rib, the story we typically hear. It is a symbol of woman’s obedience and subservience to man…or so it has been translated.

But the original woman that was made with Adam rebelled. Lilith claims that since she and Adam were created in the same way they were equal and she refuses to submit to him. From the very beginning of the creation of the first society (more than one person) there was a quarrel of superiority. Adam insists she is beneath him, and Lilith insists that they are equal. And the only way this is resolved is her leaving him and God creating another woman. This old story seems to speak to the problem of coexistence as human beings. I started wondering if this class-separation and lens of inequality had influenced me in subtle and not so subtle ways in my life.

I consider myself very racially, genderly and sexually progressive. Partly growing up in a society that very specifically did everything it could to remind me that I was not equal to my white counterparts, even in instances of demoting me to rank 4th in my class, not rank 1, even though my gpa (a 4.67 on a 4.0 scale) was greatly over the nearest white male (4.5.) Nonetheless, they found ways outside of the system and within to limit me. But that’s another story for another time.

I attended Indian Springs School for 2 years, a private high school that Ms. Winfrey paid for me to attend. There I met a teacher, Diane Martin, now Shephard, who was quite literally one of the most brilliant professors I’d ever had. I also met Dr. LaCasse, a nuclear physicist who was also one of the most brilliant professors I had. After a year, I came to the conclusion that Dr. LaCasse was a genius. Ms. Martin was brilliant.

And I realized, after a while, that this was the case, and I wondered at the separation. Surely it was because of the doctorate, or because of how much I valued the maths and sciences over something, say, English or Philosophy (two subjects I would end up double majoring in ironically enough.) But then I met another English professor, who eventually I considered a genius as well.

So what accounted for the difference? I honestly believed they were intellectual equals, and they both impressed me with not only their sheer knowledge but also their willingness to help others. And then it dawned on me: in passing years before, I had heard from a man I respected the offhand comment of “Ah, women are too emotional to be geniuses.” I didn’t know if he was quoting someone or if he came up with it on his own, but I remember disagreeing with it. I remember, for a moment, entertaining it and considering it silly. I’m pretty sure I dismissed it then and there. And yet somehow, with me not realizing it, it continued to pervade my thoughts. Women were too emotional to be geniuses.

This seemed to me to come out of a separation as Rubyn talked about last week. For some reason I was creating a separation between myself and the female that is in no way natural and ultimately seems a bit stilly. It was a way of making judgments that would allow me ultimately to say “I am capable of genius…and am ultimately capable of being beyond her.” Do I believe this? Of course not. And yet somehow, in the back of my mind, a part of me, maybe in this system or maybe indoctrinated with male privilege, felt the need to continue to see women through the lens of the “lesser.” An odd situation to say the least.

All of this led me to the growing storm that had been in my mind. I have no idea how many men shared that sentiment, whether intentionally or not, but it’s clear to me that more men DID share it. And if they did…is equality really possible? Is it really possible for men and women to exist in a society? I’m not talking about any idea about the way we set up culture or body parts. I mean quite literally, as humans, do we need a group to subjugate and consider lesser than us? Animals cannot fill this void…a domesticated horse has no knowledge of its domestication, not in the sense that humans do. Doing so becomes a true matter of course or privilege. But we need to separate a group of humans inside of our group of humans, to make a clear and present distinction.

I know this is a myth, a folk tale and everything else, but it seems very pertinent to the discussion to me. It does not have to be a separation of man and woman, or white and other, or black and other, or straight and other, or tall and other, or anything else, but on some level it seems our history says something very clear: Humans cannot exist as equal. They will always, always try to find a way of separating themselves.

What do you guys think? Is lasting equality of the sexes and beyond possible?

Lilith Information taken from here:

1 comment:

  1. I think lasting equality between the sexes is entirely possible. Though as a sociology major I am taught to loathe the word ‘progress’ and the trap of bias and judgment it can lead to, I see a history of progress for women in this country and in others. Voting rights, birth control, and the transformation of the workforce are overused, but effective pieces of evidence of a changing gender landscape. That we have altered the freedoms of women so much in concrete ways suggests that further equality can be achieved. Although now we’re not fighting laws, but social norms, I think further consciousness raising and new generations will help our society evolve.

    Your point about humans needing to subordinate others has justification. We have never experienced a world without war or competition between nations. But does that fact prevent us from ever becoming peaceful? Do we conquer others because it is natural, or because we have always done so?


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