I have been working on this particular post for months now. Months. Every time I come to address it, I find myself talking me out of the usefulness of my thoughts or the timing of the subject matter in the cycle of topical conversations.
Also, teaching preschool is mentally exhausting.
Also, also, why are my three children on three different ball teams?
Mostly also, I just haven’t been able to get the damn thing right, and this is something I’d really like to get right.
But given that International Woman’s Day has recently passed, and women’s rights are still being hotly debated, I feel like I may have just gotten the push I need to finally fulfill my promise here of explaining why I consider myself a feminist, despite disagreeing with most of the taglines and arguments of today’s feminist movement. While I whole-heartedly agree and advocate for gender equality in appropriate work places and legislation (a follow-up topic for only God knows when), and I undoubtedly count myself among the women who are done with the seedy underground of our society’s tolerance of subtle and overt sexual abuse, I reject the idea that men and women should be seen as interchangeable entities in all circumstances. The design of the sexes was meant to create a respectful, symbiotic relationship, and when this intelligent design is executed mindfully, success is most imminent for woman and man as individuals as well as partners. Success, in more than survival, means that a woman being a woman in full possession of her femininity aids a man in being a man in full possession of his masculinity, and vice versa.
Don’t worry- I can explain (of course). And with some of my least discussed tattoos, no less.
E is for Eve.
It seems a little counter-intuitive to base my views of feminism off the one human classically held responsible for gems like painful childbirth and exile due to faulty judgment. Today’s feminist movement often views Eve as a symbol of old-world expectations of women- namely, that a woman’s place is to serve man and bear children, as those (on a cursory reading of the Creation Story) seem to have been Eve’s chief purposes. But I think our tendency to let her get summed up thusly and fade out into biblical progressions as little more than the start of humanity is doing her dirty and robbing her of her rightful place as the key to femininity. Hear me out.
God, who is perfect, looked at Adam with love and said that it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Now, every Christian sees the ultimate end-goal as making it to heaven to live in the presence of God for eternity, so in that God said, “You need someone else here with you,” when He was already there hanging out with a creation made in His own image, that’s a significant moment in and of itself. Then, having seen everything He’d already made- which was all intentional and of a specific design at the time- He saw that none of it was fit to be man’s helper, partner. With full knowledge of what Adam was, God cast sleep upon him to create a partner that measured up appropriately.
And He didn’t make beer in that moment.
Didn’t make a dog.
Didn’t make another man.
He made Eve. He made woman.
From Adam’s own being- a rib, as the story goes, which is part of the biological enclosure protecting vital organs, such as the heart- God fashioned Eve to be recognizable to Adam in her humanity, but also to be part of him (“bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh”), coming from his side. Having completed His work, God went about whatever it was He needed to be doing with a few directions (i.e. don’t be messin’ around that tree in the middle of the garden) and left them to it. And it was good.
So, Eve was created as a partner to Adam, and when we think about what a partner is, we generally think of someone with whom we work and consult, who equally contributes to shared tasks meant to achieve a common end state. In order to achieve progress, we might reason that our partner should be equally intelligent, but with a set of skills or knowledge base somewhat different from, but complimentary to, our own so that a larger pool of resources might exist to be considered as mutual sounding boards. Ideally, we would hope our partner is gifted in areas that we are not so that the collaborative effort would not have gaping holes in ability, which might lead to a mission failure. On personal levels, we could find more joy in cooperation if our partner was also supportive and emotionally capable of relating, expressing sympathetic tendencies, and investing in mutual resolution. The word “partner” itself is actually a variant of the Middle English word that translates to “joint heir.” So while we share the work load, we also share the success or failure in the outcome, as the outcome is a direct result of the partnership itself.
A partner is carefully chosen to provide balance and optimum conditions for success.
Now apply this to God’s intent for Eve at creation.
Eve was made of the very same humanity- literally- that Adam was, meaning that she bore the same baseline capacities for intellect, emotion, etc., that he did. She was not meant to be in front or behind him, as she came from his side. Eve was not inferior to Adam in any way, nor was she implicitly created to be a romantic interest or mother to Adam’s children. She was created to embody the singular qualities partnership requires, and as God makes no mistakes, He didn’t miss anything when He created her. Despite that bad call with the serpent, Eve was not inept or helpless. She was Adam’s help.
Rather than to see my kinship to Eve and her creation as a detriment to my feelings of female empowerment, the above actually gives those feelings roots and dignity. As a woman, I’m meant to be the other side of the same coin to male counterparts. While we might see different sides of things, we’re made of the same metal- we have the same worth. I was not designed to do all the things a partner can do, but rather to do what he can’t do- provide himself with abilities, views, and thought processes that give scope and new vantage points while serving respective other purposes. In seeing the world this way, I feel no pressure to compete or compare within or without my gender. I feel sure of the necessity and usefulness of my capacities, even as I endeavor to master new, applicable skills.
I don’t reject, therefore, the scientifically-backed tendencies (such as placing importance on relationships, having involuntary physical responses to infants, or networking for resolution during crisis while men “fight or flight”) I have toward nurturing or partnership. Seeking to be of use or to provide support does not mean that I do not value myself as much as I value the love and regard of others. Rather, it means that I understand the value of what I can provide to others, and instead of hoarding it to the gain of no one, I prefer to make use of and exercise it appropriately. My compulsively genuine and chronically sincere nature makes me both as tender and relatable as it does direct and efficient because it facilitates my drive toward honest and lasting success.
Where the general population is concerned, embracing these feminine traits makes me a prime problem solver and critical thinker. It makes me attune to nuance and fluidity and group infrastructure. When combined with equal capacities for intelligence and skill acquisition to male counterparts, I am an ace as an employee and an asset to team efforts. Where partnership with men is concerned, embracing these feminine traits allows me to facilitate an environment of tireless, tangible support for individual and tandem efforts alike while multitasking intellectual and emotional needs. The more I connect with the origin of my sex, the more powerful I become as an ally, who rules in her own right with the resources to provide help. Man was designed as man with his own tendencies and certain, inherent skills; woman was designed as woman with an equivalent worth and additional, critically necessary capabilities.
Remember: God did not need Eve for maximum success. Adam needed Eve for maximum success.
You’ve Got a Friend/Counselor/Spouse/Co-Parent/Personal Wonder Woman in Me
When Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, imagine what that must have looked like. Biblically, Adam was not mentioned to have had relations with Eve until after banishment- something that consummates a man and a wife, who are then joined “as one flesh” (which, actually, echoes ancient Greeks who believed that soulmates began as one entity that was separated by the gods for fear of the power that existed when the mates were together, thus dooming them to search the world in order to reunite)- which means they were more or less two naked buddies wandering the earth at first. Together, they must have learned to create shelter, obtain food, and survive. At the time, that was maximum success- survival.
But then relations happened.
Remember how God loved Adam enough to give him a partner? That made Eve a walking symbol of God’s love for His creations.
Well, guess what freakin’ happened when Adam physically loved the symbol of love.
God gave the joint heirs of creation some heirs.
He allowed them to participate in creation and made life happen as a result of loving partnership.
And the walking symbol of God’s love is the one who got to carry the life that resulted in the love between partners (probably because He saw the way man handles getting sick- definitely would not survive pregnancy/birth).
God trusted Eve to deliver into the world a physical product of partnership. SO not only is woman the best partner to man (as we’ve discussed at length), but she’s also capable of managing independently, which is necessary because women- alone- carry a child, deliver a child, and produce from their bodies the first food for a child….while still managing other partnership tasks. Woman is uniquely designed to identify specific needs, both nature and nurture, for the initial care of a child. She’s also designed to put all her organs and things back in place afterward to prepare to do it again. She is consistently designed to remind the world what happens when loving partnership exists while still being a complete lady boss about her personal endeavors.
Which pretty much means she’s Wonder Woman.
And, I would like to add, the physical shape woman was given to facilitate this fete makes us nice to look at. You’re welcome, world.
Woman provides prime examples of the very singular ability to take a situation and expand upon or enhance it. Although man can survive on his own, a woman naturally provides counsel, help, motivation, support, companionship, physical pleasure (which God saw fit to make fun and good for overall health- Google it!), children, etc, that he would not experience or benefit from otherwise. Even in partnerships wherein the physical love between partners does not result in children, the loving relationship bolstered by the qualities unique to woman still results in a new life due to the joining of two people as “one flesh,” creating a joint effort and new view of the human experience. Recall that the rib used to create Eve’s own ribs was once used to protect Adam’s heart. This symbolism illuminates the position of woman in a productive partnership with man- as close and necessary to his best interest as to her own.
And vice versa.
The Feminist Who has Love for Men
The rib symbolism is the cross-over reminder of a dual truth the current feminist movement often fails to acknowledge: Just as Adam required Eve for maximum success, Eve required Adam for maximum success. Adam’s rib formed the start of Eve’s, the first form of protection for her heart and subsequent life as his partner. While partnerships form off and on between humans for various purposes and utilize the faculties all humans have, the lasting partnership between a man and a woman draws out qualities unique to gender in one another in response to that singular relationship, thus making a man more fully a man and a woman more fully a woman.
For instance, when a man is in a productive relationship wherein he feels loved by and attached to his partner, his eyes dilate slightly and his brain releases quantities of happy hormones when he looks at a picture of his partner. This creates a sort of indelible imprint of her on his brain. However, the part of a man’s brain that perceives and identifies threats to turf and triggers aggression is larger than in a woman’s, meaning that he will all the more quickly and violently react to a threat toward his heart, hearth, and home than a woman might. It also helps drive the cliched “provider” complex. This, coupled with man’s larger physical strength capacities, helps provide physical safety and emotional loyalty, which in turn provides an environment in which a woman is safe to invest in her capacities for support, networking, and maternity.
Also by way of example, a man will emotionally respond to a change in his partner’s emotional or hormonal state. A man with a pregnant partner will produce 30% less testosterone to emotionally predisposition him to find interest in caring for a newborn. A man whose partner is withdrawn, absent, or estranged will become more sensitive to loneliness, as the imprint his partner left via the happy hormone dump has caused him to seek her as his first source of mental social activity. As a man’s brain is actually designed to have a faster (and, at times, stronger) emotional response than a woman’s, this couples with a man’s analytical problem solving pathways (as opposed to the pathways seen in a woman’s brain) to result in a direct and measured attempt to rectify the discord.
Don’t think I have to expound much on how that benefits a woman in a partnership.
On and on, there are so many examples of how man and woman are designed to work in tandem. These things would have been similarly experienced by Eve after exiting Eden. What Adam could provide for her more easily than she could provide for herself enhanced her ability to provide for him as previously discussed. This makes Eve not only the key to femininity and the beauty of woman, but also the first champion of the cause for mutual respect between man and woman.
The E on my ribs reminds me of these things. In a society that lauds psychological game play and “smoke and mirror” interactions between the sexes, identifying with Eve directs me back to the courage it takes to be truly feminine and continually defines what productive, safe partnership truly is. It also helps me conquer my tendency to refuse to seek male help (or help in general) and companionship, which came as a learned response to a destructive partnership and heart-hurts. The love and respect I have for what makes man an actual man is amplified by the love and respect I have for what makes me as womanly as I am.
“I’ll look after you,” located inside my left bicep, reminds me that partnership is a choice. Despite being well-suited for partnership and appreciative of men, it still requires discernment. As a human, I can cooperatively work alongside other humans without investing too much of my femininity and becoming vulnerable. However, when my arm is outstretched in such a way that my tattoo is visible, it leaves my ribs vulnerable and displays my identity as a woman and a wonder. It’s important to protect that dignity and be mindful of whom I embrace and look after.
And so, to conclude, heroes, I think true feminism lies in applauding women for what being a woman actually is, rather than comparing her to what man is or driving toward presenting her as capable of what man is; that’s apples and oranges, as they say, and diminishes or damages the intended relationship between the sexes. While the good fight for her equality as a human– which should endow her with the same rights and value as man- and the protection of her gifts should absolutely continue to be waged publicly, I think it is important to anchor the cause of the feminist in the word “feminine,” meaning “of woman.”
Not “because of man.”
Not “in response to man.”
Not “in spite of man.”