A few months back, I attended a seminar in Sat with some two friends. Topic? Theology of the Body. I loved it! It’s just one of those sessions that just seems to clarify many ideas, philosophies etc. For me in particular, it helped enormously in sorting out the ideas that I pen down (or is it “type out”) below.
I love women! I think they’re awesome! True they can be a pain: [mum to me] “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times: don’t exaggerate!” [Insert pained troll face!] But then again, many other non-women humans do pit some stiff competition for title of ‘greatest pain in your tushie’.
I also love the ancients! I think their lives, lifestyles, wars, inventions, philosophies were sometimes insane (e.g. Romans used to clean their teeth with urine; and it was used as a mouthwash in Europe until the 1800s) and other times insanely amazing (e.g. The Great Pyramid consists of 2.3 million blocks of stone, weighing from 2.5 to in excess of 25 tons. Apart from the accuracy of dressing, which scarcely allows a penknife between any two of them, they were put together, as Herodotus tells us, in 20 years, by a workforce of 100,000. Assuming a 16-hour working day, this feat requires a rate of one block every 3 minutes! Herodotus mentions that the builders used “machines,” without however naming, let alone describing, what they looked like. Herodotus lived in the 5th century B.C. and is the oldest historian in the Western tradition). Unfortunately, for the modern man, anything prefixed with ancient is usually automatically looked down upon as backward, unenlightened, retro, barbaric, uninformed, unscientific, undeveloped and so on. The only word in the last 31 I would question is automatically. Since when was ‘ancient’ automatically a synonym ‘dingbat’!?
Finally, comes the month perhaps only second to Feb in mushiness: May. And somewhat somehow, we can’t speak this word without speaking of women – or mothers in particular. Think Mothers’ Day.
So women, ancients and May mothers. That’s what this is about. Or better, this is about what some ancients had to say about women and mothers.
Unfortunately, as the old tale goes, women belong in the kitchen, and their job is to cook, clean, feed the children, gossip, and all that appertains to maintaining her man’s fiefdom. That’s your stereotype on women in eons gone by.
Isabella was recently married off, and two days after she returned from her honeymoon, she called her mother. Her mother picks at the other end only to be greeted with heavy sobbing and great distress,
“Isabella, mi bambina, what is the problem?”
“Mama, I can’t take any more of this! It is too much!”
“But Isabella, what is too much? Come on, you can tell your mama…”
“No mama, it is too much to bear!”
“Isabella, my dear! What is it?”
“Mama! I can’t take how he’s treating me already! It’s only the second day after our beautiful honeymoon and he’s already using those foul four-letter words!”
“Already! Can’t be! But Luigi is such a charming signore! How could he! What did he tell you?”
“Oh mama! I can’t repeat it! It’s too dreadful!”
“Mi principessa! Come on… tell me… What did he say? What four letter words?”
[Amid even louder sobs] “He… he said dirty things like ‘cook’, ‘iron’, ‘wash’, ‘mend’!”
“What!? How dare he! That’s it! You’re coming home right this moment!”
That’s your stereotype on modern women. But in both stereotypes the brush strokes are similar: weak (physically and emotionally), self-conceited (“mirror, mirror on the sun visor…”), thoughtless (to put it mildly) and best left in the background. After all, it was through a woman’s weakness and thoughtlessness that we were booted out of paradise on earth.
It was with some admiration that I therefore recently came to learn that this has not been a universal stereotype. There are ancients who did not share this very narrow view of women or of their role in society. Quite in fact, you have some ancients who have had really deep thoughts on who woman is and what her irreplaceable role is.
In the 2nd century A.D., a certain Irenaeus from Palestine penned the following:
Why did the serpent not attack the man, rather than the woman? You say he went after her because she was the weaker of the two. On the contrary. In the transgression of the commandment, she showed herself to be the stronger… For she alone stood up to the serpent. She ate from the tree, but with resistance and dissent and after being dealt with perfidiously. But Adam partook of the fruit given by the woman, without even beginning to make a fight, without a word of contradiction – a perfect demonstration of consummate weakness and a cowardly soul. The woman, moreover, can be excused; she wrestled with a demon and was thrown. But Adam will not be able to find an excuse… he had personally received the commandment from God.
One slightly chauvinistic gentleman mentioned once that creation was made in ascending order: first things, then plants and animals and then man.
A feminist in his audience would hear nothing of it. She quickly made her rejoinder: “And then woman!”
The gentleman was rather ruffled, but not outdone. He quipped, “But woman was made from the rib of man!”
To which she retorted, “Beats being made from slime!”
An Algerian from the 5th century added to the literature on the topic. He wrote:
Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his lord, but from his side to be his partner.
Fast forward. 19th century. Akron, Ohio. Sojourner Truth, an illiterate, black, anti-slave speaker caught the same bug:
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
And this last point Sojourner makes deserves much more attention that could be accorded it in the remainder of this article. Women – without any exaggeration or drama – are the solution to society’s problems. Solve woman and you’ve solved society. As one friend philosopher told me years ago, “If you want to destroy society, destroy woman and let her loose on society… If you want to save society, save woman and let her loose on society.”
Dale O’Leary – an American mother and author notes:
The Russian Marxists learned the power of women the hard way. Even though they had total control of the state, religious sentiment and family values did not fade away. The grandmothers kept the traditions alive in secret corners of the family.
I’ve heard this idea echoed elsewhere in America and in Europe. Most recently, I came across it in the writings of one James Stenson:
The role of women in the world is to teach the world how to be human. Each man has been entrusted to the care of a woman. They teach the hedonistic, selfish baby that all of us are born as, how to be an adult. And an adult is not someone who can take care of himself – plants can do that. An adult is one who can take care of others.
If that doesn’t strike you, think about it this way. In any war, each camp targets the strongholds of the other. Capture or destroy these strongholds and the tide swings your way. In the eternal war between good and evil, there are certain strongholds that have been besieged century after bloody century:
If you want to know what is most sacred, look to what is most profaned: women, women’s body, sex…
So the next time you have to give up your seat to a lady, or allow her through the door first, or fetch her sweater, or simply change your plans because she autonomously made plans for the whole family, keep in mind that she’s a woman… Hopefully one worthy of the name. But whatever the case, take exquisite care of her.
Before signing off, couldn’t resist appending this one!
Lessons from my Mother
1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE .
‘If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.’
2. My mother taught me RELIGION.
‘You better pray that will come out of the carpet.’
3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.
‘If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!’
4. My mother taught me LOGIC.
‘Because I said so, that’s why.’
5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC.
‘If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.’
6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.
‘Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.’
7. My mother taught me IRONY
‘Keep crying, and I’ll give you something to cry about.’
8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.
‘Shut your mouth and eat your supper.’
9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.
‘Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!’
10. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.
‘I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.’
11. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION.
‘Stop acting like your father!’
12. My mother taught me about ENVY.
‘There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.’
13. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
‘Just wait until we get home.’
14. My mother taught me ESP.
‘Put your sweater on; don’t you think I know when you are cold?’
15. My mother taught me HUMOR.
‘When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.’
16. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
‘Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?’
This article originally appeared on www.mytwocricles.com in June 2012