By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
So, I’ll admit that I have not had the most amicable relationship with feminism during my college years. You’d think that I would have.
I come from a family numerically dominated by females. My mother grew up a city girl around her sisters, mom, grandmother, and aunts, and primas for the majority of her life. My dad grew up the youngest of his siblings and sometimes helping to raise their children, again majority female.
Even me, I am my parents’ only son. My sisters want to be a musician and an engineer respectively. My mom is a military vet of the Army and Air Force and an education specialist. I taught my baby sister how to fight like a boy when she was 3, something she used to later beat up a boy twice her size who was bullying one of her friends while still 3 years old. But when I went off to college, I finally realized how totally misinformed many young men my age are about the female sex. I mean seriously, some dudes thought that they could two-time a girl with a friend of her friend because “Women don’t talk and are too busy trying to brag on themselves and put up fronts.” Yeah, a group of brothers actually tried to tell me that. God bless America.
But, I don’t jive well with feminism. Now, I know that feminism is a very broad term to use. I know that there are officially three different political eras of feminism referred to as “waves” and that not all feminists are the activists we see campaigning for women to do sexual things with their bodies I can’t even do as a male. I know that these waves are different from one another and even within themselves, and I know a bit about each wave to swim them. The problem isn’t that I don’t know about feminism. The problem is that feminism doesn’t know about men like me. And in this case I am referring to the more popular sort of feminism that is portrayed on generic political activist websites…the very liberal, contra-male, and avant-garde type.
I first realized this in undergrad when a malinformed college brother burst into our freshman dorm exclaiming that he met a girl who called him an idiot for misunderstanding women. Well, that didn’t cause much of a shock at all for those of us lounging in the foyer…we knew the guy personally. But, when he told us the reason was because “He is a male born into an oppressive patriarchal society obsessed with the phallic power of male gender dominance which makes him inherently an engendered cisgender wannabe poser of machismo due to the evolutionary tendency of men to feel the need to suppress the lives of every female person so that women never advance past the status of house pet,” we all pretty much agreed to some degree that a bit of bull had slipped in there.
But I soon had my own experience with feminism when I became a junior in college. I met several women of color at a program designed for minorities like us to enter into the academia work arena. The program is wonderful in concept: it pays for us to receive pay for research comparable to graduate work while still being undergrads. But, these women had been exposed to the avant-garde feminism that saw my maleness as an issue. To them the very fact that I refer to people as “female” and “male” means that I support some oppressive gender agenda that folks want us to send to the past to die (and I apologize ahead of time for any offense it may cause you to read my usage of these terms). Feminism, specifically the so-called fourth wave brand, is also prone to hypersexualize women into believing that their sexual autonomy is a choice way to assert their victory over the “patriarchy.” This produces written articles about women strippers, pornstars, and scantily clad and famously promiscuous celebrities being feminists…when their very occupations and lifestyles kind of work against what everybody should consider uplifting for women, let alone themselves personally.
A woman who supports this particular worldview can literally try to play an unwanted game of footsies with you during an academic presentation and later curse you out because you believe that women and men are inherently different (shocker much), you choose to believe in the Bible, and you are a man, so that even bringing up that you grew up around strong women your whole life shows some innate fear that you have about those persons and your lack of ability to oppress and suppress them. Don’t laugh, it literally happened to me. No lie.
Well…I am pretty sure that when my mom was staying at home to change my diaper when I was a babe, I was thinking more about how safe I was from the world in her capable hands than about a scheme to force her and every woman on the planet to serve me in perpetual slave labor. Well…I was a baby…I may have already thought that I ruled the world, but I’m sure I didn’t think of that.
And then comes the punchline. The more that I got hassled by this group of women (and it was only a small group), the more that I realized how misinformed they were about dudes. They were a lot like my college brother who burst into the room freshman year. He was educated about women through Tupac and modern Hip Hop, and Tupac sadly was the better of the teachers. These persons were educated through skewed statistics for sexual violence and hurt women, and the hurt women were good teachers only in their appropriate contexts. Judging by how this particular clique in our cohort would oscillate between rubbing up on us with smooth talk and having contra-male powwows, I realized that they had somewhere down the line experienced some real hurt from males. Living as a woman has its own difficulties that I won’t experience the same way ever, but that I am capable of understanding. That is right. I am capable of understanding, I may not always be willing, but I know that I am capable.
But for me, personally, the reason why I would say that I’m not a feminist of any form is because I really don’t have to be one. I trust the Bible. I know, hold up, here comes theology again. But really, follow me into a document written thousands of years ago for a quick sec. It may enrich you, or entertain you as I try to make sense of all this that I’m saying.
Let’s start at the beginning, with my favorite person in the Bible: God. Now, God thought about humanity so greatly that He made us in His image and likeness. I know, this story already is off to a genocidal start…it is better that the universe is a meaningless result of exploding hydrogen, spontaneously generating life, and randomly morphing kingdoms and phyla on a spinning space rock flying through empty space…but this is my story time. So Genesis 1:26-27 opens up with particular insights about God. One: God is somehow a community within Himself. Two: God made mankind because it was some grand idea that He brought forth after the rest of the universe was already. God is timeless, so the emphasis is really on the fact that God had a pretty rad idea in mind when He made humanity. Three: When God made humanity to be living images of Himself, He made us male and female, not just male.
Oh, and it gets better, the Hebrew for verse 26’s use of “man” is literally ADAM. Adam means “humanity” or “mankind” in Hebrew. Notice, it is a God-given name given to male and female by extension in verse 27. In fact, Adam aka Humanity is used consistently in the opening of Genesis 2, which is a chapter that summarizes days 3 through 5 and provides more detail about what happened on the sixth day in Genesis 1.
This is the narrative of the beginning of the relationship between God who I worship and our First Parents. I want to stress that before we continue.
So, we all know what happens in Genesis 2, right? God makes mankind but He forms the male first, and then as an afterthought makes the female because the male needed a sex life. Right? Well, that would make sense if God hadn’t already had in mind to form the woman and the man together (see the previous chapter upon which Chapter 2 rests). We then go to verse 18, where God (speaking within Himself in that mysterious community we learned about) says that it’s not good for the dude to be by himself. This should be a word for all of us lone wolves: we can be Wolverine if we want to, but God would rather us be Batman and Robin…or something like that. Anyway, God wanted the dude to have a “helper” which in Hebrew is ezer. God is called ezer all of the time in the Bible. So since that is true, “helper” cannot mean “the kitchen pet,” it must mean something more, something very vital and special. In fact, God quasi-tortures the brother by bringing every animal before him so that it becomes immediately clear to the dude that paradise without someone else to share it with who can connect on the intimate human level…is really hellish. Torture isn’t the best word, but in this passage we have a period of tension that is rare in this narrative of perfection. It only can be argued for showing up slightly before with the universe being dark and formless at its creation in Genesis 1, and maybe whenever God made gnats. So it is no wonder that when God makes man sleep and takes from within his side flesh to make the woman (ishah in the Hebrew), that the man has the reaction he does in verse 23. Notice, the man (ish in the Hebrew) calls her woman (ishah)… but that is not her name. Only God named the first humans, and He called us Adam. Adam (humanity) was only given authority to name the animals. The man saw how God Himself made the woman different from him, and made a noun to describe that miraculous difference. Thus God made Adam male and female, thus ends the sixth day.
So what went wrong? Well, we learn in Chapter 3 of Genesis that mankind rebels against God by thinking that they could distinguish goodness from badness better than the Almighty Creator of the Universe who just made them. Funny, right? Well…we are our parents’ children… But wait, in that dialogue with the snake, the woman is still called woman. The man is still called man. They are both clearly Adam because God said so. That is their name. But, when our First Parents decide they can do better than God, they screw everything up, disrupt God’s order, and immediately distrust each other by covering up. Thus, that big disruption of the cosmic and moral perfection that we all are very used to seeing in our world today began. The Bible calls this sin, which can mean “warped and corrupted nature.”
But then, after Adam failed majorly, the Voice of God (I’m still taking cues from the original Hebrew) comes waltzing through the garden looking for His favorite chums who have since hidden themselves from His holiness. They now distrust even God Himself. You can see how the effects of sin are immediately pulling humanity downward as the narrative continues. God punishes everyone involved by letting them know the consequences for their rebellion, then something curious happens. The narrator lets us know for the first time that man has the proper name of “Adam” apart from the woman in verses 16-19.
Now this looks like God Himself made this distinction, until we look into the verses themselves. God first tells woman that in her relationship with her hubby, she will desire him but that he will be a tyrant over her. This is saying more than that she would adore him but he would treat her like crap. The Hebrew word used for “desire” is only used thrice in the entire Bible, Genesis 3:16, Genesis 4:7, and Song of Solomon 7:10. Two times out of three it is used negatively to mean a controlling form of desire– and those two instances occur right there in Genesis. So, the woman would really want to have her husband’s position in order to control him, but her man would be a tyrannical despot over her. Kind of seemed like they were well on their way to that, given their bickering responses to God when they got caught.
Then comes the man, who is punished for listening to his wife when he should have listened to the Ruler of them both. The man is called Adam apart from his wife, after the curse of gender strife is given to the woman (and by indirect extension to the man). And what happens RIGHT AFTER this verse? Verse 20, Adam breaks God’s protocol AGAIN by not just only naming the animals, but instead the dude names his wife! What? So he just took the title of “mankind” for himself and gave himself the authority to name his wife? Yup. Did he just kind of lower his wife to the status of an animal? Maybe. He gave her a good name in theory, Eve literally means “the living, or giver of life,” and it was given to honor Eve as the mother of all of us.
But sin in a relationship can be subtle and deadly, as any married couple could tell you. And thus erupts the repetitive story of the Bible concerning relationships: humanity gets worse and God saves us, then we get worse again and God saves us…we can see it in microcosm through Israel’s history as laid out in Ezekiel 20. But, as a Christian I hold firmly to the fulfillment of God’s restoration of all of humanity, as typified in the ending of Ezekiel 20. By what Messiah did, I believe in Galatians 3:28, aka the restoration of that relational function that Adam screwed up when they sinned, but that Messiah fixed when He obeyed. Right now, we hurtle toward the time when God will fix our world and judge it all at the same time.
And best believe, you don’t want to be caught slipping when that happens. Messiah don’t play.
But, the distinction between male and female is God-given. It is a gift! Even the roles that male and female serve within Adam is a gift. The man was seen as the head of the family and the woman was seen as the helper to him. If we can judge their relationship from their new names, Adam and Eve, man provided the identity of the family while the woman gave the life that allowed the family to be. Imperfect way of seeing their mutuality, right? Well, we should expect no less, Adam was sinning anyway when he made the name for the woman. It is a warped pointing to the truth, so it is a start.
And now, in Messiah the New Adam, He is our head and we, His disciples, are His helpers. The desire for the husband to his wife should be one of self-sacrifice, as detailed in the love of Messiah and Solomon’s song. And the feeling needs to be mutual. Messiah is the bridegroom and we, the Church, are the bride (this is in so many places in the Bible that I leave you to find it yourselves). So, when Adam, the old head, sinned it was counted as fully complete disruption of the unity God had established from the top down. Notice that sin took immediate effect once the man ate after the woman because in God’s order of commandment he was more accountable for disobeying. The man received the commandment from God face to face. The woman received it from the man (it can be inferred). But thankfully, timeless God would have it no other way, for just like Adam screwed everything up, God in Messiah righted it all.
So, I by category don’t have to be a feminist, believing by political theory or some evolutionary design that women need to be made equal with men in terms of humane treatment and access to human resources. That would really be a huge step down for me. I believe that God wants us to be equal by His personal design, and that He literally suffered humanity and physical death to make that original plan of His restored. Now, I also trust in God by not trying to kid myself with talk about men and women being completely interchangeable in function or duty. Only women can be mothers, and only men can be dads. Only women are wives and only men are husbands. We also tend to specialize differently. We men (on average) are naturally more athletic and physically powerful than women by average and generalization. This is sadly a part of why we have had great success in sinfully oppressing and dominating our sisters (females are not our other halves, brothers). Likewise, women have the ability to make or break us. Women (on average) have great insight into the structural schemes of life like the minor details and can use their abilities to be highly manipulative and impressionable. And don’t get me started with arguments. We men never win. Nothing like an evil mastermind driving an equally evil war machine. And in our distrust of God, that devolves into our distrust in each other, we are capable of generating great variations of corruption together…as the Bible stories are fully capable of showing to us and as testimonies from our history books and personal lives beat us over the head with. So, rather than join this old pattern now disguised as well intended but corrupted social theory, I’d rather trust the Maker than trust, oh well, myself or anybody else on my level. That makes us all pretty equally shortcoming, and it’s God’s word against ours. I think we lose.
It’s no wonder feminism and I have beef; we start in opposite places. So, no, this sucker for Christianity raised among strong women is no feminist. But really, thanks to God, neither are they.