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4 - Gender and Sexuality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Ronald Hendel
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

In her groundbreaking study of gender, The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir evokes the story of the creation of woman in Genesis 2 as a primary text whose impact on Western perceptions of gender relations cannot be overlooked. Beauvoir writes:

Eve was not fashioned at the same time as the man; she was not fabricated from a different substance, nor of the same clay as was used to model Adam: she was taken from the flank of the first male. Not even her birth was independent; God did not spontaneously choose to create her as an end in herself.…She was destined by Him for man; it was to rescue Adam from loneliness that He gave her to him, in her mate was her origin and her purpose; she was his complement on the order of the inessential.

Beauvoir's renowned claim that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” – the formulation that became the very base for the definition of “gender” as a social construct – turns out to be particularly relevant to the “birth” of the first woman. Eve's birth is by no means a natural event, innocent of cultural presuppositions regarding the role of woman. She is subjected to God and to Adam, shaped as the perfect Other whose very purpose is to serve as “dream incarnate,” to enable the first man to define himself as Subject within the realm of the essential.

Type
Chapter
Information
Reading Genesis
Ten Methods
, pp. 71 - 91
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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References

Olyan, Saul‘And with a Male You Shall Not Lie the Lying Down of a Woman’: On the Meaning and Significance of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13Journal of the History of Sexuality 5 1994 179Google ScholarPubMed
Stone, KenGender and Homosexuality in Judges 19: Subject-Honor, Object-Shame?Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 67 1995 87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ackerman, SusanWhen Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and DavidNew YorkColumbia University Press 2005CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Westermann, ClausGenesis 12–36: A CommentaryMinneapolis, MNAugsburg 1985 298Google Scholar
Matthews, VictorHospitality and Hostility in Genesis 19 and Judges 19Biblical Theology Bulletin 22 1992 3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fields, Weston W.Sodom and Gomorrah: History and Motif in Biblical NarrativeSheffield, UKSheffield Academic Press 1997 54Google Scholar
Bechtel, LynA Feminist Reading of Genesis 19:1–11Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible (Second Series)Sheffield, UKSheffield Academic Press 1998 108Google Scholar
Bird, Phyllis A.The Bible in Christian Ethical Deliberation Concerning Homosexuality: Old Testament ContributionsHomosexuality, Science, and the “Plain Sense” of ScriptureGrand Rapids, MIEerdmans 1999 147Google Scholar
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