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Summer Reading: Merlin Stone

I wanted to find "the world as seen and recorded by women". Order up!

When God Was A Woman is a feminist rereading or reinterpretation of ancient history. And Stone's critics have argued that it is all speculation. May be. But, as a woman and a feminist, how am I to read history but as a whitewashing of women's roles and importance? Fortunately, Stone agrees, and more importantly, she goes about dissecting the (purposeful, incidental, and/or embedded) misogyny of the long trail of white men who have been telling us who we are for centuries.

She begins with language. As an 18th, 19th, 20th century Western man, how could you come across evidence of a single, universal divinity that was female and acknowledge it as "God"? Easy. You wouldn't. You might call it, "a fertility goddess" and the belief of all her faithful "fertility cults". When She and her Priestesses practiced highly spiritual ritualized sex as part of their religious practice, you might call the Goddess a "virgin-whore deity", and her respected followers "temple prostitutes". Because, if you were a Western man raised in the Judeo-Christian-Islam phallus-death cult, how could you explain it any other way?

Lucky for you, Stone has undertaken to explain its significance in great detail.

[Before I begin an all-out harangue, let me state that I am not a women-are-superior/all-men-should-die feminist. I want equality. Not just the kind of "we'll give 'em the vote and maybe that'll shut 'em up for a while" equality we have now, where images and morality tales of subjugated women are woven into popular consciousness as subtly as a Paris Hilton snatch-shot, but true equality where we don't all act out of fear, or really even consider gender as being associated with certain abilities/characteristics.]

More important, I think, than the consistency of archeological data to support her theory that early civilizations were based upon a Goddess worshiping matriarchal culture is Stone's suggestion that the language and belief systems of the cultures that followed consciously and methodically suppressed women's rights in a number of ways. The creation of the world became a product of a single male deity. Leadership at all levels of society became - by virtue of their closer contact with this father figure - the sole right of men. Sexuality and reproduction became the property and territory of men's oversight, regulated by them to achieve certainty of paternity. Property and trade were conducted almost exclusively by men. The result of all these choices was that women had no economic, religious, or social power with which to exercise individual freedoms or choice.

In addition to the functional aspects that this phallocentric worldview dictated, there was the necessity of inculcating a belief in women that they were inferior. With this moral training, women would eventually be able to regulate themselves according to the wishes and whims of the men who dominated them. Using the story of Eve as the centerpiece, Stone describes the (totally contradictory) traits that were assigned to women in this framework. Some of the most insulting: inferior intellect, deceitfulness, weakness (of mind, body, and spirit), inconstancy, profligate, etc.

Whether Stone's conclusions are based in archeological fact or not, I appreciate the value of a convention-challenging perspective.

1 comment:

  1. There is no "Phallus cult" in Islam as in Judeo-Christian cult. Islam is a real word of God. Show of Islam any picture or any text of the generous Qura'an proving this, I may show you hundreds pictures of churches...etc & Baal, bull... adored by Judaism. Do not believe lies or "crusades" against us.


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