Home > FF. The Re-emergence of the Goddess > The Great Truth of a Woman’s Body

The Great Truth of a Woman’s Body

The struggle for, and achievement of, equality for women seems to be one of the most underappreciated stories of modern times.

As my work with Gilgamesh has convinced me, women largely lost political power by the end of the 4th millennium B.C. Hammurabi’s Code sought to protect women but not to empower them. Men gathered all political and military power to themselves; worse than this, because it was believed that the creative spark of life was purely masculine (women functioning only as an oven and food source during gestation), women were understood to be inferior to men in the most basic ways.

What changes the scientific revolution and Enlightenment have wrought! We now know that women contribute half the genetic material to every child, and the French Revolution has made equality one of the pillars of modern political and social life.

And with this change has come the full panoply of legal rights for women: the rights to vote, own property, divorce, and work–to be a full citizen and the legal equal of men. There is no doubt in my mind that the New Deal would never have happened without women’s suffrage, and I think that overall their contribution to political life has been to make society less aggressive and contemptuous of failure. Not to mention the emergence of children’s rights: when you empower women, you empower children.

On the other hand, this fundamental transition has not been easy. If society has been feminized by votes for women, women themselves have  been masculinized. Role models and expectations that date back 4,000 years are being challenged and overturned. Acknowledging that women in the workplace need special accommodations–day care for their children, maternity leave–has not been easy. So rapid and difficult has women’s emancipation been that I thought it could only have happened in the West.

But now I’m not so sure. I had thought that the ongoing Egyptian Revolution was mainly about political and social issues: corruption, poverty and misery, the lack of democracy. But I recently ran across a photo of a woman in a burka flashing her breasts and midriff in the middle of the Egyptian demonstrations. I can find no word for her act other than shocking. Shocking, above all, because it flies so directly in the face of Middle Eastern culture. Here is a woman willing to demand full equality with men and to use the great truth of a woman’s body to get her point across. Here is a long banished reality–the necessity of sex and sexual pleasure–shaking not only Egypt, but even the “liberated” West, to its knees. Can we create a world in which women’s power and orderly societies co-exist? This, in fact, is the world that seems to be emerging.

It’s too early to say what the long-term effects on religion and philosophy will be. But it seems to me that we are heading towards a more perceptive and compassionate world.  RT


Image: Eric Gill, Eve; Src: WikiCmns; License: Public Domain

  1. February 16, 2011 at 9:07 am

    thnx bro

  2. February 17, 2011 at 1:04 am

    A heartfelt, hopeful essay. Having spent some time in Egypt, I can’t be nearly as hopeful. May it be that you are correct, not me. As for timing on the shift from goddesses to gods at the head of various pantheons, I suspect that it began ~3,000 BC but was different in different places. Research for the novel I’m writing leads me to think that the further west one goes, the later the shift may have been. Or not. How can we really know?

    • February 19, 2011 at 1:07 am

      Dave: thanks for your thoughtful reply. I agree that trying to date “women’s loss of power to men” is difficult & depends on location. But my reading of Gilgamesh (and especially tablet 6 with its contest betw/ Gilgamesh and Inanna) has led me to think that, at some point during the story’s evolution, women in Mesopotamia did lose control of political institutions. & I agree about location–maybe the roots of the women’s liberation movement lie in ancient European cultural attitudes. Good luck w/ your novel! eric

  3. February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    As long genital mutilation remains a reality, the real revolutions have to happen.

    • February 19, 2011 at 1:11 am

      antiphon: it could be that the spreading Middle-Eastern revolution will provide a framework for eliminating genital mutilation… a project that will take a culture-wide effort and may last generations (but this is how these fundamental changes always happen). RT

  4. February 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    During the great testosterone fuelled wars gets fought, I heard to defend humanity and democracy, millions of women experience violence because they are women and is is only worth few articles and side notes.Do I see there a certain cynicism of values?

    • February 21, 2011 at 1:26 am

      antiphon: undeniably cynical values, but a cynicism that more and more women are pointing out…women’s power is only beginning to work its way into our consciousness; it would be interesting to be around in 100 years to see where things stand. RT

  5. February 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Humanity might not have time to survive this waiting any longer.
    The testosterone trip is destroying the conditions we need as specie with the stubborn deadly determinism of an old megalomaniac greedy dictator .

    Now they try to possess even the inner spirit of plants and animals to control life and use the last resources for terribly banal pride breast beatings.

    I don’t want women power supposed to cure male madness, I don’t consider women naturally more inclined to salvation, just because they remain too often victims.It is our common responsibility to care for the present situation forming the future. I want human dignity for all and the respect of nature, now, as I know if it is not now, it will never be any more ever.

  1. October 7, 2012 at 4:52 am
  2. March 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm
  3. April 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

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