prototypical woman

January 6, 2019

Eve has long been advanced as a prototypical woman. There have been allegations to the effect that Eve was ignorant and easily duped into eating an apple by a wily serpent. She then used her feminine wiles to seduce her husband, Adam, into eating the fruit as well. In so doing, Eve is said to have brought about the fall of humanity. Men in Western culture have used this story for millennia to explain and justify the subservient position of females in society. They have claimed that women, like Eve, are easily duped into committing wrongful acts and should therefore be under tight control of their husbands or fathers. Many also view women as dangerous temptresses who will lead men into wrongdoing. To bolster this argument, they point to the “fact” that Eve used her wiles to get Adam to eat the apple. Men are thus urged to mistrust even their own wives.’ Similarly, women have at times been barred from testifying on the theory that they, like Eve, cannot be trusted. Women are also viewed as weak in will and in thought. People have pointed to God’s statement to Eve, “[Y]our urge shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you,” to explain and justify the argument that husbands should rule over all in their households, including their wives. Eve is the source and symbol of many of the negative traits assigned to women; the story of Eve has been used to justify the punishment of women throughout history. Given an opportunity to stand before a tribunal herself, it seems unlikely that Eve would be able to escape punishment.

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More recent feminist interpretations of the narrative also take a more favourable or sympathetic view of Eve. One writer, while accepting that Eve committed a sin, thanks Eve for bringing about the desire to come closer to God and to improve conditions we face.’ Poet Miriam Oren “clearly admires Eve, portraying her as a model of righteousness, strength, and courage.” Anda Amir believes that Eve’s actions bring sexual knowledge and pleasure to the world, which she sees as a positive change.” Phyllis Trible writes that woman is the “culmination” of creation.” She argues that the serpent spoke to Eve rather than Adam because Eve was capable of engaging in philosophic and theological discussions, whereas Adam was not.” Finally, she sees God’s response differently than some other commentators. “They describe; they do not prescribe. They protest; they do not condone . . . . This statement is not a license for male supremacy, but rather it is a condemnation of that very pattern. Subjugation and supremacy are perversions of creation.”

Sally Frank
Eve was right to eat the apple: the importance of narrative in the art of lawyering

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