Saturday, February 13, 2010

Annoying Anti-Feminist Quote

Good morning!

I seem to be in a bloggy mood lately. I can't remember the last time I wrote this consistently within a month. I think that can be attributed primarily to my job sitting at a computer with very little to do. I'm hoping that my occupational situation will change soon and I won't have this problem, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, I wanted to jot down a quick note about a quote that I just find overall annoying..."Woman was taken out of man; not out of his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved."

Now, I know this quote comes from a place of benevolent paternalism, but that doesn't make the sexist implications any less real. We all know the creation story this comes from...even if you aren't Christian or from a Christian family, you've probably heard it because our society is so saturated with Christian beliefs. I'm not going to get into a feminist analysis of the Christian creation story, mostly because that doesn't really interest me and also because it's been done. (But I will note that I love the bumper stickers that say "Eve was framed.")

The problem I have with this quote is that it is all about equality...(not to top him, not to be trampled underfoot, but to be equal) and then also says that the woman must be protected. These two premises are inherently contradictory. You cannot be equal to someone and also expect to be protected by him/her. If you need to be protected, you are at a disadvantage.

I've had this discussion with friends before. The argument they put forth is that you can be in an egalitarian heterosexual relationship where the woman's opinions and actions are respected and validated, but she still seeks to feel protected and safe with her male partner. (It's sort of confusing for me, personally, because I do feel safe with Ronald, but I don't seek to be I feel like there's a difference.)

But whenever this topic comes up, I insist that the relationship cannot truly be egalitarian because there is still this protection factor going on. And my particular friend who I was talking about this with insisted that wanting to be protected by her boyfriend didn't make their relationship any less equal. I can't say there's a right answer in all of this, but it certainly makes me think. I respect my friend and her relationship greatly. I don't think either one of them unfairly exercise power over the other. But when this theme of the protection of women comes into play, it still concerns me.

I guess it goes back to what benevolent paternalism is really all doesn't matter if the sexism comes from a place of genuine concern for women as opposed to a hatred. If you believe that there is something inherently fragile about them, that's a problem. Benevolent paternalism is certainly less scary than misogyny...but sexism is sexism.


  1. I think Ryan and I feel safe with each other. We both protect the other person in the relationship...not just one way or the other. I'm guessing that's the same with you and Ron and probably with your friend. In my (very humble) opinion a realtionship is one in which you love, support and protect each other. So while I agree the original quote doesn't sit quite right...I think maybe your friend is saying the same thing as you but in a different way. She feels safe by her boyfriend "protecting her" but I guarentee she is probably protecting him too - whether in traditional female roles (cooking, cleaning, organizing) or by less traditional female roles (checking the oil, fixing things, monetary safety). Does that make sense? Good blog, Ami. Made me think!

  2. YAY! A reader :)

    Totally know where you're coming from. Ronald and I were discussing that very thing...feeling safe w/ ones partner regardless of gender. My friend probably does feel the same way, but she was discussing it in very much of a one way situation...basically where he physically protects her from the big, bad world, and that's what annoys me.


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