Stasi tries to start off this chapter on slightly better footing than her first. After asserting (again) that all little girls are desperately wanting to be princesses, she says this:
Rather than asking, “What should a woman do–what is her role?” it would be far more helpful to ask, “What is a woman–what is her design?” and “Why did God place Woman in our midst?”
These are the questions that she is going to attempt to orient her book on (although, as we’ve already seen, she can’t get away from the “what should women really be doing” question). As I’ve pointed out, these questions assume that something called gender essentialism is true and unchanging. Stasi and John believe that there are essential attributes and functions given to men and women (there are no transgender, demigender, bigender, non-binary, or agender people in their world), and these things cannot and will not change. These qualities are true for all men and all women, regardless of culture, ethnicity, class, or time– because God made us all, and he made us all with the same basic ontos.
Crown of Creation
In order to make this argument, John gives us a re-telling of how Eve was created (23-26), and caps off his description with this:
She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch (…) Eve is . . . breathtaking.
Given the way creation unfolds, how it builds to ever higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation? (…) Not an afterthought. Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree. She is God’s final touch, his pièce de résistance.
That is a beautiful thought. Wrong, but pretty. The prideful part of me would like to believe this, but everything I know about Genesis 2 from both Judaic and Christian perspectives compels me to acknowledge how wrong he is in trying to argue this. What he’s done is no better than what complementarians do when they argue that the “creation order” means that men are intended, by God, to have authority over women. Everything about Genesis 2:18-35 is about mutuality and equality, about ezer kenegdo, not about who was created in what order and what we could force it to mean for all people for all time.
Romance and Relationships
John argues here that women are more “relational” than men are– that women pay more attention to relationships than men do, and this is entirely due to the fact that they’re women. Neither John nor Stasi, as far as I can tell, will ever acknowledge that at least some of what they’re asserting about women might be “true” because of how kyriarchy/patriarchy enforces gender roles. They also do nothing to to overcome their confirmation bias— they look around the world, see lots of men and women acting exactly how they’d expect them to act based on gender essentialism, and that becomes more evidence for how they’re right.
If you want to know how people are doing, what’s going on in our world, don’t ask me– ask Stasi. I don’t call friends and chat with them on the phone for an hour. I can’t tell you who’s dating whom, whose feelings have been hurt– ask Stasi.
This is not true of me and my husband. He spends more time talking to his friends than I do, and more consistently. He is more aware of how people are feeling than I am, and what the relationship dynamics are like in our group. He knows about the relationships important to his friends– whether those relationships are romantic or not. I’m pretty oblivious to all of that, and some of that obliviousness is intentional.
Most women define themselves in terms of their relationships, and the quality they deem those relationships to have. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Or I am alone. I’m not seeing anyone right now, or my children aren’t calling, or my friends seem distant. This is not a weakness in women– it is a glory. A glory that reflects the heart of God.
This needs to be re-worded: women in American culture are frequently defined by their relationships. This is not necessarily something they are doing to themselves, but something that happens to them by the expectations of our culture. I’ve had a few conversations with my mother about how she realized that she’d poured everything she had into her children and that hadn’t been healthy. She acknowledged that she had let herself be defined by motherhood, and she regretted it. My mother is a fantastic, interesting, brilliant person, and I know our home would have been richer if she’d had something to Be besides “wife” and “mother.”
But, John baptizes this culturally-mandated gender role by saying that being totally defined by our interactions with other people and not by our own interests, desires, dreams, or actions “reflects the heart of God.” I don’t wholly disagree with the argument John goes on to make about God wanting relationships with us. I’m in the middle of a theology class on Trinitarianism, and the whole “God exists as three persons in relation to each other, but One” thing seems rather important to the doctrine. There’s also Ephesians 5 and “I have loved you with an everlasting love” from Jeremiah that points to God loves us. God wants to know us, and for us to know her.
That, I’m not going to argue with.
That God’s desire for relationships is either represented strictly by women or almost entirely by women (which seems to be the argument John is making here) is ridiculous, especially since “It is not good for man to be alone” appears in Genesis 2.
The first year I was in grad school, for a variety of reasons most of the friends I made were men. One night, three of us were hanging out watching zombie movies, but by 3 or 4 in the morning the conversation turned to relationships. I didn’t really have a lot to add, so I listened to two men talk about girlfriends, and singleness, and loneliness, and after about half an hour I couldn’t keep the laughter in any longer. Suddenly, I was laughing so hard I was crying, and it took me a while to respond to their confused faces. I eventually explained that the conversation they were having sounded exactly like conversations I’d heard my entire life when it was just girls, just women– and I’d always believed that men would never have conversations like that.
In the few years since then, I’ve had that experience a few dozen more times. Women aren’t the only ones that are concerned about their relationships– romantic or not. Men don’t sit around and talk about nothing but concrete, like John would have you believe.
I believe that men are just as “relational” as women– and that every person will have slightly different attitudes about relationships. We’re all just trained by our patriarchal culture to act on the need for relationships in gendered ways.