The Sexism of Adam and Eve: A Feminist Perspective on the Bible

The story of Adam and Eve appears in the bible just after the creation of the universe itself. This alone testifies to the high value this revolutionary monotheistic religion placed on hammering out a definitive code of gender relations. The Adam and Eve story is an extremely influential document in human history that sets up the social relationship between men and women. Unfortunately, this was done in such a way as to propagate the notion of female inferiority that has since had a major religious, political, and social impact on the status of women throughout history and in the modern present.

The diminished status of women by the Old Testament is clear from the conditions leading up to Eve’s creation and the way in which it was carried out. Adam was first created in God’s perfect image to rule amongst and name all of the other creatures God created. Eve (and thus, woman) was only created as an afterthought to appease Adam’s loneliness and desire for a companion that the other creatures were not able to satisfy. Some argue that woman intended to be equal to man based on the notion of Eve’s and Adam’s intended companionship thereafter. However, it becomes very clear in the way that Eve was created that she is in no way equal to Adam. While Adam was created in God’s image, Eve was merely created with one of Adam’s ribs. This secondary creation of Eve corresponds to the appalling treatment of women as second class citizens through the ages. Furthermore, to give a rib would not be a particularly hefty sacrifice for the human body. It would be another story altogether if Adam were required to give up a hand, an eye, or a lung for Eve. Humans are typically born with 24 to 26 ribs. The loss of one or two ribs has virtually no noticeable physiological impact. In effect, the story of Adam and Eve taught, and continues to each, each following generation that woman is but supplementary to man.

Further evidence of women’s biblical mistreatment becomes apparent in the conditions of the Fall of Adam. Of the three guilty parties, Eve’s punishment is the most severe. She is doomed to give painful childbirth and become the property of men. The real reason that childbirth is so difficult for women is that the sudden advancements in our intelligence (often explained as a result of the ancient origins of our ability to speak and the corresponding social consequences of this for us as a species) caused us to have much larger heads at birth. In reality, woman sacrificed the safety and ease of childbirth for the advanced intelligence and capacity for languages of our species. How did we repay her? We begin the most important piece of literature in Western civilization by blaming her for the existence of toil and death and claiming that the pain and potential fatality of child birth is her just reward. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

In the broader context of spiritual history, we can really appreciate the irony of Eve bearing the brunt of bringing death to humankind. In the vast majority of spiritual and religious history leading up to the Old Testament (starting with the Earth Mothers of prehistoric peoples), female deities were lauded as the progenitors of life.

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Porshadoxus profile image

Porshadoxus 3 years ago from the straight and narrow way

I cannot believe that the same God who provided both male and female for the animals decided as an 'afterthought' to make a woman for Adam. God planned Eve as a necessary part of His creation, for the intent of populating the planet He made for them. (Genesis 1:27-28)

The rib indicates that Eve was intended to be at Adam's side, not before or behind him. Incidentally, the only human bone that will regenerate on its own is the lower rib.

You have seriously misread your Bible, if you read it at all. The Bible is clear that the blame for the curse of sin lies on Adam, not Eve. He is the father of the human race, and he holds the responsibility for sin being passed down to all mankind. (Romans 5:12)

God created men and women with different roles in culture. One of a man's roles is as protector and shield of responsibility for the woman. God never intended for men to degrade or mistreat women. Those actions come as a result of Adam's sin, which made man hungry for power and dominance.

To say that the woman's penalty was more severe is also unbiblical. While the woman does experience the pain of childbirth, this lasts for a period of hours. Man has to sweat to earn the living until he dies- a lifetime of providing a living for his family. (Genesis 3:16-19)

And there could not have been spiritual or religious history before the Old Testament because that was the beginning. If you're going to discuss biblical content, stick with the content instead of adding fantasies to prove your feminist point.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

The fact that ribs can regenerate on their own strengthens my point that Eve is not meant to be seen as having been worthy of giving up a more significant part of the human body.

To claim that men and women were created for different gender roles is very sexist and ignorant. Of course the biological differences between men and women, and the social and cultural tendencies this has ultimately resulted in throughout our evolution and development as a species, demands due consideration. However, it should never be used to define gender relations and the social position of women.

If you are a man, you have no right to dismiss the trials of childbirth. You also seem to have forgotten that death during pregnancy (much more common in biblical times) was also considered part of woman's punishment for Eve's curiosity.

Your last note is extremely ignorant. Judaism predates Christianity by about a thousand years. Not to mention the wealth of mythology and tenets of worship and spirituality that have shaped Western Civilization. Prehistoric Earth Mother worship and Pagan deities have also been well documented. It is incredibly ignorant of you to dismiss the historical, literary, political, social, cultural, philosophical and metaphorical significance of mythology and spiritual knowledge that predates and/or exists alongside Christian doctrine.

If you are suggesting that these things are to be considered "fantasies" and the Old Testament considered the only truth, then words can barely describe your profound ignorance and misunderstanding of not only Western history, but also of the human condition.

Porshadoxus profile image

Porshadoxus 3 years ago from the straight and narrow way

I'm trying to understand your discussion. You seem to believe that both the Bible and evolution are true. Creation and evolution are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled. As long as you are confused about the origins of man, your conclusions will be flawed.


Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you for your engagement.

This is not a theological discussion. This is not a creation/evolution debate. This is a debate about the historical, literary, social, cultural, and political impact of scripture. In particular, the role it plays in gender politics and its potential in the field of feminist theory.

I am not at all confused about the origins of man. All I will say is that my understanding thereof is independent of religious scripture. One need not be religious himself in order to comment on and debate theology and scripture from an academic and theoretical perspective.

You speak in ignorantly simple terms, suggesting that such complex belief systems as religious scripture and the theory of evolution can simply be considered true or untrue. You are clearly ill-equipped to approach the matter from an objective academic perspective and therefore I have not felt the need to bend to your opinions or argumentation in the slightest.

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Nero Walker 3 years ago

Very interesting and thoughtful hub. I agree that the way the creation and 'fall' scene is written does engender dismissal and blame towards the female sex. The woman is seen as the original 'weak link' and the man as weak through her. This firmly puts woman into the role of 'evil temptress'.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you for your comment. I was inspired to write this while reading a book on the tendency of societies with a text-based religion to downplay the role of women and present them in a negative light, while image-based religions celebrate the feminine.

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Nero Walker 3 years ago

Image based religions?

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada Author

Sorry, I wasn't very specific. It's more about illiterate societies versus literate. The argument ran something like literacy encouraging left brain, and therefore masculine, dominance, whereas the visual stimulates the right brain (feminine). On a large scale this results in the primary worship of male deities and a misogynistic outlook.

kolin 2 years ago

Porshadoxus has dismantled the author's argument well. Sorry, but you have to write another article making other subject as the basis to further vendetta.

Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 2 years ago from Canada Author

This is not a vendetta and I am not obliged to come up with another approach because you disagree with me.

Anna 2 years ago

I'm writing a paper on Catholicism and the feminist agenda for my English class and I just wanted to say your piece was very helpful and pointed out things I haven't even thought of before. Keep up the great writing!

Shadow Jackson profile image

Shadow Jackson 9 months ago from Washington, DC

If childbirth is the worst of the punishments (according to you), then does it not speak to God's redeeming qualities that this was the very means He used to send the Messiah (Savior of the world)?

hopencharity profile image

hopencharity 7 months ago

It is difficult, at best, to achieve understanding between two people who speak the SAME language, so why anyone thinks that a translation from another language can be even close to accurate is beyond me. That said, its obvious that the OT was intentionally mistranslated (by someone or a group without deeper meditation on the overall of what they were writing.) What was missed entirely was that the command to not eat from the tree of knowledge was given specifically to Adam, not Eve, so it was up to Adam to tell her no. Additionally, the fact that the first words out of Adam's mouth were "It was her . . .!" reveals the lack of Adam's backbone to take responsibility for his own actions which is the foundation of men subjugating women. A strong man, able to take responsibility for his own decisions and actions has no need or desire to subjugate anyone, woman or man.

And that's of course if you take the creation narrative literally.

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