What women have learned about intimate relationships does not come from a recorded history of loving partnerships with a no-fail list of do’s and do not’s. There are few chronicled examples of conflict resolution, problem solving, compromise, or the other behaviors required to sustain an intimate relationship. Today women get confusing messages about love from society, Hollywood, books, and even The Holy Bible. They are spectators of quite a paradox. Women witness romantic interludes and passionate exchanges on the TV or movie screen with the devoted couple living happily-ever-after; and it leaves within them a hodgepodge of exciting expectations about the meaning of love.
Then they sink into despair when their Knight in Shining Armor fails to act like the leading man on the screen. Alas, there are no rose petals leading to a candlelight dinner he prepared as a surprise. Women read a romance novel that leaves them enchanted with the charming and thoughtful male character they have decided looks like Brad Pitt. Then, their fantasy is interrupted by the belch heard two rooms away from their not-so-thoughtful male counterpart in the kitchen.
The Bible is another basis for confusion. Religion, past and present, does not seem to replicate the same attitude towards women as Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated throughout His life. Jesus displayed high respect for women, unlike and despite, the people and the law of the times. Women were valued and esteemed by Jesus—all women. He approached women, listened to women, hung out with women, blessed women, thanked women, healed women, loved women, and treated them identical to men.
Yet, most of the authors of the New Testament failed to imitate and practice this example in their writings. In fact, any women who pursued the mission of Christ after the crucifixion would have been excluded by the authors of Scripture, not by God’s bidding, rather from man’s unyielding prejudices when writing it. The Apostle Paul, who is credited for writing a significant part of the New Testament, especially disliked women. Paul believed that man came from God, but woman came from man (1 Cor. 11:2-9). This leaves women with the suggestion that only man was created in God’s image, and that meant women were sub-standard.
Professor Joseph Francis Alward, at the University of the Pacific in California, states:
No teaching in the Bible is clearer, more consistent, than the one which teaches that women are inferior to men. If it’s true that the Bible is God-breathed, and therefore an all-powerful, all knowing God of the Bible exists, then women are not as righteous as men; are not clever enough to enter into contracts; are to keep silent and seek answers in private from their husbands, and are to treat their husbands as if they were God. (http://www.thegloryofman.com/) also (http://www.usurpingwomen.com/)
There are many theologians today pounding the pulpit condemning women’s interest in equality with men. However, there are just as many religious leaders (thank God) that uphold a woman’s sameness with men. In Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Bishop John Shelby Spong writes:
For Paul, women were clearly inferior. Yet, he could say in Galatians that
in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28), and these words
occur in his powerful argument to demonstrate the inclusiveness of all
people, especially the gentiles, in the Christian movement. He also, in this
same passage, said that “in Christ there is neither slave nor free.” The fact remains that Paul accepted uncritically the patriarch attitude of his day
toward women, and the cultural reality of the institution of slavery. …
He viewed women with something less than enthusiasm. …He exhorted women to keep silent in the churches …women were not permitted to
speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. …The God who is
love cannot be approached except through the experiences of living out
that unconditional quality of love. That is why the church must be broken
open and freed of its noninclusive prejudices. That is why slavery,
segregation, sexism, bigotry, and homophobia tear at the very soul
of the church.
History leaves a mortified trail, twenty centuries old, of men born with the primary purpose to receive unquestioned civil liberties and privileges from women that had nothing to do with love, and women legally helpless to prevent such mistreatment. Just 167 years ago, a small group of New York women got together and took on the toil and resistance from society, the government, and men to make changes for woman’s equality that would not begin to materialize until 72 years later. A woman’s right to vote (her first right) just occurred 95 years ago.
The far and few between love relationships throughout history that were based on mutual respect and regard have not been enough to leave us footprints to follow on the healthy relationship path. There are too little cases of love’s ideal union. Instead there is an abundant history of relationship conflict, disappointment, criticism, blame, rejection, resentment, betrayal, murder, and historical lines of broken hearts.
When women study the relationship patterns of their ancestors, they can see it is filled with female dependency and woman inferiority. Are women still living under the unjust roof of inequality if only in their minds? Are there traces from history, so deep-rooted, that still want women to believe they are not worthy, they are inferior, and they do need a man? Beliefs well-remembered that refuse to be forgotten provide a steady rhythm that contradicts female self-respect and self-confidence. It is no surprise then, when women look at the disillusioned relationships in unions today, that they can be found confused and angry.
Women in our time say they want a relationship in which they can experience respect and equality in a partnership. However, how many women today respect themselves, and believe in their independent right to have opinions, needs, happiness, and success? What women say they want, and more importantly deserve, is slow to be taken seriously even among themselves. How can women obtain a cultural shift in attitudes towards the female capabilities if they doubt themselves to achieve it? Women need to believe in what they deserve. That belief is one that only women can accept.
Do men owe women?
Think about it.