So, I finally finished reading Genesis, and I’ve only had a copy of the Bible checked out from the library for four months now! Yea, I know, I’m such a fast reader. Well, the only library books I have out from the library at the moment are the Bible, the Qur’an, and a book about the Hadith, so that means I will actually be spending most of my reading time tackling those big, thick holy books, now. I’ll still probably end up returning and checking out a different copy of the exact same Bible a couple of times due to running out of renewals, though. That thing is like 1200 pages, and, well, while it does have its exciting stories, it also has things like incredibly boring and long lists of names and genealogy stuff. It’s not really the sort of book that’s easy to just sit down on the couch and read for five hours straight. I want to say it’s boring because that’s what I always wanted to say when I was a kid but didn’t because it felt like it was wrong to think/say that. Only, the Bible really isn’t all boring. The story of Joseph, for example, is a really great story. It’s got a great deal of irony, and I love irony. I actually didn’t want to put the book down at all when I was reading that story, yesterday, because it was the opposite of boring.
So anyway, one thing I kept noticing while reading through Genesis is how incredibly sexist it is. Women are just not considered to be as important as men. For instance, when genealogy is listed, they pretty much just concentrate on the men. Jacob’s children are listed out multiple times. He had twelve sons, in total. Only one daughter is ever mentioned. It seems far more likely that this is because daughters were not thought to be worth mentioning, rather than that a person had 13 children and only one of them was female. If I am doing my math correctly, then, assuming that a child is equally as likely to be male as to be female, the chance that only one child out of 13 will be female is 0.16%. Now, if this were the only example of this, I might be jumping to conclusions by saying that they usually only bother to mention people’s sons by name. It is a little more difficult to tell in cases where only a list of names is mentioned, because I don’t know how to tell which names are female and which are male and which, if any, can be either male or female. However, some of these lists of names have enough context provided to tell which ones are sons and which are daughters. In the section where the children of the children of Jacob are listed, Joseph has two children listed, both male, and Judah has five children listed, again all male. Noah has three sons; no daughters are mentioned. The three children of Adam that are mentioned by name are all male, although it is said that he had other sons and daughters. Lot had two (unnamed) daughters and no sons… until his daughters got pregnant by him and give birth to two (named) sons. Oh, and that one daughter of Jacob that is even mentioned by name? Her entire role in the story consists of getting raped.
Which brings me right to some of the really scary social norms in the book of Genesis. Women are “given” to be people’s wives. Slavery is totally normal. It’s perfectly ok for men to marry more than one wife (I’m not saying anything about polyamory, but polygamy in a highly patriarchal system tends to work out less than wonderfully for the women). When two of Jacob’s sons kill all of the male inhabitants of a city in revenge for the rape of their sister (the rapist asked to be given their sister as his wife after he raped her… just… what the fuck?), Jacob rebukes them, not for being mass-murderers, but because the other inhabitants in the region outnumber them and would totally destroy them if they attacked. The other brothers loot the city, taking all of the wealth, livestock, children, and wives (the latter two groups, presumably, as slaves).
Now, I understand that people have had different standards of what is considered right and wrong in different times and places and cultures, and I’m sure my own culture has some truly vile social norms that will be pointed out in other times and places (and some of them even in the here and now). However, just because a thing was considered normal at some point in time does not even remotely imply that it is ok. And, worse, this stuff is not just a few examples of ugly, vile social norms that were not unusual in their time and place, these are stories in a book that is considered to be holy and is held up as the ultimate source of morality. These vile social norms are not pointed out in the stories as being in any way bad. They’re just mentioned like they’re… normal. I understand that the Old Testament is usually considered to be less important or less relevant or something to Christians than the New Testament, but it is still used to justify things (e.g. bits of Leviticus are used to justify homophobia) and figures like Abraham (the one who was willing to murder his own son for his god–he also owned slaves) are still held up as role models.