Of the misogynist myths propagated to the children, none is more damning than the legend of Eve’s act in the Garden of Eden. For this, the folklore tells us, she, together with all females, was condemned by god to forever bear children in pain and suffering. From such myths, generations are raised to believe that within the female gender lies malevolence.
Because of the acceptance of this tale of Eve’s disobedience, menstruation once became universally known by women of Judaism, Christianity and Islamic faiths as “the curse.” All of these religions acknowledge a forbidden tree within the Garden of Eden and Eve’s associated disloyalty to her creator.
Though the religious condemnation of menstruating females as “impure” has, for the most part, disappeared in the modern world, even today menstruating women are forced to stay in sheds outside of the main house in many cultures until their period ends.
Meanwhile, a casual reader of Paradise Lost may note that Eve’s mate, Adam, was described as a hero for his actions in Eden. We are to believe that Adam could have requested a new mate of his creator even as a shamed Eve was evicted from paradise. But Milton tells us that Adam chose to remain with his true love and was therefore exiled from Eden to “live by the sweat of his brow,” together with all of his male descendants. There would no longer be a free lunch.
This idea of Adam being the hero of the tale is a traditional paternalistic view, for it is Eve who is the more obvious hero, when one considers the legend in its entirety. In effect, Eve’s crime was that of desiring to be more than a mere pet of her creator. She wanted knowledge and took it in the fruit of the enchanted tree.
Why would a just god deny knowledge to his human creations? Could it be a feeling of inadequacy—fear that he would no longer reign supreme if his creations were allowed to know what he knew? Indeed, his closest angels would one day attempt to overthrow him, according to several religious traditions.
In these tales it was “The Light Bringer,” the beautiful archangel Lucifer, who led a rebellion in heaven according to Milton, gathering thousands of angels behind him in an attempted coup against the almighty. But Lucifer was pushed off the edge of heaven, falling for several days until he landed, together with his rebellious hordes, in hell, where he would rule as Satan, far from the endearment of a god who once granted him the place of honor at his right side.
So, in the Garden of Eden, an all-seeing god would have chosen to keep his human creations as ignorant pets, without the minimal knowledge required for independence. That being the case, we see that Eve was not a criminal, but a champion of humanity, taking from the tree of knowledge that which would enable humans to think outside the box, ever after.
The Greeks also related how the first human female, the beautiful Pandora, released the ills of the world, including sickness and death, upon mankind. Ancient misogynistic myths teach us that females condemn mankind to suffering and must be controlled.
As a ten-year-old child in the British Columbian Rockies, there was an incident that cemented my mind against religious misogyny. My mother made me attend Catholic services each Sunday. We had no church in our small community, so a priest from Prince George would come to perform mass in a warehouse. One Sunday he was late, arriving in his car behind a snow plow (as one couldn’t otherwise find the roads at times, there being some four feet of snow through the winter).
The priest walked into the building and immediately asked “Who set up the altar?” One of the ladies stood and acknowledged that it was she who’d set it up, trying to be helpful because the priest was late. The priest screamed at her that females could not touch the “holy relics,” scolding her at great length in front of the congregation. I made up my mind on the spot that I would leave the church when I left home.
To this day, the church does not allow female popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, or priests in its hierarchy.
Raised in a culture of ignorant dogma, I was taught that Eve, my greatest of grandmothers, was a deceitful thief. I now read the myths quite differently through atheist eyes, seeing such a person as the most praiseworthy of heroes for defying a dogmatic deity.
Jack Balkwill has been published from the little read Rectangle, magazine of the English Honor Society, to the (then) millions of readers USA Today and many progressive publications/web sites such as Z Magazine, In These Times, Counterpunch, This Can’t Be Happening, Intrepid Report, and Dissident Voice. He is author of “An Attack on the National Security State,” about peace activists in prison.