Gender and the Nephilim

Tony Baker writes the following in his ill-considered post on gender:

Let me attempt to bring my gender constructions out of the subflooring of the argument and into the proper living space. The fall narratives, from Eden to Babel to the origin of the Nephilim, are about the disorder than comes of too much taking. In the latter case, the Sons of God find the daughters of men desirable, and “take” them as wives (Gen 6). The “Sons” are pure activity here, and the “daughters” are so passive that the text implies a Sabine-like rape.

There is here, as in my Prometheus reading, an association of boundary transgression and gender. Masculinity is associated with active violating of “kinds,” and the feminine is a pure receiving. The important thing to notice, though, is that this is precisely what invokes God’s displeasure, and becomes the set-up for the flood cycle. Archetypal gender bifurcation (though not gender itself) belongs only to the fallen form, for Christianity, not to our proto- and eschatological versions. If both woman and creation are “feminized” in the narrative while the earthly and heavenly “sons” are masculinized (Cain, Nimrod, David’s “taking” of Bathsheba), this is a split archetype that belongs to our broken form.

I have written frequently in comments that I find it disturbing that he uses what he regards as a rape scene as the paradigm for masculinity and femininity, which supposedly contains a grain of truth that is revealed through the parallels with the consensual passivity of the Virgin Mary (immediately after the passage I quote). That is a core point that I simply cannot let go — if your account of the meaning of masculinity and femininity is derived from a rape scene, something has gone badly wrong, something that requires not “clarification,” but repentance and conversion.

Yet there are a lot more questions to ask about his use of this passage. Continue reading “Gender and the Nephilim”

Forsaking Futurity and a Call for Feminist Theologies: A Response to Gender & the Studio, Part Three

Abstract: Rather than delve into the potential theo-logic of a Butlerian “constructivist” account of gender, this blog post proposes that we pause, and instead question the discursive operations undergirding the very idea of “the future of systematic theology.” The effort to secure the existence of systematic theology, I suggest, is idolatrous—rather, systematic theology needs to lose its own life in order to potentially save it, and can begin to move in that direction by attending to the concrete, historic, material, discursive realities of people’s lives, especially those on the underside. This “losing” is both practical and apophatic, in that it acknowledges that the task demands constant attention to the material realities of people’s lives and the discursive regimes that produce those realities, and that we cannot seek to grasp or claim or secure a telos or overarching discourse. I end, then, by turning briefly to the potentialities within a constructivist frame, and offering some suggestions for possibilities for Christian feminist theologies.

  Continue reading “Forsaking Futurity and a Call for Feminist Theologies: A Response to Gender & the Studio, Part Three”

“so that I could kiss him more deeply.”

I posted this on my blog a few months ago, but so few frequent that den of iniquity I feel reasonably okay cross-posting it here. (Though perhaps I already posted something like it here ages ago. I can’t remember anymore.) At any rate, this is an excerpt from the final version, now in print and on sale.

I was reminded of it today while reading the posts and conversations on gender, cultural studies & ontology. In my own mannered way, I feel I at least tentatively teased my way, stumbled perhaps, onto thinking about very similar issues.

* * *

While reflecting on the Jewish proverb, “Man thinks, God laughs,” Milan Kundera cannot help but wonder why this God might be laughing. His conclusion is appropriate to our dilemma: because “man thinks and the truth escapes him. Because the more men think, the more one man’s thought diverges from that of another. And finally, because man is never what he thinks he is.” In its expectations of beginnings and endings that stabilize meaning and significance, and thus seek to fill an absence, humanity misses the joke, and, too, the “sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing” that Kant ascribes to laughter. As we will see, though, the intensity of this excessive “nothing” is a joke that can easily get out of hand. The punch line of reality is too much, leaving us in stitches on the floor with our most insane of laughs, screaming between snorts “No! Stop! No more!” — unsure whether we mean it or not. . . . What we find, nevertheless, is that amidst the apparent chaos of laughter and repetition, theology is neither stymied nor silenced by its impossible task. . . .

Might we strip it bare, this question theology asks and/or is asked, to get beneath its textual, textile surfaces, and behold it in its natural glory? Moreover, might we yet behold the question of theology’s character, for us the fundamental problem of theology, in its essential, naked truth and origin, as it strives to understand all it can of, and indeed to fashion the very categories of thinking about, the divine? Continue reading ““so that I could kiss him more deeply.””

Gender & Ontology

Yesterday afternoon – after having read Brandy’s post, as well as Anthony’s recent post on ontology – I followed a link on Facebook to Eigenfactor’s breakdown of the gender balance in scholarly publications between the years of 1665 and 2011. The data apparently comes from JSTOR (I didn’t know that they’d stockpiled publications from the 17th century! Do they really?!) This isn’t necessarily relevant. But I decided to check out the stats in philosophy. In a broad sense, they are – not surprisingly – pretty bad: only 9.4% of the total publications are by women, as opposed to, say, 37.3% in education. But things get a little more interesting when you link to the philosophy publications page where the data breaks down into more nuanced detail. Relevant here: only 3.6% of all publications on ontological arguments are by women. By way of contrast, 19.3% of works on moral philosophy have been published by women.

While I share Anthony’s distaste for the muscular “hard core” discourse on ontology, I have to confess that I am also pretty fixated on ontological claims and issues. I will admit to being a little geeked about the fact that new strains of “speculative thought” proclaimed an interest in ontology.  Continue reading “Gender & Ontology”