I didn’t want to have to be a feminist at these blogs I’ve called “Mind Your Language.” With the new blogs, I wanted to transcend my issues with sexism, to write less often, to live more presently with my loved ones (face to face), and not to have to explain myself so much to others (in social media). As a man blogging about the man Aristotle and his consequences (at “Aristotle’s Feminist Subject”), I’ve said quite enough already, or so I thought. Today, I’m compelled to say more:
Aristotle said very little about himself. But that’s just because he was using masculine language or what you might call “language of masculine hegemony.” He pretended, in the great body of writings he authored, to be objective. He wrote in Good Greek, proper, and despised foreigners and barabaric tongues and translation unless it was a rendering into Greek. He was a man, a male, writing exclusively to males. So when he wrote that females are, as science and logic declares it, just mutant or deformed males, then he was being objective. When he talked about politics and home economics and male baldness and the ideal ages for marriage, Aristotle used language that presumed the male was natural, the female much less so.
Jesus, in contrast, said a great deal about himself. But he didn’t say even one word of it directly, letting or perhaps even requiring that women and men around him be his subjective reporters and quoters and interpreters of what he said. No doubt, with various accents, those around him called him יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, which sounds somewhat like Hebrewish English Joshua or perhaps the Hebraic Hellene Ἰησοῦς (but much less like jē’zəz). Instead of railing with racist overtones against parables and poetry, as Aristotle so railed, Jesus used fables and psalms. Instead of warning against ambiguity, as Aristotle so warned his disciples, Jesus riddled his apprentices and those who were against him with unclear puzzles that employed double-entendres and unclear sophistry. Instead of cautioning against extremes in speech, as Aristotle cautioned those who would be balanced, Jesus seemed to enjoy the epitome of hyperbole. Instead of focusing on the natural (physics) and meta-physics, as Aristotle so focused exclusively, Jesus “engaged the supernatural” so that his “revelation animates the unknowable–what a limited species such as Homo sapiens cannot know–and apprehends eternity as a supernatural realm” (observes David Rosenberg in the introduction to his book, An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus). The biographies of Jesus, thus, are not auto-biographies or pretense of natural-born importance that, for a male versus a female, can go without saying. What we know of his own writings is from a minor disputed passage, in which his words are translated into somebody else’s Greek words for his, a text in which he’s shown to be writing in the sand, something no one can now see, defending a woman against accusing men. Emphemeral stuff, but critical.
Just as I was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible with one of my daughters and with my wife;
and just as I was reading Rose N. Uchem’s now-published dissertation Overcoming Women’s Subordination in the Igbo African Culture and in the Catholic Church: Envisioning an Inclusive Theology with Reference to Women in which she goes on at length (very important and compelling stuff) to show how “The maleness of Jesus has been used to rationalize women’s exclusion from ritual and political leadership in the Catholic Church and in the Igbo culture”;
and just as, last evening, I was listening to my father, a retired missionary, tell about how a woman translated for him when he preached a sermon in English in Vietnam last week (and “this was her first time to interpret, and she did real good” he said, which is all real good for him to say, and since he’s now come so far to say it!);
well, just about then my blogger friends Joel Watts and Suzanne McCarthy point out something important that a seminary professor, a male, a father, has said about needing to read the Bible with the sort of Homo sapien language that includes females with males, the sort that my Jesus (and apparently Willis Barnstone’s and David Rosenberg’s and Ann Nyland’s and Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s Jesus too) uses when he lets others use it. So very unlike what this same professor blogging (i.e., J. R. Daniel Kirk) has called “masculine language” or what you might call “language of masculine hegemony,” the sort of language Aristotle used and called for. Aristotle makes me a feminist in public again. So there you have it, and so there I blogged again where I hadn’t really intended to. I may not post again for a long time now.