Adam and Eve, not Eve and Adam
When I was in high school, I had an argument with a classmate and friend of mine named Nicole about the literal truth of the Bible. "So you're saying," I said incredulously, on realizing she was absolutely serious about the position she'd staked out, "that God actually bent over, picked up some dirt from the ground," I scooped up a handful of the dry, fine dirt we were standing on, "and made a man out of it?" She rolled her eyes at me. "Well, obviously he had to spit on it first. DUH. You can't make anything out of just dirt unless you get it wet."
For a number of years afterward I told that story for laughs, or to bring home a point about the goofiness and weirdness of fundamentalist Christianity. But what I failed to notice or appreciate was that believing in the literal truth of a creation myth is only one way to have a relationship with the story - and it's only one way that the myth can have a profound effect on your life. There are many other ways that can happen.
There are two creation stories in Genesis, but only one of them gets told, repeated, referenced, and alluded to over and over as an integral part of our cultural narrative - and it ain't "male and female he created them." In "The Beauty Myth" Naomi Wolf says:
Western women absorb from these verses the sense that their bodies are second-rate, an afterthought: Though God made Adam from clay, in his own image, Eve is an expendable rib. God breathed life directly into Adam's nostrils, inspiring his body with divinity; but Eve's body is twice removed from the Maker's hand, imperfect matter born of matter.
How old was I when I first heard this story? Five? Six? Younger? I had a lot of ear infections as a kid; I remember having a favorite book in the waiting area of my ENT's office - a collection of retellings of Bible stories for children. My mother always seemed to be a little displeased at me reading it, but she never interfered with my choice of reading matter, then or ever. Like all good cultural Catholics, my parents dropped me off at CCD one night a week; I'm sure I heard and read the story many many times while I was still quite young.
I don't believe in a god or a creation; I no longer identify as a Christian; I don't believe in the divinity or resurrection of Jesus. But I've never bothered to excise those stories from the set of stories I use to anchor my thoughts and ideas, because until now I never saw the point. After all, some of them - particularly a few stories from the gospels - are quite useful in advancing the argument that it is immoral to shit all over the poor. And that's something I believe very strongly.
So I never asked myself questions about the set of stories I was raised to believe in, and thought I had rejected. It seems I only rejected them superficially; and I have a lot of questions, now. Such as:
1. When Gene Weingarten, humor columnist for the Washington Post, refers to his wife as "the rib," does he intend to denigrate her, to define her only in terms of her relationship to him, which must - if you follow the metaphor - be subordinate?
2. Is my unwitting "belief" in the story of Adam and Eve - not in its literal truth, but its appropriateness as commentary on life, the universe, and everything - a big part of the reason why, when I make arguments along the lines of, "Women are people too, ya know," I get that vague feeling of discomfort in the pit of my stomach that you always got as a schoolkid when you were doing something that really ought to have been a perfectly reasonable, normal, right and proper thing to do, but was against the rules, so if you got caught you'd get in trouble regardless?
3. Would it help to replace it with a different creation story that wasn't all MAN HAVE PENIS, HE MORE AWESOME?
1. Probably not, but still, EW. Wouldn't that piss you off?
2. Yes. DUH!
3. Probably. Any ideas?
4. I blame the patriarchy.