By Joshua Schow
“A woman uses her intelligence to find reasons to support her intuition” – G.K. Chesterton
From the back of a captive crowd, former actress and current feminist activist Dale Allen reverently approaches the front of the room garbed in a black robe while she clutches a large book. As she solemnly steps through the aisle, she loudly recites quotations from works such as the Hammurabi Code, Aristotelian treatises, Jewish Prayers, Koran passages, Biblical passages, and Fredric Nietzsche’s writings. The theme is clear: men have subjugated women in the most viciously misogynistic ways.
But women need not succumb to this oppression, Allen jubilantly proclaims. With a grand gesture and a dramatic flourish, she closes her prop book while calling upon her sisters to close the book on masculine domination and usher in a New Age of Femininity. Not another word is spoken of these quotations as she folds a black hood over her head, raises her arms in the shape of a crucifix and exuberantly chants “Our Mother who art with us / Each breath brings us to you. / Thy wisdom come, / Thy will be done / as we honor your presence within us.”
The theatrics hardly ceased there, but brevity compels me to forego dramatic description. Allen’s thesis is formulated on the premise of right/left brain thinking. The right brain is the creative, feminine element of the psyche and the left-brain is associated with the logical, masculine elements of thinking. (Note first that most cognitive psychologists reject this dichotomization as simplistic and overly-generalized.) She argued that society has been largely dominated by the left-brain thinking for the better part of the centuries. This left-brain dominance, she suggests is the primary reason for masculine patriarchy.
Her exploration of her thesis covered religious thought and mythology, anthropology, and epistemology indirectly. Regarding religion, she argued that originally humans conceptualized god as a female. Early religions, she claimed championed the cycle of birth, compassion, and nurturing values. It was not until the past 2,500 years that humans moved from matriarchal religions to patriarchal religions. (This theory, while popular among second-wave feminists, has largely been dismissed in the scholarly community.) She argues that text-based religions are characteristically masculine because they rely on left-brain hierarchical thinking.
Her understanding of Christianity is particularly troublesome. First, she suggested that scholars have determined that the original “Trinity” was actual the Holy Father, the Holy Mother, and the Holy Child. Only more recent religious teachings redacted the Creation myth to suggest only masculine identity. Additionally, her historical claims that Constantine’s canonization of the Bible discredited the Gnostic right-brain thinking and led to the left-brain dominance of Christianity is entirely false. First, Constantine did not canonize scripture. Rather it was a much more organic process. Second, canonization had nothing to do with the repudiation of Gnosticism. It was rejected because it was a heresy. Third, Christians had long since based their religious teaching on textual material, whether an informal canon or a reliance on Rabbinic texts. Thus, Christianity must have already been left-brain dominant before the Gnostics even existed. Finally, this entirely ignores the symbolic significance of many of the religious ceremonies in Christianity (i.e. the sacraments). Feminist theorists have targeted biblical scholarship for some time now. However, their arguments have all failed to match the historical and literary robustness of more traditional theories.
Perhaps it is unhelpful to document the scholastic errors here. Unfortunately, the theories of cultural feminism have been pervasive even in the early 1960s with the advent of second-wave feminism. These ideas have gained some popularity among modern feminists. Such thinking is embraced at the Commission on the Status of Women. There is much to be said about engaging the cultural feminist in an academic context. However, it is better to engage them on a deeper, existential level that will speak to their souls. The cultural feminists are not seeking the inner goddess because they have a sound theory to support their search. Instead they are rationalizing their deep spiritual needs by pursuing empty ideology that cannot withstand scrutiny.
Joshua Schow is currently a student at Patrick Henry College studying Government. His research interests include international relations, social politics, and sociology.