Eve's Legacy: Burden of Blame


This article originally appeared in Issue# 49

Media's females too often perpetuate ancient myths

The issues for women in a media world have a long history.

Long before there was advertising to objectify women's bodies to sell liquor; long before there were sitcoms to trivialize women's lives; long before there were movies to stereotype women as lusty, jealous bimbos who suspect other women of capital offenses; long before there were magazine covers, soft and hard porn and comic books to make little girls grow up thinking that being curvacious, slender and blonde will make them happy, there was Eve.

If Eve had not appeared in the Bible, patriarchal society would have created her. She could have been called Penelope. The point is that some one had to take the blame for society's lesser side. And in a male-dominated world, guess who?

The image of Eve is still a powerful reminder of innocent times when women and men roamed a mythic garden in search of knowledge. But society's all time scapegoat has become the model, and excuse, for woman-as-temptress, seductress or marriage-breaker.

In western Christian thought, Eve was summarily replaced by Mary, the virgin most pure, who would not have eaten the apple if she had been starving to death. Over the centuries, she came to stand for willful Eve's "other" side: woman as obedient, docile, submissive, modest, quiet.

The problem with Eve, Mary and the rest of the idealized, and often vilified, women of myth and history is that they live on in the fertile imaginations of script writers, photographers and advertising creators, both women and men. What to do?

One is to recognize dualistic images of women for what they are: simplistic cliches. We must all become familiar with media programs and advertising messages and in classes and counseling, in preaching and teaching, name how pop-culture images are inadequate and insufficient for expressing the potential of women's full humanity.

Secondly, we can work to expand opportunities for women in every sphere of the real world so that cliches and stereotypes no longer hold any power. Whether that's insisting on the inclusion of 50 percent women on all Boards of Directors or providing scholarships for older women to finish college, we must use whatever positions of influence we have in today's world to exonerate Eve -- and all of her sisters down through the centuries.

Author Bio: 

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. www.hers.com/water. A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes in theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.