The Church Fathers’ Misogyny: Hate or Fear?

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Misogyny, the hatred of women, began in Christianity with the story of Adam and Eve in which she is presented as the cause of all mankind’s problems. Due to Eve’s act of disobedience, all women are regarded as being morally and intellectually inferior; and, because Eve tempted Adam, all women are seen as evil temptresses whose main aim is to lure men away from God. Karen Armstrong says that this is not a “spiritually wholesome” idea because its “pernicious chauvinism” feeds on “hatred, exclusion and disdain” (22) of women, which is unacceptable in today’s world. The solution to the problem may lie in the fact that the Church fathers’ hatred is more like ambivalence. Even that arch-misogynist, St. Augustine, is best known for his one-line prayer: "Oh, Master, make me chaste and celibate - but not yet!" indicating that he enjoyed the company of women. Most of the early Church fathers were far more attracted to women than was acceptable; causing them to fear that these descendants of Eve would tempt them to commit a venal sin. Therefore I will argue that these men did not hate women, even though they often said hateful things about women, but that their misogyny was rooted in fear. One reason to believe that the early Church fathers did hate women is the story of Adam and Eve as it is presented in the Bible. Although the same story is told in the Torah and the Koran, in neither of those holy books is Eve shown as a temptress. Eve and Adam are blamed equally and after expelling them from Paradise, God forgives them. In the Bible, however, God punished Eve by increasing pain in childbearing, and making her husband rule over her. The early Church fathers demonized Eve until she was held solely to blame for bringing sin into world. One of early Churchmen, Tertullian, summed up the Church’s misogynistic position perfectly when he said: “Do you not realize that Eve is you?

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