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May 30, 2008


It's my turn now!

You've already learned about Lilith... now check out the fourth installment of Chiquita's guest bloggy goodness: Jezebel.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the evilest woman of all? Try Jezebel. History can’t produce a bad girl with a reputation more persistent and, well, bad than Jezebel. You pretty much have to look to made-up women to find a more hated and reviled woman (like Lilith).

Bad Girls in Art is about exactly that: bad girls in art. But not too many artists have tried their hand with Jezebel throughout history, so today I’m talking about a bad girl who should have been immortally represented in art, and incidentally, also paying homage to my co-host who’s been awesome about letting me tell you all about art and bad girls.

These images are not actually Jezebel, but just examples of how she might have appeared:

What do we know about Jezebel? Without pulling out your Bible or Wiki-ing the topic, most people understand that she was responsible for killing prophets and wearing makeup. When you think about other women in the Bible who’ve committed crimes (Judith, for one; she murdered a man—oh, wait, he was the general in charge of the battle against her own country? That makes everything okay), it seems somewhat unusual that she has become the most hated woman in history.

Her name has become an insult, synonymous with 'hussy' or a shameless woman — for example, Jim Carrey called Swoosie Kurtz “Jezebel” in Liar Liar; the 1939 film Jezebel starred Bette Davis as a headstrong, spoiled woman whose actions cost her the man she loves; many movies have featured evil characters named Jezebel. (She has also been the subject of countless songs). [Jezebel (Wikipedia)]

Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, the guy the prophet Elijah kept going back to over and over with prophecies about the fall of Israel if they didn’t stop committing this sin or that sin. Ahab was capable of some pretty cruel things, but according to 1 Kings:

But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. [1 Kings 21:25-26]

The Biblical story was written from the view point of several prophets—Jezebel was used as an example of how idol-worshiping led to very nasty ends. In the Hebrew religion, only one god was tolerated, and that god was Yahweh; Yahweh was so intolerant of other gods that even a pagan queen who grew up with different gods was supposed to give them up or be eaten by dogs.

The worshippers of Yahweh were the ones who wrote the story and of course they tell the story to emphasize the power of their own god Yahweh. [Women in the Bible]

One of the main purposes of the entire Deuteronomistic History, which includes the seven books from Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, is to explain Israel's fate in terms of its apostasy. As the Israelites settle into the Promised Land, establish a monarchy and separate into a northern and a southern kingdom after the reign of Solomon, God's chosen people continually go astray. They sin against Yahweh in many ways, the worst of which is by worshiping alien deities. The first commandments from Sinai demand monotheism, but the people are attracted to foreign gods and goddesses. When Jezebel enters the scene in the ninth century B.C., she provides a perfect opportunity for the Bible writer to teach a moral lesson about the evil outcomes of idolatry, for she is a foreign idol worshiper who seems to be the power behind her husband. From the Deuteronomist's viewpoint, Jezebel embodies everything that must be eliminated from Israel so that the purity of the cult of Yahweh will not be further contaminated. [Jezebel, Phoenician Queen of Israel]

So, maybe the story of Jezebel might have been used as propaganda for a religious cause?

Jezebel was the daughter of a Phoenician king; what’s not covered in the Bible is the fact that in the Phoenician kingdom, the monarch has absolute authority. In the Israelite kingdom, however, the king’s authority only went so far. King Ahab made some feeble attempts at reconciling the main religion of his land and his wife’s religion, since she wasn’t going to give up her beliefs for what she probably thought of as a god with a stick up his ass.

Jezebel’s parents were high priests in the worship of Baal, in Sidon. Jezebel herself was probably a priestess of Baal. She was trained to lead and to command. Brought up as a Phoenician, she saw it as her duty to guard the worship of Baal and Asherah. She believed these gods regulated the fertility of the country she now lived in and ruled. [Women in the Bible]

Jezebel does not accept Ahab's God, Yahweh. Rather, she leads Ahab to tolerate Baal. This is why she is vilified by the Deuteronomist, whose goal is to stamp out polytheism. She represents a view of womanhood that is the opposite of the one extolled in characters such as Ruth the Moabite, who is also a foreigner. Ruth surrenders her identity and submerges herself in Israelite ways; she adopts the religious and social norms of the Israelites and is universally praised for her conversion to God. Jezebel steadfastly remains true to her own beliefs. [Jezebel, Phoenician Queen of Israel]

When Ahab started to worship Baal (her god), he also set up a temple, effectively pissing off his countrymen. Understandably, conflict arose. Especially since she went a little too far in assimilating her own gods and beliefs into her new country; if she was hoping to teach tolerance to the xenophobic, ethnocentric Hebrew people, she miserably failed.

According to the Deuteronomist, however, Jezebel's desire is not merely confined to achieving ethnic or religious parity. She also seems driven to eliminate Israel's faithful servants of God. Evidence of Jezebel's cruel desire to wipe out Yahweh worship in Israel is reported in 1 Kings 18:4, at the Bible's second mention of her name: 'Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord.' [Jezebel, Phoenician Queen of Israel]

So that’s two strikes against Jezebel so far: she worshiped foreign gods and she killed prophets of the Lord.

Here’s how the prophets were killed: Elijah decided to teach Jezebel a lesson about whose god is greater; he challenged her to a contest in which a sacrificial bull was placed on an altar and whoever’s god lit the bull first was the true god. She summoned 850 of her priests (400 for Asherah and 450 for Baal), and when two bulls were placed on separate altars waiting for fire, her priests began calling on the names of their gods to set their bull on fire. Nothing happened.

“Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. [1 Kings 17:11 NKJ]

This kind of makes what happened next a little more understandable.

Jezebel sends Elijah a menacing message, threatening to slaughter him just as he has slaughtered her prophets: 'Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them' (1 Kings 19:2). [Jezebel, Phoenician Queen of Israel]

Is it possible Elijah overstepped his boundaries?

The two strikes now explained, let’s look at the third: Naboth’s vineyard. According to the tale, a man named Naboth owned a lovely vineyard next to the palace, and Ahab wanted it for a vegetable garden. However, neither money nor a better vineyard elsewhere was acceptable to Naboth, who’d inherited it from his father and father’s father and so on (you know how those Biblical dudes wax poetic about all those begats!). Ahab fell into a manly funk, “lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food” [1 Kings 21:4], and proceeded to irritate Jezebel, so she told him she would take care of the problem. Using his seal, she wrote letters to the elders and nobles living in Naboth’s city ordering them to hold a council and have two people lie about him blaspheming God and the king. They did, and Naboth was stoned. So Ahab got his vineyard.

Recently, a seal that was discovered in 1964 was confirmed to be Jezebel’s. It was thought that it belonged to someone of royalty, maybe even her, but the name inscribed on it was a misspelling of her name until archaeologists realized a piece of the seal was broken off, probably the piece with the rest of her name. With a royal seal of her own, Jezebel didn’t need Ahab’s—she could exert her own influence in her own name. Of course, the writers of 1 Kings Chapter 21 weren’t concerned with that; here, they’re showing her being sneaky, duplicitous, wicked and cowardly. And, of course, not acknowledging that she was a powerful woman, because powerful women in Israel weren’t a good thing.

I’m not the only one who scoffs at this tale:

The Bible maintains that 'the elders and nobles who lived in [Naboth's] town ... did as Jezebel had instructed them' (1 Kings 21:11). If the trickster queen is able to enlist the support of so many people, none of whom betrays her, to kill a man whom they have probably known all their lives and whom they realize is innocent, then she has astonishing power.

The fantastical tale of Naboth's death -- in which something could go wrong at any moment but somehow does not -- stretches the reader's credulity. If Jezebel were as hateful as the Deuteronomist claims, surely at least one nobleman in Jezreel would have refused to assist in the nefarious scheme. Surely one individual would have had the courage to expose the detestable deed and become the Deuteronomist's hero by spoiling the plan.

Perhaps the biblical compiler is using Jezebel as a scapegoat for his outrage at her influence over the king, meaning that she herself is being framed in the tale. Traditionally thought to be a narrative about how innocent Naboth is falsely accused, the story could instead be an exaggeration of fact, fabricated to demonstrate the Deuteronomist's continued wrath against Jezebel. [Jezebel, Phoenician Queen of Israel]

So far, three strikes; do you still think she’s the wickedest, nastiest bitch to have ever walked the Earth?

Now we get to the good part: her death. Everybody knows this part, even if you aren’t familiar with the rest of the story. After Naboth’s death, Elijah found his way back to Ahab’s door, God having told him to tell Ahab how he’s going to die. Curiously, when he showed up, Elijah told Ahab how Jezebel’s going to die, instead.

“And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’” [1 Kings 21:23]

Ahab tore his clothes apart, weeping and repenting, but there’s no report of Jezebel’s saying anything. Why should she repent? She may not have even done everything she’s alleged to have done. Ahab’s show impressed Elijah, and God told him to tell Ahab that because he was convincing enough, He’d wait until his son got to the throne to turn his kingdom topsy-turvy.

Sure enough, Ahab died in battle with his kingdom intact and his son Joram became king (after his older brother also dies).

In a weird twist of the story, Elisha (notice that? Elijah went to heaven and his chief pupil, Elisha, took over) did something strange: even though there was a ruling king, he appointed a different guy to rule. The way they did this in Biblical times if God didn’t like who was ruling was for a prophet to go to whomever God wanted and he’d pour oil over his head. I’m still not sure how it passed for an official ceremony with the people of Israel, but in this case, the new guy was Jehu, Joram’s military commander. For Jehu’s new career to be legit, he had to get rid of the ruling family—every single member. After killing Joram, he turned his sights on Jezebel. She knew he was coming so she prepared to meet him by putting on all of her finery and regalia. Over the centuries, a lot of fuss has been made about her putting on makeup, but once again, a simple glance back at life in the day and remembering who she was can shed some light on why she did this. Jehu was a usurper, and had murdered the anointed king of the land. She was a rightful queen, even if she did commit some of the above misdeeds, and she wanted him to know who he was dealing with. Whatever indignities awaited her after her death, she was going to save up every last shred of dignity left to her. She could have fled, but she chose to remain and face her death.

When Jehu showed up, she said:

“Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?” [2 Kings 9:31]

He looked up and after asking who was on his side, had two or three eunuchs throw her down. (Interestingly, every account of this story isn’t more exact as to the number of eunuchs present—it’s always “two or three.”)

The Death of Jezebel by Gustave Doré

Jezebel Killed by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Jehu went inside to eat and drink, and after a while ordered his men to go outside to bury her, since she was the daughter of a king, but by that point, all that was left of her after the dogs were done was her skull, feet and the palms of her hands.

Jehu's Companions Finding the Remains of Jezebel by Gustave Doré

History has maligned this woman, and unfortunately we can never be sure how much of the Biblical accounts against her were truth or fiction; however, it helps to have an open mind.

Throughout the centuries, Jezebel has been attacked as a whore, and her name has been used to describe a woman of promiscuous behavior. But there is nothing in Jezebel’s story to suggest that she was ever unfaithful to Ahab. In fact, she seems to have been fiercely loyal to him and her sons, even in adversity.

Jezebel was powerful, a woman and a foreigner. These qualities made her a target for the prophets of Yahweh. In the long run, she backed the wrong gods. She ruled with arbitrary power, which went against the Israelite ideal of kingship. But she was a woman of tremendous ability and intelligence, strong-willed, courageous and loyal. [Women in the Bible]

For even more information on Jezebel:

Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen

Related Posts:

May 29, 2008

New York is (Almost) Totally Gay

Apparently New York didn't want the west coast to have all of the gay fun this month.

The office of New York governor David Paterson has issued an order stating that gay marriages must be recognized by state agencies. Gay marriage is not legal (yet) in New York State. However, this order, which is in line with a recent state appellate court ruling, means that New York will recognize marriages performed in places where gay marriage is legal.

State agencies, including those governing insurance and health care, must immediately change policies and regulations to make sure "spouse," "husband" and "wife" are clearly understood to include gay couples, according to a memo sent earlier this month from the governor's counsel.

Gay marriage is not legal in New York, and the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, has said it can only be legalized by the Legislature. But the memo, based on a Feb. 1 New York Appellate Division court ruling, would recognize the marriages of New Yorkers who are legally wed elsewhere.

The appellate judges determined that there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage. The state Legislature "may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad," the ruling said. "Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York."

Some places where gay marriage is currently legal, like Massachusetts, have residency requirements that would prevent New York couples from getting married there. But this order combined with the recent legalization of gay marriage in California could mean a whole lot of bicoastal wedded bliss in the near future. Canada is an option too, but I really wanted to use the phrase 'bicoastal wedded bliss'.

[This photo from the AP accompanies news of a new poll showing that
more California voters now support gay marriage than oppose it.]

Governor Paterson seems to fully support the legalization of gay marriage in New York, and he says that he considers the fight for gay rights to be an important part of the continuing tradition of civil rights activism in New York State.

In a video shown Saturday at the Empire State Pride Agenda's spring dinner, the governor said he directed the move as "a strong step toward marriage equality right here in our state."

"We're aware that our advocacy is incomplete and we will keep trying until people who love each other and want to get married, regardless of who they are, have that opportunity," Paterson said in the video, which was posted on the gay rights organization's Web site.

The state Assembly approved a bill last June that would have legalized gay marriage. So with the Assembly's approval and the governor's strong support and willingness to sign the bill, what's the holdup? That would be the Republican-led state Senate, which has yet to even bring the bill up for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno opposes gay marriage, and has not yet announced whether he will challenge the governor's directive.
A vote in the Senate is considered even less likely this year, a legislative election year in which the Republicans are hoping to cling to its majority by appealing in part to its more conservative base.
So we could encourage the New Yorkers in the crowd to contact Bruno and the other Republican State Senators and ask them to change their minds, but it doesn't seem like that would do too much good at this point. (Although of course it doesn't hurt to keep speaking out about this issue.) Instead, we like the strategy put forth by the Empire State Pride Agenda. Since the Republicans are only "clinging" to their majority in the Senate, let's get out and vote and try to take enough seats to shift the balance of power and bring in some new leaders who are willing to give marriage equality a vote.

One of the nice things about this strategy is that it counteracts the popular (in some circles) argument that decisions like the one made in California are simply the result of a small group of "activist judges" subverting the will of the people. (We say that, "will of the people" or not, and that's debatable anyway, if gay marriage bans are unconstitutional then the courts are doing exactly what they're supposed to in striking them down, and it's up to the various state legislatures to take it from there. But that's just us.) In New York we seem to have it even worse - a conspiracy between the activist judges and an activist governor. Horrors! But it's pretty hard to make the "against the will of the people" argument fly when the people use their votes to hand power over to new leaders who are willing to make changes.

If you'd like to call, email, or write to Governor Paterson to tell him that you support his position on marriage equality, all of the contact info is on the state's website. Also, Empire State Pride Agenda has a legislative info center on their website, where you can look at key bills that affect the LGBT community, view legislators' voting records, and get contact info.

Marriage equality is definitely within reach in New York State, and we all need to do our part to make it happen. Because really, who wants to fly all the way across the country to attend a fabulous gay wedding? Get to work, people!

May 26, 2008

To Choice: Good News/Bad News

Being the super dedicated bloggers that we are means that we're constantly doing research and reading about a whole mess of different issues. Since we've been working on a series about abortion myths, we've been reading even more about choice issues, and we've actually been pleasantly surprised by a lot of positive news in the last couple of weeks. Of course, in our society today the bad news is never too far off, so unfortunately we felt like we had to include some of that in our update as a reminder not to celebrate too much.

Good News:

~An abortion ultrasound bill failed to pass in the Florida Senate. The bill would have required women to have an ultrasound before they could terminate a pregnancy.

~Republicans in the Kansas Senate tried and failed to override Governor Kathleen Sebelius's veto of an anti-abortion bill. The bill would have "imposed more restrictions on abortion providers, and would have allowed family members of patients to sue if they think a doctor had performed or was about to perform an illegal late-term abortion. The bill would have also endangered patient privacy, allowing prosecutors to access medical records in order to investigate reports of alleged violations of abortion law." The Senate actually voted in favor of overriding the veto, but they could not come up with the necessary two-thirds majority of votes.

~A federal appeals court overturned Virginia's late-term abortion ban, declaring it unconstitutional and more restrictive than the federal version of the ban. This is the second time the Virginia law has been struck down by the court.

Bad News:

It looks like several states will have anti-abortion measures on their ballots in November.

~In Colorado, anti-abortion groups have gathered enough signatures to place a "personhood initiative" on the ballot. "This "personhood initiative" declares that a fertilized egg is a "person" who enjoys "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law." The measure would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research." Petition drives for similar initiatives are still going on in Montana and Mississippi.

~Anti-choice groups are back at it in South Dakota. They've gathered enough signatures to place an abortion ban ballot initiative on the ballot. This ban is only slightly less restrictive than the one that was defeated in the state in 2006, and would make it practically impossible to get an abortion.

Good News:

~In the UK, MPs have rejected an attempt to cut the upper limit on abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. Earlier attempts to cut the ban down to 16 or 12 weeks were also voted down. "Pro-choice campaigners said there was no scientific evidence to justify a cut in the limit."

~Emergency Contraception has been approved for over the counter sale in Canada. The Plan B pill previously had behind-the-counter status, and was available from pharmacies upon request and without a prescription, reports Reuters. (And thinking about how important the distinction between over-the-counter and behind-the-counter can be, especially for young women, just reminded me of the time that I called Lilith from CVS to chat about nothing and distract from the fact that I was buying a pregnancy test. Ah, memories.)

Bad News:

~The American Life League has launched a new anti-birth control campaign called The Pill Kills. We can learn quite a lot from this campaign - birth control causes abortions, sex outside of marriage is "seriously wrong", it is a "proven fact" that life begins with a fertilized egg, abstinence is "always" the "best choice" for single people, and Planned Parenthood "brainwashes" and lies to women because they are just in it for the "big money" that they make. Apparently they are organizing 'Protest the Pill Day' for June 7th. Can't wait for that.

Mixed News:

~Bush appointee Susan Orr has resigned from her position as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs. The fact that she has quit is the good part.
Her position oversees the administration of Title X, the only federal funding program providing contraceptive services to low-income women and men, but she had applauded President Bush's proposal to eliminate the requirement that federal employees' health insurance provide coverage for a range of birth control methods, saying, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."
However, the timing of her resignation seems a little sketchy in light of what else is going on right now.
Her resignation shortly followed after the the Family Research Council, the organization she was formerly employed with (along with 80 other conservative groups) called on George Bush to reinstate a "domestic gag rule." Like the Global Gag Rule, this means that eligibility for Title X funds (which covers a huge chunk of our nation's family planning clinics) will require that centers don't refer patients for abortions or share facilities with abortion providers.
Kinda makes you wonder who Susan Orr was really working for while she was employed by the government, and why she chose this particular moment to abruptly quit the job she has held for less than a year. Of course, we'll be watching to see what happens next with this story and all of the others above it, and we'll keep sharing all of the good and the bad with all of you.

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May 23, 2008

The History of Same-Sex Marriage

A Totally-Not-Complete, But Kinda Interesting
Pictorial History of Same-Sex Marriage

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, royal servants of ancient Egypt, are speculated to be the first documented same-sex couple in history (Fifth Dynasty, circa 2400 B.C.)

In Hellenic Greece (323 BC - 146 BC) pederastic relationships between Greek men and male youths were analogous to marriage in several aspects.

The Christian emperors of Rome, Constantius (left) and Constans (right) declared same-sex marriage to be illegal in the year 342.

In parts of pre-modern China, men would marry male youths and remain married for a number of years until the elder partner helped the younger find a wife. In the Guangdong province (mid-1800s) of China, the Golden Orchid Sisterhoods held "marriage" ceremonies between two women who were then able to adopt female children.

In Japan, the tradition of
Shudo (age-structured homosexuality) was prevalent in samurai society (medieval period until end of 19th c.)

Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street were allegedly the first 'domestic partnership' on TV. We said, allegedly!

Denmark was the first country to legalize same sex 'partnerships'. Axel and Eigil Axgil were the first legal same-sex union in the world (October 1989)

The first same-sex wedding ceremony in a TV drama was on Northern Exposure in 1994. (Played by Doug Ballard and Don McManus).

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed. It declared that no state needed
treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage (even if the relationship was considered a marriage in another state) and that the U.S. government didn't have to federally recognize or legalize same sex marriages.

Vermont was the first U.S. state to legalize civil unions between same sex couples. Carolyn Conrad and Kathleen Peterson the first couple to enter a legal civil union in the U.S. (July 2000).

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Gert Kasteel and Dolf Pasker one of the first four couples married (April 2001).

In June 2003, a court challenge upheld the legality of two same-sex marriages performed in Ontario in January 2001 (registration of the unions were originally denied) . This retroactively made Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Anne and Elaine Vautour the actual first legal same-sex marriages in the world.

In Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry. Julie and Hillary Goodridge (left) were the main plaintiffs (November 2003). Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey (right) were the U.S.'s first legal same sex married couple. (Massachusetts, May 2004)

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickels became the United Kingdom's first gay couple to win legal recognition under a new British civil partnership law. (Belfast, Northern Ireland, December 2005).

South Africa authorized gay marriages
in December 2006, making it the first country in the African continent to pass such a ruling. Game rangers Tony Halls and Vernon Gibbs were the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Africa.

Kevin James and
Adam Sandler made a mockery of same-sex marriage in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007). It might have been funny if... it hadn't been so unfunny.

A New York appellate court ruled on Martinez v County of Monroe in February 2008 that same-sex marriages performed outside the state must be recognized as valid within the state. (New York State residents Lisa Golden and Patricia Martinez were legally married in Ontario in 2004).

The first same-sex marriage between series regulars on American network TV aired on ABC on May 11, 2008 on Brothers and Sisters. (Played by Luke Mafarlane and Matthew Rhys).

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional. The next day Ellen DeGeneres (right) announced her intent to marry partner Portia de Rossi (left) on her daily talk show.

The End
(for now)

Related Posts:

May 21, 2008


Another awesome installment the evil slut art series from our awesomely sexy guest blogger, Chiquita. (This one is my personal favorite because... it's about me! I'm such an egomaniac). Well, okay it's not the real actual present evil slut Lilith - it's the original evil slut Lilith. She was even more evil and slutty than ours is!

If you’re at all familiar with Biblical lore, you probably already know a little bit about Lilith. But for those of us [heathens] who don’t know much about her background and wonder why doing a search for “Lilith” yields a great deal of images of various works of art, let’s take a look at this particular bad girl. (After all, it’s only right to pay homage to the lady of the night when she’s playing co-host to my guest articles, right?

Lilith, by John Collier

Lilith is the penultimate bad girl. According to Talmudic lore, she was created from dust just like Adam and was actually Adam’s wife before Eve. In the Bible, God makes male and female at the same time, on the sixth day:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:26-27 NIV]

Eve didn’t come until later; in the Bible, she didn’t arrive until after Adam had been given dominion over all life on Earth and God had rested on the seventh day.

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” [Genesis 2:18 NKJ]
…but for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam [Hey! Like Rip van Winkle!], and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. [Genesis 2:21-25 NKJ]

What about that first woman conveniently left out of the Bible? The Talmud calls her Lilith, Adam’s first wife and equal. She wasn’t “comparable” to Adam, or a decent helper, because she didn’t want to help him; she wanted to be his equal in everything. She refused the missionary position and refused to submit to Adam.

“Why should I lie beneath you,” she demanded, “when I am your equal since both of us were created from dust?” [Seductress]

She left Eden, and left Adam. God noticed Adam didn’t have a wife, so he supplied the more submissive Eve, using Adam’s rib so she couldn’t use the excuse of equality. The Alphabet of Ben Sira expounds more:

After God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' He then created a woman for Adam, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.' At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to bring her back. Said the Holy One to Adam, 'If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.' The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God's word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, 'We shall drown you in the sea.’ 'Leave me!' she said. 'I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’ When the angels heard Lilith's words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: 'Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels' names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers. [Lilith (Wikipedia)]

Lilith didn’t just disappear, though. She shows up in several legends. According to one, she went to the Dead Sea and started a huge orgy with lots of male demons until God sent a few angels to put a stop to it. She didn’t see why she should have to, so she bargained her way out; she’d stop having lots of sex and procreating more demons if she was allowed to plague Adam and his descendents. Somehow that was allowed, so she throttled children in their sleep (the first incidents of “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”) and caused men to have wet dreams. She went after Adam himself—when he went to the desert, she made him have wet dreams, too. She cut a pretty powerful figure in mythology: even God was weak enough to succumb to her wiles:
She cast such a potent spell on the almighty that he abandoned his lawful wife, Israel, and set Lilith up in her place, thereby precipitating the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Folk tradition decreed that only the coming of the Messiah would put an end to her depredations. We’re still waiting; Lilith and her train of femmes fatales have struck deep roots in Western culture.

Almost all legends surrounding Lilith have made her a demon. According to Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love, Lilith undid all the positive advances of women in other legends (such as Inanna/Ishtar, Aphrodite, and the prehistoric Venus-type goddesses). She was bisexual, notorious for smooth-talking men into having sex with her and then leaving them impotent or dead (or both), she stole children, and preferred young, sweet [underage] boys. She was portrayed as a screech owl and Lady of the Night; not for nothing is she proclaimed queen of the vampires: she’s been depicted as half woman, half owl, drawing on the legend of the strix.

She is also reputed to have been the snake in the Garden of Eden who gave Eve the apple.

She’s captured the imaginations of men through the ages, from ancient Sumerian reliefs to full sculptures on Notre Dame to paintings by John Collier, Michelangelo and Dante Gabriel Rosetti:

The Burney Relief: Queen of the Night

Adam, Lilith and Eve, Notre Dame

Lilith in The Temptation of Adam and Eve, by Michelangelo

Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

And she’s also been mentioned as the wife of Samael (Satan), and she’s featured in the symbol of the Church of Satan:

Seal of Baphomet

Lilith wasn’t a woman to be crossed. Created by a society that was intolerant of women exerting their equality, her legend became one in which she has been a monster of the night—an old wives’ tale to keep women in line. Her value to us today lies in her question:
“Why should I lie beneath you,” she demanded, “when I am your equal since both of us were created from dust?”

The ultimate seductress, Lilith always had Adam’s heart:
"But though Adam's lips said Eve, his soul always echoed Lilith."

If you enjoyed this, check out the first two installments: Artemisia Gentileschi and Madame X. And stay tuned for Part 4... Jezebel. (Come on, you know she was gonna do both of us! Lilith can't have all the fun!)

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May 18, 2008

Dumb Bitch Parade: Awesome Protests Edition

Last week in 'Dumb Things Guys Say', we covered a very stupid protest against Starbucks. Today it's not the protestors that are dumb, but the person they're protesting.

Washington University in St. Louis decided that one of the recipients of an honorary degree at this year's graduation ceremony would be Phyllis Schlafly. Some of you may remember that during Women's History Month, Schlafly was one of the stars of our Anti-Women Obscurity Wish List. If you're not familiar with her, she's a 'conservative activist' and founder of the Eagle Forum, who has made a career out of arguing that women should stay home and not have careers, or in other words has enjoyed many of the benefits of feminism while claiming that feminism sucks and trying to deny other women the same opportunities. Really, does she need an honorary degree when her Queen of the Hypocrites crown fits so well?

Quick Schlafly review:

~She doesn't believe in the concept of marital rape, because she says that when a woman gets married she is automatically consenting to sex with her husband anytime he wants it, forever.

~She was a leader in the fight against the ERA.

~She opposes gay marriage.

~"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."

~She doesn't think that sexual harassment is a serious issue because "non-criminal sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for the virtuous woman except in the rarest of cases."

~She thinks that feminism 'teaches women to be victims' and is "incompatible with marriage and motherhood". (Keeping in mind that this is a woman who has a law degree and has had a career pretty much the whole time she's been a wife and mother.)

Sounds like a fun lady to have a cocktail with.

Obviously, many members of the Washington University community were opposed to the decision to honor Ms. Schlafly with a degree. They created a Facebook group that now has over 3000 members (I mean, so we've heard, since we know nothing of Facebook), and lots of angry letters and phone calls came the university's way. So they came up with a simple and silent way of getting their message across. When Schlafly was introduced and her degree was presented, they simply stood up and turned their backs on her.

Some applauded while Schlafly was hooded. But about a third of the graduating students draped in the school’s green and black robes turned their backs to her, along with some faculty members sitting on the stage behind her. Many family members in the audience also took part. Three faculty members made the extra point of walking off the stage and then turning their backs from the audience.

One of the protesters was Darla Dale, an assistant dean and a faculty marshal at the ceremony. Dale said she decided to participate after making sure the protest was intended to remain respectful.

Dale said she strongly disagrees with Schlafly’s views on the role of women in society as well as with her work to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. And students encouraged her to join them.

"It felt good," Dale said of turning her back.

There's a local news story with video here, and also a bunch more videos on youtube from people who attended the graduation. Based on the videos and some of the comments made on the feministing piece about this, it seems like the "hundreds" of protesters that the media identified were more like thousands.

Ms. Schlafly took the respectful and silent protest in stride, calling the protesters "a bunch of bitter women" who are "still whining" about the ERA and need to "get a life". Oh, and also "a bunch of losers" who are not "mature enough to graduate". Stay classy, "doctor" Phyllis.

For more information, some of the protesters have started up a great website at noschlaflydegree.com. Or you could just give in and go Gay for Phyllis. You know you want to.

May 17, 2008

International Day Against Homophobia: Totally Gay Link Roundup

The International Day Against Homophobia (also known, in one of the most awesome acronyms ever, as IDAHO) originated several years ago in Canada and has since gone, duh, international. It is held on May 17th because that date is an important one in LGBT history:
May 17th is symbolic due to its significance in the improvement of the status of gays and lesbians. IDAHO proposed this date for annually holding a day set aside to fight homophobia. In removing homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses on a May 17, the World Health Organisation (WHO) put an end to over a century of homophobia in the medical field.

Borne out of the International Conference on LGBT Community Human Rights held in Montréal from July 26 to 29, 2006, prior to the opening of the first World Outgames, the Declaration of Montréal included a recommendation to have an International Day Against Homophobia on May 17 of each year recognised.

In honor of IDAHO, we thought it would be fun to do an Evil Slutopia link roundup: totally gay edition.

First, some of the gayest hits from the ESC archives:

Wish We All Could Be California Gays
And Tango Makes...My Kids Gay?
Island of Lesbians
The Lavender Menace
ENDA Passes in the House
National Coming Out Day
Soy Makes Kids Gay?
I Heard a Crazy Rumor That Elton John is Gay

Some gay rights organizations:

~GLAAD - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
(Check out the GLAAD Media Awards on Bravo on June 27th.)
~PFLAG - Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays
(Check out PFLAG this summer on the True Colors tour with Cyndi Lauper, The B-52s, and other artists and special guests.)
~HRC - The Human Rights Campaign
~GLSEN - The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network
~Marriage Equality USA

Some of our favorite crazy 'gay scares' from the right wing:

~Tinky Winky is gay! Jerry Falwell famously claimed that the BBC TV show Teletubbies was bad for kids because of Tinky Winky's total gayness. He carries a handbag! Won't someone think of the children?

In an article called Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet, he says: "He is purple - the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol."

He said the "subtle depictions" of gay sexuality are intentional and later issued a statement that read: "As a Christian I feel that role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."

~Spongebob is brainwashing kids into accepting the 'gay lifestyle'. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family protested a video for schools put out by a group called the We Are Family Federation. The video is about tolerance and is supposed to promote acceptance and understanding of families that are 'different', but is not specifically about homosexuality.
The eight-page long teacher's guide that accompanies that DVD makes three passing references to same-sex parents. It contains generic advice about what teachers should do if kids ask them about atypical homes— like ones with adoptive parents, step-siblings, or grandparents. Teachers are advised to remind kids that everybody's family is different, but they're all based on love.

Dr. Dobson's press spokesman says he's not sure whether or not Dr. Dobson has seen the SpongeBob video, but he has been briefed on it. And an assistant says the group stands by its claim, and says, "We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It's a classic bait and switch."

As Margaret Cho said, "These Christian groups are always up to some kind of bullshit. They're either trying to sneak Terry Shiavo a Happy Meal, or going off about 'SpongeBob is gay!' Sponge Bob is a sponge. Obviously transsexual."

~And let's not forget the originals, Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street. B & E were outed by Reverend Joseph Chambers on his radio show.

"They’re two grown men sharing a house — and a bedroom!" bellows Chambers, whose radio ministry is broadcast in four Southern states. "They share clothes. They eat and cook together. They vacation together and have effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another, they tend plants together. If this isn’t meant to represent a homosexual union, I can’t imagine what it’s supposed to represent."

We can't imagine what's going on in Reverend Chambers' imagination.

Some news stories that give us hope:

~Maryland Adopts Anti-Bullying Law - "Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday signed a bill that makes Maryland one of the few U.S. states to protect LGBT students from bullying in schools.

Maryland becomes the seventh state to protect students on the basis of gender identity or expression and the 11th state to do so based on sexual orientation, according to a news release from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and Equality Maryland."

~Russia Observes First 'Day of Silence' - "Russian gays and their allies participated Saturday in that country's first observance of a Day of Silence to protest antigay discrimination, harassment, and violence, the website UK Gay News reports."

~Judge: School Must Allow Pro-Gay Shirts - "Heather Gillman can wear her T-shirts. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak decided Tuesday the Holmes County School Board violated Gillman’s right to free speech in November and ordered the board to alert students in writing that they are allowed to express their support for the equal treatment of gays in an appropriate and non-disruptive way.

“I find that the core message here is of tolerance and fairness,” Smoak said...Gillman, 17, a Ponce De Leon High School junior, sued the Holmes County School Board last year because it prohibited her from wearing T-shirts she had made in support of gay rights. Gillman made the shirts after her ninth-grade cousin, who is openly gay, was suspended along with nine other students for disruptions they caused in September."

~Ellen Degeneres gets a standing ovation from her talk show audience when she announces that now that California has overturned the gay marriage ban, she and girlfriend Portia DeRossi are getting married.

And some stories that remind us that there's still much more to do:

~Arizona Gay Marriage Ban Moves to Senate - "Today the Arizona House of Representatives voted 33-25 to put a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage on this year's statewide ballot in November.

The measure now moves on to the state Senate, where legislators will decide whether to hold a vote on the amendment. A similar ban was defeated at the polls in 2006."

~Hagee Reneges On Retraction of His Katrina Comments: 'God Always Punishes Unconfessed Sin' - "Two weeks ago, controversial Pastor John Hagee reiterated his prior belief that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans because it was “planning a sinful” “homosexual rally.” Asked about the comments, McCain — who sought Hagee’s endorsement for more than a year — was forced to distance himself, calling them “nonsense” nine times."

~Gay Panic Defense For Gay Teen's Killer - "The lawyer of Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old boy who killed gay teenager Lawrence King at a high school in Oxnard, CA, in February, claims school officials' gay positive attitude is to blame for King's murder.

Deputy Public Defender William Quest, Brandon McInerney's lawyer, claims in his defense that educators should have moved aggressively against the rising tensions between the two boys, which allegedly started when King openly flirted with McInerney. By allowing King to come to school wearing feminine makeup and accessories, school officials were so intent on nurturing King as he explored his sexuality that they downplayed the turmoil his behavior was causing on campus, Quest said.

Quest claimed McInerney shot King in the back of the head with a handgun as first-period classes were beginning because he was unable to see another way to solve his problem."

May 16, 2008

Wish we all could be California gays...

We're sure you all heard the big news about California... they overturned a ban on same-sex unions. This is being touted as a "huge victory" for the gay rights movement, and yes, it IS a victory... However with International Day Against Homophobia coming up tomorrow, we have to really think about what this means.

Obviously it's good news - and a sign that maybe people aren't as homophobic as they used to be - but at the same time... not so much. They didn't PASS legislation that would make same-sex marriage legal. They overturned legislation that would make same-sex marriage illegal. You're probably thinking - well what's the big difference? While it has ultimately the same legal outcome, there is a difference.

We're super-thrilled that this ban was overturned... but why was there a ban in the works at all? Considering the gay population in San Francisco alone, it's hard to believe it took this long for same-sex couples to get rights beyond 'domestic partnership'. I think the fact that there was ever recent legislation to reinforce a ban on same-sex marriage, is a big problem. Plus Gov. Schwarzenegger have twice vetoed legislation that would've given same-sex couples marriage rights.

The law that was overturned was 'Proposition 22' from 2000 - it stated that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" and passed with 61% of the vote. A trial court judge in San Francisco voided that law in 2005, but a midlevel appeals court overturned his decision in 2006... which brings us to today.

Regardless of how or why we got here, we can't consider this ruling anything less than a victory. It is great news. However, this isn't a total victory yet... Religious and conservative groups are still working on stopping same-sex unions.

First they're likely to ask the court to reconsider this decision. (Hopefully the judges will reject that request). But that's not all - they're currently trying to get something put on the November ballot that would ban gay marriage. If this is passed, it would overturn this recent decision and make same-sex marriage illegal again. We should know by June if the anti-gay groups gathered enough signatures to get their amendment on the ballot. Gov. Schwarzenegger claims that he will respect the court's decision and not support an amendment to the state constitution that would overturn their decision. Let's just hope that McCain doesn't win the presidency (my worst fucking nightmare for a ton of reasons).

The overturn of the ban will become official in about 30 days at which point couples are expected to "flock" to wed. California has no residency requirement to obtain a marriage license, so same-sex couples from other states may very well travel to Cali to get hitched. Unfortunately, most states don't recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere (and obviously the federal government doesn't either).

So yes, this is great news... this is a victory. But can we really see it as a sign that homophobia is getting better? I don't really think so. Four judges decided in favor of gay marriage this week, but 61% of voters were against it in 2000. Those are scary numbers for a state that has such a huge gay population. (California has an estimated 92,000 same-sex couples). So while we should be celebrating, but we should not be satisfied.

Massachusetts is the only other state to legalize same sex marriage (2004). Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont have 'civil unions', while Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia provide some 'marriage-like' rights to same-sex couples. And while New York still has not legalized same sex marriage, in February they did rule that they would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

Meanwhile 26 states have approved constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage. In addition to California's potential amendment, Florida has already gotten their proposed 'gay marriage ban' amendment on their ballot and Arizona is considering a similar one.

So by all means - celebrate, propose to your loved ones, plan your trip to Cali... but remember that we're far from done.

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