“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee. For whither thou goest I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest will I die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if ought but death part me and thee.”
Ruth the perfect daughter-in-law, so the Old Testament has it. There’s a whole book of the Bible dedicated to her story. Paintings of ‘Ruth Gleaning’ were ubiquitous it seemed everywhere. Poetry didn’t let the story alone either,
“ The woman God has given to man, the everlasting Ruth” we were made to chant out loud in Infant School.
Who was this paragon of virtue shoved down our throats, so to speak, waiting to escape each time the’ doors of breath’ opened. And why was this so? Was it a coincidence that this was just after WW2 when women were not prepared to return to being ‘mere housewives’?
I have known her story since infancy. Ruth the woman of Moab, the foreign daughter-in-law in a Jewish family: a mother, Naomi, her husband and two sons. The family settles in Moab when there is a famine in Judah. The sons marry women from Moab. The father and sons die and Naomi suggests that since her sons had no issue and she intends to return to Judah, the daughters-in-law should leave her and marry again. It is at this very moment that Ruth makes her pronouncement (see above).
The rest of the story is quite heartening, or so the writer must have thought. It begins with Naomi and Ruth coming to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Naomi is greeted with ‘ Is this not Naomi returned to us,’ to which Naomi replies “ Call me not Naomi, but call me Mara, for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me.”
The two women are destitute and Ruth goes to glean from the barley fields of a rich farmer, Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband Elimelech. Boaz asks who she is and is given the full yarn, so to speak, and tells his workers to drop a little extra barley for her when she comes to glean. Ruth tells Naomi about his kindness. Naomi realises then that Boaz as a close relative may well be a suitable husband for her daughter-in-law who has cared for her ‘more than seven sons’; and she advises Ruth to uncover his feet after he has lain down on the threshing floor to sleep after work the following night,
“And he will tell you what to do.”
What is described after this is the custom of levirate marriage in which the closest kinsman has a prior right to marry a widow. And so it ends satisfactorily. Ruth has a son and Boaz and Ruth’s descendants become kings of Israel.
Well it really impressed our very young minds. Only later in studying comparative religious philosophy did I realise that the dutiful daughter-in-law occurred time and again through a plethora of scriptures and diverse religious texts. Generation after generation it was imprinted on women that they were to leave the dominance of their father who, in any number of ancient societies, could have them killed or ‘put away’ for disobedience,’ for the dominance of a husband.
After this came the 60s, women’s liberation, bra burning, Equal Rights’ Amendment: we knew of course which of our great grandmothers had been suffragettes and chained themselves to railings in public places to demand the vote.
“It’ll take a bomb to make them give us the vote,” declared Christabel, and a bomb it was that beat the predominant British Liberal Party into submission. Is it always going to take a bomb? Is violence the only language men understand? Sometimes I really did wonder.
Being of an inquisitive nature, I embarked upon doctoral studies on the status of women, comparing different religious traditions. The awful sameness when it came down to it was shocking.
In the traditions of the peoples of the book, the 3 Middle Eastern faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it may well be stemming from the misconception that Adam ( adamo or clay) asked for a companion in Eden and that God formed a woman from his rib! It is this woman that disobeys the Creator and eats the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.
So there we have it, the reason why women are inferior to men. She disobeyed the Creator. But one has to wonder how smart this myth is!
Written centuries after the rest of Genesis, the book of the beginning of things, it has loopholes in its narrative. For one thing I ask how intelligent is anyone who is told by a Supreme Being, ‘Don’t eat this fruit (and it wasn’t an apple by the way) because then you’ll know as much as I do”
Well, if you didn’t pluck the fruit after that, you must be a real half-wit! What was revealed of course was that Adam and Eve had been running around Eden in their altogethers and Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent And so it’s gone on ad nauseam - the blame game. Anyone who has worked with women who have been subject to male violence will be familiar with the, ‘she made me do it stories.’ They range from not having his clean shirts ready on time, to scolding him for being drunk OR--------- For just being there, for being a woman, for being pregnant and dependant, for imagined insults to his family, his friends and so forth.
I am told that women also abuse men, and I believe it. They could be the women who are impeccably dressed because they make life hell if they don’t get everything they want! But this time it’s Violence against Women) VAW month so we can talk about the horrid women later in the year after we’ve talked about the horrid men.
Misogynism reigns and the American Elections proved it to a point. Now the gloves are off and political correctness is a thing of the past!