Friday, February 09, 2007

Undermining Patriarchy

I have recently read some interesting material about the biblical figure of Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus. The writers take pains to point out the ways in which Joseph's behavior challenges our standard notions of masculinity, and as such, these behaviors undermine patriarchy as a whole.

The male desire to preserve his DNA by controlling the sexuality of his female partner is legendary. Patriarchial customs are examples of how men flex their (social and physical) muscles in order to avoid having to support children that are not their own. Yet Joseph is a man who, even previous to angelic instruction, was determined to not utilize his power and have his betrothed (and her bastard fetus) stoned to death. As such, a man who was willing to give up his masculine perogative prevented (at least temporarily) the death of God incarnate.

In my struggle with the texts of terror, it is the Biblical narratives such as this one that remind me that patriarchy is not optimal. That self-control is a virtue and that a reliance on patriarchial power, even if seemingly codified into law, is not the way of the kingdom.