I Am Woman - Ezer Kenegdo

the woman who willingly demeans the nurturing instinct and tries instead to deny, or to cancel, or to destroy her own unique biological capability, creates a new model, a female being, one who hasn't changed into a man, somehow never quite grows into a woman and becomes, in a metaphysical sense, a little less than human - Dr. Mildred Jefferson

Originally, I had considered writing a totally different piece than this one. This brouhaha over the Hobby Lobby decision with its subsequent talk of a "war on women" had me all stirred up. I was going to write something smart, witty and satirical using the very anthem of the feminist movement "I Am Woman", as sung by Helen Reddy, to show women the we, ourselves, have been the perpetrators of our own war on women. I would have made comparisons between the stereotypical 50's housewife and our current pearl clutching fear. I would have done a clever play on the word ewe to demonstrate how mindlessly we have followed certain rhetoric like lambs to the slaughter. It probably would have been a masterpiece of snarky cynicism, if I do say so myself, which seems to be the popular writing style these days when trying to get our point across. A style that I have not been afraid to use myself in the past.

Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre." - Jeff Klein
I changed my mind not because of that quote but because of something I had publically spoken recently. A week ago I did a guest segment on Vericast. In it I talked about how it is time to turn the rhetorical beat around, to turn it upside down. We have to know our value...and women have to go out and say this why you are valuable. This is what we should be teaching our daughters - here is why you are valuable, and this is where your dignity comes from. It probably would be a good idea for me to walk my own talk. I could very well go on a rant about how women have scuttled their value and dignity. How we are not going to be recognized for that value and dignity by running around half naked and forcing the world to give us free birth control and unrestricted abortion. I think, instead, I will turn that beat upside down, by showing women that we have a value and dignity that is independent of how others treat us. We were created with it. We are born with it. We need to realize what it really is, where it comes from and live fully in it. Nobody can take it away from us.
As a Christian I will, of course, look to the Book of Genesis for the picture of how we should view ourselves as created beings. Ninety percent of Americans believe in a God who created us. Eighty percent of us identify as Christian. I figure that gives me a pretty decent audience. Those who don't believe in God need not read this piece. You are free to talk among yourselves. I will be talking to those who already believe that we were created by intelligence with purpose. At least that is what they have said they believe. Whether or not they are willing to walk their own talk, well, that I cannot say.
Some feminist may not be comfortable with the Genesis story as it has often been interpreted as giving the male the large and in charge role, with women subservient to men. A closer reading, however, depicts something deeper and of great value in the creation of women as a counterpart that corresponds to and balances with man. We were never meant to be less than. In order for something to counter or balance another it must be equal to it in weight-capacity-value. A counter balance will not balance if it is less than. The minute that we remove, devalue, deny or incapacitate something about women, we become less than. We become less than we were meant to be, less than what we were meant to balance, making balance impossible.
I have read that ezer kenegdo are the Hebrew words from the Book of Genesis that we generally translate as suitable helper or suitable partner. Understanding what these two words mean gives us a better understanding of why women were created and what women were created to be. I am not an expert in the ancient Hebrew language nor am I a biblical scholar. For the purposes of this blog, however, I think that my research will suffice. There are several words in the bible that can be translated as a type of help. Most of them do indicate a helper of a lower stature. Azar would be assistance or aid. Ebed would be subservient help. Sharath would be a high level of service under someone greater than itself or a second in command. The word ezer is used, however, and it is usually most properly translated as strong, powerful help from God. The ancient picture letters used for ezer were an eye, a man and a weapon which would indicate an aspect of watchfulness and defense. In other words, strong, powerful help from God reveals an enemy, or what is harmful, and defends man from it.  It is possible as well, with the word kenegdo, to find a meaning that may be more precise than a translation of suitable. The root word neged literally means opposite, in the presence of, over against, in front of corresponding to or aside. Literally, kenegdo means opposite as to him or corresponding as to him. In the creation story there was one thing that God pronounced as being not good...for man to be alone. When God created woman he made strong and powerful help from God that is like unto man in value but opposite, corresponding, complementary - a counterpart to balance and challenge, to help reveal what is harmful and to help defend from it. This is not only in our relationship to the male person but in our relationship to mankind or humanity as a whole. In the divine order of creation this was woman.
The Book of Genesis continues in its exquisite depiction of the value of women as it describes how woman was built from the rib of man. Think about a rib cage for a minute and you can begin to see what I mean. Remove the rib cage and the upper body would collapse in on itself. The rib cage helps support the core of our body. Think, as well, of how exposed and vulnerable the heart and lungs would become. Women were created to support, sustain, surround and protect the very vitality and life of humanity. This is biologically illustrated in our unique ability to bear life and not just create it. We are life-bearers. We support, sustain and literally surround life at its beginning and most vulnerable. Even if we never actually have a child, we still support, sustain, surround and protect what is vital to the life of humanity, the heart and breath. We carry humanity within ourselves. Evidence of the aspects of womanhood as described in the Genesis story is born out in our biology, physiology and psychology. 
I am woman watch me grow/ See me standing toe to toe/ as I spread my lovin' arms across the land 
In the order of creation we were made to stand toe to toe and to encircle humanity, supporting and sustaining what is most vital to it. Sin brought disorder to the created order. The balance of unity through the complimentary creation of man and woman became disordered as well. Women have struggled with our desire to be equally valued throughout history. In the past 50 years women have fought for particular equality with men sexually, legally, financially and socially. In doing so, however, we have had to act as if a part of ourselves was not relevant, in fact seen as a liability. We have made the function of our own bodies an enemy to be suppressed for the sake of freedom and equality. Is it really freedom when we have to devalue what is unique to women? Is it equality to have to limit who we are in order to present ourselves as what may be more aptly termed as more of a pseudo-man? The song "I Am Woman" was the anthem for feminism. Feminism was the ideal that women were equal in dignity and value to men. As I pointed out earlier, the minute that we remove, devalue, deny or incapacitate something about women - anything about women - we become less than. We also become less than men, in the balance of things, not equal to them.
How and why we were created just is. Our biology and how our bodies work just is. The instincts that are natural to us just are. To try to change that into something else is as futile as running outside every morning thinking we can stop the sun from traveling across the sky. It can't be done. It is only by embracing everything that is true about ourselves will we ever  find authentic recognition, respect and acknowledgment of our value and dignity. We will only be able to go toe to toe if we are complete - as women - complete with the ability to surround, support and sustain humanity, as a whole, by protecting it in the womb; with the capability to bear life; with fertility of our bodies seen as a gift rather than something to be artificially suppressed. When the children we endow to the world become its legacy rather than a detriment to freedom, lifestyle and financial stability. It is only then, that we will truly prove our strength and our wisdom, that we can do anything and that you can bend and never break us. It is only then that will come back even stronger with a deeper conviction in our souls. It is only then that we will truly be able to roar..."I AM woman"


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