Heard the parable about the prodigal daughter? No? You’re not alone – there isn’t one. Once upon a time women had very few means to be prodigal (profuse or wasteful expenditure of money and/or resources), because they had no money or resources. Their only resource was their virtue. That, and the services they provided, were all they had to bring to a marriage, and marriage was their sole career path. If they were prodigal about their virtue, whether willingly or unwillingly, they had better be prepared to get married to any old geezer pronto to save the family from disgrace, or they were out the door and down the road. Then their career path changed dramatically. If that happened, there was no welcoming them back with open arms. A moral crime committed by a daughter was way worse than a useless son clearing off with recently acquired wealth, and squandering the proceeds, before abjectly making his back to the family fold, and a joyous welcome home from daddy. What we’re led to understand in the instance of the bible story, The Prodigal Son, is that the son acknowledged the error of his ways, and changed into a good son. Even back then, anyone would have known that the likely scenario is that the son’s good intentions lasted about two weeks, before he seized an opportunity to grab more dosh, and cleared off again.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a euphemism for God welcoming sinners back into the fold, but if those bible story writers really wanted to make a point, they would have been better off having daddy welcome back his prodigal daughter and her ‘fatherless’ children. Now, that would have been REAL love and forgiveness. Except that for a woman there was no coming back from her immorality. Even the story tellers couldn’t stretch forgiveness that far. Unless she was Mary Magdalene, but as far as I’m aware, she didn’t do anything morally irredeemable enough like have children out of wedlock. Not sure how she managed that as a prostitute, but there you go, she didn’t bring a messy baggage of wayward kids with her, so JC’s forgiveness was a darn sight easier to do. Plus, she adored him after that. What’s not to like?
Mary Magdalene was the only woman in the bible who made good after being morally bad. Well, the only woman mentioned. Women didn’t do anything else interesting enough to get much of a mention in any other way, according the bible’s story tellers, which just happened to be men. There is speculation that one or two stories might have had women authors, but this remains unproven. The microscopically small number of women that did get a mention were either morally bad, or on a moral pedestal and revered. There’s plenty of evidence that the story tellers put their own spin on Mary Magdalene, which was far from the actual truth. Apparently, she wasn’t much liked by the boys’ network around JC, so they did what men (and women, following men’s lead) have always done to put women in their place – they slut-shamed her. They didn’t do it to her while she had JC alive and on her side, because a woman having a man on her side gave her protection against other men. They waited until she was either alone and unprotected, or dead.
The job of being the moral gatekeepers has been dumped on women, whether they wanted it or not, from time immemorial, it seems. I’m guessing that was done just because men could, and didn’t want to impose a crappy job like that upon themselves. If you’re in a group that has assigned itself the dominant position in the world, you’re not going to put the hard stuff on yourself. Hell no! That can go to those whom you’ve marginalised, because you can. Then make up a bunch of rules around why women have to be the moral gatekeepers, and then go off and have whatever freedom and fun you can, which often involves getting women to break the rules. If the women get caught out in any way, then it’s they who have broken the rules and suffer the consequences, which also happen to be made up by men – and which they then somehow managed to sell to women to also enforce. Great scheme. Makes ya head spin, but still a great scheme if you’re a man.
Welcoming home the prodigal daughter would have taken a lot more balls than welcoming home the prodigal son. But those bible story tellers knew where to draw the line. They knew that writing a story about welcoming home a prodigal daughter, and possibly the fruits of her sins as well, would go down like a lead balloon. Or, they simply knew that it would never happen, so decided not to stretch the bounds of possibility.
What would our world look like, though, if ‘wayward women’ and their children weren’t a ‘problem’? What would it look like if that was just our normal, and our culture, morals, business world, families, and communities worked around that? Instead of trying to control women and their problematic fecundity, that was just business as usual. Everything we know so far has been developed out of patriarchal ideology. But what does that NOT look like? I’m still working on this picture 🙂