(From guest columnist Anna Paukenschlag, of the Very Angry Indeed Women’s Press.)
Christmas is, in a very real sense, a woman’s festival. That the baby Jesus played a substantial part in the historic event we know as Christmas cannot be denied, but his time was still to come. If Christmas belongs to anyone, it belongs to Mary – the mother, the woman, the person on whom in fact all the responsibility fell, as it so often does.
If this comes as a surprise or even a shock, it is for the very simple reason that all the surviving accounts of Christmas were written by men. The male-oriented gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John very naturally give a patriarchal view of the events at Bethlehem; it never even occurs to them to think of the shepherds’ wives who were deprived of a sight of the Messiah, or even of the three wise women patiently waiting for their menfolk to return from their pursuit of the Star in the West (as it must have seemed to them).
But the main victim of this blinkered male approach has always been Mary. She is allowed a role as a recipient of a visit from the Holy Ghost, and the mother of the babe, but this has always struck me as verging on the Mills and Boon. The element of romance has always covered up the fact that Mary was a disadvantaged mother in a homeless situation, forced to embark on the most fulfilling experience of her life in sub-standard lodgings, surrounded by farm animals and all the risk of disease that that implies. It was typical of a fascist government like the Roman colonialist empire that she should be forced to travel far from her home simply for bureaucratic convenience.
Of course her husband was there as well. I do not deny that. As men go, Joseph seems to have been comparatively aware and caring. But then, he could afford to be. He had a fulfilling job as a carpenter, he was in employment, he had a wife to attend to his every want. Mary, on the other hand, was caught in the classic wife-of-working-man situation; no job of her own, forced to stay in the stable all day, no independent life and with an unplanned pregnancy on top of everything.
Honestly, nothing seems to change, does it? It really makes you furious. And if somebody had to cook Christmas lunch 1981 years ago, you can bet your bottom dollar it wasn’t Joseph. And do we find any women among the twelve disciples? Or any women writers penning letters to the Ephesians? We most certainly do not. All that women are allowed to do in the New Testament is have babies and stand around comforting the menfolk. It makes me so mad. I mean, if Christianity can’t take the lead, who can?
We must wake up to the enormous conspiracy against women spelt out so clearly in the Bible. I am not saying that God himself is a male chauvinist. Well, yes I am saying that God is a male chauvinist. What else do you expect? God has a satisfying job creating the world, no money problems, top social position. How could he possibly understand women’s problems?
Honestly, it makes me so cross I can’t go on.
Next week: Christmas – a Zen Buddhist view.