Review: Abigail Favale on the Genesis of Gender

by Nov 13, 2023Books, Culture, Theology

The Genesis of Gender: A Christian TheoryThe Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Abigail Rine Favale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really excellent.

Fascinating personal story:

So-called “Christian feminism” is, too often, secular feminism with a light Jesus glaze on top, a cherry-picked biblical garnish.

Perceptive readings of Genesis:

Genesis affirms a balance of sameness and difference between the sexes. This is a delicate balance that is difficult, but necessary, to maintain. Most theories of gender lose this balance, veering into extremes of uniformity (men and women are interchangeable) or polarity (men are from Mars, women are from Venus). Both extremes lose the fruitful tension expressed here in Genesis.

Insightful comments about our current contretemps:

This leads to another consequence: the denigration of the body, because the body itself is a limit. The concrete reality of the body and sexual difference puts a limit on choice, a limit on self-improvisation, a limit on social construction. The gender paradigm, then, ultimately holds a negative view of embodiment.

Fausto-Sterling is the fairy godmother of the intersex gambit, that tokenizing reference to intersex people used to dismantle the idea of a sex binary.

There is a profound irony here. Through the vehicle of feminist theory, the concept of gender has displaced manhood and womanhood from bodily sex. Now, unmoored from the body altogether, gender is defined by the very cultural stereotypes that feminism sought to undo. In other words, when a girl recognizes that she does not fit the stereotypes of girlhood, she is now invited to question her sex rather than the stereotype.

Even a great insight about language wars (loved this):

A transgender identity is not primarily rooted in material reality, but in language. This is why there is so much fervor over words, a concerted effort to use language in a way that reflects transgender anthropology.

I’m not a Catholic; can’t quite go here—but I get this:

The supreme meaning of the sexed body is to be a living, visible icon, one who gestures continually toward the world beyond the veil.

A writer I’ll stay alert to.

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