Let Women Be Women And Men Be

Another example of Paul's concern for the sexual propriety of "the saints" can be found in his instructions regarding the veiling of women during worship.142 Paul's insistence that women veil themselves—no other practice can be recognized among the churches of God (1 Cor 11:16)—was tied to his anxiety about the dangers of desire and his worries about "unnatural" sex. Men must be men and women must be women, even (or especially) while praying and prophesying, Paul argues. Hence, women should wear veils and men should not. Proper women should continue to wear their hair long and remain covered. Honorable men should wear their hair short and should not cover their heads. Paul argues from the order of creation, from nature, and from custom that women should be veiled and covered but men need not be. Paul prefaces his insistence that women wear veils with the following general principle: "I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3).143 Paul seems to be playing on a double meaning of "head" (kephale) here: head as source and head as ruler.144 Paul goes on to argue that man is "the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man" (1 Cor 11:7). Alluding to the order of creation in Genesis, Paul asserts that man was not made from woman but woman from man. She was created for and from him (1 Cor 11:8). Man is also the image and glory (doxa) of God, whereas she is the glory of man.145 "In such a context, 'head' as 'source' does not exclude 'head' as 'ruler' but justifies it."146 As

"source," man must be "head." Paul later softens this hierarchical gender arrangement by noting "just as woman was made from man so man is now born of woman" (1 Cor 11:12),147 yet he continued to insist that woman and man are qualitatively different, with man at the "head" of the pair. This difference, a difference in kind and degree, was symbolized by head coverings and hairstyles.

A woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered "shames her head," Paul argues. If she refuses to veil, then she should cut off her hair. But shaving her hair is not really an option, since "it is shameful [ais-chros] for a woman to be shorn or shaven" (1 Cor 11:5-6). "Nature itself' [hephysis aute] teaches that a woman's hair is her pride, whereas long hair for a man is degrading. A woman's hair is her "natural" covering (1 Cor 11:14). Her veil is therefore nature's helpful assistant. What are we to make of this concern for male and female hairstyles and female covering? Paul's primary concern in this passage seems to be the reinstitution of veiling for women. Nevertheless, he built his argument, in part, on hairstyles. A woman's long hair is her glory but long hair for a man is shameful. If a woman uncovers her hair, then she should cut off her hair, but for her to do so is shameful.

What is dishonorable about long hair for men and short hair for women? According to the elder Seneca, the effeminati braid their hair and thin their voices to compete with women in softness and finery.148 Similarly, according to Dio Chrysostom a man who violates "nature's laws" in secret is discovered when one observes his voice, glance, posture, and hairstyle.149 The Sentences of Pseudo-Phokylides cautions against allowing young boys to wear their hair long and braided, for long hair is reserved for voluptuous women.150 According to these authors, long, carefully coifed hair symbolized an abandonment of masculinity. Plucking the beard was thought to be an even clearer indication of gender deviance, but long hair also cast suspicion on a man's manliness.151 By the same token, women's short hair also indicated gender deviance. For example, Megilla, the woman lover of Leaena in Lucian's "Dialogues of the Courtesans," wears a wig to conceal her short hair:

Eventually Megilla, being now rather heated, pulled off her wig, which was very realistic and fitted very closely, and revealed the skin of her head which was shaved close, just as on the most energetic of athletes.

This sight gave me a shock, but she said, "Leaena, have you ever seen such a good-looking young fellow?" /T ^ , , 152

Paul's concern for hairstyles and his appeals to nature, honor, and shame, when read in light of ancient associations between hairstyle and gender, are reminiscent of his description of the corrupt world in Romans 1:18—32. In that passage, Paul condemns the idolaters for unnatural intercourse and dishonorable passions:

For this reason, God handed them over to their dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse [lit. "use"] for unnatural, and, in the same way, the men, forsaking natural intercourse with women [lit. "the natural use of women"], were consumed by desire for one another, men in men, accomplishing shameless and dishonorable acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Elsewhere, Paul asserts that the fornicators/male prostitutes (nopvoi can mean either) and effeminates (malakoi) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Male prostitutes were penetrated by other men for a living or, if enslaved, for the profit of their owners. Thus, as noted in chapter 1, for a man to be called a "prostitute" was a particularly sharp insult. Such men were especially "slavish," having abandoned manhood (i.e., the active, penetrative role) for profit.

Violations of "nature" for Paul involved violations of gender.154 Men should desire the "natural use" (physike chresis) of women, not penetration by other men. Paul's comment that the unnatural men receive "in their own persons the due penalty for their error" may be a euphemistic reference to the supposed injury that the passive partner receives.155 Similarly, "honor" (time) requires gender conformity. An honorable man should look like a man. His bare head is his "glory" (doxa). A woman's covering (hair or veil) is her doxa. Short, uncovered hair is her shame (aischros). Furthermore, if a woman desires at all, it should be for her "natural use" (physike chresis). " 'Natural use of the female' means that a male penetrates a female in an act that signified the subordination of the woman and control by the man over her."156 Having chosen to describe the downfall of sinful humanity in terms of unnatural use and dishonorable desire, is it any wonder that Paul could not tolerate any gender deviancy in Corinth, signified by hairstyles and by veiling?

Paul offers yet another reason why a woman ought to wear a veil. She ought to do so "on account of the angels." This verse is particularly enigmatic: "For this reason woman ought to have a veil/authority over her head, on account of the angels" (1 Cor 11:10). Instead of repeating his pre vious terminology for veiling, Paul states that a woman ought to have an "authority" over her head. Why would Paul use the term "exousia" here? He may be purposefully countering the claims of some women that they have the authority (exousia) to prophesy without the veil, since they have overcome their gender "in the spirit" and "in Christ," thereby attaining "male" self-mastery.157 Such an argument may have been made possible by the baptismal formula now preserved in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, not male or female."158 No, Paul argues, a veil, the symbol of female "authority" over her own desire as well as over the male desire she may attract, are both necessary. Ultimate gender equivalence "in Christ" did not result in the abolishment of "natural" gender in the community of the saints.

Paul's use of "exousia' earlier in this letter suggests that he may have chosen to employ a play on words here to raise, once again, the problem of desire. In 1 Cor 5:1—5, Paul implies that having chosen to ignore his authority as their "father," the Corinthians had become worse than gentiles, tolerating a pornos in their midst. In 1 Cor 6:12, Paul remarks that one could not place oneself under the authority (exousia) of food, porneia, and also "the Lord." In 1 Cor 7:37, Paul recommends celibacy for men who have gained authority (exousia) over their desire. "Authority," or lack of it, was embodied in sexual self-mastery or the opposite, sexual license. Thus, by claiming that women must have a veil/authority over their heads, Paul may have sought to remind them that their desire needs to be kept in check and by a proper "authority." Desire must be covered, just as the "shameful parts" (i.e., the genitals) of the body are also covered (1 Cor 12:23—24).159 The next portion of this verse offers further support for this interpretation.

The reason Paul gives for the veil/authority—"on account of the angels"—is puzzling, yet it may also refer to the problem of desire and temptation. There was a tradition stemming from Genesis 6:1-4, expanded in 1 Enoch and other postbiblical literature, in which the "sons of God" desired and had intercourse with "the daughters of men," leading to wickedness and immorality.160 Tertullian reads the Pauline injunction to veil as a precautionary measure against these fallen angels/"sons of God." These angels, viewing the beauty of the "daughters of men," lusted after them and transgressed. Therefore, virgins must be veiled to protect angels, men, and boys from similar temptation (Virg. 7.2—4).161 If Tertullian's interpretation was correct, Paul, ordering women to put on the veil/authority "on account of the angels," was concerned with the sexual temptation of an unveiled woman. Therefore, for Paul veils may have offered a "prophylactic" capable of protecting women from the male gaze and men from sexual temptation.162 Women must have an "authority" (veil) over their heads because they must keep their desire in control while, at the same time, providing assistance to the men and angels who also endeavor to keep desire in check.163 Indeed, the entire community needs to submit to the proper "authorities"—including Paul—to avoid sexual temptation.164

Paul's argument regarding veiling renders desire problematic while insisting that gender deviance must not be tolerated. Women remain secondary to men by nature and creation, even if men are born through women. Therefore, it was considered disgraceful and unnatural for men to adopt the hairstyles of women, a practice that would mark them as effeminate and "unnatural," as malakoi and arsenokoitai. Likewise, it was shameful for women to shave their heads in a vain attempt to be like men. Such women may even be mistaken for the "unnatural" women Paul described in Rom 1:26—27. Taking off the veil, therefore, placed the entire community in danger, or so Paul suggests. Women may lose control over their own desire. Men, viewing women, may become tempted and lose their self-mastery. Veiling for Paul signifies everything he claims for the followers of Christ: sexual purity, self-control, and "natural" gender. Unveiling, in this context, was risky indeed.

0 0

Post a comment