Women were seen by many famous Christians of the Catholic faction in the early days of Christianity - and by Pagan male teachers of the Classical Period - as temptresses and inferiors - justifying this with a pseudo-scientific theory the purpose of which was both to make women accept such a status as natural and to excuse males from feeling guilty about suppressing their sisters' rights.
Such "scientific" theories on female inferiority unfortunately have extended to modern times. For Freud, women were not physically but psychically inferior to male. He wrote in his "An Outline of Psychoanalysis": "A female child has, of course, no need to fear the loss of a penis, she must however react to the fact of not having received one. From the very first she envies boys its possession; her whole development may be said to take place under the colours of envy for the penis. She... makes efforts to compensate for her defect - efforts which may lead in the end to a normal feminine attitude. If during the phallic phase, she attempts to get pleasure like a boy by the manual stimulation of her genitals, it often happens that she fails to obtain sufficient gratification and extends her judgement of inferiority from her stunted penis to her whole self.: n70 p522g
But in nature that the male of the species is not always as essential as is the female. Many species manage reproduction without males - and in some rare cases the male has a much shorter life - such as with the Australian phasogales. This is a squirrel like creature that I have watched gamble in high eucalyptus forest in the Yarra valley of SE Australia. The males of the species are born in spring, make love in the autumn and then die. The female lives on for perhaps another year or more as long as they have far more responsibilities for the continuance of the species.
The pseudo scientific justification for males having a higher status than females pre-dates Christianity. Aristotle argued about 300 years before Christ was born that the female body was an imperfect version of the male's. He called them defective men. (On the generation of animals, 2/3). He maintained that men as the "active principle" in nature are superior to women who are merely the "passive principle". This view was then controversial for he lived in a time when Goddesses were still honoured. But other pagans shared his views. Patriarch wrote: "Woman is a real devil, an enemy of the peace, a source of provocation." Aristotle did not originate the theory that women were physically inferior to men for it is also found in Greek dramas written two hundred years earlier, in the 5th Century before Christ.
The famous writer of tragedies, Aeschylus (525-456BC) had Apollo say: "The mother is no parent of that which is called her child, but only nurse of the new-planted seed that grows." Thus the Goddess Pallas Athena could be born directly from the head of Zeus. "There can be a father without any mother. There she stands, the living witness, daughter of the Olympian Zeus, she who was never fostered in the darkness of the womb." (Eumenides, II 658-60, 736-65. Translated by Richmond Lattimore.)
But Aeschylus knew this was a "modern" view. A Fury in the Oresteia drama protested strenuously against this dethroning of the mother "Gods of the younger generation, you have ridden down the laws of elder time, torn them from my hands" . Some believe, such as the scholar Riane Eisler, that Athena by declaring for the Father, symbolically sealed the fate of womankind. ref. Riane Eisler "The Chalice and the Blade" HarperSanFrancisco 1987 p78?
In a way the male god was claiming the same power as that possessed by the earliest Goddesses. He had become a Virgin God - able to create of himself without need for a partner. Today the more liberal Christian clergy will speak of the Mother God - also meaning a God who creates. The medieval academic, Meister Ekhardt spoke of God's natural place being on the birthing table. The hermaprodite may possess both aspects of both genders - but still normally had only one gender identity. Thus we say the Goddess not the Angrogyne creates of herself. Thus I too say I am a woman even if born an hermaprodite. Thus the male god remained male while giving birth.
Aeschylus has embodied in his plays a male rationalisation for a process that had begun hundreds of years earlier - perhaps during the development of major agricultural societies. The clearing of "wilderness" in which there were many sacred places and many sacred food sources was supported by a new-bred theology that found its way eventually into the Book of Genesis. It held that the Deity ( or Deities) had set humans over nature and that it was proper for it to be suppressed and controlled for the benefit of humans. The Deity also allowed, even ordered, land to be seized by warfare. All this was based on concepts still alien to the culture of hunter-gatherer societies. When I was working ]with Aboriginal nations in Northern Australia, I found that children would animatedly discuss seeing their first fields on trips to other parts of Australia - for monoculture was a very strange concept for a people that still knew how to use every naturally occurring species and who had a sacred place to honour every food source.
In these early agricultural empires in which men had justified taking control of the economy and armies, they had also justified taking control their families. Women whose wombs were now seen as only the nurseries of children produced from male seed, came to be controlled, fenced in as if they were fields, so that men would know which children they had fathered. The image of the mother goddess had lost her supremacy as a source of life - although it took many hundreds of years for her to be displaced by a totally patriarchal male deity image.
In Western Europe there were similar developments documented in "Celtic" legends and history. In Northern Ireland, in Ulster, there was around this time a major change at the Oncoming Winter's feast ( now known as Halloween). This was a harvest festival where all the gifts of Macha, the Mother Goddess, were traditionally celebrated including the "mast', the food from beech trees. But, when a male warrior culture became dominant, the warriors brought to this feast their own harvest, their collection of amputated heads - calling these "the mast of Macha". They said life came from the head and from shed blood, rather than from the womb or from the naturally shed blood of women. (As in the Greek myth in which Athena was born from the head of Zeus). The warriors also slept with these heads held between their thighs in a crude simulation of child birth.
Greece was also influenced by philosophies from the far East. The Buddhist faith was then under male control and held that women were reincarnated at a lower level than men. Buddha when dying said to Ananda: "Women are full of passion, Ananda; women are envious, Ananda. Women are stupid, Ananda. That is the reason, Ananda, that is the cause, why women have no place in public assemblies, do not carry on business and do not earn their living in any profession. "P134 w-hist.
But none of these ancient beliefs replaced women from all the sacred temples, none of these ancient societies were so scorning of womankind as were the "Fathers" of the Christian Church. So what caused these "Fathers" to become so extremist in their views, so vehement about women, gays, the transgendered and sexuality? Effectively they were the authors of a major distortion of Christ's teaching that is still deep rooted in the Catholic Church and in society.
Why did Christ's own practice of a woman friendly ministry change among his followers so quickly into a woman despising ministry?
Read on to find why this came about .