Unstable Masculinity in the Hebrew Prophets

RG-198x300Susan E. Haddox at Marginalia Review of Books:

What does it mean to be a man? It is not an easy question to answer. One of the contributions of the field of masculinity studies has been to observe that masculinity is not a stable quality, but one that must be contested and negotiated in different contexts and between different groups. The malleable nature of masculinity has particular relevance in examining biblical characters. The frequent characterization in the biblical texts of God as male creates difficulties for men, an idea that has been detailed by Howard Eilberg-Schwartz. How does a person construct a relationship with the divine within social concepts of gender? Eilberg-Schwartz argues that the natural complementary partner for a male god would be a woman. To have a relationship with a male god, a male worshipper must assume the role of a woman. Because this relationship threatens normal standards of masculinity, women must be excluded from the cult entirely, in order to preserve a tenuous hold on maleness. Although Eilberg-Schwartz did not use this terminology, assuming a female identity in relation to God queers the male body. The male body is no longer exclusively male, but assumes an indeterminate gender identity, moving more toward the feminine. What does this do to the male psyche? What does this do to cultural concepts of women?

Rhiannon Graybill’s book Are We Not Men? takes an innovative approach to the issue. She explores the question of the queer bodies of men in relation to God, specifically the bodies of prophets, who have a direct and intimate connection to the divine.

more here.