The metaphysics of misogyny or: how I learned to stop abusing social systems for my own self-aggrandizement and love other people
Ephesians 5 has been invoked by abusive fathers, slave owners, and misogynists alike in the attempt to appeal to St. Paul as some sort of gender theorist, an empiricist thinker sketching metaphysical categories, some sort of chain of being or hierarchy of relationships. The Gospel message is at root a deconstruction of these things however, especially by St. Paul himself, as Galatians 3 declares there to be neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.”
So how is the latter part of Ephesians to be interpreted then? It certainly appears to be a claim to hierarchical structure at first glance; however, to invoke a hierarchical structure is not inherently to endorse it. The context of this list of submission is framed by the powerful mantra to submit “yourselves one to another.” What is important here is not the metaphysical structure of male to female, slave to free, or Jew to Greek for in the Kingdom of God (which is now and already inside you) there are no such hierarchies. The virtue then is not in the relation of social statuses but in the submission of self to others. God became man and made himself lower than man and was killed by men—what greater deconstruction of hierarchy has ever been than this? What is rightly more anarchic?
The paradox of it all is that Christ declared true power, true willing and overcoming to be humility, anarchic submission, not the power of institutional totalization. Humility, in that it is submission to the other, is true power. Christ is portrayed as the husband and Church the bride—yet what power does Christ have over the Church? Self-sacrifice. Death. Christ’s power is this sort of anarchic submission, the capacity to fully and actively submit to prejudice, bigotry, and immoral judicial decision, assume them, and suffer on behalf of the world. This is what “masculine” power looks like.
Marriage is a sacrament not as to set it apart from other relationships so much to as elucidate the sacramentality of all human relationships. All relations of self to the other should be undergirded by this humility, this submission, we could even say this violence. For this harsh particularity of complete barrenness before the other is nothing shy of pure power and strength—not strength in the sense of bringing the other to submission which is always done out of fear of others, inadequate feelings of self, and totalization of other people—but strength in self-certainty, openness to other people, and radical charity towards the particularity of the other.
The Pauline gospel is not one of hierarchy but one of anarchy, the deconstruction of arche. Yet St. Paul advocates the assuming of that suffering, for such is humankind’s stance towards the divine in the other—Christian power is charity, the turning of the cheek, the laying of one’s life down for friend and enemy alike, the love of neighbor, absolute and complete bare submission to other people.