Disappearing Women: A Blogpost for Brandon James Price

It can be hard to get published.  Disbelieve any ad that says, “We’re looking for people to write children’s books.”  Translation: “We’re looking for people who will pay us about a thousand dollars to take our writing course.  Take this little test—which is ironically badly written, but which you can’t fail—and we’ll also give your name to our desperate agents, who will likewise charge a thousand dollars to read your work.”

It can be even harder to sell your published book.

My husband published a book.  It’s a brilliant book about family life in the age of Shakespeare .  It talks about parental blessings—given by both mother and father during the Renaissance.  It talks about the age of marriage when Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet.  (Go ahead and guess.  I’ll answer later.)  It talks about the “rule of thumb” and what it WASN’T.  If you think it was the width of the stick a man could beat his wife with, you’ve been reading too much Lawrence Stone.

Great book.  Price?  $75.00.  You can buy a new copy for $53. at Amazon, or a used copy for $76.00.  (This is academia.  Things don’t have to make sense. It’s Levinasian. (Ask Jacob Baker.)

How on earth can we get people to fork over that kind of money?

Well, another author has another book which sells for the same price.  It’s called Insights into Hebrew Philosophy.  He decided to publicize it via animation, telling the story of Cain and Abel.  Brandon James Price, one of the stars in the film I’m currently making, and who served a mission to the DR-Congo, sent me the animation yesterday and asked for my comments.

Here you go, Brandon .

If the rest of you would like to follow along, go to http://youtu.be/8ojhZPiGsRs .

First off, note how many women there are.  Oh, you didn’t see any?  Yes, it’s a man’s world, and Adam reproduced asexually.  Anyway, he might have.  That “he might have” becomes thematic, by the way.

Cain might have offended God by not being innovative.  After all, Cain tilled the ground just like Adam.  Nothing “out of the box.” Apparently, when you don’t have women telling you to practice the piano, the piano won’t even get invented and you’ll spend your time with thistles and thorns, and Mozart will invent a new recipe for zucchini casserole instead of The Magic Flute (what’s a flute?), and Beethoven will pull weeds when he’s sad instead of composing the Pathetique. So Cain’s offering to God—grain– is boring.

Abel, though, comes up with something brilliant.  Why sacrifice grain when you could kill a sheep and offer that?

And that, dear reader, is why God honored Abel’s sacrifice rather than Cain’s.  Abel was creative.  And a little bloody.  But nothing compared to what’s coming when Cain gets some revenge.

But, we must wonder, what about that coat of skins God made for Adam? (The Bible says He made them for Adam and Eve, but of course Eve doesn’t exist in this version.)  Where did those skins come from?  Cantaloupe?  Sure, after some scooping, cantaloupe make great bras, but in a world without women, why bother?  It would seem that “coats of skins” came from animals.  Maybe even wooly ones.  They MIGHT HAVE.

In this animated version, God rejects Cain’s boring offering by setting it on fire.  Some of the ash gets on Cain’s face and he looks—well, BLACK. This is the part where we press pause on the youtube and say, “Oh no you di’n’t. I know you did not just go there.  Do you realize what you MIGHT BE implying?”

Finally, the youtube lets us know that all the greatest people in the world have been shepherds.  These shepherds include Beethoven, Queen Elizabeth (with or without her armor? Or does the armor explain her perception of gender, given that there was no Mother Eve?), Marx (?????), Einstein (“Hey Mom! Mushrooms! Are you sure they’re poison?)

So, publicity.   How to sell a book.  Or a film.  And that, Brandon J. Price, is how we get the word out.  After we get rid of the women.  And of course, this post fits in rather nicely with other conversations in the bloggernacle about how present women are or are not in various settings and books.  Check out my husband’s book for more information on that.  We’ll be making an interactive cartoon to advertise it shortly. It’s just a quiz, but it shoots out slightly painful lazar beams if you give a wrong answer.

As for advertising the film Heart of Africa–well,  I have my ideas.  I pattern them after what my sister-in-law does.  Prizes on the film’s blog, if you can find it.

Comments

  1. I watched the video and found it rather ridiculous, but don’t you think you’re looking to be offended here? The guy was trying to argue that what God really wants is innovation, not obedience. The story as he told it didn’t need any women present to make his point — just Adam, Cain, and Abel. Other characters would have been superfluous. And the stretch from having ash on your face from something blowing up to suggesting racism? While it’s good to warn about misogyny and racism, you might look a little crazy if you start shooting at shadows.

  2. Sorry, but the thought that you can tell the Adam and EVE story without Eve is deeply offensive. Women are so scarce in the scriptures that the conscious erasure of one is something we need to examine. So we have Adam independently partaking of the fruit? The real question in the creation story as told in Genesis deals with men and women and the call to serve one another as brothers and sisters. (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”) None of the men in this story have a story without Eve. I’m curious about why you weren’t offended, and why you would think the woman (who, in LDS doctrine is the most proactive of the lot) could possibly be superfluous. It’s rather like reading Owen’s “The Old Man and the Young” and arguing about how inaccurate Abram’s name is and how that’s not the way the story ends.

  3. Margaret, he wasn’t telling the Adam and Eve story. He was telling the story of innovation. Adam was cursed to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. Cain followed Adam. Abel didn’t. Therefore God liked Abel better. Eve doesn’t figure in.

  4. Then there’s the story of David, who was a really good shot. He shot a stone one time and hit his target and everyone was so happy. Then this other time, he sent this Hittite out to the front lines of battle. The Hittite died, and God was not pleased.

  5. You cannot feature Adam without Eve no matter if you are telling the story of Cain and Abel.

    Well done, Margaret

  6. Margaret, I didn’t see that in the clip — I only saw stuff about Adam, Cain, and Abel. I find the premise ridiculous and didn’t bother clicking around. It was your reaction I found interesting, and maybe you’re reacting to more than I saw.

  7. No, I agree, it is offensive. To completely jack Eve out of the storyline of Adam and Eve IS a problem. Nothing would have been taken away from what he was trying to say by adding in 3 little letters and another animation.

  8. Btw, there’s a whole meta message in this post about publicity. But you have to follow the links.

  9. I’m on a Shakespeare kick right now after having seen “The Fantasticks” and falling in love with it again, and finding from the commentary on it that it contains Shakespearean elements. I don’t believe that if there was a real Juliet that the fable was based on that she was thirteen. I would be interested in hearing your/ Bruce’s answer on this.

  10. And still the number one response to women pointing out inequality: You’re being too sensitive.

    Gah! Do they have to be so predictable, can’t they innovate at all?

  11. Steve Sluder says:

    I was kind of wondering how you knew that scooped out cantaloupes make great bras… Hmmmmm?

  12. Shakespeare lowered Juliet’s age from that given in his source story. But I’ll let Bruce provide the details. In Shakespeare’s play she’s two weeks sky of her fourteenth birthday. But that does NOT reflect the age of marriage during the Renaissance.
    fMhLisa–perfect response! I love Dwight in The Office consoling Pam. “So you’re PMSing really bad, huh.”

  13. Steve- HAH!

  14. Gee, Lisa, could the reason be because maybe you are?

    I was responding to the specific link she gave as an example. If she’s got more of a case, okay, but it wasn’t made in the post or the links, at least as far as I could tell.

  15. “He was telling the story of innovation.”

    Oohhhh, thanks for clearing that up. That makes sense now. Because women never innovate. Thanks.

  16. And not having shepherds is why the Sumerians invented writing and developed methods of measurement (360 degrees, anybody?) and principles of astronomical observation we still can use. Yup, those thoughtless king-followers that weren’t Israelites!

  17. Michael H.–I just looked at your blog. Love the title: “Not a Tame Lion.” We are all Narnians in this family. And I’m on this blog because i’m waiting for the peppers to soften a bit in the chili I made. My husband planted the garden, and this is our first chili of the season–using the fruits of his labor. Wish he’d innovate more. (Check out the link on his book title. Because I was making a point about random and sometimes silly publicity, I did consider what links I used. That’s Bruce’s blog. Rather brilliant, I must say.)

  18. Seems to me cantaloupes would be cold and slimy, or do you dry them out first?

  19. I thought I’d comment on this little story in which I play a small part (I’m glad Margaret didn’t leave me out!). My part started when Margaret had me watch the youtube clip and asked for my reactions. One of my first thoughts was, “You mean he made a youtube video to publicize his book? And he used animation? How do you even do that?” Margaret pointed out how expensive my book is, but I still thought about how dearly I’d love to have more people read it. (In case you need the link to my book–so you can order your copy–here it is: http://www.amazon.com/Family-Life-Shakespeare-Bruce-Young/dp/0313342393 or http://www.abc-clio.com/product.aspx?id=54697 )

    Now as for the content of the youtube: My first reaction was that the writer’s interpretation of the Cain and Abel story was quite a stretch. But I wanted to be open–one thing I’ve learned over the years is to consider ideas even when they seem off the wall. Even interpretations that may not be central to a story may shed some light–on the story or on life. But I’m pretty sure a close examination of the text–and of the Bible as a whole–wouldn’t really support the interpretation this writer gives. For one thing (as Margaret pointed out to me last night), imagery of grain and harvest is plentiful and important in the Bible. (So implying that all tillers of the ground are just mindless imitators doesn’t make much sense.) For another, the sacrifice of lambs and the role of shepherds have other more significant meanings in scripture than innovation and creativity.

    As for the absence of Eve: The writer’s defense would likely be that he was focusing on Cain and Abel; Eve is not strictly necessary to the point he’s making. But is Adam strictly necessary to make the point (about obedience vs. innovation)? If so, what makes his role necessary. If he is necessary, why not bring Eve in: she was intimately involved in the story as well, certainly in the partaking of the fruit and in conceiving Cain and Abel (as Margaret feelingly points out). If Adam is brought in mainly as a farmer whom Cain goes on (uninnovatively) to imitate, why not bring Eve in at that point as well?

    It turns out LDS scriptures are more helpful at this point–more gender inclusive–indicating that BOTH Adam and Even were farmers:

    2 Nephi 2:19: And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.

    Moses 5: 1: And it came to pass that after I, the Lord God, had driven them out, that Adam began to till the earth, . . . and to eat his bread by the sweat of his bbrow, as I the Lord had commanded him. And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.

    Even without the awareness these scriptures bring, adding Eve is a good idea: simply her general presence in the story is significant. It’s sort of like painting a picture of a house: yes, the house may be the focus–the point–of the painting. But if the artist leaves out the earth beneath and the sky above, we sense that something is missing. The house has its real meaning only in that fuller context. And likewise, the story of Cain and Abel (and Adam) is more meaningful, more genuinely human, when it includes Eve.

    (By the way, I can imagine stories where gender inclusiveness would not be relevant to the point. But that means the stories would be dealing with a relatively narrow aspect of human experience.)

    How about the ash on Cain’s face? I doubt the author intended anything racial with the ash. I could be wrong–we’ll have to ask the author or maybe give him a lie detector test. But the racial interpretation may not even enter the consciousness of those who have not been sensitized to the issue. (In other words, I doubt that Yoram Hazony–an Israeli political philosopher–is aware of the racial tradition connected with Cain. P.S.: He and his wife Yael Hazony are the parents of nine.) Given that an important potential audience has been sensitized to the racial tradition, it might be good to tell him so he can avoid unintended offense or distraction from the point he wants to make. A point, by the way, that still seems to me off the wall.

  20. Did Brandon ask you to use a public forum when he asked for your comments? Let me get this straight- He’s in a film you are making, you are sort of a mentor or at least in a position of power over him, Defacto branch leader of his in the MTC, and you trash him? Remind me not to ask you to review my paper.

  21. Oh goodness, this was not aimed at trashing Brandon in any way. And yes, of course I asked his permission. He’s completely on board. He didn’t make the silly video, but asked for my opinion on it. I responded in part and then asked his permission to respond on BCC and to use his name. He said yes to all.
    Scw, you just made some terrible assumptions and not one of them is true.
    And thank you for not asking me to review your paper. I am so inundated with papers right now. That’ll be one less.

  22. Okay, folks, this is getting just silly. This blog post was a commentary on some off-the-wall tactics for publicity. I linked several names with http://www.heartofafricafilm.com (and some other sites) as a tongue-in-cheek poke at ways we try to draw attention to our various projects. As it happens, there is a serious problem in the video Brandon shared with me–but which he did NOT make. The video is, in fact, dangerously misogynistic in the invisibility of the person who is arguably the MOST important in the creation story and the lives of Cain and Abel–namely the mother of all living, Eve. It is not good for man to be alone, nor for women to be alone. This is an eternal truth. Our lives are relevant as we come into relationship with others and learn how to deal with them in our many roles–which may include farming or shepherding or writing music, etc.
    The video also raises another question: How far can we go in interpreting scriptures before we have misread them completely or used them irreverently? Is it irreverent to tell the story of Eden without Eve? I think it is. Can we use scriptures as context for something else entirely? Of course, but we must do it well. In this case, whether intentional or not, it does appear in the video that Cain is made black. That idea undergirded slavery for centuries. It is dangerous.
    Here’s the poem I alluded to earlier–which is a brilliant poem about WWI, in which the poet, Wilfred Owen, was killed:
    There are no women in this poem, but this case, they would indeed interfere with the poet’s aim:

    Parable of the Old Man and the Young

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    and builded parapets and trenches there,
    And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him. Behold,
    A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
    Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

    Wilfred Owen

  23. Yes, Margaret, there is an important lesson about how far we can go in “marketing” a story before we are marketing a different story than what we claim to be marketing. We need to have that discussion in the world and in the Church.

    Martin, who, exactly, was the innovator in the Garden of Eden narrative – and who, exactly, was the one who was dead set on not innovating (on narrow obedience over even thinking about alternatives and options)?

    It’s really hard to imagine a careful reading of the story that concludes Adam should be included in a story about innovation that leaves out Eve. Seriously, I am completely baffled by that conclusion, sexism issues aside. It just isn’t a logical choice, given the actual story – which, I think, is an important part of Margaret’s point.

  24. Phew, Ray! How lovely to have you comment! I love what my husband said as well. The story is all Eve and her relationship with Adam, who understands that their togetherness trumps the command to not partake of the fruit. One of the most compelling features of LDS theology is the vision of Eve–she who was willing to pass through sorrow rather than stay in a tragedy-free garden. “Were it not for our transgression, we should never have had seed.” Our vision of Eve is a glorious one. I wish others of other faiths understood it as they address gender issues in Mormonism. It should certainly be a starting point for conversation.

  25. Ray, that was a great insight! Loved it.

    (Totally OT, but I was surprised to see Steve Jobs included in the list of Abel-like innovators. I bet Wozniak would say Jobs was more like Cain!)

    Sent from my iPad

  26. #26 – Are you and the narrator related? I think you’re using the same dictionary.

  27. Again, we get back to dictionaries and definitions.

    Non-complimentary =/= racist. Highly critical =/= racist. Dismissive =/= racist. Even condemnatory =/= racist.

    Margaret never even hinted that Jews as a whole (or even more than one individual Jew) are inferior in any way. She addressed one man’s interpretation. Period. This post certainly is not complimentary, but it is far from racist.

    Calling something racist simply because it is highly critical demeans the term racism – horribly. For example, you are disagreeing strongly with me right now and, in the process, not being complimentary toward me in any way. However, I wouldn’t dream of charging you with racism. That would be absurd.

  28. I watched the youtube with amused dismay. Even though the animation was decent enough to keep me engaged for the duration, the premise of his argument didn’t make sense to me on a number of levels. My first objection to his premise is over the way farmers are portrayed — as plodding dunderheads who can’t think outside of the box to solve problems as they present. This just isn’t true of agriculture, nor is it representative of the nature of Cain’s original offense. Not only that, but he sets up a false dichotomy of farmers vs shepherds, when historically they have always been in laterally related fields of agriculture, at least all the farmers I know have occasionally kept sheep. It just seemed like he pulled the innovator-plodder argument out of his hat and ran with it, because it worked well enough for his sermonette. I honestly thought he was going to develop his “plot” (as it were) to include something derivative from the traditional (and relatively recent, and totally regional) rivalry between cattlemen and sheepmen, but no…he took off in a completely unexpected, innovative, and cracktastic direction showing us great innovators through history. It was all a blur, especially visually, the way my memory operates. I recall the image of that great innovative shepherdess, QE I, and a couple of images later, George Washington, whom you always want on your side when trotting out the evidence for your argument. Then a few more forgettable images, ending up with two great modern innovators in the field of, um (where were we going with this again?) sheep-herding innovation — Bob Dylan and Steve Jobs. I nearly snorted my diet coke through my nose. That was the point at which he thoroughly lost me as a follower.

    I was not very sensitive to either the blackface thing, or the missing Eve thing, and I appreciate having my consciousness raised on those points, once again. It completely makes sense that Cain’s sooty face is an unfortunate accident that it would be well to remove, for a number of reasons. And I am such a well-trained Mormon woman that sometimes I barely notice the absence of women in the world of scripture, and I keep having to have our gender invisibility pointed out to me. I don’t mind at all, from what we know of Eve, telling this narrative without her so badly skews the story, that it makes me wonder what else we are missing by not having any feminine voice in the scriptures. (At this point, I want to cite Ray, for nailing the reason why, in his second sentence in comment 23)

    Maybe someday I’ll get this quicker, along with the rest of the slowpokes in the church. But the last thing I would ever do is whine about it to the women for whom it is already a sensitive issue, because I know that they have had that sore spot poked, inadvertently or deliberately, by thousands of sharp sticks, to the point where that spot is an inflamed mess. That last thing I would want is to contribute to that inflammation, any more than I would tell an African American (or a sensitive White person) who feels Cain’s blackface as a slap to just get over it and not be so finicky.

  29. Margaret,
    If it makes you feel any better, I think the story is a way of explaining why the Kenites live in tents, engaging in domestic husbandry, metallurgy and entertainment for money, instead of living in one place and maintaining a farm like good Israelites and our father Adam did. It’s because they can’t (have you ever seen a Kenite grow a tomato? I don’t think so. Cain’s curse prevents them from even growing weeds).

  30. Sharee Hughes says:

    I watched the video and did think the absence of Eve a little strange–and offensive. He talks about ADAM eating the forbidden fruit and ADAM having sons instead of Adam AND EVE. Adam likely would not have eaten the fruit and he certainly wouldn’t have had those sons without Eve.

  31. Rabbi Hillel, as the story goes, was once asked to explain the Torah while his challenger stood on one foot. “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”
    I’m afraid several of these comments (particularly Droylsden’s shameful and heartless ruse) tell me that I should not be on this blog right now. I will turn my efforts towards more important things.

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