By Alexis Record
I gleefully crossed one of my former religious taboos. It was exhilarating. What demonic deed did I do? Was it the devil’s tango? Did I drink from Satan’s brew? Close. I got a haircut.
Wait, I can explain! It was not just any haircut! It was a reckoning! All those layers of my former dogma rolled down my shoulders like so much hairy baggage.
Maybe I should back up and introduce you to one of my many childhood bullies. Its name? 1 Corinthians 11:3-9. You would not believe the things it said to me while growing up in a conservative church that taught biblical inerrancy. Put in a mouth guard to keep from rage grinding because we’re about to get into it.
1 Corinthians 11 opens up with some good old fashioned sexist malarkey.
I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man.
When Christians commiserate with me about how awful my former fundamentalist church was to women, I want to ask how they can also venerate the same book that caused the harm we both denounce. I have noticed that Christians are often morally superior to their book, and extremely morally superior to the god created from it. (Who drowned babies, y’all.) They might say they don’t interpret the Bible a certain way (Metaphors! Metaphors everywhere!) or they don’t take it as seriously, but this is still an admission that their religion’s founding document–the sole charter upon which their entire belief system is based–is horribly, morally flawed at face value and must be worked around. The sexism I choked on growing up came right from these “holy” pages. Clear as day it says women are beneath men. Not just women’s work or status or roles. Women.
But this is not a blog post about sexism in general; this is a post about haircuts! So we need to hear more from 1 Cor. Unfortunately it doesn’t get better. The following is the reason I was scared of short hair for years of my life.
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
I was worried that short hair would cut me off (pun intended) from God. I didn’t ever cut my hair too short because I understood it was shameful. I worried it might even diminish the power of prayer. And I understood I would lose my glory, my beauty, and my worth.
According to this passage a woman with cut hair was disgraceful. This was so clearly understood that it was the worst thing the author could think of to convince his audience how laughable it would be to not follow his instructions for women.
What would be worse than having it cut off? If it were shaved! He even went to that extreme!
Well, get your smelling salts, people, because IT’S SHAVING TIME!
I couldn’t stop jumping up and down after all that hair was gone as my girlfriends (one of whom also has a shaved head) surrounded me with love and tea and fashion advice and compliments. I really am so lucky. I lost so much to dogma, but I deeply enjoy my life today.
In 1 Corinthians a man only dishonors his head if he covers it like a woman. If we weren’t certain that men were superior to women in this pestilent passage, it continues:
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
For one thing, science disproves the whole mud golem replication myth (yes, Adam and Eve are that thing) so woman was not created for man nor did one come from man. That’s not supported by any evidence at all. Common freaking sense shows us that the reverse is true! Man (in baby form) absolutely comes from woman in like 99% of cases!
This binary idea that there are just women and men and one is made for the pleasure of the other is throughout Scripture. Women were considered chattel, subordinate, and less than human. This has caused unbelievable harm throughout history and makes the Bible culpable for the worst kind of human rights violations. (Don’t believe me? Check out Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith… and For Freedom!)
A boy named Jeremy in my church’s high school youth group once told me that he couldn’t be sure that women and girls were made in the image of God since Eve was a complete afterthought. (And she is.) I got pretty mad at him, but diving into the text didn’t clear that up for us. It says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” It looks like (and this was Jeremy’s interpretation) that God takes credit for creating both man and woman, but created only man in his image. (This would be supported by 1 Corinthians.) Women were still created by God in the text, but then again so were amebas.
My church didn’t interpret it this way, but it was too easy for misogynist guys to do so.
Like many bullies, 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 was on the shoulders of other bullies. Genesis and the rest of Scripture came before it. This was just 1 Corinthians’ opportunity to say, “You think you’ve been bad to women? Hold my beer!” I got picked on for years by this roving gang, and it nearly destroyed my entire sense of self worth.
Of course the rationale behind these verses are illogical to the point of ridiculous. For example, subsequent verses (14-16) the author gets defensive:
Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
Yes, (*raises hand*) I would like to be contentious about this.
Okay just to start, the next time a believer says that gay people are “unnatural” (myself and my small children were told this through a megaphone at the park last weekend) just realize that their Bible says the same thing about hair follicles on men. Cells and connective tissue on the head? Doing what now? Growing! That’s simply against nature! UNNATURAL!!
So this passage wants me to have long hair to COVER me? It’s what? My spiritual hijab? Then why do I need a regular hijab? (And yes, the Bible says women should wear the hijab. That’s what this passage is about.) It doesn’t even make sense to cover my head twice! The logic here is fruit loops.
1 Corinthians 11 needed someone to proof these things before rushing off the the scribal print station. Like maybe if the writer had grabbed one literate person to run it past first they may have pointed out the whole ding dong potato thinking that gave us “hair needs covered because, duh, it’s a covering!” But as we noted at the end of our last Narnia post, many of the educated literate people around were Greeks and we hated those guys. So that’s how we get a steaming pile of excrement disguised as pastoral wisdom.
I especially like the rebuttal of “Come on guys, everybody is doing it!” Like, ALL the churches! If a Christian wants to believe any claim in the Bible, go for talking donkeys, or winged creatures or, heck, mud golems starting the human race, because I think “all of us Christians are doing this one thing the same way and we all agree for reals” is the biggest stretch of the imagination in Scripture. Back when I was a Christian we had church splits over how to sing hymns, and we fractured into thousands upon thousands of denominations like it was just something to do on a Tuesday, but I’m sure 1 Corinthians was prepared to make this “women should have long hair and cover it or else” thing the one unifying belief. Like the one nonsense ring to rule them all.
Some cultural rules are just plain sillysauce. If even a few tiny historical events were nudged in another way we’d all be doing things radically different and believe a whole new set of “wise” biblical rules about our bodies and genders.
So do what you damn well please with your own body. If body modification is your thing, Jesus recommends replacing your own tongue with a sword or getting a giant tattoo on your thigh of your own title you gave yourself. (Yeah both those are Jesus in the Bible. Not kidding.)
The important thing is that you do not belong to anyone. You were not created to be a slave to a particular ruling gender. Let’s leave that anti-human garbage thinking on the cutting room floor.
Blogger, Essayist – Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith – and for Freedom