why the cross doesn’t work for women: a critique

the current vision of the cross, as an object, marginalizes femininity. in fact, it does something even more vulgar, it entrenches women deeper into the western stereotype of a weak woman in need of man to save her. in this light, the current theology surrounding the narrative of the crucifixion merely transfers the masochist paradigm from male to female. this is echoed in the words (taken literally) ‘take up your cross and follow me’, for one to own the object of another they must be willing to lose themselves in the other. for a woman to take up the cross as her own, she must dismiss her own gender specific context and deny her femininity. she must become nothing. some might say this is too radical of a claim, but let’s unpack what it means to ‘take up your cross’.

is this not a death (whether it be physical or literal) of some kind, for the cross was a violent instrument of death. it took seriously the public embarrasment of the one who was being crucified, it was an object utilized as a tool for behavioural deterrant, hence why it was a perverse act employed in the public arena. it did not simply deter the act of the person, but attempted to negate the person themselves as a serious contender against roman violence. it was for all intense purposes, a demonstration of abusive power. to silence the person and anyone who wanted to subvert the roman political agenda.

to take something is not only to receive it, to take something also does not automatically assume the thing is a gift of any sort, but rather it is something that is assumed to come with an instruction. but one feature of taking something is that once it is taken it becomes part of the person who chooses to take it upon themselves. think about a an object that has a lot of value to you, this value isnt merely sentimental, it is that the object has a hold on you. and if you were to let it go, it would feel like letting a part of yourself go.

so, in the current understanding of the cross, in that we need to somehow find a way to claim the cross as our own still subordinates women into a typical eastern (and early western; sometimes current western) narrative where she was completely undervalued unless she was attached to a man (who gave her worth; you also see this in the modernist worldview in the west).

in the current liberal theological stratosphere there is the hope that the cross can be redeemed as an object of hope rather than violence. as a semiotic (a symbol), the meaning of the cross an supercede itself, however to do so also negates the history from whence it came. as a postmodern theorist, i see no issue with attempting to “re-mean” the cross into a symbol of hope. the main issue though is the inconsistency stemming from the argument that we can keep the narrative intact and apply some new meaning without changing the narrative entirely.

which in a very strict sense, is nothing short of esoteric idealism, in that the liberal theology of the left is still coming from a position of specialism. that somehow the left have a better grasp on the contextualization of the symbol of the cross. when in reality, in a historical sense, the early christians attempted to distance themselves from the cross entirely. it was not until the emperor attempted to remove the cross entirely from the story that the current group of christ-followers attempted to co-opt it back as a symbol of anti-power. and in this is right, i think the symbol can be re-enacted back into the christian story. but to be a symbol of anti-power means it must not reduce itself as a symbol that marginalizes gender.

which seems to be very much against the compassionate acts of christ who sought to radically and socially uplift women in society. i think its important to remember that for there to be power or the abuse of it, relationships must exist.

this is where we must remember the theories of Marx, who very simply claimed that there is a ruler and that there is a servant. for the cross to be anti-power it must seek to subvert the whole of social order. which is the promise of the cross as a metaphor. as a universal symbol of self-negation the cross can be redeemed, not to promote violence, not to promote subordinated salvation, but as an anti-symbol that seeks to disrupt authority, government, power-relations, politics, structures that mediate for us, and become an object that can occupy the spaces we are held by anxiety to reject.

this means we must come to reject the current phallic status of the cross. and reject the notion of power and influence that some claim it to have. it can no longer rest as a symbol of salvific excellence, but even reject the power and promise of its own narrative to be taken seriously. for it to become a symbol of anti-power it seeks to reject the symbolization of power onto itself and point toward the systems that manipulatively dominate reality.




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