Well, here’s an argument I never thought I would have.
My editor sends me an interview with Bruce Feiler, an American author best known for his critical deconstructions of biblical stories. He’s released a new book, see, intended to clear the name of a widely misunderstood woman. Possibly the modern world’s most famous woman. Bruce Feiler wants to defend none other than Eve. Yeah, that Eve.
Giving my computer screen a quizzical look, my friend laughs.
“What is it?” she asks.
“Well, it’s this guy I’m writing about,” I explain, “and he’s out to defend Eve. As in, Adam and Eve. Old Testament Eve.”
“But she’s not even a real person!”
“Yeah, I know.”
What started as an innocent discussion eventually blew out into a 20-minute debate about whether or not a fictional character - not to mention one that’s over four thousand years old - really needed us to stand up for her.
And maybe this is the genius in Bruce Feiler’s book, The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us. A wonderfully weird insight into how Adam and Eve’s gender roles have been skewed over history, Feiler manages to drag an ancient story of creation, and give it relevance in our modern day world.
It brings up very new feelings of modern feminism, and very old attachments to the bible as a historical document.
"Since antiquity, one story has stood at the centre of every conversation about men and women,” reads the blurb.
"One couple has been the battleground for human relationships and sexual identity. That couple is Adam and Eve. Yet instead of celebrating them, history has blamed them for bringing sin, deceit, and death into the world."
Feiler reckons there’s more to the story than we may remember from Sunday school.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, he speaks about how Eve has suffered a 'character assassination' over the course of history at the hands of a patriarchal religious society.
“I think that there is a clear distinction between what the story is about and what organised religion has said the story is about,” says Feiler.
“In the original story, it begins in total equality with God creating this human entity in God’s image and dividing it into male and female. So what’s true for the male is also true for the female. It begins with equality.”
Despite Eve being the main protagonist in the creation story - actively seeking information and knowledge - she is painted as the evil party. And eventually, the lesser of the two.
Listen: Monique Bowley thinks there's another high-profile woman whose story is being told for her.
"What happened was organised religion basically used this story to dump on Eve and to elevate Adam, but even more to really push down Eve," explains Feiler.
"And by organised religion, of course, we’re talking about men. They’re basically the only people who spoke publicly about the story for the first 2,000 years, and I think that that’s a real shame."
The story of Adam and Eve can be traced back to 1660BC, and has been the inspiration behind countless stories, paintings, and stories. It’s the cornerstone of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; and for many children, is the first story they are ever taught about morality.
For as long as history goes back, humanity has been told that Adam was right, and Eve was wrong. The original sin - of being a woman- is absorbed without question.
And Feiler has had enough.
Here's his take:
"Eve wants autonomy. She wants agency, she’s self-directed, she eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She wants knowledge. It all comes from within. Yet exactly at the moment when she has that knowledge, she realizes she also wants intimacy and sexuality and connectedness with Adam. Those two pillars are really strong in the story and I can’t think of any pillars that are more relevant to women today. So Eve is the first to lean in. I think that’s what the apple is. It’s the lean-in moment, right? “I don’t care what the men say, this is what I want.” And yet exactly at that moment she says, “Oh, I want to hold somebody’s hand, I want to look in their eye, I want to be naked and know no shame.” So she’s saying, “I can take ownership of both my own independence but also my own need for companionship.”
So why, exactly, does Feiler care so much about this? He tells Cosmopolitan he has two reasons: he believes there is much wisdom to be learned from the past rather than wrongly relying on technology to solve all our problems.
Also, he is trying to make the world a better place for his working wife who is a CEO and two young daughters.
Religion, whilst not for everyone, still manages to shape so much of how our society operates. So surely establishing one it’s primary characters - the maligned Eve - is a step forward in equal gender constructs.
Initially, it seems absurd to try and rewrite history. But, if that’s not what feminism is… then what is?