Sunday, February 17, 2013

Waiting for Boaz

This bit of "Biblical advice" has been circulating as a meme for at least a couple of years now.  I can only find one fault with it:  I can't find the line, "Ruth patiently waited for her mate Boaz," anywhere in Scripture.

In fact, according to the story, once Naomi and Ruth determined that Boaz was the ideal candidate to marry Ruth, their strategy was pretty aggressive: Ruth was to make herself as presentable as possible, uncover him and lie down next to him on a night when he would be particularly isolated and amenable ... that is, buzzed after feasting and drinking (Ruth 3:3-4).  By presenting her marriage claim in such a fashion, Ruth would signal that she was not only offering herself out of duty but of her free will.

The sexual suggestion is unmistakeable.  Had Boaz been a lesser man, he could have taken advantage of Ruth that night and given her nothing in recompense.  But not only does he not take advantage of her, Boaz tells Ruth that another kinsman of her dead husband has a prior claim; however, he gives Ruth grain to take back to Naomi as an earnest of his promise to marry the Moabite woman if the other kinsman doesn't (Ruth 3:10-13, 15-17).  While there is a wait implied, it's only for one day, as Boaz moves swiftly to secure her rights and reputation.  Naomi's strategy is risky, but it's a calculated risk made less chancy by her knowledge of Boaz, and it pays off handsomely.

This is not to say that I disagree with the meme's intent.  Far from it!

One thing I've been trying to get across in the contraception debate is that, if women are really determined to possess "reproductive autonomy", the best thing they can do is learn to say "No" to Boaz's relatives Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az and all the rest of those bums.  "You don't get my loving until you cowboy up, stop acting like a narcissistic juvenile and start living like a responsible, respectful, real man."  If American women started saying "No" en masse, American men would straighten up practically overnight; as it is, there are too many women eager to supply what the few withhold.

No is an empowering word.  No puts you in the driver's seat.  No allows you to put conditions on your acquiescence.  In fact, you say or imply "No" more often than you think you do; there are times when you would not likely consent, conditions under which you would not likely consent, and people with whom you would never consent.  It's the ability to say "No" that makes you free; if you can't refuse, you are enslaved.

There are some women who would doubtlessly complain, "That puts the burden all on us!"  And in strict justice, men ought to exercise their own ability to say "No".  The ability to say "No" separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom; a male who prides himself on his lack of sexual restraint does well to call himself a "dog", since it's a tacit admission that he's not fully a man. Give not what is holy to the dogs; neither cast your pearls before swine.  (Yes, such men are pigs.)

Simply as a historical matter I would deny that women have always borne the burden alone.  In fact, women bear more of the burden now than they have at any previous time in history, precisely because assigning mothers "the right to choose" allows the rest of society — beginning with the fathers — the implied right to slough their responsibilities off unto her:  "It's your choice; therefore, it's not my problem."  Childrearing was never meant to be a task solely for one person; it was meant to be a joint effort of the biological mother and father, with support from the extended family and, indirectly, the rest of the community.  This is simply one more way in which contraception has created more problems than it has solved or can ever solve.

If the story of Ruth has a lesson for women, it goes beyond the merely passive "wait for your Boaz".  Rather, it's to go out and actively, aggressively seek your Boaz.  Don't let the sexual marketplace determine your behavior.  Find the man who is worthy of you, and insure that you are worthy of him as well.  

And let Broke-az, Po-az, Lyin-az, Cheatin-az, Dumb-az, Drunk-az, Cheap-az, Lockedup-az, Goodfornothin-az, Lazy-az and that bastard Beatinyo-az know in no uncertain terms that they're not ever gonna get a piece of Yoaz.