The Devil Herself

… is hiding behind male pronouns.
(c) 2016, Davd

Evil is not male. Lorena Bobbitt cutting off her husband’s penis, and a few parallel, less famous incidents were no less evil because their perpetrators had ovaries. Nor was what Amanda McGee did to several young women in Calgary, more recently.

Female evil is nothing new nor recent—nor is it obsolete. H.G. Wells [1949: 350-1] describes Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, as evil. We might possibly say the same of the General Motors executive who lied when she said she was widowed, She had “a love affair” with a recently retired union executive, and even got engaged to him. Then, when he hired a detective and learned she was actually married—a woman set fire to his house [Vyhnak, 2011].

Recent research has shown women to be less honest than men, if anything. A 2003 study found that “The number of sexual partners a woman reported nearly doubled when women thought they were hooked up to a lie detector machine.” Men reported about the same number with or without the polygraph.

Norah Vincent [2006] noticed something similar in a very nonsexual activity:
When [Jim, the bowling team captain] whom I’d never met before shook my hand he gave me something real. He included me. But most of the women I’d ever shaken hands with or even hugged had held something back, as if we were in constant competition with each other, or secretly suspicious, knowing it but not knowing it, and going through the motions all the same. In my view bra burning hadn’t changed that much.

Next I met Alan. His greeting matched Jim’s. It had a pronounced positive force behind it, a presumption of goodwill that seemed to treat me as a buddy from the start, no questions asked, unless or until I proved otherwise.” [pp. 25-6]

There is some evidence that child sexual abuse is much more a woman’s crime than a man’s. Fromuth and Burkhart [1987] found that in two samples of college men, those reporting they had been sexually abused as children, reported that the perpetrator was female 78% and 72% of the time1.

By calling evil male, then, we hide significant female evil—and i’m not talking about cows, mares, sows, or genuine bitches. Evil is human2; this is about women vis-a-vis men. I’m not claiming that women are more evil than men, though some recent evidence points that way. I am insisting that where equality of the sexes is the philosophical norm, that equality includes evil. It includes treating women and men as equally evil, and equally good, until they show otherwise as individuals.

When he, him, and his were the generic human pronouns, then “the Devil himself” was in mere conformity to that common usage. It was used by Wells, probably, though he recognized Olympias as an evil woman, and the English (Canadians, Kiwis, Yanks, …) who used the generic he, likewise recognized evil women in the ancient stories of Jezebel and Potiphar’s wife [Genesis, ch. 39].3.

Unfortunately, “the Devil himself” still is standard usage… when in fairness, in equality rather than misandry, “the Devil herself” should be at least equally common. (Why “at least”?  First, because the face of power today, in bureaucracy and in legal biases [Nathanson and Young, 2006, reviewed and summarized here], is more female than male. There are more women positioned to attract devilment, than men. Second, as “affirmative action”, to correct for the bias against men which has prevailed in depictions of and references to evil, for at least as long as i have been alive, and i’m in my 70s.)

This is not merely a Christian, Jewish, and Muslim issue. “The Devil” is a concept routinely used by agnostics, atheists. and people of many faiths… with a male pronoun. Routinely referring to the Evil One as “She” and to “the Devil herself”… that, i have not heard nor seen. It’s time for a change.

It may be worth mentioning, that spirits have no inherent gender. They can manifest as male or female. What motivates their choice of male, or of female, is unknown to mere humans; but as a good guess, the motivation is practical.

With women enjoying privilege and power, manifesting as a woman seems likely to be more valuable to those spirits, evil as well as good, than in the patriarchal days of Abraham and Moses and Muhammad. If the Ottawa bureaucracy is now more than 70% women, evil spirits have more women than men to imitate and influence, in Government. If young lawyers are well over half women, the same applies to the application of laws once passed (and having received Royal Assent in the name of a woman who has been Queen for over six decades.) The face of power today, it is fair to claim, is more female than male.

“Power corrupts” is an ancient folk maxim. It implies that the face of evil today, is also more female than male. (Yes, there is more to evil than corrupting power; corrupting power is however a very important part of the operation of evil, and i have no evidence that the other parts are mainly male; indeed, that research on lying suggests they are also, more female4.)

Meanwhile, people go on saying “the Devil himself.” In the name of accuracy (and in the additional name, less morally valid but commonly applied against men and boys, of Affirmative Action), it is time to correct that, to say “the Devil herself” at least half the time for accuracy’s sake and all the time for many years to come, if you’re catching up.

References:

Bhattacharya, Shaoni, 2003. “Fake lie-detector reveals women’s sex lies” New Scientist 14:16, 14 July

Fromuth, M. E., & Burkhart, B. R. (1987). Childhood sexual victimization among college men: Definitional and methodological issues. Violence and Victims , 2 (4), 241-253.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Vincent, Norah, 2006. Self Made Man: One Woman’s Year Disguised as a Man. New York: Viking Penguin

Vyhnak, Carola 2011 Love affair spawned at car plant crashes and burns. Toronto Star, February 23

Notes:

1. This is not as shocking as it might be, since children are in the control of women much more of the time than in that of men. It is shocking enough, especially to those who might pretend that women never do such evil things, to refute any notion that custody of children should be usually or normally given to women. The care of children past weaning should be decided on a better basis than sex or gender.

2. I can’t state for certain, that evil is absolutely and solely human; the most nearly precise assessment is that among earthly life, it is predominantly human.

3, When Indira Gandhi ordered her army to storm the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhs at least called that, evil. And Olympias, Alexander’s mother, was well outside the Abrahamic religions also.

4. The research on sexual abuse of children is not as easy to summarize [e.g. Footnote 1]

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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