Mysogenic thinkers often say that men are the only
real "persons". Women are supposedly all the
same and you cannot find real personality in women.
According to them, all women are aimed at caring and
the household, they cannot think, and by nature they
are inclined to please and serve men. "Women belong
in the kitchen". With that they are inferior and
ambivalent creatures: although maternal and attractive,
they are first of all the slaves to Adam, the real person.
This sexist image of women has been officially outdated
in the western culture at least. But everywhere there
is still discrimination when it comes to other creatures,
and especially animals.
In speciesism, which means the discrimination on the
basis of animal species, animals are seen - just like
women in sexism - as practically identical members of
their species, instead of as unique individuals. They
are also seen as second-rate creatures you can use as
slaves, and that
are replaceable with other members of their species.
Animals are killed for the most trivial human whims,
and this is legitimized - as it were - by making
them out to be as low and unimportant as possible.
It is specieist humor when pigs for instance advertise
their own meat. Referring to economical interests is
enough to maintain the torture of animals in factory
farming and other forms of systematic exploitation.
Within the hierarchy of sexist ideology, prostitutes
have very low standing. They are confronting the sovereign
sexist man with sexual needs that he doesn't mind enjoying
in secret at all, but that they try to deny in normal
social relations. Prostitutes have something rebellious,
especially if they are not "protected" by
a pimp and make a living for themselves. In this, they
are like wild animals that do not need man to survive.
Prostitutes show that they can support themselves and
that they only need men as needy customers. For heterosexual
sexists, prostitutes prove that men are not superior
Within the Christian tradition we know a woman that
as of old is represented as a converted prostitute,
Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. Recent films about
Jesus of Nazareth show her as a strong, independent
woman who harbors contempt towards her male customers.
Only Jesus knows how to soften her, and gets her to
give up her old life to become one of his followers.
Mary washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them
with her hair. An act that seems to be a sort of sanctified
stylization of the usual services to her former customers.
She had probably massaged them without the real love
she feels for Jesus.
By early Christians, the former prostitute was called
the (first) apostle among the apostles, which indicates
that she had a special bond with Jesus. Apocryphal sources
go as far as stating that Jesus had some kind of erotic
love connection with Mary Magdalene, or even that they
Within some western occult traditions it is even taken
a step further: Mary Magdalene wasn't a normal commercial
prostitute, but a temple priestess for a mystery deity.
With this background, she had ideological importance
to the shaping of esoterical movements within Christianity.
These orthodox and heterodox (occult) images are further
apart than is apparent at first glance. The unofficial
image of Mary the Prostitute shows that she was converted
from her life as an independent woman to a chaste life
following a man, now matter how prominent she was with
the disciples. Mary the temple priestess - according
to some occult sources - contributes a great deal to
the secret doctrines of early Christianity as an EQUAL
to Jesus, so without submitting herself to him.
In a sense, these visions are like the moderate as well
as the radical movements in the emancipation of colored
people in the US. Although Mary Magdalene in Christianity
is seen as valuable in both visions, in the official
vision the point is that she essentially still adapts
to the ruling value of male superiority. Even though
this was a special man who approached her as a person
- more than was usual, and according to those around
him even outrageously so. Within occult traditions we
see a Mary Magdalene who basically rises above the oppression
of women. Her background as a temple priestess is seen
as a positive thing that she can be proud of, instead
of a source of shame. Her independence is the basis
for emancipation and equality.
When we return to speciesism, converted Mary can be
seen as a symbol of a moderate attitude in which "toughened"
resistance is given up and people look for another type
of "man", another type of power figure. This
moderate attitude is also found in animal protectors
who negotiate with the exponents of speciesism. They
are happy with the smallest adaptations of reality,
without there being a thorough revolution. One example
is the incomprehensible satisfaction about the term
value" which has formed the basis of animal
rights since 20 years (only in Dutch laws), but that
hasn't led to court cases, let alone to an improvement
of animal welfare.
Mary Magdalene the independent temple priestess may
be a symbol for a much more interesting type of resistance:
a form that doesn't only presuppose a form of servitude,
but also thinking along about a radical change of reality.
speciesism can be limited by negotiations with those
in power. But it can only be conquered by an egalitarian
philosophy that frees animals from the injustice they
are structurally subjected to. This egalitarian philosophy
means that animals are given equal basic
rights to people, namely the right
to the freedom to behave naturally. And that not
the animals, but people who feel unjustly superior and
who want to violate these basic rights are limited.
Mary Magdalene as a converted prostitute is the woman
who voluntarily subjects herself to a good man. Mary
Magdalene as a priestess herself subjects a corrupted
reality. This Mary Magdalene is an equal woman who attacks
injustice radically, at the root. That is an image that
supporters of animal liberation can work with.
Contribution by Bert Stoop
and Titus Rivas