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Genesis Through the Looking Glass: A Gender Abolitionist Perspective

by Ana Lucía Noriega

Prologue: La Tempête (The Storm)

Growing up, my father kept a large poster-copy of Pierre-Auguste Cot's La Tempête.[1] An 1880 painting depicting a young couple running away from a brewing storm, he had bought the poster at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, during one of his first visits to the United States in the 1980s. As a child, I would gaze into it longingly for hours, enthralled by its warm-dark chiaroscuro palette, my vision swirling in every brushstroke grazing the couple's flowing mantle.

Fig. 1: Pierre-Auguste Cot's "La Tempête."

It was also one of the first times I was truly confronted with the fact of human sexual dimorphism. It was obvious — the woman's breasts against the man's lack thereof, her shorter stature, her exposed, accentuated hips. Absolute difference plastered on a canvas, covered up with clothes and stylings made proper to each type of person, turning something that is in itself relatively mild into a wide, unbreachable gulf. Coverings which give meaning to said difference — give Gender.

Whenever he saw me staring at the painting, my father would tell me the couple depicted were Adam and Eve, and that the naturalistic setting was the Garden of Eden. My upbringing, at least in the home, was not particularly religious. Nevertheless, one of the staples of my childhood was an abridged version of the Bible, containing dramatic, striking reproductions of wood carvings by Gustave Doré that, to this day, remain etched into my deepest memories. So, I knew of Adam and Eve quite well. And thus, an association was immediately made in my mind: the painting was a depiction of the fall of man. The storm brewing in the background became God's wrath against his disobedient creations — the couple's implied running motion became a desperate act of pure shame.

This is the moment of sublation [2] away from classless society [3], towards a class-based ancient society. It represents the abandonment of old ways of life, in favor of the accumulation of private property at the hands of new, emergent dominant classes. It represents the creation of states and institutions, through which social divisions could be systemically enforced. As such, it is intimately connected to the birth of gender.

I. Lilith (The Female In-The-Abstract)

FAUST. Now who is that?

MEPHISTOPHELES. Take a good look! That's Lilith.


MEPHISTOPHELES. Adam's first wife. Be on your guard against her lovely tresses, the only ornament she wears! When she has caught a young man with them, it's quite a while until she lets him go.

J.W.V. Goethe, Faust. [4]

Although only mentioned once in the Christian bible [5], Lilith is a figure that has been incredibly influential in world culture as a whole. She was, as per the Jewish myths in which she originates, the world's first female human being, made from the same clay which formed her husband, Adam — rather than his rib, as Eve was.

There are multiple interpretations of Lilith as a character, going from antiquity all the way to the modern day. In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, an anonymous Hebrew text, Lilith's portrayal is itself written to be expressly misogynistic.[6] Realizing that sex forces her in a "submissive" position by virtue of being penetrated by the male [7], Lilith demands that Adam accept giving her an "equal" position during intercourse — that is, interestingly, one in which Lilith takes on the penetrative role — since both she and Adam "are equal… [and] both from the earth."[8] Being rebuked, she utters the name of God — one of Judaism's highest religious taboos — and flees across the Red Sea. In response, God sends three Angels to find her and deliver the warning: "If she wants to return, well and good. And if not, she must accept that a hundred of her children will die every day." As part of this punishment, Lilith herself has to carry out the murder of said children.

As seen above: "Popular Medieval Amulet to Protect the Mother and Child Against Attack by Lilit During Childbirth. — From Sefer Raziel, Amsterdam, 1701."

Lilith accepts the punishment, and offers the Angels a condition: if the children she is to kill are wearing an amulet for protection, then she shall cause them no harm. This story was the formal birth of the myth of Lilith — and with it, her historic association with hell, demons, and witchcraft. The Lilith in the Alphabet of Ben Sira is weaponized by the authors of said text — who almost certainly were all male, and certainly were all sexist — to convey what they believe to be an essential truth: female inferiority, in contrast with male superiority, is an obvious, natural, transhistorical [9] state of affairs. Thus, Lilith's resistance to this "natural truth," by seeking fluid equality with Adam, is not only moot, but evil.[10]

From the original story in the Alphabet of Ben Sira, translated into cultural canon, new renditions of Lilith sprung from the ground. For example, in Goethe's crowning literary achievement, Faust, Lilith is portrayed as a mischievous, sexually-promiscous demoness, whose narrative purpose is trying to seduce the titular main character.[11] It is likely that this portrayal originates in the Kabbalah texts — particularly The Zohar — where Lilith is portrayed as a succubus, the evil side of Adam, and the wife of Satan, whose sole life purpose is seducing and murdering unsuspecting men. In Greek culture, this version of Lilith became the Lamia — a half-serpent, half-woman hybrid creature with an insatiable sexual appetite, who enjoys devouring the young men she has intercourse with.

It is especially interesting to examine the underlying psychological underpinnings of the latter depiction, and how it relates back to the topic at hand: gender as a class-system. For example, in the third act of the avant-garde, surreal progressive rock opera The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, written by the aptly-titled band "Genesis," the male protagonist (Rael) eventually finds himself in a shallow misty pool, surrounded by three Lamia. The creatures seduce him, and proceed to eat him — a process which causes him no physical pain, but rather, is intensely pleasurable, "a magic that a name would stain."[12] However, because Rael is no longer 'immature,' — calling back to the original child-eating Lilith myth — the Lamia cannot properly digest his flesh, and thus begin to convulse, dying in his arms. Seeing this, Rael proceeds to devour the Lamia amidst a haunting piano passage, before resuming his journey. Soon thereafter, he finds himself in a colony populated by "Slippermen": green, deformed creatures with slimy, lump-covered skin. In reality, the Slippermen are just men who had the same encounter with the Lamia. Rael thus realizes that he, himself, has also become a Slipperman, and he is given one sole solution to reverse his predicament: surgical castration.[13]

It is clear that, in the aforementioned depiction, the Lamia — and thus, Lilith — represents an unbearable fear of several things: of male impotence on the face of female capacity, of the loss of masculinity, and thus, of the loss of sex itself.[14] In other words, Lilith's capacity to completely overpower the male on a psychological (and sexual) level threatens the myth of male superiority, and with it, manhood itself. Why? Because manhood is merely the occupying of a dominant position in a gender class-system.

In other words: Lilith is the female in-the-abstract, the female in nature, the female as-is, without any kind of social imposition laid upon her (that is, the female without womanhood). And, without womanhood, the female is equal to the male-without-manhood — a position which also implies the loss of male superiority. This is why Lilith, in pop-culture, became a monstrous demoness to be feared. What she represents to the ruling classes of her times, as well as that of our times, is the most terrifying proposition of all: female emancipation and freedom.


Regardless of whether one consciously subscribes to the Abrahamic creation stories or not, the Lilith myth in particular provides a worthwhile framework from which to understand both the root and the function of gender — and thus, the necessity for its abolition. Below, I offer an alternative Lilith story: one that, rather than serving cultural taboos, obscurantist backwardness, and counterrevolutionary reaction, serves the historical mission of our times: the overthrow of all existing social conditions, and the creation of a new world.

Firstly, it must be noted that the desire for female submission did not, and, logically, could not have, emerged naturally from Adam himself. How would he, as a brand-new creation, unbound by social phenomena and without any kind of societal structure around him, have known of submission in the first place — much less who to dish it out to? The argument that female inferiority justifies itself in women's generally smaller, physically weaker bodies is simply not convincing — female bodies are also generally more flexible, less prone to certain diseases, better at enduring pain and discomfort, and on the average, achieve greater longevity than males. It is a transhistorical truth that males are, generalizing across the entire sex, better at certain tasks by virtue of their specific biology — and, following that logic, that females also excel above males in other tasks by virtue of their specific biology. This physical difference does not presuppose any superiority or inferiority. It only suggests that dividing tasks in a hunter-gatherer, classless society, where technological advances have not yet closed the gaps between what is possible for both sexes in both directions as they largely have now — might generally be intuitive and advantageous.

So, taking humanity's comparatively mild sexual dimorphism — again, on a general, yet not strictly individual basis — into consideration, why would the physical advantages of having a female body inherently weigh less in human society? The answer is because of the historical emergence of class — and with it, gender.[15]

It is only through social institutions — primarily organized under states that class systems are sustained.[16] And class systems themselves arise out of the material, social relations between people and their means to production. In this scenario, before any organized production is taking place, there cannot be a class-system, nor a subsequent ruling state, arising out of a pre-destined nothingness — to say otherwise would be thoroughly unscientific and historically ignorant. Furthermore, in the context of the biblical creation myth, there are no pre-existing social institutions to sustain this non-existent class society. As such, the exploitation of man by man has not begun, and thereby, there is no material need for female oppression.

The question, however, remains: where is the impulse to subjugate females coming from? As per the religious stories hereby explored, it is coming from "God" himself, from divine mandate. That is, the divine mandate of ruling-class men, living in the earliest class-societies, crafting the stories that would dictate the faith, beliefs, and lives of millions. Remember Marx's thesis: "As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production."[17] In short: if, in the time of Lilith, there was no organized, generally-dominant mode of production other than agriculture, hunting, construction, and so on for subsistence, then there could be no political positions to be taken, for there was no social force predisposing man's class-based position. Even more so, there was no state of any kind. As Lenin described it, a state is "an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another,” an organ with the function of “the creation of ‘order’, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes."[18] There were no institutions from which one class could oppress another; in this case, from which males could oppress females.

Once again, if we take the Lilith myth as a piece of literature worth analyzing, any form of female subjugation in the Garden of Eden would have to be coming from 'God.' In the literal sense, this means it is coming from those writing Him to suit their class interests. Even if one does have belief in the Abrahamic God, to accept the Genesis story at face-value would be to accept that God willed women to be inferior — and certainly, many fundamentalist Christians would make said argument! Nevertheless, there is only one objective, transhistorical truth: female subordination, inferiority, or even “natural difference in heavenly-mandated roles,” as modern American Protestants tend to put it, is not natural, obvious, or self-fulfilling. Rather, it is merely the heavenly mandate of the dominant classes. It is man-made.

II. Eve (The Female Constructed)

As per the Abrahamic creation myth, following the banishment of Lilith — that is, the female in nature, as is, as transhistorical, equal, and neutral — from the Garden of Eden, God decided to bestow a second wife upon Adam. This time, he would make sure that she remained a 'faithfull,' 'submissive' wife. Making her from Adam's rib, she was branded from birth as derived, secondary, and thus, inferior.[19] It was previously said that the fall of man represented the birth of gender. Nevertheless, it was Eve's creation itself that represents its conception and in-utero growth. In this way, an emboldened Adam, drunk on male-supremacist chauvinism, reminisces looking down upon his new companion: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."[20]

Nevertheless, just as Lilith before her, not even Eve's stamping as man's inferior could prevent the inevitable — the reigning principle of all social transformation in the era of class society: "It is Right to Rebel!" In other words, the actualization of Sartre's prophecy of an inevitable apocalypse for the ruling-class: the moment of the boomerang,[21] where all oppressed classes complete their historical mission of liberation. For Eve, this moment — forever branded in the Christian pantheon as the 'original sin' — was knowledge.

But what kind of knowledge? Put simply: class consciousness. In Eve's case, consciousness of her belonging — as the sole, originating member — of the female sex-class. A desire not merely to be equal to Adam, but to be above God himself — a desire most immediately realized with an acquired awareness and shame of her own nakedness; that is, awareness of her physical sex [22], the source of her oppression.

Opening her eyes upon consuming the apple, the world became radically altered: it was no longer a monotonous, solipsistic 'paradise' where her very existence was defined by her precedence from Adam. Rather, the world became real. And thus, for the first time, she could see things as they were. Juggling knowledge on her fingertips, she saw the luminous path — for a few seconds, minutes, or days — towards equality with both Adam and God.

Thus, God, full of ruling-class wrath, appeared before both Adam and Eve, and dished out a punishment which would go on to be cited for millennia as justification for the enslavement, oppression, and humiliation of women. First, inventing physical misery: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," and then, inventing her enslavement to man — or rather, merely codifying it, as her very conception contained within it the presumption of submission: "and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."[23] And thus begins the fall of man, where woman's condition fully crystallizes into an oppressed social class. In short, the birth of gender.

With this, what Engels termed "the world-historical defeat of the female sex" [24] became reality. In concrete terms, this was the defeat of matriarchal social relations in favor of patriarchal ones, as sectors of humanity ascended first from nomadic social forms into agricultural, tribal ones, and then, into organized slave-states in the era of antiquity.[25] As the history of class struggle begins, so does the history of sex-class struggle. While classes may shift and change throughout history depending on the dominant mode of production, and so may the cultural conception of "man" and "woman," one thing is certain: so long as female people exist under class society, they will remain an oppressed sex-class. And, so long as we remain an oppressed sex-class, the dream of liberation will continue to shine high above the storm.


[1] Fig. 1, Cot, Pierre-Auguste, La Tempête, Oil on Canvas, 1880, (The Metropolitan Museum of Art),

[2] From the German original 'Aufheben,' a word and concept crucial to Marxist theory, it has several contradictory meanings. Among them are: 'to transcend,' 'to contradict,' 'to suspend,' 'to abolish,' etc.

[3] Traditional Marxist analysis uses the term "Primitive Communism" to refer to this stage of human development. This is never meant in a despective way, but rather, is merely a way to refer to early societies where social classes, as well as private property, were absent.

[4] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I & II, Volume 2: Goethe’s Collected Works - Updated Edition. Ed. Stuart Atkins. REV-Revised. Volume #2. (Princeton University Press, 1984.)

[5] The verses in Isaiah 34:14, which speak of a water spirit, are thought to refer to her.

[6] “Alphabet of Ben Sira 78: Lilith,” Jewish Women's Archive, Accessed November 8, 2022,

[7] Here, it must be noted that penetration — as an action, in this specific circumstance — is only seen as "submissive" because of the way in which submission is itself culturally associated with the realm of the female sex in the epoch of class societies. In reality, there are many arguments that could be made for why this is not the case. For example, in reproductive terms, the egg choses the sperm that it will allow to fertilize it and rejects the rest, rather than the other way around. This is a fact of human biology in which female anatomy is indisputably taking a so-called "dominant" role. Nevertheless, the real challenge is to decouple neutral biological processes from human class-systems — that is, realizing that to be female is not to be inferior.

[8] “Alphabet of Ben Sira,” Jewish Women's Archive.

[9] A material reality that is independent of social structures — that is, of the dominant mode of production. Many things in the present — for instance, gender — are merely the temporal, era-dependent form of an essence (sex) that has existed throughout all human societies, and will continue to exist unchanged in the future.

[10] Throughout history, genuine liberation movements have always been labeled either as 'terrorists,' or, if in power, as 'brutal, authoritarian, and despotic regimes.' The same principles apply here.

[11] Goethe, Faust I & II.

[12] Genesis, The Lamia, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford, Charisma Records, 1974, vinyl record.

[13] This point (that is, the connection between the Lilith myth, female liberation, and anxiety over the loss of manhood — a version of Freud's notion of castration anxiety as the universal male anxiety, the ultimate act of emasculation, related to loss of ego and thus, loss of self) is re-emphasized especially in the 1974 staging of the album, where Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel would emerge onto the stage dressed as a slipperman, crawling out of a large, red inflatable penis. The costume itself also contained inflatable male genitalia, which was meant to be deflated during the "castration" scene.

[14] Because in our era, gender (as a social imposition) is derived from physical sex, it is impossible to truly think of them separately, given that all of us have always lived in a gender class-system. Thus, to imagine the end of gender inevitably (and incorrectly!) prompts people to imagine the end of sex differences themselves. In reality, physical sex is a transhistorical reality that is devoid of any innate social significance.

[15] For more on this, see "The Principles of Feminism," published in our Summer edition, as well as Beauvoir's The Second Sex; particularly Part II, which deals with the history of the female sex and its oppression. See Simmone de Beauvoir, "Part II: History" in The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1956), 87-159.

[16] Theorizing on the birth of the first Greek states out of primitive-communist tribal societies, Engels states: "Only one thing was wanting: an institution which not only secured the newly acquired riches of individuals against the communistic traditions of the gentile order, which not only sanctified the private property formerly so little valued, and declared this sanctification to be the highest purpose of all human society; but an institution which set the seal of general social recognition on each new method of acquiring property and thus amassing wealth at continually increasing speed; an institution which perpetuated, not only this growing cleavage of society into classes, but also the right of the possessing class to exploit the non-possessing, and the rule of the former over the latter… And this institution came. The state was invented." See Friedrich Engels, “IV. The Greek Gens” in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, (Zurich: 1884),

[17] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Part I: Feuerbach, Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook"in The German Ideology, ed. David Riazanov, (Moscow: Marx-Engels Institute, 1932),

[18] Vladimir Lenin, “1. The State: A Product of the Irreconcilability of Class Antagonisms” in The State and Revolution, (Russian Republic: 1917),

[19] As Milton, poet of female-hatred, describes her from Adam's perspective, she is both intellectually and physically his lesser, and most importantly, does not resemble the figure of God as much as Adam, who was made in his image:

"For well I understand in the prime end

Of nature her th’inferior, in the mind

And inward faculties, which most excel,

In outward also her resembling less

His image who made both, and less expressing

The character of that dominion giv’n”

For more, see John Milton, "Book VIII” in Paradise Lost, ed. Thomas Newton, vol. II, (London: 1795), 73.

[20] Genesis 2:23, KJV.

[21] Frantz Fanon, “Preface” in The Wretched of the Earth, Pref. By Jean Paul Sartre, trans. Constance Farrington, (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 20.

[22] It must be remarked that by 'physical sex', what is referred to are the collection of general sex-specific phenotypes characterized as "female," in contrast to "male" sex-specific phenotypes. These are humanly-understood categories, and while the reproduction and conception of humans does operate on a sex-binary by design, nature itself has never been as clean-cut and well-defined in practice as two simple, rigid categories would imply. Not all women share the exact same sex-specific phenotypes — individually, variations exist and are common. Nevertheless, when these phenotypes are considered as a whole, most people can be — and are, socially-speaking — qualified as either male or female, and thereby either become oppressors or oppressed respectively.

[23] Genesis 3:16

[24] Engels, The Origin of the Family.

[25] Engels, The Origin of the Family.

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