#MeToo, Said the Shulamite

Gustave_Moreau_-_Song_of_Songs_(Cantique_des_Cantiques)_-_Google_Art_ProjectOri Weisberg at Moment:

The shift of #MeToo into #TimesUp suggests that we moderns should long since have eradicated sexual abuse and harassment, consigning them to a barbaric past. Their endurance is indeed beyond frustrating. But while some attribute them to an interruption of progress, to the fact that we have not reached a utopian modernity, others argue that modernity itself has prolonged these behaviors. They are seen as products of the sexual revolution, which must be reversed.

Yet both approaches are mistaken. Neither modernity nor tradition have, in and of themselves, offered solutions to sexual harassment and violence. In fact, the biblical Song of Songs, one of the oldest extant love poems, can be read as an extended protest against the sexual oppression of women. Since ancient times, the struggle against it has required the voices of women who can speak without shame about their own desire, their experiences of violation and their rights of refusal as full-fledged humans.

The central figure of Song of Songs is an unnamed young woman, referred to variously including as “the Shulamite,” who asserts her sexual and emotional agency while others attempt to control her.

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