Conference report for The Scholar and The Feminist III, 1976, page 3

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          The morning session began with welcoming remarks by Elizabeth
Janeway, who placed feminist scholarship in the perspective of its im-
portance for women and men alike, as a force that will transform both
the educational curriculum and our thinking. The first major paper was
presented by Rayna R. Reiter, anthropologist from The New School for
Social Research. Acknowledging that feminists, inside and outside the
academy, are looking to anthropology for answers about the fundamental
issue of women's condition, Reiter undertook a general review of what is
and what is not known at the present time, along with a feminist critique
of the gaps in our knowledge left by a male—oriented tradition of learning.
She outlined three major transitional points, moving from the present to
the past, in the development of civilization: the growth of modern in-
dustrial and post-industrial capitalism, with its profound impact on
family organization; the development of the state and modern state orga-
nization, first formulated by Engels as the transition from kinship—based,
communal life to the beginning of hierarchical political structures; and
finally, the original human family and society and the primate social or-
ganization from which they emerged.

At all three major junctures, important changes contributed to the
imposition of the traditions and structures that feminists today are seek-
ing to dismantle. Reiter stressed the importance of thorough and accurate
research in these and in other areas, so that the movement for the full
equality of women will have an accurate and powerful “archeology of knowl-
edge” at its service.

The second paper was presented by Elaine H, Pagels, Chair of the
Barnard Department of Religion. Pagels used her expertise in the area of
gnosticism, the early tradition of heretical beliefs that was systematically
purged in the codification of Christian doctrine during the second century
A.D., to develop a case-study of the ideological and political exclusion
of women. She pointed to the curious fact that of all the world religions,
only the Judeo—Christian tradition (and the Islamic, its near~relation) ex-
cludes the feminine principle from the concept of God. This exclusion,
Pagels demonstrated, was the result of a conscious and explicit effort by
the Church_fathers to remove from the canonical literature those gnostic
texts that refer to the Holy Trinity as, logically enough, the Father, the
Son, and the Mother. At the same time, the organization of the church
banned as heretical the practice of the gnostic communities of rotating the
roles of bishop and priest by lot, thus including women as full and equal
participants. ‘Thus, in this period, the expurgation of a female element
from the Godhead coincides with the elimination of any priestly role for
women within the church.

Instead of having a discussant on thesplatform, we invited the
audience to serve as discussant for the two papers, and to draw out the
implications and the interrelations between them. A series of probing
questions from the floor closed the morning session.

After lunch, conference participants attended thirteen seminars,
each considering a theme related to the problem of origins. Five of these