Abigail Favale’s book, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory, is somewhat appropriately named. On one had the subtitle indicate that this book explores the origins of gender from a uniquely Christian perspective. On the other hand, it is clear that this book was written for an evangelical, rightwing, conservative etc. audience.
Favale sets the stage early in the book by discussing two opposing paradigms: The gender paradigm and the Genesis paradigm. She writes, “The gender paradigm affirms a radically constructivist view of reality, then ratifies it as truth, demanding that others assent to its veracity and adopt its language […] We do not receive meaning from God or our bodies or the world–we impose it.”
Favale makes this point arguing that if an individual thinks they are a woman, but their body is a man’s body, then the mind must bend the body to its identity. In the Genesis paradigm God creates reality, and human language constructs reality. However, in the gender paradigm humans are the creators and constructor of our reality. Essentially, she’s writing that gender identity is an act of the human will, and not something that originates from beyond the human or societal plane.
I can see where she’s going here as she pulls heavily from classical feminist theory, but she has to cut the human body in two in order to make her point. Her mind-body dichotomy is baffling to be frankly. She seems to get away with it by scapegoating feminism, but the distinction seems to come entirely from her own theory. She elevates the body over the mind, and argues that gender identify should come from one’s body and not one’s mind. I can’t help but think of this scene from The (American) Office (start at 1:10, end at 1:30 for a good laugh).
The other foundational issue I have with Favale’s work is her interpretation of Genesis. She does Genesis justice by a) categorizing its literary genre as myth, and b) not pitting Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as contradictory, but complementary. She writes:
“Ancient cosmologies must not be read as literal history or science. To do so imposes a modern mindset on premodern texts and obscures the truth the stories seek to disclose […] If these texts are instead read as divinely revealed poetry and allegory–as true myth–a fuller picture of God, reality, and the human person emerges.”
I’m fully on board at this point, but then she goes on the interpret Genesis 2 as a literal/scientific/modern event; as though this myth is describing an actual historical event where God created an actual man with a penis and no uterus, and an actual woman with a vagina and a uterus!
Joseph Campbell defined myth as an organization of symbolic images, which metaphorically communicate the possibilities of the human experience and fulfillment within a given culture.  Favale tips her cap to the mythological nature of Genesis, while asserting a literal interpretation of a gender/sex binary.
Her book is well written, but it poses a philosophical perspective that simply upholds common Evangelical assumptions. The foundational cracks in her premise are visible, particularly around Genesis and the mind-body split. The gaslighting and potential harm she could cause in the trans community is worth noting. Fortunately, her book seems to bounce off an echo chamber of conservative Catholics and Evangelicals who laud her as an academic to support the perspectives of DeSantis and Abbot.
On a personal note, Abigail Favale once found my George Fox Employee ID after I lost it in a coffee shop parking lot. She sought me out and returned it, and we had a delightful exchange.
 Abigail Favale, The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory (Ignatius Press, 2022). 30.
 Genesis 2:18-20. NIV.
 Favale. 37
 Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, ed. Eugene Kennedy (New World Library, 2013). 1.