Biblical Bathing Beauties And The Manipulation Of The Male Gaze: What Judith Can Tell Us about Bathsheba and Susanna
Abstract

Abstract:

The famous baths of two biblical women, Bathsheba and Susanna, captured the lust of their respective onlookers. Despite what is not a hint of seductive intent in their stories, many interpreters have portrayed these two characters as, essentially, "asking for it." Feminist scholars have worked to rehabilitate Bathsheba and Susanna's reputations. Curiously, though, neither traditional scholars portraying the characters as femmes fatales nor feminist interpreters defending them have brought a third biblical bathing woman, Judith, into the discussion. This paper argues that Judith is the only one of the three to whom the biblical text actually does attribute seductive motives. Judith uses the idea that a bathing woman is an irresistible object of desire to her advantage and so arranges semipublic baths while she is in an Assyrian military camp. Using close readings of the three texts and feminist interpretive strategies, Tamber-Rosenau argues that Judith, unlike the other two bathing women, choreographs her exposure for maximum effect. Judith's baths, unlike those of Bathsheba and Susanna, are a calculated part of a larger seduction routine.


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