The Aunt’s tent

The Red Tent by Anita Daimant

International Women’s Day seems the perfect time to review Anita Daimant’s book about Dinah.  The author proposes an alternative to the accepted wisdom that Dinah was raped and the ensuing violence was a reaction to her rape.

Immaculately researched and beautifully written the Red Tent is an extraordinary story, Daimant demonstrates real skill in retelling such a well known story, asking in essence what if Dinah was in love?  What if it wasn’t rape?

If you accept this alternative view – there are two ways to understand what happened.  One is that her brothers knew this and actually it didn’t matter.  As an unmarried girl of the time she didn’t have the “right” to choose who she fell in love with and certainly not to choose her sexual partners.  The families had not come to any agreement, she was at the palace as a guest.  So, once they understood what had happened her brothers had every right to decide it was rape and act accordingly.  Dinah’s view was of no importance.

The other of course is that she was just an excuse for her rather blood thirsty brothers to act as they wanted.  As a woman, it was easy enough to use her.

Perhaps Dinah should have been more aware of the consequences of her actions?!  An interesting view?  Well, it brings us full circle to today and this week’s airing of  “India’s Daughter”.  This different perspective on rape,  showed that in 2,000 years maybe we haven’t made the kind of progress we’d like to think we have.

What’s very sad is that Anita Daimant’s painstaking research shows that in the Ancient world women were far more in tune with their sexuality and that their monthly cycle was a cause to be celebrated and recognised.  Today most women would feel great embarrassment for their cycle to be known widely in their community.  Indeed, the concept of a monthly red tent to spend time with other women (“aunties”) is beyond our understanding.

The tent with the Aunties reminded me of the old fashioned gentlemen’s clubs, where connecting with like-minded souls was a way to refresh yourself, gain different perspectives and learn from others.

For me this wasn’t a feminist book.  But it did celebrate women and the often unique ties that they make with each other, the contrast with Jacob’s sons is often compelling.  The other aspect that I loved was the connection between women and nature – for all we have gained in 2,000 years it was striking to see what we’ve also lost.


This link explores the concept in a more academic approach: