Moore, “Raping Rome”

Moore’s essay, “Raping Rome,” attempts to answer why the Roman Empire, where masculinity is valued far above femininity, is symbolically represented by the Whore of Babylon, a woman. Moore suggests that while John attempts to subvert the empire by shaming its representational goddess, Roma, he also inadvertently uses her as a model for the Jesus of Revelation, both of whom rise above the binary gender distinctions so resolutely maintained in Roman society. The fluidity of Jesus as an intersected being mirrors that of Roma similarly embodying male and female aspects.

Moore labels Roma’s inclusion in Revelation as “a case of triple transvestism” (125). She is Rome’s hypermasculine militarism in a female body in a male warrior’s dress: male as female as male. Her association with military might and imperial power, along with her very name meaning “strength,” furthers the paradox of the presence of masculinity in her clearly female body. In addition, Roma displays virtus, a male characteristic that was thought of as the opposing force to feminine vices. Moore concludes that Roma personifies both men and women, but in a constant state of tension. Judith Butler’s theories of gender and performance set the theoretical framework for examining Roma as a being in double drag, and the subsequent reading of the Whore of Babylon as one in triple drag who is stripped of her Roman power and shamefully defeated.

According to Moore, John violently destroys Roma, yet he uses her multi-gender model to describe the figure of Jesus in Revelation. On one level, the division between male and female seems rigidly separated; male takes the top place while female is relegated to a lower rank. However, Moore states that Jesus confuses the binary distinction; he is both male and female, deconstructing the boundaries between genders that Roma, and Roman society, represent.

Moore presents a compelling reading of gender in Revelation, one that makes the reader consider issues beyond the surface of the text.  The inclusion of Judith Butler’s work especially supports his conclusions.  However, the layer-upon-layer approach he takes creates confusion towards his logic and questions its applicability to the period in which Revelation was written.  Gender and queer studies are fairly recent fields in academia and can be used to examine almost any subject, yet Moore’s specific application of gender and queer studies to biblical scenarios seems a bit stretched.  My lack of extensive knowledge regarding the topic prevents me from having a solid opinion on the anachronism of Moore’s study (which he himself admits is one of his weaknesses).  But, the criss-crossing lines of logic are so difficult to follow that they give the sense that some conclusions have been forced onto the material.

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