Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou delivers Rosalind Franklin Lecture on the sexist legacy of the Bible

6 March, 2020

On Thursday, around 400 people attended this year’s Humanists UK Rosalind Franklin Lecture, Humanists UK’s annual lecture in celebration of International Women’s Day. Audience members at the sold-out Perrin Lecture Theatre in Whitechapel heard Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou give a fascinating talk entitled, ‘Made in Man’s Image? How God’s body haunts us today’, chaired by award-winning journalist Samira Ahmed.

Andrew Copson, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Samira Ahmed –              at Humanists UK’s Franklin Lecture 2020, London.

Francesca’s lecture explored the pernicious legacy of the Bible’s sexist gender politics and how it has profoundly affected social structures in the 21st century. Modern systemic sexism and misogynistic cultures in the West, Francesca argued, have roots in early religious ideas such as the defining ‘maleness’ of god; the vilification of women in Christian and Judaic scripture; the worship of male virility and the divine masculinity of Yahweh; and the founding idea from the creation myth that man was made in Yahweh’s image, while woman was created from man, making them distinctly ‘unequal.’

‘The Bible underwrites a lot of these culture tics and twitches that we have,’ she explained. In a wide-ranging lecture with humour and surprising revelations from the history of the Bible, Francesca presented a detailed history of sex and gender in the Bible, showing how ancient Israelite scripture (and today’s Bible) presented a ‘cosmic order’ or scheme for society in which men were fundamentally different from, and better than, women. With close reference to original texts and later works of religious art, she then traced that thread to the 21st century, where both structural sexism and religious sexism continue to prevail.

In recognition of her pioneering academic and broadcasting work on the history of the Bible and the complexity of the cultures which gave rise to it, Francesca became the second ever person to receive the Rosalind Franklin Medal, presented by Samira Ahmed. Humanists UK awards the medal each year to its appointed Rosalind Franklin Lecturer.


The Rosalind Franklin Lecture explores and celebrates the contribution of women towards the promotion and advancement of humanism in the UK and around the world. It is a part of the Humanists UK annual lecture series, along the Darwin Day Lecture, the Voltaire Lecture, the Holyoake Lecture, and the Blackham Lecture.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.