Does the fact that the human (האדם) of Genesis 2 names the woman (אשה) mean he thereby wields authority over her? The suggestion seems strained to me.
According to “Mona Lisa’s Sword” – gotta love that title – a site for self-defense instructors, “naming implies authority.” Its positive use involves the drawing of clear boundaries. Here’s the link.
Naming, in some contexts, is an exercise of power. Wielding authority, furthermore, is a positive thing. The authority vacuum which characterizes many aspects of society today is the cause of much suffering in the world. Self-defense instructors are right to encourage their students to name potentially threatening individuals in their environment, and wield authority over them. Right on, Mona! Wield that sword! The alternative, “turning the other cheek,” is unhelpful advice. True, somebody I respect said those words, but the words have been mis-contextualized and abused by well-meaning followers. It’s always someone else who is supposed to turn the other cheek, isn’t it?
But to suggest, as many scholars do, that the naming of the אשה in Gen 2:23 is an example of wielding authority, misreads the cues of the text. The subtleties of the biblical text in which the human (האדם) proclaims that “this one” shall be called אשה “woman,” a play onאיש , “man,” are thereby overlooked.
As Nahum Sarna puts it in his Genesis (JPSTC; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society) 23:
[I]n naming her ’ishah, he simultaneously names himself. Hitherto he is consistently called ’adam; he now calls himself ’ish for the first time. Thus he discovers his own manhood and fulfillment only when he faces the woman, the human being who is to be his partner for life.
Naming is not always about wielding authority. It can be an expression of love and appreciation, the conclusion of a process of discovery and self-discovery.
UPDATE: see comments below, in which Rob Holmstedt redresses the balance.