Question: should woman have been made as part of the original creation?
Point: 1. It would seem not. Aristotle says that woman is a less good version of a man, and the original creation can't have included anything defective, right? (Thanks, Aristotle). 2. Subjection and inferiority are a result of sin, and without sin, we'd all be equal. But women are clearly crappier than men because the 'active' is always superior to the 'passive.' 3. We should get rid of things that tempt us to sin, and women tempt men to sin.
On the other hand: The Bible tells us that God said 'it is not good for man to be alone.'
Reply: Man needed someone to help him (not as a friend, or a co-worker ha! Obviously if it was about having a friend or someone to help with practical stuff, God would have just made another man. Women? Friends? Partners? Don't make me laugh) with the work of procreation. 1. Women are defective as individuals, but that doesn't mean the whole species of humanity is defective. A healthy male seed will grow into a healthy male baby, and women are only born when the seed's not quite right, or when there's a damp south wind, or something like that (thanks, ancient biologists!). 2. There are two different sorts of subjection: the bad sort, where the ruler manages his subject selfishly - this is a result of sin - and the good sort, where the ruler manages his subject for their own good, and this would have existed even without sin because men are more rational than women, who need ruling over for their own good. 3. God couldn't just take away everything from creation that might lead him into sin, and women add value to creation as well as temptation.
It's tempting to make allowances for Thomas, because I really do love him, but having seen 2. deployed as an argument for why women shouldn't be allowed to be leaders, in a book by the wife of a prominent Christian leader (though mightn't her emotions be clouding her judgment? Let's hope a man checked it first...), and having just read an excellent book by Grace Jantzen about the way that our ideas about gender and power are at work in all sorts of surprising areas of Christian theology, I think this matters, quite a lot. I think it should change how we read Thomas as a whole, knowing that this is there underneath it, and I think that seeing how much his weird ideas about men and women are bound up with weird ideas about biology, and yet are still pretty close to some of the ways people talk about men and women now should make us think a bit more carefully about what it is we really mean when we talk about the difference between men and women.
Photo credit: 'Lawrence OP' on Flickr