Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Gender double standards in Judaism

I think there is a real disconnect in our Jewish culture.

We reward men for (a) doing stupid things, that were (b) invented yesterday, while simultaneously discouraging women from doing things that (a) they have always done and (b) Judaism has historically considered to be both worthwhile and valuable.

What stupid, new things do men get points for? Let's start with the Uman pilgrimage. While individual voices have been raised against it, society still generally approves of men who ditch their families during the High Holidays for two days of fun with the guys in the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, woman who wish to wear tzitzis or to pray with a minyan or to create their own zimun are stigmatized. Instead of relying on the Rishonim and Achronim who either permit or encourage women to embrace such practices,  we tend to see such women as rebels and to treat them like pariahs.

I don't want to sound like a voice howling against the wind but... why? Why do we do this? Why do we commend men who take on new practices, while criticizing women who wish to follow old practices. And why do we choose to criticize these women, when other choices are available? For instance, we might just as easily choose to keep our mouths shut. For that matter, we might also choose to rely on the Talmud and the Rishonim who explicitly permit women to wear tzitzis,  or on the sages who called minyan-attendance a great segulah, or on the Achronim who encouraged women to bentch together.

It seems to me that any of these practices are on stronger halachic footing than the men's pilgrimages to Uman but, counter-intuitively, we mock the women and congratulate the men. 
Another thing. Wouldn't it be harder for men to pretend women don't exist, if women made more of an effort to, you know, be around. Maybe if women went to shul, to the extent possible, the vicious cycle of women skipping shul, thereby permitting men to build shuls that don't accommodate women, thereby causing women to skip shul, would be broken.

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