Friday, August 31, 2007

Kvod Bas Malkah

The Jewish daughter is a princess, or so we're told in the handbook and orientation speeches of every Beis Yaakov. Reading a review of a book about the life of a real princess it suddenly occurred to me that this comparison is perfectly accurate. Here is Christine Stansell describing Diana Spencer's childhood:
Despite having grown up in the 1960s... Diana's horizons were almost as low as [her mother's] had been when she was a girl. She did not travel or read books (except for the billowy romances of Barbara Cartland, in which the shy heroine always gets the manly prince). At home she never met artists or intellectuals or politicians, or heard the world's or the nation's affairs discussed with any seriousness. Quite incredibly, in the 1970s she received a slightly updated version of the same ladies' finishing school education that women reformers had been denouncing since... the eighteenth century as hopelessly feminine, class-bound, and provincial. Such a life did not prepare a girl for university--that was for their brothers.. even though middle-class girls had been going to university, including Oxford and Cambridge, for nearly a century.
Feminine, class-bound, and provincial...Sounds a bit Bes Yaakovy, doesn't it? How many of our daughters travel, or read serious books or discuss anything secular with any seriousness? (The same is true of our sons, I suppose.) Like Diana, frum Jewish girls aren't usually prepared for college, or even for advanced limudei kodesh. What they are prepared to do is find husbands, and here again is Stansel, "On graduating from boarding school, teenagers with titles went to London to take tiny jobs while they waited for husbands to come along."

What's true of British "teenagers with titles," alas, is also true of Brooklyn, Lakewood and Kiryas Joel teenagers named Shprintza or RochelLeah. They, too, are expected to quietly take simple jobs -as secretaries, as clerks, as baby sitters - and to wait patiently until a prince in a black hat, and white shirt arrives with a ring. Even the courtship is similar. Diana and Charles met only 14 times before their wedding, and every step was micro-managed by the queen and her mother.

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