Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Limitations on women in the OJ world

By TikunOlam

While many in the Orthodox world may consider me a feminist, that is not how I see myself. I believe that men and women should be given equal opportunities and marriage is a partnership where each should have an equal say in decisions. I recognize that men and women, as a general rule, have different strengths and weaknesses, generally have different communication styles, ways of processing information and interpersonal relationships. I wear makeup, high heels and wear my hair long. While both my husband and I earned graduate degrees and work outside the home, he is the one to work the long hours while I work part-time and function as the primary caregiver to our children as well as the primary home-maker.

That being said, I started expressing some of my distaste for the limitations on women in the OJ world in Rabbi Fink's thread yesterday. Like many women (and men) I don't find the apologetics and claims that women are "equal but different" to ring true. OJ is a patriarchal system. All you have to do is look in the siddur and see how it says "Elokai Avraham, Elokai Yizchak V'Elokai Yaakov with the Matriachs conspicuously missing to get a clue. In fact, the rest of the Jewish denominations have noticed this as well and my own children have siddurim that include "Elokai Sarah. . ." too.

Some of the other practices that bothered me growing up:

1. "She lo asani isha" (yes, I know the apologetics)

2. Sitting in the back of the shul as a spectator rather than a participant

3. Wearing skirts when pants are so much more comfortable

4. Stringencies on tznius that are much more imposing on women than on men (you know, it is hot in the summer!)

5. Lack of women shul presidents

6. Women's limitations in taking communal spiritual leadership or functioning as rabbis

7. Limits on women's Jewish education. I, for one, was sent to typing, cooking and sewing classes while the boys learned Gemara. Girls were taught "halacha l'maase" only, none from original sources and the classes only covered Shabbat, Kashrut and Taharat Hamishpacha, as though those are the only halachot women are obligated in.

8. The constant discussion of women not being obligated in mitvot (and limited in opportunities to do some of the mitvot) so they can take care of their children. Women are only taking care of young children for a portion of their adult lives. There are plenty of years pre-children and post children to participate in communal life.

9. Not being counted in a minyan. Hey, I understand if women don't HAVE to be there, but if they are there why count a 12 year old boy rather than a grown woman as is done in one small OJ shul that I frequent?

10. Prohibition against women acting as witnesses at weddings

That's a start. Let the apologetics that I have heard a million times before begin. . .

Search for more information about women and Orthodox Judaism at 4torah.com.

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