Thursday, January 31, 2008

Revised: "In this patriarchal society..."

Something happened to me today that really ticked me off: I was dealing with a situation and found myself saying, "I could really use a husband right now."

Here's how it happened:

I was on the phone with an Orthodox man who dented my parked car when he backed up into it, trying to settle the accident with him without involving the insurance company. It had already been a few months of haggling where I tried my best to settle without having to ruin his insurance rates but it had come to a point where he was only offering me enough money to fix the paint job.

That's how it happened that today I called him and told him that I couldn't fix my car with the amount that he was offering and I was going to have to go to my insurance company. He tried to offer me more, asking me how much he would have to pay me to cover the expenses and I named a price for him.

Now, if he had said right then, "Okay, I'll send you a check with that amount and I appreciate that you aren't going to the insurance company," then I would have been happy to leave it at that.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

Instead, he began to tell me off for haggling with him, telling me that he would show me, midat hadin, which roughly means "G-d's attribute of justice" but in this context meant, "You'll get what's coming to you for making me pay this much."

Now I don't know who he thought he was talking to, but there was no way that I was going to let him talk to me that way. I immediately told him that and said that I was going to go through my insurance company. He tried to wheedle me into changing my mind, saying, "Oh, it's nothing personal against you; I just know how people like you work..." but I was done. I told him that I had done nothing wrong here and did not deserve to be talked to in the way he had just talked to me, that I was calling my insurance company, and I hung up over his protests.

That's when I said, "I could really use a husband right now," because I knew instinctively that this man thought that he could talk to me that way because he knew I was a single, frum woman and assumed that, like the community expects, I'd respect him as an Orthodox man and wouldn't dare defy him. (He'd actually mentioned it to me a few times, telling me that he could have walked away without taking responsibility for backing into my car but that would be gneiva - stealing - and he, as a frum man, couldn't do that and I should darn well appreciate that.) If I had a husband then maybe I could stand up to him, but without one I wouldn't have the guts.

This is a serious problem in the frum community, which is often very patriarchal. Too often men in the community don't respect women as much as they respect men so that their attitude toward women is not as respectful when they don't have a husband around to back them up.

Before revising this post I had written that these frum men's attitudes were detrimental specifically to single women, but the truth is that the same goes for married women as long as their husband is not with them.

For example, one of my former bosses hired women specifically because he felt he could push them around more than he could push around men.

It's got something to do with women not being able to defy a man without another man to back them up. And, unfortunately, all too often women in the frum do not defy the men even when they have reason to. Doing so is considered chutzpa - an act of disrespect.

Ironically, the when the men don't t treat women respectfully, that doesn't seem to count as chutzpa.

The fact that I suddenly felt like I needed a man in order to handle business, - in order to be respected, - that's what ticked me off.

Luckily for me, but unluckily for the "car-smasher," I'm not one of those timid frum women who put up with patriarchal males who think that the fact that they're male means that they can push women around. With my former boss I eventually got the courage to stand up to him (and, ultimately, to leave the job,) because of the way he did not respect me. I wasn't about to let another chauvinistic man push me around.

So on the question of, "Am I a frum feminist"? Well, today I am. Not the type of feminist who argues that women should be able to do everything that men do, (like so many people have assumed, reading this blog, scoffing at me,) but the type of feminist who argues that women should be respected just as much as men are.


  1. Frumfem,

    I am so proud of you to stand up to that jerk. I can't believe he mentioned that you should be appreciative that he didn't walk away from what he did and not have to pay or owe you anything simple because he is a frum man, and you are a single frum female.

    I mean, I know I am outraged by this more than you maybe because I am an outsider looking in on the frum community, but all this about women not having authority because they do not have a husband to act as a stronger authoritative figure just drives me nuts.

    And, im sure you could have guessed that I believe that a woman can definitely do anything a man can do, and of course without a doubt deserves the same respect as any man. Maybe that concept is altered or skewed depending what environment you grew up in, but that just seems like it should be an unspoken rule in the law of human curtesy.

    If a man thinks he can get away with not paying you the appropriate amount of money he owes you when HE damaged your car, or have the gal to tell you to be appreciative he didnt just walk away because you are a woman, or even tell you rude comments to send you on the guilt trip....then there is a serious inequality issue and anti-female cultural constructions going on in the frum community. I hope it changes soon, and the community as a whole open their eyes and put a stop to this sexist behavior, because it is definitely a serious issue.

    Your Feminist Friend,

  2. What I mean when I say that I don't expect that women can do everything that men can is that I acknowledge that there are differences between men and women and therefore each has different talents. Men can't give birth, for instance and women generally can't carry loads as large as men.

    I think that this is turning out to be the point in my blog: that there's a problem in the frum community with respect towards women, especially single women.

  3. As a frum man if you still need help settling this issue, pease feel free to contact me and I will gladly take care of it for you........


  4. kick him in the nuts

    ure friend rembrandt

  5. Elon -

    I think you may have missed my point... That I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, despite what people in the frum community might expect from women.