Friday, March 22, 2013

Jew in the City - I Beg to Differ (Part 2)

To be fair, most Orthodox Jewish women are not aware of their subjugation. They simply live their lives the way that they saw their mothers live theirs and are fairly happy in their ignorance. 

I don't think anyone intelligent in the frum community would deny the fact that we brainwash our children. Like all cultures, we have values, norms, beliefs, and traditions that we cherish and want our children to cherish, so we indoctrinate them with our chosen values from the moment they're born. It is this brainwashing that allows women to live under subjugation without realizing it. 

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with teaching children values; that's a healthy part of socialization. It's the values that are unfair and closed-minded that I take issue with. 

Such as the way that girls are trained to think and behave in the frum community. We are instilled with a message of, "Being seen and not heard." Except we're not supposed to be seen either.

They stick us women behind partitions in shul (synagogue) and tell us to keep quiet. The men will sing and dance on their side of the partition, praying to G-d with joy and happiness while the women just sit, watch, (through the curtains,) and listen. 

They teach us to be modest in clothing and behavior and use the laws of modesty to keep us from expressing ourselves through the way we dress by saying that we shouldn't wear loud colors or (what they consider) outlandish (i.e. different from what everyone else is wearing) garments. One of my high school principals favorite sayings was, "Ask yourself: Would my Chumash (Bible-studies) teacher wear that? If not, you shouldn't wear it either!"  If you enter an ultra-Orthodox community, one of the things that you'll notice is that most of the women are wearing very similar clothing in very limited colors. 

As for modest behavior, we're expected to be always calm and collected. To not draw attention to ourselves in any way... Which rids us of the ability to be unique. 

They inundate us with the message that we girls\women can fulfill our purpose in the world just by getting married, keeping a Kosher home, and having children, removing the possibility for other ambitions. 

Female socialization in the ultra-Orthodox community thus ends up being the creation of cookie-cutter women who, as long as they remain "brainwashed", and happy in their subjugated situations.

I was. In fact, when I was about 21, I wrote an article that was published in an Orthodox Jewish women's magazine in which I spoke with pride about returning a skirt that I bought from GAP because even though it was long and modest, it's style and color was too outlandish. 

I wrote another article, which was published on a Jewish website, that claimed that women should be happy and fulfilled in their roles as wives and mothers because it's what G-d created us for. 

I shudder, now, thinking of those articles, but also realize that I was just spouting back the things that I'd been taught. 

It was only when I dared to step out of the frum woman's box that I started to see things from an objective perspective. Unlike nearly all of my contemporaries, I wasn't given the chance of getting married and having children young, which is the only really approved path for frum women. And so I found myself "off the path" - taking a job outside of the frum community, working with non-religious and non-Jewish people, and going to college because I had to do SOMETHING with my time. 

It was "off this path" that I started to gain perspective and began to see the patriarchy inherent in the frum world. (Not really) coincidentally, that's when I started this blog, and if you go back to the beginning and read my earliest posts, you'll find how I struggled with this new perspective. If you continue reading, you'll see how my views evolved.

Outside of the "approved path", I began to ask questions. And did not like the answers.

STAY TUNED: I'm going to write more detailed posts about more specific subjugations of frum women, such as Kol Isha (the "Voice of a Woman" being forbidden from being heard), Gets (the Jewish divorce process), and the faults in a "Separate but Equal" ideology

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jew in the City - I Beg to Differ (Part 1)

Many of my readers have probably come across the internet personality, "Jew in the City", whether on YouTube, on her Website, or on her recent Buzzfeed article, "13 Annoying Things Most People Assume About Orthodox Jews."

Some of the 13 "Annoying Things" that she mentioned are, indeed, misconceptions. We don't have sex through a hole in a sheet. Not all - or even most - Orthodox women shave their heads when they get married. Our food doesn't have to be blessed by a rabbi. I'd venture a guess that most of us HATE Manischewitz wine. 

But there were also a few that she got very, very wrong. 

One of them - where she claims that birth control is readily allowed - I addressed previously in my post, "Dark Side Confessions #2: Birth Control." She's right that Jewish law allows the use of birth control, but she fails to mention the immense social pressure to have many kids. Maybe her particular community, which sounds Modern Orthodox Judaism, doesn't preach to, "have as many children as G-d gives you", but ultra-Orthodox communities do

Another of her 13 "Things" states that Orthodox Jewish women not only work, but even have top positions in companies, hospitals, and law firms. Again, I think she's speaking for the Modern Orthodox world because in the ultra-Orthodox world, college is severely frowned upon, for men AND women. It's slowly becoming more accepted to attend Orthodox colleges, where men and women are separated, but in the ultra-Orthodox world, where girls generally marry and have children very young, young women do a quick undergrad degree by getting credits for seminary and taking CLEPs and\or choose to major in an area where they will have flexible hours so that they can care for their children, such as speech therapy, graphic design, and teaching. 

Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing these women for wanting to put their families before their careers because that's admirable. But the picture that "Jew in the City" paints of Orthodox women as career women is, by majority, inaccurate. 

The last of the "Things" that "Jew in the City" writes about that I take exception to is when she writes that Orthodox women are not subjugated. In that one, she is absolutely wrong. 


Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! (Image courtesy of today's Google-Doodle.)

According to the Christian Science Monitor (and, yes, I recognize the irony in a "Frum" woman quoting from a Christian "source" - but they have really good reporting, so I'm going with it), "International Women’s Day originally commemorated the working rights protests led by female garment workers."

I'm proud to say, although the article points out that that, "Many seem to forget the holiday’s ties to the working rights movement in the United States and the Socialist Party",  a movement that has become something that I have negative opinions about, that my frum great-grandmother was one of those protesting garment workers.

Yes, proud. Because although the "working rights movement" and - especially - "the Socialist Party", have tendencies that I find destructive to democracy, (fodder for an entire different post), those women who fought for the rights of women in the garment district were fighting for the basic, and essential, equality that women deserve - and that's a fight worthy of respect and pride.

Knowing that I had a great-grandmother who fought for women's rights is definitely a big part of what inspired my own strong feelings about women's rights and equality, so today, on International Women's Day, I want to honor her and thank her for fighting for my, and all American women's, rights. Thank you Grandma!