Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is Judaism Opposed to Feminism?


[Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique]

Yes, it is.

Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the primary decision makers should be men.

First of all, only men are permitted to attend Talmudic lectures. Since all important decisions in society are based on the Talmud, this effectively excludes women from community decision making.

Second of all, in Judaism, wealth generally is in the hands of men. If someone dies and leaves a son, the son inherits all regardless of the existence of daughters. If a woman marries and owns property, the property is controlled by her husband during their marriage. If a married woman works, her earnings belong to her husband unless she waives her right to spousal support.

The fact is, however, this is little different than in other societies.

In all human societies, even those which claim to endorse the principle of equality of the sexes, men are dominant. In politics, about 85% of all leaders are male. In the business world, there were 78 women from a total of 793 billionaires worldwide in 2006.

Going a step further, among most animals and nearly all mammals, the male is larger and more aggressive on the average than the female.

Gender equality is therefore seemingly not only against human nature, but against biology.

In my humble opinion, Judaism handles male dominance in a very humane and reasonable way. Men are given greater decision making privileges than women. On the other hand, men pay a price for this – they have much heavier religious obligations than women. Secondly, men are obligated to treat women with a level of love and respect equal to that with which they must treat other men. “Love your neighbor as yourself” applies equally to women and to ones wife. Insulting a woman is prohibited. Striking a woman is strictly prohibited. Forced sex is strictly prohibited. A man must financially support any children he has. I am aware of no recorded case of spousal homocide in the Orthodox community.

Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality are plagued by rape, wife beating and "dead beat dads".

I suspect that this philosophy, of a humane approach to male dominance, is one main reason why very few Orthodox women choose to leave Orthodoxy, in comparison to the number of male "dropouts". Women know that they are getting the best deal possible.

21 comments:

BTA said...

Interesting post. I won't attack it, though I find it wrong.

You ought to consider a few ideas. FIrst, you are essentially speaking in very rudimentary terms about "feminism." Law of the jungle terms, such as dominance.

Of course men dominate physically and up until this century financially. (There are women such as Martha Stewart, Oprah, high ranking lawyers, supreme court justices, etc that could buy you 100-10,000,000 times over, an unprecedented fact historically).

To say men dominate in religion is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men made the religions and the religions are self serving.

OJ oozes with male dominance because men wrote the book(s). They fashioned OJ in their own image.

Fine, women don't have to stay jewish, especially not nowadays (which explains why so many Jewesses chose not to be orthodox).

However, have you ever considered that while men and women in christianity have extremely similar ritual observance, the differences in observance of men and women are so different as to render the sexes to have *two different religions*?

An orthodox woman and reform man have more religious observance rituals in common than an orthodox man and a reform man!

jewish philosopher said...

Maybe the Torah's requirements for men and women are very different because men and women are very different.

badrabbi said...

Let’s say that there is a society in an island in the Pacific Ocean. We want to evaluate the equality of women with men in that society. We are told that in this society the following is true:

1. Women don’t count in a quorum. That there may be 1000 women in an assembly, but unless there are at least 10 men, a minyan is not achieved.
2. A thirteen year old boy counts more that 10,000 women in prayer services.
3. Women are not encouraged to participate in meetings and religious services.
4. Women are not encouraged to study the laws of the society.
5. Married women are not permitted to own property.
6. Women are not allowed to divorce a man without is permission; a man can divorce the woman at any time.
7. A father may sell his daughter (but not his son ?) into slavery if he needs to.
8. One of their “sages” says: “in the case of Rape no compensation is made for Pain, as the female would [in any case] have subsequently to undergo the same pain through her husband”

If you came across these facts, what would you think of the status of women in that society?

jewish philosopher said...

Are you hinting at a certain group in America and Israel today? I'm getting that feeling; very tricky Bad.

"Women don’t count in a quorum." So what?

"Women are not encouraged to study the laws of the society." Visit a Jewish girls' school. They spend far more time "studying the laws of their society" than girls in the government sponsored secular schools spend studying theirs.

"Married women are not permitted to own property." False. My wife and I, for example, are joint owners of our home.

"a man can divorce the woman at any time" up until 1000 years ago, when this was prohibited.

"A father may sell his daughter" up until 556 BCE, when the Ten Tribes were exiled and Jewish slavery was prohibited.

badrabbi said...

LOL, never you mind what society I am talking about for the moment.

To clarify:

1. You said "So what?" to women not counting in the Minyan? Just curious, how would you feel if YOU were not counted?

2. Are you telling me that Jewish women are encouraged to study the Torah and Talmud? If you are, please state this clearly.

3. You and your wife own property under American law. Are you saying that this is true under Jewish law as well? Can you please site the Jewish Halacha permitting this? Would you like me to show you the Halacha stating that Under Jewish law (not American law) a woman's property is transferred to her husband upon marriage?

4. Are you saying that under Jewish law a man may not divorce his wife at will? Can you site a reference for this? On the contrary, would you like me to site the Talmudic Halacha permitting such a practice?

5. Regarding a father selling his daughter to slavery, I understand that you say that the practice has been prohibited. I would like you to show me the source of this ban. In particular, can you site references from the Torah where this ban has come in effect? Once again, would you like me to show you from the Torah or Talmud (whichever you like) where slave ownership, selling of daughters etc are talked about as if they are common practices?

jewish philosopher said...

I would feel great about not being counted in a minyan if it meant I didn't have go to a minyan and I could sleep late every day.

Jewish women must study laws relevant to their everyday lives.

Jewish woman may own property. If she is married, her husband has the right to use it. She can't tell him "You can't drive my car."

Click here for the ban on divorce without the wife's consent.

Regarding the institution of Jewish slavery having been abolished in Biblical times, click here.

badrabbi said...

Ok, thanks for the supply of citations. I will read on the concept of a female "get". I will get back to you.

In regards to your last citation of Jewish slavery being abolished, I must say that I read your citation and could not find your reference. Can you please be more specific as to where you are talking about?

BTW, in your citation, the following is written: "Women, slaves and minors are exempt from K'riat Sh'ma and from Tefillin"
I find it humerous that women are lumped with slaves and minors!

jewish philosopher said...

What I'm referring to is about a page down into the link

"The institution of 'eved 'ivri went the way of the Yovel, with the destruction of the first Temple (586 BCE) and has been "out of practice" since then."

I think that's actually a few years off, but basically correct otherwise.

BTA said...

"You said "So what?" to women not counting in the Minyan? Just curious, how would you feel if YOU were not counted?"

Actually, in JP's case, we know exactly how he would feel. He was a non-jew and not allowed to participate in judaism.

Once he decided to become qualified, he went through a long conversion process, then went off the deep end, moving to bnei brak for a decade, eschewing income for that time frame.

Women don't have the option of converting to man's status. And to say a woman can't be a rabbi because of their differences shows your ignorance JP, although you claim to be a rabbi. The only halachic objection to a woman being a rabbi is that it is not considered tznius!

Meanwhile, women can be Supreme Court justices, top doctors and lawyers, and perhaps one day soon, President. Boy, will JP cringe then. Perhaps plot assassination rather than live with the cognitive dissonance.

Meanwhile, JP can say whatever he likes, but the men wrote the book, and if women wrote it, yes, it would be different, less wars, less focus on monetizing virgins, etc.

Jewish Philosopher is a great name, but it absolutely doesn't fit you, JP. "Jewish Zealot" is more apropos. The word "philosopher" connotes being able to appreciate nuanced views and ability to voice both sides of a debate with clarity.

You just pick the most chareidi POV and then ramble away. You need to adhere to the very system that allowed you to join the jewish people, isn't that why you're such a zealot?

jewish philosopher said...

BTA, did you forget your medication again?

SJ said...

>> Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality are plagued by rape, wife beating and "dead beat dads".

Its funny how Israel seems to be plagued by haredim who beat up women who won't sit in back of the bus.

It would seem that haredim believe in dina d'malchut dina in everywhere in the whole world except for the Jewish state itself because its secular.

jewish philosopher said...

Please click here.

Rebeljew said...

And not only that but we find that blacks did not leave America after emancipation even though whites dominated all areas of life. I think that benign white domination was primarily responsible for this. Obviously, since the Torah calls them cursed, Rashi says of them that they are unused to beautiful women, and the Rambam paskens that one should make a blessing upon seeing a black person (kushi) or a monkey that blesses G-d for creating diverse creatures, it was meant for white people to dominate black people. And since we did not see a black panther movement until one hundred years after slavery, we see that they must have been happy here all that time, due to benign domination. In fact, America was born as a country because of its acceptance of benign domination, or was that Canada? Yes, most people want to be dominated .... BENIGNLY, of course.

Rebeljew said...

"Striking a woman is strictly prohibited."

Someone forgot to tell the Rambam, and practically every other posek. Although there were limitations on how much one SHOULD hit their wife. I do not think the stick had to be limited to the width of one's thumb, but there were some restrictions.

jewish philosopher said...

" it was meant for white people to dominate black people."

No Jew ever said that. Probably you wouldn't either if you would take medication you need.

"practically every other posek"

Give me the name and phone number of one.

ZA said...

It is your opinion and the way you understand Orthodox Judaism, which is fine.
There are two issues however:
1. The Orthodox community - mainly the Haredi seems to be laced with domestic violent and sexual abuse, no less, and in certain places more then the usual in the general society. And they refuse to deal with it!
2. However you choose to explain the 'Aguna issue, the bvottom line is that there is a known concentration of misery that could be resolved by a simple Takanot but the Rabbis are afraid to do it.

BTW - I am as orthodox as you are!

jewish philosopher said...

Some statistics please?

How many Orthodox Jewish men have been convicted of wife beating or sexual abuse? I am aware of 7 in the New York City metropolitan area, out of a population of 200,000.

How many Orthodox women are agunos - meaning they are separated for more than a few years and haven't received a get?

ZA said...

Convictions by the atate's courts in the Haredi closed knit society that abhore and ostrasize anybody who goes to "arka'ot Goyim" is NOT the correct measure. It is artificially low and both of us know it very well. The Jewish courts by design (as you had indirectly atested) and culture, tend to be more male friendly. So if we raise your number by two orders of magnitude, that it 700 out of 200000, we would probably be closer to reality. However, the abuse is not the only issue that I am refering to. We have the Mondrowitz case, the Kolko case and several others which will actually go to the court and will be out there for all of us to see because in these cases the system of cover-up lost its power to... cover-up.

And as per the 'Aguna issue, maybe for you, the superior male, "few" years of suffering are not that significant. For women who lose their chance to remarry and have normal life these few years are the diference between life and slow death.

I am a male Orthodox Jew like you, I just take a less cavalier approach when I consider other people's issues and suffering.

jewish philosopher said...

If you have no proof of crime, such as convictions in a court of law, then how do you know the crimes actually happened? How are your accusations of secret Jewish criminal conspiracies any different than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

I think it is reasonable for a couple who have been married for a number of years and who have several children to experience a separation of two or three years before making a divorce final. Longer than that is unreasonable, but I think it’s rare. After all, the husband also cannot remarry until he gives the wife a get.

ZA said...

OK
you have the last word. But I will still hold to my last sentence from before:

I am a male Orthodox Jew like you, I just take a less cavalier approach when I consider other people's issues and suffering.

jewish philosopher said...

ZA, I hope your right. But bear in mind that I myself am an incredible sweetie pie. Just ask my kids.