Wednesday, May 02, 2012
[Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique]
Judaism is opposed to sexual equality.
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 80% of all leaders are male. In the business world, there were 21 women from a total of 1,226 billionaires worldwide in 2012. (In fact, New Atheists leaders are called by some "sexist".)
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” (Leviticus 19:18) 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 one case of spousal homocide in the Orthodox community.
Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality women are plagued by constant, horrific violence and victimized by "dead beat dads". Secular men seem to tell women "You're welcome to be as masculine as you want to be and we'll toss you some token crumbs of power, while at the same time we'll treat you like garbage."
I suspect that this philosophy, of a humane approach to male dominance, is one 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.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 5:11 PM