Sunday, May 25, 2008

Egalitarianism has landed

A key aspect of the feminist movement is the idea that men and women are really the same, and that any differences are socially constructed. Therefore, if we are essentially the same everything is interchangeable. However, my experience in life has lead me to question this view.

Even feminists dump this perspective when they demand that women need other women to teach them, mentor them, and lead them and that there are certain things only a woman can teach another woman. However, when men mention the special needs of boys, female leaders say what matters is good parenting not the gender of the parent.

We see this in the manner in which women assert that they can do "anything" and thus women have entered most of the traditional male areas in our society, but at the same time while they assert that all people are equal (ie men and women) they have also insisted that some are more equal than others .

Thus women enter into male domains, and in a recreation of patriarchy women are now creating female only places where men are excluded. They demand entry into our space but refuse us access to theirs and one of the great bastions of female power is the family and child care.

This is why the many myths that paint men as violent and sexually aggressive are so damanging because they seek to further entrench this view - GR Klein

The Jerusalem Post, 20 May 2008,
By Avi Shafran

My computer cautions me against fooling with certain
manufacturer-determined system settings. Doing so, it warns,
could create serious problems.

Riskier still is messing around with Judaism's system-settings,
determined by the ultimate Manufacturer.

That lesson might be the one being learned the hard way by
contemporary Jewish religious movements which, unconstrained
by the Jewish religious tradition, chose years ago to remove the
slash that Jewish tradition places diagonally through the equal
sign flanked by "men" and "women."

Both genders, of course, are equally important to God. Women
should be paid equal amounts for equal work on a par with men,
and they should be respected no less than males. But pretending
that men and women are identical and interchangeable in their life-
roles - the much-cherished "egalitarian" approach - not only offends
Jewish tradition, it may bode demographic disaster.

A soon-to-be-released report entitled The Growing Gender Imbalance in
American Jewish Life, by Brandeis University sociologist Sylvia Barack
Fishman, will present statistical evidence to confirm what has been widely
suspected in recent years: males in non-Orthodox communities are opting out
of religious activities. Professor Fishman fears that as non-Orthodox
Jewish men become increasingly estranged from religious and communal life
they are more likely to intermarry and become "ambivalent at best, if not
downright hostile to Jewish tradition."

Could the exodus of non-Orthodox men from communal religious participation
have some relationship to "progressive" Jewish groups' efforts to erase the
idea of gender roles in Judaism?

I don't mean that non-Orthodox men feel insulted, having been displaced by
their female counterparts in practices and positions that were once their
lot. No, I mean something more subtle: that messing up the system settings,
well, messes up the system.

Roles are part and parcel of Judaism. Just as, among Jewish men, Cohanim
and Leviim have prescribed roles, so are there roles that are
gender-specific. Some Jewish women were led to believe that a title or
public "privilege" would somehow ennoble them, that a tallit or kippa would
render them more important or worthy. Others, however, more in touch with
Torah, regarded the "equality" campaign with curiosity and just resumed the
vital business of their Jewish lives.

The Talmud (Ketuvot 67b) tells of a great scholar, Mar Ukva, who, each day
after study, would surreptitiously leave some coins near the door of a poor
person in his neighborhood. One day, Mar Ukva stayed late in the study hall
and his wife came to accompany him home. Together they walked, making Mar
Ukva's usual detour to leave the coins in the regular place. As he began to
place the coins, the poor man approached the door. The couple, realizing
they would be spotted and wanting their charity to be (as is best)
anonymous, took flight; the poor man, wanting to identify his benefactors,
gave chase.

The couple ducked into an excellent, if unusual hiding place: a large
outdoor oven. Unfortunately, it had recently been used and was still hot.
Mar Ukva felt his feet begin to burn. His wife, noticing his discomfort,
told him "Put your feet on top of mine," which he did. She did not seem to
feel the heat. And thus they successfully evaded their pursuer.

After the incident, Mar Ukva was depressed over the fact that he had not
merited a miracle as had his wife. She, though, understood. "Don't you
see?" she explained. "I'm in the house so much more than you, so I have
many more opportunities than you to be charitable toward the poor who come
to our doorstep. And the food and drink I give them can be enjoyed
immediately, unlike the money you give. And so, with regard to charity, my
merit is greater than yours."

Mrs. Ukva thus conveyed a quintessential Jewish attitude: What counts over
our years on this earth is not the prominence we acquire but the merit we
achieve; not our particular roles, but what we do with them. It was
precisely her "limited" role as a Jewish woman - a homemaker and
child-rearer - that had allowed Mar Ukva's wife to merit a miracle denied
her scholarly husband.

The concept is really not so strange. Is the undercover agent less
important than the foot soldier? The bass player than the drummer? The
researcher than the surgeon? Whether roles are loud or quiet, prominent or
behind-the-scenes, has no bearing at all on their ultimate value.

Jewish women can choose to embrace contemporary society's game-playing in
the guise of egalitarianism and squander their specialness. Or they can
answer life's "role-call" with a resounding, Abrahamic, "Here I am!"

By portraying Judaism's assignation of special roles for men and for women
as offensive, and selling Jewish women the idea that their traditional
Jewish roles are raw deals, the non-Orthodox movements skewed Judaism's
system-settings. They may even have undermined their own futures. What's
certain, though, is that they deprived their followers of a vital Jewish truth.

The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.

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