Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More on agunot

Today over at the Forward, I have a short op-ed on the Sisterhood blog about the present "get" controversy and what should be done about it. As I argued last week, I believe that we are asking the wrong question--it's not, "How can we make this man give his wife a divorce?" It's "How do we empower women through Jewish legalistic means to get one for herself?"

The rabbis protesting and picketing might feel quite good about their "progressivism," but in 2012, women shouldn't need to be "rescued" by rabbis. That idea perpetuates the notion that women are a protected, subordinate class, just like children. We need equality. We shouldn't have to make extraordinary appeals to rabbis to be freed from a dead marriage.

One astute reader observed that the current Modern Orthodox activity in regards to agunot reminded her of the Cindy Pearson line (made famous by Barbara Ehrenreich) "Breast cancer provides a way of doing something for women without being a feminist."

This reader then commented, "I see support for prenups and for individual agunot as being a way for the Modern Orthodox community to feel pro-woman without addressing their deeper issues."

Already I've been accused on the Forward's site as being someone who drops something because it is "inconvenient" for me, which (according to this person) negates my credibility. First of all, that person speaks like he knows me, which I'm pretty sure he doesn't (though it is possible that we've met because I forget people all of the time). But to address the substance of his charge, that I drop things because of "inconvenience"--true sometimes but the matter I wrote about has nothing to do with that. Rabbis, in their formulation of get and halacha, aren't asking women to wait six hours after eating meat or to not use electricity on Shabbos. Those are things that can be characterized as "inconvenient." But asking another human being to remain at the mercy of her husband because you don't recognize her as an equal? That's not inconvenience. That's injustice. 

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