Friday, February 15, 2013

Taking A Wild Walk On The Men's Side

This week, once again, Women of the Wall are making headlines after their most recent Western Wall prayer service. For the uninitiated--women are not allowed to pray aloud even on the women's side of the partition nor are they permitted to wear prayer shawls or the tallit. These are prohibitions that are not expressly forbidden by Jewish law but are restricted because of the Orthodox tradition of rigidly defining gender roles.

There are all kinds of reasons that are forwarded for the continued marginalization of women during public ritual, most of which fall into the "separate but equal" camp. But there's no getting away from the fact that at its root, the continued segregation of women in all camps of Orthodoxy--not just the ultra or haredi sects--will remain a source of tension for these communities. To be Orthodox and want to live as a feminist is to live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. Even if she can pursue anything you want professionally, every time a woman steps behind a partition, she helps perpetuate an unequal system. There really is no way to argue around that point. To remain within that system is to accept a basic inequality.

But it's not just the inequality that I find so troubling--it's that in doing so, women are reduced to objects. Over at The Anti-Girlfriend, I have put up a comic that more than lightly mocks this tendency to view women as sexual objects. Their roles and responsibilities are assigned based on anatomy, not desire or capabilities.

Some more observant might find this offensive, but what is truly offensive is the underlying notion regarding separation within traditional Judaism that regards women only in their capacity to sexually excite (or not) men. 

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