Friday, October 11, 2013

A Tale of Two "Isms": Sexism and Racism

Today I have two articles up covering two of the "isms" that are important to me: racism and sexism.

On the race side of things, I have expanded my thoughts on "Ferlito-gate" for Deadspin to examine the coded language that is used to minimized the effort and accomplishments of athletes of color, not just in gymnastics but in other sports, especially football and basketball.

You can read it here.

Onto the second of the isms--sexism.

One of the bigger local New York stories this week centered around a couple of rabbis who were arrested for kidnapping and torturing local men who refused to give their wives divorces in accordance with Jewish law. Jewish divorces must given by the man to the women. If he refuses to do so, the woman is unable to remarry and move on with her life.

While most of the Jewish media have been asking whether these rabbis are heroes, rescuing these women from a life of misery, or villains who charged exorbitant fees to desperate people with no other options.

This is the wrong question. This line of questioning addresses symptoms, not causes. The problem isn't that sometimes people or husbands can be jerks, especially during a divorce. It's that we have a system that enables them to be more than just a jerk--it enables them to actually hold their spouses hostage. Because the parties are unequal in the eyes of the law and the court, the party with more power and standing--the males--to victimize the group with less standing--the women.

But in our conversation and solutions, we only address the symptoms--how to more effectively coerce the husband into granting the divorce--rather than talking about the foundational inequality that creates opportunities for abuse.

I wrote about this situation for Slate. Check it out here.


Kat Koehn said...

Oh trust me, there are a lot of things that the Patriarchy wants to uphold. But, equality in marriages is a good start.

Dvora Meyers said...

Marriage is a good start because it historically has been used to turn women into property. It's only been in the latter part of the 20th Century that marital rape has even been recognized as a thing. And even that doesn't have widespread acceptance.

The reason I wrote this piece is because the forces of the patriarchy try to obscure the issue when it comes to the agunah--that it's about these "bad guys" instead of the system that enables them in their abusive behavior. Everyone is happy to gang up on the husbands so that no one gangs up on the system.