A Note to post-Feminists who just don’t seem to get it

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I just read a comment to an article about guys learning to make challah on the Forward’s sisterhood blog. Somehow I felt the young author missed the point of what happened oh so long ago, when women finally took to the streets and said, “Enough! We are not chattel or pieces of meat. Get over it!” Feminism has become a dirty word. When we fought for it, it meant getting lives instead of being forced to stay in the kitchen with our heads in the oven.

As an old hag who marched in the women’s lib parade 40 years ago, it seems to be that today’s youngsters just don’t get what our bitter battle for basic human rights was like. We had bosses putting their hands up our skirts with impunity (and that did happen to Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she first got married and worked in a social security office in St. Louis, as well as to me and thousands of others.) Equal work was not equal pay and is not to this day.

Men are still in charge because some young women think that feminism means you can sell yourself like a sex object and that women’s manners are disgusting, so men don’t take most of us seriously. And the serious ones they dismiss with sexual comments like “she needs a little” or “she must swing the other way.” etc. When I see it around my community, I want to pull my hair (whatever is left of it) out of my head.

Face it. With a few exceptions, MEN HATE STRONG WOMEN, and thanks to the post feminists who never understood what we were fighting for, they are busily, legislatively and religiously, taking away our rights.

There are those of us who helped our families live better lives by contributing our incomes, sometimes more than one income, to the rest of the family and we did it while putting up with constant abusive or insulting behavior from men….and the author seemed to denigrate those kinds of women. Just the other day, my mother said to me, “You always wanted to be a man.” which is what the author seems to say about old time feminists like me.

No. I do not want to be a man. I grew up with a twin brother in a haredi household. I wanted to be treated with the same respect and humanity and equality in learning and observance as he. And I soon discovered that the reason men are the way they are is because their mothers and fathers and teachers never bothered to tell them that women are valuable and have rights.

Mom is cooking, doing the dishes, the laundry, and running the house, including getting someone to mow the lawn, etc., while also holding down one or two jobs or even running a small business, while dad sits and complains that she’s not good enough, the kids are too noisy, helping them with homework is not his job and he’s too tired to do the dishes or take out the garbage, ’cause he had a hard day at work. Compared to running a household, let me tell you that work in an office or retail store is easy. Been there done that with millions of other women. But there are Jewish women trapped in even worse situations.

Some female members of my family are not permitted to attend school where secular subjects and English go beyond 9th grade. College has been verboten. Women are not permitted to drive or go to an event on their own, birth control is forbidden. So are computers and smartphones.

The sex stories are outrageous. There are a goodly number of concubines and there are also child molesters who got away with it for decades–stuff swept under the rug which is now exploding. Four guys just were let off the hook for trafficking a young Hasidic girl with emotional issues, and possibly more than that… Right now I am dealing with a woman in Brooklyn whose son is one of those molested kids who became a druggie. Her husband is abusive, and she is struggling to get out. She needs money to support her kids, and because she has no education, she has to go out and literally beg. How can I help her? Where are her sisters? They rejected her because she is no longer Orthodox. She has become an atheist. Where can I find the money for her? Answer: I can’t, certainly not by myself.

That’s the part the feminists forget about. And it’s not just the silence on the molestations. The turnout on behalf of women who are agunot is pitiful. Women are more than half the population. Where are the pro-active Feminists? Are they afraid of losing their jobs if they speak up? Are they too busy arguing feminist philosophy while the house burns down?

Yes, strong women scare most men. When we call for Halakhic reform they call us nuts, crazy, dismiss us like flies on a horse. And then they lie about the rules. Like the agunah situation, which can, indeed be fixed, since halakha, according to the Talmud, is supposed to be adjusted to meet community needs. Then there’s the bit forbidding women to wear talit and tefillin. Not true. It’s a chumrah created by chauvinists which has ZERO to do with halakha, and is based on the fact that the Remah and Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg thought women were arrogant.

Where are our Devorahs? Why are women buying into the misogyny? The Haggadah states: “AT psach lo”–The feminine You–“You teach them.” It’s a woman’s job to teach her children to respect women and allow them to explore their full potential for the benefit of their own lives. Take from texts that which uplifts women and forget the Aishes Chayil stereotype.

Teach your children how to be. And don’t let them watch trash TV and think real life is like that. It’s only a weapon of mass distraction so that they don’t even think about what really matters–whether it’s making a relationship work, being a decent and moral person (you hardly see that on TV) or paying attention to politics. And paying attention to politics is vital.

Politics in this day and age is very, very personal, especially for women, as people, by the millions, are being kicked out of their homes in their old age, jobs disappear, wages keep falling, expenses keep going up. The Republicans make a concerted effort to stop any jobs bill and real help to homeowners, while cutting education to the bone, preventing women from getting equal pay for equal work, seek to control their uteri, and let insurance companies deny half the population proper medical care while hospitals are charging people $3,000 for a $300 test, or big pharma charges $1090 for 90 pills of Nexium, a heartburn pill. We dare not remain silent in the face of these issues, because they lower the quality of our lives and roll back everything we fought for so long ago.

Here’s a hard and fast rule about Judaism (and I guess real life), as per Herman Cohen, who got it from the prophets: “If it’s not just, ethical and reasonable, it’s not Judaism.” And from its inception, it is a religion with constantly evolving rules. That doesn’t mean we go backwards.

You want things to change? Start with your own children, and don’t make someone like me feel that the battle we fought and won so that you young women can do whatever you want…don’t, just don’t make me feel that it was a total and complete waste of our time.

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