In the last few days I have seen many arguments and positions in favor of rigid, traditional gender roles. This is in response to an infinitesimal number of Orthodox (or somewhat Orthodox) Jewish women who are interested in laying tefillin or performing other rituals and roles traditionally reserved for men.
Gender roles arguments arise in two different contexts that can be hard to splice. Some gender roles are social and some are religious.
Social gender roles are the things that men and women do in non-religious contexts. Who is the breadwinner? Who cares for the children? Who pays the bills? Who cooks dinner? Who drives when husband and wife are in the car? Who decorates the home? Some people think that the man is the breadwinner, who pays the bill the bills, and drives the car. While the woman cares for the children, cooks dinner, and decorates the home.
These are all social issues. A growing number of people, especially among Millennials think that these roles and stereotypes ought to be tossed out the window. Couples should divide their responsibilities based on preference and ability, not chromosomes. Boys can play with dolls. Men can embrace their feminine side. Girls can play sports. Women can be more assertive. More and more people in Western countries think this way.
Socially, women have greatly benefited from these progressive attitudes. It has given women the right to own land, attend school, vote, join government, achieve corporate success, and live fulfilling lives independent of their roles as mothers and wives. Just look at misyognistic advertisements and how-to guides from the first half of the 20th century. When men were men! It’s cringeworthy. This makes it hard to see how one can object to these social advances.
Orthodox Judaism in America skews to the more “traditional” values side of women’s roles. (Traditional is really a misnomer. At certain times in history and in many places, men have had more passive roles and women have had more assertive roles. Also, marriages were different. Some men had several wives while in other places there was no such thing as marriage. And men used to boss their wives around like servants. So when we say “traditional” it’s really just a word used to appeal to emotion but is entirely inaccurate.) Generally, Orthodox Judaism teaches that it is virtuous to raise a family, and be a good wife, and be a good hostess, and cook good food, and to accentuate femininity. Men are the leaders of the home and the community, spending their day either studying Torah or earning a living and participating in communal religious practice.
However, things have changed significantly within Orthodox Judaism as well. A 19th century Orthodox Jewish woman would feel quite liberated in 21st century Orthodox Judaism (save for the most insular communities). Women are more educated, more women work outside the home, women are more involved in communal life, and women are taking more positions of authority institutionally. This is happening at varying speeds and degrees depending almost entirely on the insularity of the sub-sect.
There are some gender roles that are religiously mandated by Jewish law. By religious, we mean that these things are codified in books of Jewish law as details related to the practice of Mitzvos from the Torah and Chazal. Men have obligations that women do not. Men are required to provide for their families. Only men can be the monarch, or perform duties in the Temple, or be the Messiah, or divorce their spouse.
About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.
If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.
- UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
on July 3, 2015 10:30 PM
- ISIS-Linked Sinai Terrorists Attempt to Drag Israel Into War With Rocket Fire
on July 3, 2015 5:39 PM
- Iran Standing Firm on Demands at Nuclear Talks
on July 3, 2015 5:06 PM
- Hamas on the Temple Mount
on July 3, 2015 4:34 PM
- Machsom Watch Activist Shames Herself in Attempt to Harass IDF
on July 3, 2015 1:52 PM
- Rock-Throwing Arab Killed While Attacking IDF Commander, Soldier Hurt at Qalandia
on July 3, 2015 11:06 AM
- US Mennonite Church Group Postpones BDS Vote
on July 3, 2015 9:34 AM
- Israel Tightens Security in Jerusalem, Along Southern Border
on July 3, 2015 8:25 AM
- Hebron Attack Foiled
on July 2, 2015 11:46 PM
- Netanyahu: Israel Faces Double Threat, From ISIS and Iran
on July 2, 2015 11:20 PM
- Israel Prepares for ISIS Escalation: Southern Highway Ordered Closed
on July 2, 2015 11:06 PM
- Jerusalem Arabs Attack Light Rail in Shuafat, Again
on July 2, 2015 8:43 PM
- London’s Neo-Nazi Rally Moved Out of Golders Green
on July 2, 2015 8:24 PM
- Report: Hamas Helped ISIS-Sinai Terrorists Wage War Against Egypt
on July 2, 2015 7:34 PM
- Confirmed: No Shots, No Wounded at Washington DC Navy Yard
on July 2, 2015 4:59 PM
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/defenders-and-benders-of-roles-for-genders/2014/02/03/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: