Sunday, 10 July 2016

Attitude Towards Women

In one of the "talk-backs" to a Jerusalem Post article about our work in helping people break free of addictions to inappropriate behaviors, someone (obviously non-religious) wrote as follows:

It appears to me that the root of the problem is the basic attitude towards women. If women exist (in a man's mind) only for breeding and not as actual human beings, then everything from pornography to prostitution to spousal and child abuse will follow. Get over the idea that women are meat that has to be kept covered and out of sight so men won't be tempted, and all this might change.

by GYE (See all authors)

This comment was mentioned on our forum, and a member by the name of "Chl" answered powerfully. He writes:

I would like to ask the question the other way round:

1) Where can you find magazines in the open depicting women as meat; on the subway newspaper stand in New York City or in Meah Shearim?

2) What will excite a man more; a woman with a tichel down to her nose, or someone who walks around in the street as if she forgot to put on her dress?

3) Which society is dehumanizing women more; a consumer-oriented, hollywood / top-model-influenced society, or a society who struggles to live a spiritual way of life?

4) Concerning covering ourselves: when does one generally feel the need to cover and protect something; when it is precious, or when it's of little value?

5) Concerning meat: when one goes to the butcher; is the meat covered or uncovered? etc... I talk a lot to "secular" Jews, as well as to non-Jewish people. They mean well. They want to protect and promote the status of women, and that is what truly religious Jews want too. Here are some of the things I tell them:

  • Did you know that one of the main sources for everyday life of 17th/18th century life in Europe is the memoir of Glickel von Hameln, a Jewish woman. Now how many women at that time were able to read and write?
  • Women are praised in our seforim not just for their sense of modesty, but for their learning and their intelligence, for prophecy and for leadership! Which other culture produced that throughout history, not just in the last 100 years?!
  • Which other culture protects women's rights as Judaism does? This includes sexuality:

a) Mitzvas Onah (not just breeding, and not just for a man's lust). Also: A man can't just jump and be with his wife, but has to draw her close, speak to her in a loving way, etc. as the Halacha states.b) During relations, a woman should to be mazria first ideally.c) A man is forbidden to rape, chas veshalom, or otherwise force or demand relations - even from his own wife. (Compare this to some societies where rapists are legally protected and the victim is at fault!)

All the above is just from a legal/halachic perspective. From a more poetic/romantic point of view:

  • Knesses Israel is feminine, and we get "married" on Shavuos.
  • Shir HaShirim.
  • See the beautiful letter of the Ramban about intimacy, and so many beautiful passages in the Zohar haKadosh (all of Kabbalah speaks in terms of the relationship between male and female).
  • Shabbos Hamalka.

etc...

So we have proof from our history and from our sefarim that Judaism promotes and protects women, just like this JPost "talkbacker" wants to do. Then sometimes they will argue: but I like the way men look at me, I have the right to dress how I want, etc... So I tell them, Ok, but following your logic, you can't have it both ways: on the one hand you want the right for sexual "freedom" when you feel like it, and on the other side you want to prevent it. Judaism, on the other hand, has both: protection/honor of women and a beautiful and exciting intimacy within the context of marriage. From all of this we see that it is the secular society who is not able to maintain the balance. I have yet to meet someone who is able to contradict the above points. But, no society is perfect, including Judaism: There is abuse, R"L. There is anger towards women. There are tremendous mistakes in chinuch in general, and concerning intimacy in particular. And there is a forum like ours to help with all that. We can't fool ourselves... but we have ideals, and we have tools to work towards these ideals, B"H.