Embracing the “F” Word

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The fourth “F” word in the subtitle (or explanatory title) of this blog should unquestionably be feminism.  I am fairly certain I was born a feminist, and I take no credit for that fact.  Much like my parents raised me with the idea that there were no other options after high school except a college education, I was brought up with the idea that there were no major differences between my gender and the other, except for biology.  There were never any limits imposed upon me simply because I was a girl.  Sure, I grew up with dolls and a predilection for the color pink, but neither of my parents ever told me anything was off limits because I was a girl.  I am sure my parents didn’t become so open-minded on their own.  Both of their mothers were very different women, but both were also ahead of their times (perhaps largely due to circumstance).  My paternal grandmother studied accounting and my maternal grandmother put herself through law school and eventually became a judge.  As a result both of my parents had strong women in their lives at a time when women were not allowed to be strong.

As I grew older my innate sense of womanhood grew stronger, but I never thought to call it anything.  I honestly did not know boundaries based on gender.  I think I was in high school when I began to read about feminism, when I began to read Steinem, Friedan and de Beauvior.  By then I had seen that my experiences were perhaps not the norm, that the way I had grown up and the women I had grown up around wasn’t the norm.  Even more puzzling I realized that the women I had grown up around had struggled to get to where they were, had experienced difficulties because they weren’t the norm, because they had opinions and voices.

Soon their struggles were my own, both because of some sort of sisterhood sensation and because I began to feel the sting of generally accepted sexism.  Initially I was generally baffled by the gender-based concepts so many people carried so nonchalantly, but that feeling often led to frustration and anger.  The worst sexism I experienced was during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.  I was forced to listen to generally accepted sexist statements from strangers, pundits, and politicians.  I can honestly say that after 2008 I became an unapologetic and unequivocal feminist.

I don’t understand the young girls who allege they believe in gender equality, but refuse to identify themselves by the seemingly unspeakable like “F” word.  We are by no means in a place where we can disregard all of the work our foremothers have done.  We are still struggling every day for our positions, our voices, and our choices, even in a first world nation.

But I digress.  As a feminist I was forced to consider the relationship between feminism and Judaism.  From my proximity to Jewish women I gathered they were much like me (or like what I aim to be), strong, opinionated, intelligent.  The Jewish women I had encountered in my life were strong, opinionated, independent, professionals.  I thought I fit right in.  I wanted to be those women.

But when I began to encounter women of the Orthodox community I was puzzled.  I knew that I didn’t know much about the Orthodox community, but from the outside it seemed like rampant inequality between the sexes.  I went to my rabbi for some enlightenment and she lent me a book “On Women and Judaism” by Blu Greenberg.  Initially it was not an easy read, I didn’t understand how she could live obediently so much of her life without any questions.  Then she read The Feminine Mystique and Blu and I had a lot in common.  Things just weren’t the same for her and a million questions arose.  I still haven’t finished the book, but it is a very informative, well-written read and it reminds me that I have much to learn.  I have already ordered my own copy on Amazon that I will cherish.

I share a lot with these more observant women.  I look forward to the day when I have my own family and I can provide spiritual guidance for them.  I hope to devote a lot of my time to raise my children and spend time with my husband.  I look forward to spending hours in the kitchen and wearing an apron.  Still, a huge part of my life is undoubtedly outside of the home.  I have spent most of my life in school and finally I am beginning to see my career path emerge.  Successes in the courtroom are elating and the ability to help people is fulfilling.  I want it all, even if it is impossible to have it all.  I won’t stop trying and settle for one or the other simply because religion or reason dictates.  Surely  I will have to make some sacrifices and I will have to make choices, but I believe my partner, my career and my family (both present and future) are worth the effort.

Shabbat Shalom

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