Bais Yaakov and Feminism

What did your school think / say / do about it?

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Bais Yaakov and Feminism

15 thoughts on “Bais Yaakov and Feminism

  1. YH says:

    Nothing… They gave us the usual speeches about how we were supposed to be neshei chayil, and we purely existed to one day serve our husbands. To help further his learning by making sure to be a good, docile wife who had supper on the table promptly at 6 and never ever asked for help with the kids. I knew then that something bothered me about that, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t know that feminism was a thing. I once said something about women’s rights at the dinner table and my brother told me I can’t be a feminist because I’m a Jewish girl. It took me many years after high school to realize I could be both a frum Jewish woman, and also a feminist and to come to terms with that. For a long time, I thought that by having feminist beliefs, I was somehow devaluing my Judaism. But here I stand, almost 8 years out of high school, and I am a proud Jewish woman and also a proud feminist!

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  2. BaisYaakovLiberal says:

    I had/have several teachers that say things like: feminists don’t understand that Hashem created women different from men and want to be exactly the same.
    I think they don’t get what feminism is – it’s the radical notion that women are human beings. They don’t understand that women used to not be allowed to vote, own property, or have a life.
    However, many teachers have totally ignored the issue.

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  3. Montmarayroyal says:

    I went to a modern orthodox high school, but many of our teachers were chareidi/ yeshivish, so we got our share of it. At least one teacher taught us that any woman who learns gemara is doing it for purely political motives. Another one taught us that the reason a woman can’t be a rabbi is that it would be a blow to the men’s self-esteem. Also the idea that a woman should keep all her accomplishments private, because she has to work on her tznius, and really who needs to know about her accomplishments, the men can of course be just as conceited as they like about theirs.

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  4. hereandnow says:

    We were taught that the street belonged to the men, so we had to be deferent and submissive on the streets to them. But we were also taught that men had the final say in everything in the house, so basically men controlled the women in every arena.

    We were taught that feminism is goyish, bad, and distorts the values of a true bas yisroel. We were also taught that women were less smart than men just by virtue of their gender (nashim kalas datum). And that men were more choshuv than women just by virtue of their gender.

    I was a self proclaimed feminist since I was 11, so going through the BY system was darn hard!

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    1. YH says:

      You just reminded me of a story. When I was in 12th grade most of us were preparing to go to seminary in Israel, and on our 12th grade shabbaton that year, my principal gathered us for a speech to give us some pearls of wisdom. My favorite was the part where she said that if we are walking down the holy streets of eretz yisroel (her words, not mine) and there’s a yeshiva bochur behind us, we should duck into a store or alley so he doesn’t see our tushes and become tempted or think inappropriate thoughts.

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  5. hereandnow says:

    Oh, and that the only way we could achieve greatness and olam haba was through supporting men. Our role was to be a kelli, achieving greatness only through passive and indirect means, dependent on the men in our lives. (And if you’re single, you can get olam haba by giving tzeddaka to a kollel or yeshivah.)

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  6. YH says:

    (Sorry I can’t stop commenting, this is a subject near and dear to my heart) So reading all the above comments is really bringing back some memories. I was taught all of the things mentioned about the public belonging to men, deferring to their opinion, men knowing more because they learn gemara. I definitely remember that bit where if a woman learns gemara it is only for political motives and it is frowned upon. I don’t think a single teacher ever used the word feminism though. They just skirted around the issue. I was told that men and women are inherently different and women and men are the dominant sex so women have to defer to them. Our role in life is to get married so we can serve a husband and be hovering in the background ready to serve him supper while he conquers the world. No one ever taught us what our purpose in life was until we managed to achieve the oh so illusive goal of marriage. Still trying to figure that one out.

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  7. Maara says:

    Feminism wasn’t really mentioned in my school but the way they approached women’s role in society has stuck with me for years because I believed that everyone else thought so. the one that stuck out the most to me was a teacher saying that a girl should not walk in between two men in the street because it would be like if a pig or dog walked between them (I wasn’t aware that this was a sin but ok?) after a long pause she added that me shouldn’t walk between women as well.
    The biggest issue I find with their approach to female roles is that most teachers don’t have an adequate response to a student who ask why women seem to be lower than men in the Torah. Most answers revolve around either the fact that women are able to give birth (btw thanks for reducing me to just my private parts because after all there is nothing I love more than being referred to as a baby machine) and the worst of all – Because god made it that way. It can really mess with a person’s belief in Judaism.
    An acquaintance of mine once said “emotionally, In the Jewish community, it’s easiest for a woman to leave. The combination of the apparent misogynism in the torah and the community’s approach to women makes it easier for women, rather than men, not to believe. Physically, it’s easier for men to leave as there are more physical restrictions on women (all a guy has to do is remove his yarmulka and put on a cap while a girl has to switch her clothes). Coming back, however, is a lost case for women*”

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  8. Esther Bernstein says:

    I just read through the comments now, and I remembered something we learned once, I forget when (it may have been in seminary, because I doubt any of my high school teachers talked about sex even this much). And oddly enough (not oddly at all), this idea matches medieval Christian philosophy. So yeah.

    The point was that a baby is created by the man providing the material and the woman providing the place for that material to grow. And they meant that quite literally, ignoring the fact that half the DNA comes from the mother… In medieval thought (and contemporary BY thought, apparently) the egg has no “tochen,” only accepting the sperm, which provides the material for the child. Of course, this translates to the idea that women are passive and men are active. It also led to the very inspiring lesson that as women, our job is to create a warm, nurturing environment so that men could do things. There were Hebrew words and terms for all of these, but I forgot them. “Asiya” was one of them. Like men are in “olam asiyah,” the realm of doing. I forgot what the corresponding women’s realm was called. And the material and place to grow – those both had Hebrew terms as well.

    Anyway. So yeah. All the horrors of women as vessels, women as enablers, etc, wrapped up in this wonderful, beautiful vort!

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    1. It’s earlier than medieval Christians, and is in the gemera. The ancients had no idea how babies are made. You need a microscope to see human eggs and sperm. They thought that there was a tiny person in the man’s ejaculate which, when injected into a woman’s womb, grew into a baby. The bit about the egg being passive must be recent.

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