I’m a little stunned that I was impressed by this article; my dealings with Shulem Deen in the past on feminism have been a real mixed and sometimes upsetting bag, but there’s not much here that I could take issue with, and it’s well written. I identified a lot, albeit for perhaps different reasons, with this statement in particular:
Still and all, the mercurial indignation of liberal-minded New Yorkers is something I take great pleasure in rolling my eyes at, and this particular incident sends my eyes rolling at top speed.
Lately, it feels as though I’ve been having this experience ENDLESSLY when it comes to Leftist nyc media exploding with allegedly sincere outrage over how women are treated among Brooklyn Hasidim. Meanwhile, the same men who decry Hasidic women’s having to move to the back of the bus as intolerable misogyny, will stroll by a sexist subway ad unphased, and defend to the death their “right” to access deeply degrading imagery of women in pornography as “free speech” (um, when did “speech” become an act of abuse perpetrated on somebody else’s body boys?); It seems that in the case of the woman with her face covered in jizz Mr. New York Liberal just jacked it to, her “choice” and “agency” somehow count, in a way many Hasidic women’s adamant decision to get out of their men’s way, follow tzniut, etc., apparently do not.
What’s the difference? In my view, it’s a simple one really. Liberal secular men aren’t personally benefiting or taking pleasure from the subordination of chassidic women. I think Leftist men often like to make a big stink about “those men over there”–ie, muslim men, chassidishe men, or whatever comparatively smaller, outsider group they find it convenient to shift the focus to, rather than looking at the gross misogyny in the broader secular culture that is their own back yard. Many liberal men who’ll wax poetic about the woman-hating aspects of other patriarchal cultures, will clamp down in silence if you attempt to engage them on how they benefit from sexism and male privilege in their own lives. I felt thoroughly pissed off when I read an article over the summer in the brooklyn paper, about how awful it was that chassidishe women couldn’t wear tank tops in the heat, because of the horribly barbaric, ultra orthodox Jewish male: http://brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/23/wb_modestypolice_2011_6_10_bk.html . Meanwhile, under a picture of a young, thin, 20 something white woman in full make up, with (of course) perky tits and her rear-end poked out in the clichéd fashion magazine position understood to indicate a “liberated female sexuality,” wink, wink, you had the oh so astute observation, “Some women like wearing tank tops”–Wow. REALLY?! How profound! Am I supposed to swoon at the compassionate concern for women in that wonderous little gem of a “pro-feminist” statement?
Many men on the Left seem to define defending their own right to access whatever pair of hooters they’ve deemed desirable as doing their part to fight sexism–and THAT sends MY eyes rolling at top speed. The sad truth is, women–Hasidic and non-chassidic alike–are indoctrinated with an ideology of our inherent inferiority; we’re taught to think of ourselves as worthless without a man’s love, to accept that we need to be beautiful, that our whole lives should be spent seeking male approval, putting men first, being subservient, aiming to please, to the point where these self-hating definitions of being female come to feel like an inborn part of our psyches; it seems “natural,” we’ve been doing it so long, much like every other woman we know; we forget the self-abnegating beliefs were ever learned and refuse to acknowledge that we could try to resist them now. And yes, how that gender socialization plays out varies a bit from culture to culture, but in many ways, I’d argue, it doesn’t vary much; if you teach a person self-hating ideas about being a woman from day one, you can’t expect her to all of a sudden jump up and fight for her right to sit at the front of the bus (and this, I’d actually argue, might be why modern orthodox women have more of a problem with a smaller mechitza at their shuls–they generally have had more exposure to the ideas of women’s rights and the women’s movement in the secular culture, than the average Hasidic woman). This has always seemed like a glaring flaw to me with Liberalism–it behaves as though we live in an idealized world, where everybody already has equality, and everybody starts out with the same freedoms to make any choice she likes. Sorry fellas, but sweet as that fairytail sounds, it’s total bullshit, and more than that, it’s a distortion of social reality that serves the interest of the powerful. And that’s my feminist rant for the nacht.
A Hasidic group has papered South Williamsburg with fliers demanding modesty in dress. What’s next? Burkas?
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