Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Feminine Critique

Miriam Kosman

How are men and women really different? With all the talk about “woman’s role” in Judaism, most would be hard put to answer that question. For lack of alternatives, our community often uses societal roles to pinpoint the differences. She takes care of the children/cooks chicken soup/sings lullabies. He earns a living/learns Torah/changes the oil in the car. But societal roles, particularly in our rapidly changing society, are a weak and fickle reed on which to hang an entire philosophy about gender.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Even if we switch tactics and use personality traits to define gender, we find ourselves in choppy waters; we all know warm, nurturing men and analytic, rational women. Some women are natural leaders, while some men find it difficult to take initiative with anything. Even the much-vaunted ability to multitask is not distributed equally over the gender divide; picture the typical male executive: answering phones, giving orders, and making crucial decisions all at the same time. Reducing people to narrow stereotypes forces us to perform mental calisthenics to maintain our model even when it clashes with reality. We wonder: If what makes a woman a woman is that she’s home with the kids, what do we do when she comes home from the office at 7 p.m. to a meal her husband cooked and children he put to bed? How do we organize things in our mind if she earns more than he does, or happens to know more halachah than he does? What happens to our paradigms when the husband is very family oriented and she, immersed in her work, looks up bemusedly when someone mentions an anniversary? It’s important to note that our discomfort with paying lip service to an ideal that doesn’t match reality does not stem from a lack of appreciation of the akeres habayis, or the significance of our role in building a mikdash me’at. It’s not a devaluing of what it means to be a wife and mother; one would have to be blind not to see that the viability of all of Klal Yisrael rests on healthy, happy homes infused with Torah. It’s not that we aren’t enamored with the beautiful picture of the apron-clad Mommy, murmuring Tehillim as she feeds her baby with her right hand, prepares a meal for a kimpeturin neighbor with her left, and smiles lovingly at her husband on his way out to shul. In fact, that picture may even describe us — some of the time — in our most valiant mode. It’s just that it doesn’t describe all of ourselves.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"