Jan 17, 2010

Double Standard

I read an article about language in which a Chassidishe woman was asked why there seems to be a greater emphasis on men speaking Yiddish than women.  Her answer was, "I think it's the feeling that we should keep the men purer, that it's more important for them to be less exposed to the outside world."

She's not alone in this feeling.  There are many homes in which the women do the shopping and deal with government agencies, banks, insurance companies etc. so as to spare the men the exposure.  This is not about sparing them bittul Torah which is another issue.  One woman I know drives the family car and does the errands so that her husband shouldn't have to look at the people around him.  There are communities where girls are taught English and English subjects in a serious way while the boys are not, and the reason is not about bittul Torah (at least not in some communities) but about chinuch al taharas ha'kodesh which applies to girls as well as to boys!

I'm puzzled by this.  In Jewish life, it used to be the men who "went out" of the home, often traveling to do business.  Women were sequestered to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the society they lived in with Jewish women in Moslem countries much more protected and isolated from the world around them.  In Eastern European countries women sold goods in the marketplace and shopped but this wasn't to spiritually protect the men who were also "out there" working.  There was always the idea of men protecting their women and girls, not only from outright danger but also in the sense of sheltering them and preserving their modesty.  I think it was in a book about Shvester Selma that it described how she traveled with a male chaperone because women in her society did not travel unaccompanied.

Yet there is a feeling that women need to spiritually protect their menfolk while they can read certain things and look at certain things.  Now they are probably right about the men not reading and looking at those things but that doesn't mean that the women should! There seems to be an attitude that women won't be affected, that it doesn't matter if they read and look, that women can go to non-Jewish supermarkets and see people in immodest attire and see the magazines at the check-out counter and nisht geferlech (it's not terrible).  They may not be affected in the same way but to say there is no effect?!

Something seems to be askew in our reasoning.


  1. What I understand of the attitude is that while a man cannot look at the lingerie ads because of immodest women modeling, a woman can because she is buying the products. Last night I logged onto a frum hosiery site and the home page featured a package of hosiery with a model's torso clad in hosiery. Even though the site also sell socks for men and children, more than likely, it is the women shopping for the products. It dawned on me that we are so accustomed to see immodesty in ads that frum hosiery sites do nothing to hide the picture on the package in case a man or boy sees the site. The hosiery site is advertised on other frum sites.
    I am a BT and as such went to a public high school. In one of my classes was a Jewish boy several years older than me. Fast forward to last week. I have a facebook page that I rarely use except to view family pictures from other family members. This man found me on facebook and wanted to be my "friend". While a facebook "friend" can be a total stranger, I chose to ignore the request. There was no way to contact him and explain that in our world, men and women are not "friends", however many frum people today have facebook friends who are non-relatives of both genders because it has become very common. I did ask a rabbi who said that as far as he is concerned the whole thing should be avoided but as he is not a rav, he was not paskening. I bring this up because it is the situation that we are out in the world without leaving home.
    Are women different than men in this regard? No! Anything can happen and people should be scrupulous to avoid it.
    As far as media influence, the advertisers know how to advertise to both genders and make us want what we should not have so we must be consciously aware of the effects of advertising.

  2. I've never heard about women taking over the nitty-gritty to protect them men. At least in my world, the women just seem to be more capable and the men perhaps end up having that crutch. Or, perhaps I am describing our own challenges. . .