Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I'm Not a Feminist



When I was 20 years old, I took a course at Columbia University for the easy A I expected (and got). It was called "Women and Religion" and was presented by a Jewish woman who declared on the very first day that she was a "witch." It was attended by many different young women, though I only remember one.

Her mother was Catholic; her father was Jewish. By Catholic rule, she was a Jew; by Jewish rule, she was not Jewish (I won't say we rule that she is a Catholic - we simply say that according to Jewish law, which is matriarchal, she was not a Jew).

Her response to this was that she hated both religions; all religions. The class had little to do with "Women AND religion" and everything to do with "Women AGAINST religion." I thought about dropping the course but I really needed that filler course and so I decided to continue and take it as a philosophical experiment. I never argued back in anger because I really felt more pity than anything else.

I tried to paint images of my religion as loving and open and they condemned it for animal sacrifices that haven't taken place in over 2,000 years.

I tried to show how Judaism was very advanced for its time, that in a world that mostly enslaved and abused women, Judaism was teaching women to read, certainly giving them equality in ways that were foreign to most other religions.

I tried to show them that you can have separate but equal and equal but different, but they bought nothing and ridiculed everything.

At the end of the class, the witch...I mean the instructor...announced that all grades were final, papers done, everything marked and now, as a last exercise of the last class she wanted to go around the room and have everyone freely and without consequence, speak about what they had learned.

The non-Catholic/non-Jewish girl spoke of how repressive and reprehensible religion was; others spoke of male domination, the fallacy of believing in one God or even many gods. I wanted to pass but they wouldn't let me and so finally, I agreed to speak.

I looked around the room and then explained, "I learned that I am not a feminist." That enraged a few of them - but the teacher quieted them and asked me to continue. And more or less, this is what I said to them...

I am a Jew. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew. I was also born a woman. Never once in my life have I felt those two collide or contradict and I pity anyone who feels that they do.

I am not less; I am not inferior. I don't view myself that way and I won't let anyone think of me that way.

But when the Nazis came to murder me, my Christian sisters of the world didn't rise up to save me - they stood with their Christian brothers and fathers and sons. When the Crusaders came, same deal. When the Cossacks came and set fire to the synagogue in which my grandmother hid, no woman rushed forward to put out the flames.

A feminist will tell me that I'm being persecuted but the only way I've ever been persecuted is as a Jew and my "sisters" never once stood up for me because in their eyes I was as much as Jew as my father and brothers.

I am a Jew.

At that point, I got up, thanked the teacher and walked out of the room and to her credit, she gave me the "A" I had earned.

Yesterday, women marched in Washington. The marches were sponsored and organized, in part, by a Muslim woman who supports Sharia and is anti-Israel.

I am the CEO of my company. I have never been discriminated against as a woman. I have applied for dozens of projects and never once been made to feel as if the decision to take my company or not rested on my gender. Dozens of years ago, an Orthodox rabbi asked me to address a very large shul and give a lesson to the entire audience - from the center of the men's area.

I felt some 30 years ago, that those women needed to feel miserable to feel fulfilled. I didn't and so I walked out of that class and went out on a date with a man who would later become my husband. A man with whom I have raised five children. A good man. An honest one. A man who doesn't do the dishes nearly enough, but takes apart the car or the dishwasher or the air conditioner, my computer, or refrigerator whenever it breaks. A man who has never treated me as an object or said anything sexually inappropriate to me (or any other woman).

I have never understood violence. I didn't spank my children (okay, I think I spanked my first two a very few times and then realized it didn't accomplish anything) and no, I do not equate spanking children with violence but I still don't believe in it.

I have never attacked anyone, never set fire to anything (inappropriate). I have never thrown anything at anyone (other than a ball in a game and even then I missed).

I do not understand violence. I do not understand the marches yesterday. (And yes, I am aware that hundreds of thousands of people marched without violence...I don't understand that but respect everyone's right to rally...I just wish I understood what they hoped to accomplish and more, I wish that the rally-rouser wasn't who it was).

I would not want anyone to look over my life and judge me for things I did or said 30 years ago...or 20...or 10 as a means of deciding whether I am capable of doing my job today. I do not understand attacking Donald Trump for what he SAID while giving Bill Clinton a pass for what he DID.

And worst of all, I do not understand what is gained by attempting to delegitimize Donald Trump. Attack what he does...but denying that he is your president. Sorry. No.

I am a Jew. I am not a feminist. I believe in the equality of women and will fight for my right (and theirs) to be paid equally and treated equally by law. But I don't automatically assume men are evil; religion is wrong; or that one sexual predator is okay but a man who was incredibly disrespectful to women (in speech) is the greatest evil known to man. Apparently, this makes me less of a woman, less of a human being...at least in the eyes of feminists and so, I am not a feminist.

I am a Jew and I lost hundreds of relatives - literally - to Hitler. The Holocaust scarred my husband from birth and continues to scar my children, my people, my country. Trump is not Hitler and any analogy reflects more on your ignorance than on him.

I don't live in the United States - that's true. But many of you don't live in Israel and that hasn't stopped you from judging Israel, from believing Israel needs to act a certain way. You were silent when Obama attempted to influence our elections and furious when we told him (and you) to shove it.

Now you are outraged at why we fail to understand and condemn a rumor that Russia might have tried to do the same thing that we have PROVEN Obama did to Israel...and you wonder why we have lost patience.

At first I was shocked by the anger and the vehemence and the self-induced terror. Then I was hopeful that reality would set in, if not before, then at least following the inauguration.

Now, I begin to see that apparently there is something in you that needs this anger, this all-consuming fear. And so I yield. I will not attempt to convince you or anyone that Trump is nothing more (or less) than a man. I surrender the US to your fears.

But I remain what I am...and what I was, even then, when I was 20 years old. I am a Jew; I am a woman.

And I have grown in the last 30+ years to be so much more. I am an Israeli. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. And I do not fear Donald Trump because the enemies I face are so much more real, so much more violent and deadly.

My enemies blow up buses and restaurants; they stab pregnant women and children; they ram baby carriages. They murder fathers and mothers in front of their children and then dance in the streets to celebrate.

I surrender to your fear. I do not accept it. I do not enjoy it. But I surrender to the fact that you will not let it go.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was entirely marvelous.

Maoz said...

Ditto!

GeriGirl422 said...

Wonderful piece as always.

I have a request. You spoke about "Christian sisters" throughout the ages turning a bind eye to the plight of the Jewish people.

There is a book I would like for you to consider reading. It is called "The Hiding Place."

Many people call themselves "Christians" but they are not. The Catholic Church is not Christian. To Evangelicals - they are a cult.There are a few authentic Christians in the pews of this church. But the leadership and the pope are NOT Christians. They are Jew haters.

I hope that you know that the greatest friends that Israel has in the world are true Evangelicals. I also hope that you will get the aforementioned book. In it you will see an example of a true follower of Jesus and what they feel about the Jewish people and about Israel.

Shalom

Eliad said...

Oh man, I have just found this blog but I think I love it.

Unknown said...

Ditto. Marvelous to read emet, the truth. For this woman, and she speaks for me, too.

Eagle said...

Thanks! Well said.

Anonymous said...

Those women were marching because president trump wants to let States take away a womens right to control her body. Should we not belive anything the president says?

A Soldier's Mother said...

Dear Anonymous - So, let's say for a moment that you are right, that President Trump WANTS to take away a woman's right to control her body...is that what America should control...what someone WANTS? Because, if you are familiar with the way the US works, you should understand that there are three branches of government and you need two of them to make a law and pass it. Otherwise, the President can WANT all he wants and yet never get anything. But I'll play along. Can you tell me how you know what President Trump WANTS to do with women's bodies?

Should you believe what the President says? Well, I hope you should. Tell me - when did he say that he wanted to deny a woman's right to control her body? I guess I missed that speech. I know that he is not in favor of abortion. Reality check - few people are. Meaning, few people will think having an abortion is a good thing. But that doesn't mean they are going to promote legislation to stop abortion; it just means in his own family, he'll tell his kids - listen, if you don't get pregnant, you won't have to face that horrible choice. And if you do get pregnant, you might want to look at other options - like giving the baby up for adoption to one of tens of thousands of families that can't have children...or you could...like...marry the guy who you got pregnant with...or whatever.

My point is - I think it ridiculous to march the day a man takes a job when he hasn't DONE anything and last I heard, freedom to think was right up there with freedom of speech. I don't care what President Trump WANTS to do...I care what he does.

And some of the things that people marched for - were just as bad under the Obama administration, and I don't remember all those women marching down the street screaming about what Obama WANTED to do.

Anonymous said...

A feminist is someone who believes in the equality of men and women. Feminists literally just want to empower girls who feel inferior to boys that they are SMART, STRONG, AND BEAUTIFUL. This piece disgusts me, and I am jewish. I feel sad to live in a world where people put their religions on a pedestal. You are a feminist by definition: you believe in equality of the genders. If you want to write an article about Israel and antisemitism, do it! That is amazing! But do not try to devalue one of the most beautiful movements this world has ever seen. Just because you personally never felt discriminated for your gender, does not mean others haven't. In fact, millions of girls have.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Dear Another Anonymous,

I used to believe that a feminist is someone who believes in the equality of men and women and yes, in an ideal world, feminists would be dedicated do empowering girls to believe not only that they are smart and strong and beautiful, but empowering boys as well, I guess. And really, do we want to be so superficial as to focus on their beauty...but never mind.

I'd rather get to your next part. This piece disgusts you? Okay, I can live with that.

You say you are Jewish...okay.

And then you say you feel sad "to live in a world where people put their religions on a pedestal" - okay, so it's okay to put your womanhood on a pedestal but not God? Not religion?

Strange...

"If you want to write an article about Israel and anti-semitism, do it" - well, thank you - I have...about, like 3,000 times and counting. And here we get to the fun part...

"Do not try to devalue one of the most beautiful movements this world has ever seen"? Really, what movement would that be?

I see a lot of people are really bothered by the fact that I haven't experienced discrimination (as a woman). I'm sorry that bothers you.

But on a serious note, yes, millions of girls have been discriminated against, worse - they've undergone genital mutilation as part of their culture and their religious laws. It's called Sharia and one of the organizers of yesterday's women's march - believes in Sharia...but you are disgusted with MY article?

Is feminism a beautiful movement? Well, if you think so, I encourage you to open a blog and write all about it. I had the honor of opening my blog 10 years ago and have been writing on subjects that are important to me.

I think it ironic that you have a problem with the idea that someone should have the right to write what they want in their own blog and their own space - enough that you can come and order me to write this or that.

Fact is, I didn't devalue anything. Just as I don't expect all Jews to feel as I do about Israel...case in point...you; why should you think all women have to feel the same way as you do or else accept you being disgusted at them.

See - that's exactly why I wrote as I did. Because apparently, you believe being a woman gives you the right to tell others that they disgust you for not agreeing with what you believe.

Linda Levitan said...

I am a Jewish woman, and I proudly call myself a feminist. I have experienced discrimination. I am also Deaf, which gives me the perspective of intersectionality.

I don't automatically equate feminism with despising men and organized religion. The professor you encountered at Columbia was a radical feminist. And the feminist movement has been grappling with attitudes towards religion, attitudes towards Israel, etc., for decades. Radical feminists are likely to be affiliated with far-left, anti-Zionist causes, as you likely know.

I did not vote for Trump. Neither did I participate in the Women's March. I did participate in one march in Washington, a massive rally on behalf of Soviet Jewry in December 1988 (IIRC). As one of my friends pointed out, the agenda for the Women's March omitted any concern for the mistreatment of Syrian women, or the Yazidis, or the plight of the Kurds, or the persecution of Christians in Muslim cultures (you know whereof I speak). But it didn't neglect the obligatory Israel-bashing.

Anonymous said...

I am incredibly moved and impressed by what you have to say. I have never been a feminist and don't understand the need. No man has ever prevented me from doing what I wanted to do or from becoming who I want to be. I opened stores, I started a newspaper, I rehabilitate houses and apartment buildings, all without the permission or approval of any man. And, I maintained my feminininity while supporting and raising my children.

I have been an American for 73 years and have recently also become an Israeli. I cannot understand how any Jew can be against Trump when the other side has again and again sold Israel out. Nor, as a woman who has adopted two children understand why so many women's priority in voting is whether or not they will be permitted to murder their unborn children.

May HaShem bless you, and keep you strong.

Sarah Rachel said...

For the record, I too am a proud married Orthodox woman, with three outspoken, Orthodox daughters who are now raising our grandchildren – girls and boys.
I assume I’m a bit older than you, and certainly old enough to have suffered through quite a bit of overt and covert gender discrimination. I was refused paid and unpaid internships and starter jobs and grad school admission in my chosen field (journalism) based strictly on my gender. I spend my first post-college year in publishing – the only writing job I could get then, and by 1968 gender had become less of an issue in the US and I joined the newsroom.
There is still gender discrimination in the workplace, especially regarding equal pay. I would march for that. Not all women are married with a husband to support them. In fact, many married Orthodox women work to support their husbands and fathers. So I would march against gender discrimination.
Then there are reproductive rights. For me, it is about the right to make my own decision to stop a dangerous or unhealthy pregnancy. Individual states and most Republicans would restrict abortions based on their Christian view of life. In my family, as I’m sure in yours, any decision to end a pregnancy would be based on Jewish law, which is a lot kinder and more realistic. The same with contraception. I’m sure you would scream if the state told your sons the only method of contraception they could use was a barrier method – forbidden by Jewish law. America is NOT a Jewish state and I would certainly march against my Christian country requiring I give up my values and adopt those values
My grandparents and my father were immigrants to the U.S. I appreciate that there was a country willing to take them and ultimately save them from the pogroms et al. Am I worried that our tiny population will become a still-smaller percentage of the country? Sure I am. But could I then deny the open door to those who need it? No. I am a human being and, like the righteous gentiles who save so many, I cannot shut the door. I would march for that.
And could I turn my back on the lovely African-American people I have known—friends, co-workers, bosses and their families? I’ve endured a few anti-emetic incidents directed to me personally; they have personally endured a lot of racism. They have also stood up for me. And I will march for them.
Marchers were out there for as many reasons as there were people. I was unaware that a Moslem woman was one of the leaders and I’ve heard nothing about sha’ria law in the dozens of posts and emails I had from friends who marched in different cities. This was mostly a march to tell a new president—one who bullied his way past a roomful of Republicans to get the nomination then aligned himself with alt-right and other intolerant people—that they did not want their rights eroded, a wall erected on the Mexican border and billed to them, or their neighbors deported. Israelis may be used to politicians making wild statements and false promises, After all Israeli politicians’ statements look good compared with the vitriol coming from its neighbors. In the US, though, words are usually measured and a president’s pronouncements are carefully parsed. The world expects civility and thought from an American president. Many people marched because they are simply afraid of what effect Pres. Trump’s words will have. There is comfort in numbers.
Do I like the fact that Pres. Trump has promised a good relationship with Israel and to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in acknowledgement of that city’s role as the eternal capital of Israel? Of course. That goes without saying.
I would only urge him to do this quickly. I honestly don’t believe he will get through a four-year term without being impeached for something, and I do want to believe there was some purpose for his election.
I did not march Saturday because I am a Shabbos observer. Had it been another day – shmonah, yamina, shmonah, yamina….

Leah said...

I am a Noahide and agree with your whole article. The people marching don't seem to have the ability to articulate what they really want. If they did they would be visiting their US senators and representatives, and their state government officials and talk clearly and calmly about what they want or are afraid of. They just seem to throw out vulgar expletives. I don't think they know what "racist" means anymore. If you don't agree with them they throw that at you no matter what the subject matter is you are talking about. Your article was very encouraging to many women I'm sure.

Debbie said...

please tell me how to join your blog. thanks

Anonymous said...

The president has said he will appoint an supreme court judge who will over turn roe v wade. Once it is done it is a life time appointment so speaking out before it happens is important.

Tasa said...

The author was talking about the persecution of Jews and their neighbours attitudes through the ages. There have been beautiful that have been wonderful to us. But not that many, sorry to say.
I see today CUFI and the wonderful work it does for Israel. And that is different and it makes a big difference!!!! I feel thankful every day for people like them

Tasa said...

The right to kill their unborn baby? Had these women marched for the Yazidi women, that have been sold into slavery, raped, murdered.....for the Christians being exterminated in the Middle East, or for the ones that are burnt, or......I would say OK, they do march for right causes. But all these marches because they don't accept the result of the elections and make it a woman thing, mmmm, not for me.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious?

Anonymous said...

I am in love with your blog. You are so smart and honest. I have never related more to something. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I have seen a few articles lately written by women

Thank you for your thoughtful post. It saddens me because your experience with feminism is so different from the feminism I know, love and support. Please allow me a moment to share with you my feminism.

My feminism is about having the equality and right to make choices. My feminism values religion, atheism, and agnosticism. My feminism equally values stay at home moms (and dads) and those who work outside the home. My feminism fights for the right to wear a burka or a miniskirt and be safe on the street. My feminism believes that men and women are equally valuable and that sexism disadvantages us all. My feminism examines the intersection of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and everything else that makes us who we are. My feminism recognizes and fights discrimination even when we don't feel the sting of it personally. My feminism doesn't always get it right, but it is a self-reflective movement that always strives to do better. I was deeply moved by the women's marches and found them to be beautiful examples of my feminism.

Rachel Caplan Combs
Buffalo, NY

Stephanie said...

This essay crystallizes for me a lot of my thoughts that were swirling the last few days, and you stated them so much better than I could. This essay could be my manifesto for the next four years, though I hope people will finally calm down and I won't need to have one.

Anonymous said...

GREAT response!!!!!

Joyce The Voice said...

Well said. Thank you.

Gail Griner Golden at Gail-Friends said...

Very interesting post. The sad part of it is this: those women in the march do NOT represent America. They are only a small part of the women in my country. I'm one who, like you, looks on them with disgust. I'm pro-life and pro-Israel. I'm pro-Trump and happy that he is pro-life and pro-Israel. I'm also thrilled at the changes he's made in his first seven days in office. I've written about these subjects on my blog several times this week.

Please remember this: we have several major news outlets that have lost integrity, and are driven my liberal agendas and money. I use alternative sources for news.

Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of women attended the March for Life in Washington, DC. There were not riots, no vulgar speakers or actions. There was an atmosphere of love and joy, in great contrast to the horrific chaos at the Women's March.

I have great hope for America. We conservatives in the majority in the three branches of government now!!! We have a conservative president, and we will soon have a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. G-d has had mercy on us.

Like you, we face the terrorism threat now. I have hope that our president will lead in dealing with that, too. He's already taken action this week.

Take heart my sister.

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