Is Judaism Sexist?

Is Judaism Sexist?

If you ask any of the female students at Ramaz, they will have an opinion on modern feminism and how sexism affects their daily lives as Jewish girls. 

Feminism is a very prominent topic in the twenty-first century. Feminism is a broad catagory with varying opinions. I am focused on how feminism affects Jewish women. 

Every day, the girls at Ramaz have to put on a skirt, cover their shoulders, and brave the streets of Manhattan. In the school building, we have to keep our skirts below our knees and stay on the other side of the mechitza at davening. We follow the same procedure every day, only because that’s the tradition. That’s what we have to do. That’s modern Orthodox Judaism in its prime. 

While Modern Orthodox Judaism is more egalitarian than regular Orthodoxy, it is just another brick wall keeping girls from being included in celebrating their heritage. Instead of being called to the Torah and leading tefillah the way men do, women sit on the other side of the mechitza and watch the men take the spotlight. 

About a year ago, when reading one of the birchot hashachar, I noticed that in the bracha ‘shelo asani isha’, the female blessing was ‘she asani kirtzono’. This translates to ‘I was made in God’s image,’ rather the male blessing which translates to ‘that I was not made a woman.’ After reading this, a problem became crystal clear to me: Orthodox Judaism is unjust toward women. While men say a blessing each morning thanking God that they were not made female, women have to thank God that he made them in his image. The discrepancy in the male and female parts of the bracha insinuates that being born female is worse than being born male. 

In the times of the Exodus, men had more of a say in law and life than women; men had property and status whereas women did not enjoy those rights. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It was a huge scandal when the five daughters of Zelophehad came to Moshe asking for equal rights and ownership of their father’s property. Why has female status always been an issue in Judaism and why does this problem persist today?

Halacha and Torah have always been sexist, even if sexism was not the intended goal. History has always been in favor of men, but the effects on women in the twenty-first century are as aggressive and callous as nails on a chalkboard. In terms of Orthodox Judaism, women do not get the equality that they deserve. 

There’s no problem with wearing skirts and covering our shoulders; boys have to be modest as well. However, Ramaz follows Modern Orthodox Judaism, which is less harsh than Orthodox Judaism. Most Orthodox women have it worse than Modern Orthodox women. But why should any Jewish women have it rough in the first place?