Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Equal-opportunity disempowerment

There is a stereotype about fundamentalist women--whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim--that we are perpetually barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the stove.  We are considered delicate little flowers, who dance attendance on their husband's every whim.  And we are married to macho creeps who dictate EXACTLY everything we think, do and say.
Now, I've never practiced any version of Christianity or Islam, so I can't comment on it's family dynamics.  However, I am a practicing member of fundamentalist Judaism.  And, I'm not sure that entire stereotype holds.  Particularly the part about the bossy, macho creep that we are (supposedly) chained to in matrimony. 
The truth is, I don't see men as having many more choices than women.  For the most part, Ultra-Orthodox women are better educated than their husbands, more likely to attend some kind of college, and more likely to attain a career.  Men have few choices, whether it's career path or even spouse (often, he's a victim of his parent's choices as much as his wife is.)  Many men can barely speak English--a real problem in the United States.  Often, his decisions about working, learning, level of education, what to wear, and where to daven have been made for him by his family or community.  Moreover, he's so busy working and learning that he has little time for his family, and not much input on how to raise them.  If he is Chasidic, then they go to school in their Chassidus.  Otherwise, the wife has nearly-complete decision-making power about child-rearing.  And these decisions impact him.  If his wife chooses an expensive yeshiva, he must pay for it.  (I actually know a family where the husband wanted to homeschool the children--and the wife vetoed the idea!  The kids have all been in school since the age of three, and the husband must pay for it.)

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