Recently, Rabbi Zev Farber posted a controversial blog post about expanding a woman's role in the synagogue. I'm not really sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, I came into Orthodoxy knowing that I would never lead any part of davening or be called to the Torah. On the other hand, what are the two main arguments for this position?
1. Women have the G-d given role of caring for children, and synagogue honors and obligations would interfere with that.
2. Kol kevuda bas melech p'nima--the glory of a princess is within. Women should stay on their side because they should not cheapen themselves by drawing attention to themselves.
Now, I am a stay-at-home mom, a housewife, or whatever term is currently in vogue. Builder and I have structured our lives around it. (In fact, I joke that because we save the cost of two tuitions, I'm sort of contributing $20,000 a year to the family budget.) So, this argument sort of works. But what if I weren't? Like it or not, the default position has become the working mother. Women serve in every position from secretary of an office to Secretary of State. And frum women are not exempt. In fact, because of the rise of the "kollel wife," it's not uncommon for women to be sole breadwinners in their families. Or to possess more education than their husbands. There are frum women who are doctors, lawyers, and college professors. And then, they go home. After supporting their families, they're told "kol kevuda bas melech pnima." Really, if you're so concerned by my kavod, then ensure that I can stay in, stop reading books, and get a job! And, if you want me to do my job of being a caregiver, then stop forcing my toddlers into institutions!
If we want to keep using these apologetics and have them mean something, we need to structure our society around keeping women home. We can't have women serving as breadwinners when it's convenient, and then shut them up at home the rest of the time. Whether it means lower tuitions, an end to the playgroup system that takes children younger and younger (some as early as 18 months), widespread homeschooling to save tuition (many frum working women are part of two-income families partly to pay tuition), pushing for community schools so that costs can be spread over more students (and drop), or a blanket rule that forbids yeshiva students from marrying until they get a job, it is crucial that we change our society. Otherwise we're lying to ourselves. And enabling a generation of man-cubs who demand that women become both breadwinners or caregivers based on the man-cub's convenience.