Meira E. Schneider-Atik
marching to the beat of my own drummer

Are WE Believing Our Women?

In recent times, I’m seeing posts on social media condemning all the so-called feminist groups who did not raise a huge outcry after the October 7th atrocities. Among those atrocities were the rape and mutilation of women and one would expect the feminist groups, who are always trying to raise awareness of sexual crimes and to believe the women who come forward, to say something about what happened in Eretz Yisrael. Instead, the silence of these groups was deafening. I did hear of at least one statement but it was too weak and too late in the game to come off as anything other than “you want a statement so I gave you one.”

My statement about the rape of the women and girls on October 7th is simple: What happened to these women was monstrous and they deserve justice. If a woman is raped, the only one to blame is the rapist. Period. The good news is that most Jews (and certainly most Israeli Jews) agree with me on this one. 

And yet, I still say that we have a lot of work to do and that it goes beyond validating these women (many of whom were murdered and deserve justice for that too). We as a community have to ask ourselves a tough question. 

What have we been doing as a community to ensure that our women are treated with the respect and dignity and Derech Eretz that we deserve? Are WE taking our women seriously?

Jewish women, including Torah-Observant women, can be victims of sexual crimes. It’s not public like the October 7th atrocities but those crimes do happen even in our communities. What are we doing about that? Are we providing safe spaces for these women and girls to come forward and get help? Or are we ignoring or denying their claims (especially when the perpetrators are Jews from our communities)? 

Honestly, it’s easier to believe the victims of October 7th because those perpetrators are known bad guys who don’t try to hide that. But in most cases of sexual crimes, the perpetrators don’t make it that easy. They have good-guy faces and wear good-guy clothes and speak in good-guy voices. Are we believing our women? Or are we just accepting the facades and ignoring or denying the accusations?

There are still thousands of women who are trapped in dead marriages because their husbands refuse to give them their Gett. What are we doing for them? Are we doing everything we can to help these women gain their freedom? Or are we making excuses? Are we pressuring the husbands to do the right thing and give the Gett or are we making excuses for them? 

Side note: back in October, I saw a post from ORA about a woman who had finally received her Gett and ORA said that it should be zechut towards the release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza. I thought that was rather appropriate. 

There are also a lot of women who are trapped in abusive marriages and haven’t left (yet). Are we reaching out and giving them safe spaces? Or are we ignoring the signs? Making excuses? Allowing the women to make excuses? Even if we don’t know what to do, are we just backing away or are we trying to find out what we can do (even if it isn’t much)?

Then there are the seemingly smaller things. As the saying goes, the devil is in those details. 

Are we still paying money for publications that won’t use photos of women’s faces? Are we still donating money for fundraisers that show the men but not the women? Are we buying from stores that use men and boys in their advertising but that replace girls and women with doll faces or erased faces? Or are we telling these groups, very simply and clearly, that this is wrong and that we won’t be giving them money anymore? 

Are we still accepting the idea that hiding women’s faces from view is a form of tznius? Are we still making excuses for this? Are we still saying things like “well, what if the women chose to not show their faces” when they didn’t have the option of showing their faces in the first place and therefore didn’t have a choice? As one rabbi put it, “if you only have one option, you don’t have a choice.” Are we still saying things like “what’s the big deal?” It’s precisely these small things that allow for bigger things. Taking away a woman’s face is to take away her human presence and when she is dehumanized, there’s nothing to stop people from treating her like an object. 

Can we be honest with ourselves and each other and acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do?

This piece is for the Illuy Neshama of Yocheved Shifra bat Israel a”h who had her second Yahrtzeit this month and who never met me and thus never knew that I believed her. 

About the Author
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe stylist, personal shopper, and writer/blogger. Her goal is to help women feel good about themselves and to dispel the myths about tzniut and dressing well. Her heart is in Eretz Yisrael, but for now, she and her family live in Queens, NY.
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