Before I converted, I had allowed a combination of a painful breakup and Kiruv apologetics to convince me that Haredi marriage represented an ideal relationship model. Shomer Negia? Definitely. Dating shouldn’t be about potential sex but the possibility of spending the rest of your life with the person sitting across the table. Three dates before engagement? Of course. No need to spend four years with the same woman only to watch it fall apart. Modesty? Sure. I should be careful how I talk to women. Hell, I really shouldn’t even talk to women that I have no interest in marrying. I read Doesn’t Anyone Even Blush Anymore? I was planning to read The Magic Touch. Clearly defined gender roles seemed to just make life easier, especially if everyone in the Orthodox community embraced them.
I might not have been able to live up to these ideals, but I was trying very hard. When I was invited to a friend’s wedding in Crown Heights, it felt like a test. I was nervous to be around people for whom Halacha and modesty were part of their upbringing. I was going to spend five days among Jews who understood tznius implicitly; I envied their ability to reach this state of holiness without effort.
As soon as I arrived at my host’s apartment, I was asked if I would like to help pay for the strippers. I tried to avoid the show, but I did get an earful of my holy frum Chasidic hosts complaining about not getting the lesbian show that they wanted. In fact, they even got their money back; with the exception of the one who paid a little extra for a little extra in the bathroom.
It was then that I learned that, surprisingly enough, being raised in a highly gender segregated environment does not bestow modesty or healthy relationships. Since that night, I’ve met frum guys who were married at 19, divorced at 21 and thought nothing of calling women C—-‘s. I have gone from being horrified at the thought of frum men hiding their peyos under baseball caps to go to strip clubs to feeling sorry for the poor guys.
Had I been in that pre-Crown Heights Lesbian Stripper mood when I read Avi Woolf’s smug little diatribe against feminism and Conservative Judaism (The Jewish Sexodus, because it’s like the Exodus but there’s sex, get it?) I might have been more open to the argument. I might have even agreed with him. When you are very insecure about relationships, it’s so much easier to blame feminism and the “war against masculinity.” Sure, that Kollel rabbi from Lakewood who gives over a dvar Torah about how Egyptians made the male Hebrews do the female work and the female Hebrews do the male work is being ridiculous. You know that he is only making excuses for the fact that he is an adult who doesn’t know how to cook or clean up after himself, but he’s got a family and kids. If your feminist girlfriend just dumped you, leaving a broken shell of your former self, embracing that kind of sexist garbage seems very attractive.
If you want to be like Avi Woolf and blame feminism, then you can quote gamergate’s favorite journalist when he’s talking about men retreating into videogames. You can dismiss “rape culture” as a conspiracy of women who just don’t like men. You don’t have to worry that 90% of all movies and television shows are made for you. Go ahead and snort derisively when anyone says “patriarchy.”
You can even throw a fit whenever anyone calls you on your sexist views. Oh no, feminists aren’t attacking sexism within Judaism because they want more participation and equality. The only reason why they would care about these sexist tropes is because they want to get rid of men. It’s like when you were a teenager and your mother told you to clean up your room. Obviously, the fact that she didn’t want to cater to your every whim meant that she didn’t want to be your mother. If you’re feeling a little guilty about your unexamined male privilege, just read one of the crazier feminist authors like Catherine MacKinnon or Camille Paglia to support your “feminists are just stupid” thesis.
One can positively hear Avi Woolf cackling when he writes about how women who delayed marriage in order to have careers are now competing against “younger, chirpier and often more attractive women a decade younger.” So haha Miss Feminist who did not give Avi Woolf your number when he asked for it; you may like your independence now but just wait until you hit 32 and have to compete with a 22-year old woman who – um – chirps?
Of course, if you don’t blame feminism for all of your problems, maybe you can be an adult. You don’t have to fault Simone De Beauvoir for your impotence. You can throw out your misogynist “pickup artist” books. You can accept that not every criticism of patriarchy is a scheme to destroy men. In fact, you can even play videogames – with women – who are your friends – because you can view woman as human beings with feelings, ambitions, eccentricities and faults. You can cook and clean and watch My Little Pony without worrying about your “masculinity.” It’s a little more complicated, but it’s definitely worth the effort to not be the kind of braying jackass that writes articles about how feminism ruins everything.