Hello. My name is Golda Daphna and I am unworthy. I am unworthy to write a piece on the importance of women. I am unworthy to comment on a University I do not attend. I am unworthy to write when no amount words can adequately express the pain I feel. I am unworthy in Judaism.
Last week I wrote an article about a provocative thing I did. Funny how I never hear that word when it comes to a man. What is this provocative thing you may ask? I walked. I walked and was filmed. I walked in a place of Torah. I walked in a haven of religiosity. I walked. Usually, when I walk and it is provocative, I’m alerted immediately. Earlier this month it was, “I’m a tall, dark, handsome stranger don’t run away from me. Why are you running.” Last month in the subway after a man followed me, “What are you thinking.” In Israel I’ve been catcalled by boys on bikes (who fell off of them immediately after), a man eating spaghetti (he didn’t wait to chew), two Chareidim asking for directions before insisting I get in their car (Ben Yehuda was straight ahead.) I’ve been catcalled every time while donning a skirt and covering my elbows. Still, a girl in my seminary told me,” I feel like you’re asking for it.” I don’t blame her.
I’ve started to listen to women say sorry. When a girl simply walks behind me,” I’m so sorry.” I turn behind me in the Starbucks and smile, “Please don’t apologize.” A girl in the bathroom as she reaches across from me for soap, “I’m sorry.” A girl when she coughs, “I’m sorry.” A girl when she’s fourteen years old on a stretcher, “I’m sorry I didn’t shave my legs.” Maybe I should have known then. The summer after eighth grade. When I was rushing to see Harry Styles, arguing with my brother about parking, getting hit by a truck, laying in the ambulance: “I’m sorry I have to constantly apologize for breathing in spaces I never think are my own.” To younger me, I’m sorry you looked up to a British pop-star because role-models were scarce.
Why do women believe we do not have a right to our bodies. Why do we believe we do not have a right to our space. Why do we not believe we have the right to speak? To cough? To walk?
Just last week, I posted an article. I was being controversial. I was intentionally provocative. I am not apologetic for that. To all those insightful individuals who remarked on my need to stir the pot, congratulations on your observance. Rather, I am horrified. I am horrified that high-school ghosts contacted my ex-boyfriend to ask him his thoughts. I am horrified that a married woman with children in her profile picture, messaged me privately to yell at my ignorance. I am horrified at the Loshon Hara. I am horrified at the lack of middot. I am horrified at the men who sat behind computer screens questioning my intelligence, my Engineering education, and labeling me as a liberal (my friends will laugh at this one.)
But, again. I will not apologize. Can you imagine if Rosa Parks apologized? If Susan B. Anthony apologized? If Miriam Haneviah apologized? If Devora Hashophetet apologized? “I’m so sorry that I sat down in the front of the bus.” “I’m so sorry that I want to vote.” “I’m so sorry that I’m pulling you out of the water.” “I’m so sorry I’m paskining and Rabbis are going to label me an exception to rationalize their prejudice.” These separate spaces encourage inequality. They encourage men to feel superior. They encourage men to feel territorial. They encourage men to remain sexist. If women are hidden. Hidden behind mechitzas. Hidden in newspapers. Hidden in Halachic texts. We disappear.
I go to Columbia University. To all those who trolled me on Facebook to remind me of my current school, I haven’t forgotten. How could I? After going to a high school that offered only the boy school, D.R.S, unlimited APs, a rabbi who frequently ditched our Gemara class (intention unknown), and countless workshops on tsnius and “inner beauty,” how could I forget the first time I was treated as an equal. How could I forget the first time a boy told me, “You just got in because you’re a woman.” How could I forget the less-than-6% acceptance rate that admitted me. That values me. That teaches me the same curricula as the boy sitting next to me. That offers me the same teachers. That offers me the same libraries. That shatters the glass ceiling with every formula I struggle to comprehend and every test I manage not to fail.
Men on Facebook seem to think I am barely Orthodox. They seem to think I am alone. They seem to think this is a show. They seem to think I don’t care about Hashem. Well, to you sexist, close-minded men, maybe start listening to the women around you.
I went to Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim. I am forever grateful for my rabbeim and rebbetzins. I am thankful that I’ve texted them since the article, and they’ve responded. Most importantly, I am indebted to the long conversations about inequality. I am endlessly thankful for the girls in chavruta who have cried about tsnius, and the lack of women’s voices, the need for female rabbis. And, if I didn’t tell you this, you may be fooled. Orthodox girls in MMY speaking about female rabbis? That’s not Orthodox. Yet, these girls care more about Hashem than anyone I know. These girls inspire me. These girls at first glance, look every bit the Bais Yaakov girl for whom you may mistake them.
It is time to let women speak. To the men on Facebook, stop defining sexism. To the men in the Beit, start paying attention to the lack of female representation in Halacha. To the men in shul, start reconfiguring your prayer spaces (with Halacha in mind) so women don’t feel neither seen nor heard.
We are living in a world that can no longer be ignored. Vaccines cannot be controverted due to “stringencies.” Education cannot be denied due to “mesora.” Women cannot be hidden due to prejudice.בעתיד נקבה תסובב גבר. Let’s bring Moshiach.
Hello, my name is Golda Daphna. I have brown hair, brown-eyes, triplet siblings, an older brother, two nephews, two nieces, and two working parents. I write poetry, compose songs, have a complicated relationship with Daf Yomi, an IMDb page, am a staunch Zionist, still keep Cholov Yisroel, and am a Jew made in Hashem’s image. I am human. Sorry, that’s not enough for you. But, I am worthy.