Take a Stand Or You Might Disappear

Join Chochmat Nashim to help build a healthier Jewish community

It’s hard for me to hold back on the topic of erasing women. It’s something I feel in my gut – that compels me to speak out.

I am not the only one.

“When the sound of your heels clicking and even the volume of your laughter are regulated. And you are preached at to stay in back of your own house on Purim lest the tzedakah collectors see you and stumble…and when you are warned against wearing perfume to shul even when you’re behind a mechitzah …..you start feeling like you always need to fade into the background. That everything about you is a sensory assault to men. It is insidious and infiltrates women’s confidence in the most horrible way. I am still affected by it and I have been out of the charedi community for 18 years. YOUR WORK IS SO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT, DON’T STOP.”

“HELP! I have 4 girls between the ages 4 and 10. We recently subscribed to a frum kids’ magazine and when my two older daughters wanted to submit a picture of something they made, they told me that the picture would have to be of my 4 year old instead of them because the magazine’s rule is that girls over 6 couldn’t have their picture in the magazine. I was flabbergasted that I never even noticed that all pictures of real people are boys/men or girls under six! My curious 10 year old decided to write to the magazine asking why that’s the rule. The response she got was less than encouraging. I am not sure of the best way to talk to them about normative tzniut in the right way so any tips on differentiating between actual Halacha and the distortion of Halacha to exclude photos of girls would be much much appreciated!”

These are real messages from real Jewish women sent to Chochmat Nashim, the organization fighting this trend.

This is how our Jewish women are feeling every day, around the world, and across various segments of Orthodoxy. These sentiments are not coming from feminist activists pushing against the halachic boundaries of gender roles in Judaism. They are wives, daughters, sisters and mothers who are feeling diminished, erased, and unheard and saddened at the unsettling extremism that is infiltrating our community.

Birth announcements that omit the mother’s name, blurred faces of little girls in toy catalogues, Torah conferences that list female speakers in small print at the bottom of the page, while male speakers are prominently featured alongside their headshots, shul and school dinner advertisements honoring a couple but displaying a photo of only the husband, kids’ clothing ads that feature mannequins modeling girls’ clothes alongside real kids wearing boys’ clothes, using the word besula to refer to a single family member in a shiva announcement because she has no husband for use as a proxy. I could go on and on.

I’ve watched as Chochmat Nashim explains the risks of erasing women, as they show how the community improves when women are visible, and I’ve looked for ways I could take part in making our community healthier.

I believe it is up to each of us to do what we can, with our respective strengths, skills, access and resources, to improve the community for ourselves and for our children. 

This is why I recently joined the Chochmat Nashim team as an advisor to the Board of Directors.

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll and the Chochmat Nashim team need more of us to step up and help end the trend of erasing women. 

How?

  • I ask men and women who are bothered by this to speak up and fight for your version of an inclusive Judaism that does not erase and diminish women’s faces and voices.
  • I challenge advertisers and publications not to bend to the pressure. Just because you are told that a segment of your audience could be offended by an appropriately modest image of a woman, don’t stoop to the lowest common denominator. Instead, rely on the actual principle of Halacha, rise up and do the right thing. Explain why you are taking a stand.
  • If you see something say something – reach out and express your concern to advertisers and institutions that are complicit in these practices.
  • If you are a man participating in an event or advertisement that is intentionally excluding women’s photos – insist that your photo not be featured as well.
  • If you are a business owner or non-profit, reference this guide to ensure that your advertisements are inclusive. Register to receive the Chochmat Nashim Seal of Respect to signal your commitment.
  • Have discussions with friends and family about how this makes you feel so that the true impact of this behavior is out in the open. Not sure what to say? Here are talking points that can help.

We can’t do this without you. If you are aligned with our mission, become a Chochmat Nashim member. Join our global community and gain access and benefits.

Let’s work together to cultivate a community of respect, consideration and inclusion for ALL members of our communities. Follow the conversation on Chochmat Nashim to learn more. 

About the Author
Rachel Book leads global diversity talent acquisition strategies for a major medical device company and is a sought after speaker at industry conferences. Her thought leadership on diversity, equity and inclusion has been featured in Entrepreneur.com, Thrive Global, recruitment media, podcasts and business television. When she’s not running manager workshops on inclusion , creating marketing strategies to diversify talent pools, analyzing data and recommending process enhancements to increase equity in hiring, Rachel juggles life as a wife and mom to two teenage boys in Teaneck, NJ.
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