If I Were a Jewish Boy

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This week my friend and I were discussing the pros and cons of being a guy vs being a lady. You’ve probably had this debate at some point (or several points) in your life. I think it’s fairly clear that men generally have it easier, but not necessarily better. I mean, hi, us ladies make people. Also, D is very jealous of that whole multiple orgasms thing. On the other hand, there’s that whole patriarchy thing. Bummer.

Anyway, this led to a discussion with a different friend about how different our Jewish lives would be if we were guys. Even as lifelong members of egalitarian Jewish communities, there are serious and clear differences between the way we were treated, and what was expected of us, and our guy friends. The standard within the egalitarian halakhic community seems to be that men are definitely obligated to do all kinds of things, and women can choose. This can be seen as a luxury, but in practice I find it exceptionally challenging. [Imagine if you were asked about every action you take at work, "Do you really want to be doing this?" You'd probably say, "Not really." But there's a reason we all do stuff we don't like from time to time--the payoff is pretty sweet.]

There is a halakhic basis for this argument, but that’s not what interests me, now. It’s strange, and sad, to think about how much more gemara I’d know if I was a guy (true story: in my high school the guys had a gemara class, and the girls did a unit on covering your hair). Also, how much easier it would have been to say kaddish. And I’m not one of those girls who’s dying to experience peeing standing up, but God, I would LOVE to spend a few days on the other side of the mechitza and see what it’s like.

Posted on April 23, 2010

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