It’s Not Just for Feminists Anymore

It’s not easy being a feminist.

We are the butts of jokes, the objects of stereotypes, and the recipients of sometimes vile allegations. We are accused of being humorless, man-hating, hairy, butch, lesbian, angry, vigilant, overly-masculine, inflexible, fighting demons. Feminists have been blamed for undermining the sanctity of the family, for emasculating men, for destroying the economy, and for generally ruining everyone’s fun. The list goes on. For Orthodox feminists, add to this the associations with being Reform, non-Jewish, anti-Semitic (yes, I get that surprisingly often), whores, sluts, anti-Torah, anti-halakhic, anti-community ignoramuses.

It’s easy to understand why some people do not want to be associated with feminism. Who would? With all these monikers and awful images flying around the universe about feminists, why would anyone willingly choose to associate with that group?

I get that. I actually hear it all the time. I have had countless conversations with people who actually fully believe in the fundamental ideals of feminism – that women and men deserve to be treated equally and fairly, in
all aspects of life, because we are all created in the divine image – but who do not want to be labeled as “feminist”. It’s understandable.

I know that people who look like feminists do not always call themselves that. Women who have benefited from the feminist movement – women breaking glass ceilings in all aspects of life, women who fully expect their husbands to be full partners at home, women with aspirations to be astronauts or the president of the United States – even women who can argue eloquently for gender equality still sometimes balk at the word “feminist”. It’s just not where they are or want to be.

There are other reasons for this as well. Maybe some people think the struggle is over. Maybe some people are happy with the status quo and don’t want to fight at all but just want to get on with their lives. Maybe some people have never actually experienced gender inequality in their own lives so they are not fully convinced that it still exists. There are lots of reasons why women and men do not want to call themselves feminists. Everyone is entitled to her or his own identity, obviously.

At JOFA, interestingly, we have found that many of the people who don’t want to associate with feminism are people with whom we have strong relationships, people whom we deeply care about and with whom we work, study and live. Many of them are allies and partners in different aspects of our communal and professional lives. Many have dedicated their lives to the advancement of women’s knowledge and status in Judaism. In fact, many of the greatest feminists in our lives are former non-feminists. It seems that feminists and non-feminists have been collaborating for some time on shared ideals and interests, even if we disagree about the name.

It is in that spirit of collaboration and partnership that JOFA create
it's not just for feminists anymore
d the tagline to go along with this year’s conference. The tagline, “
It’s not just for feminists anymore
”, was specifically designed to engage in conversation with people who do not call themselves feminists. We believe that non-feminists have an important place at the table, and we wanted to make sure that non-feminists know that their presence is welcome and invited at the JOFA conference, the conference of feminists.

I know that some of the conversations about this tag-line have been difficult and painful. I’ve been having many discussions about this tagline with feminists who feel like this tagline dismisses them and makes them feel less wanted or less invited. Nothing can be further from the truth. JOFA remains staunchly and unapologetically feminist. We are as proud of this identity as we are of our efforts to be inclusive. And I really want to emphasize that we are especially grateful for all the courageous work of the fantastic feminists of the world who made this conference possible. We love feminists, period.

I am excited that the JOFA Conference tag-line has generated energized conversations about how feminists connect with non-feminists. This is one of the main goals of the conference: to encourage dialogue and discourse among the diverse Jewish community around feminist issues. We welcome any and all discussion about this, and hope that this piques curiosity, promotes engagement, and encourages more people to come to the conference and be part of this important event. Feminists and non-feminists alike.

For more information and to register for the JOFA conference, “Voices of Change”, click here.

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