Tag Archives: feminism

There Are Good Men in the World

protest
Found at AOL.com – photo credit unavailable

Bigotry is bad – no matter who the victim.

When it comes to racism, America has made it clear that prejudice based on color cannot be tolerated. Roseanne Barr destroyed her career with just one racist twitter and had to be removed from her own show for the transgression of an offensive comment.

Equality is in; demeaning stereotyping is not only out but seemingly bad enough to be deemed unforgivable.

Except when one group is the target.

Who are these terrible people exempt from the sin of stereotyping?

They are men…

-Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Hating Men: The New Racism

Yes, I am deliberately writing this in the shadow of Judge Brett Kavanaugh being sworn in late yesterday as the newest Supreme Court Justice. This, of course, followed incredibly contentious confirmation hearings where both sides of the aisle pulled out all the stops in either trying to push through confirming Kavanaugh, or utterly destroying his reputation.

I’m not going to get into all of that. I’ve already written extensively about the Kavanaugh confirmation process HERE, HERE, and HERE.

I want to write about what we can expect next, which is the topic of Rabbi Blech’s essay: misandry, which is:

Noun – Definition of misandry: a hatred of men

Before anyone says it, yes, men have committed terrible, terrible acts against women and children across human history and into the current age. For example, there’s a huge surge in child trafficking in Africa and:

over two million people are trafficked annually, and of this number there is an estimated 30 000 children as young as 4, who are being prostituted in South Africa.

Stories about child abuse are rampant, including a recent story from Ireland about a two-week-old baby hospitalized after being sexually assaulted by a 25-year-old man.

Looking at rape statistics in the United States:

A 2013 study found that rape may be grossly underreported in the United States. Furthermore, a 2014 study suggested that police departments may eliminate or undercount rapes from official records in part to “create the illusion of success in fighting violent crime”. Based on the available data, 21.8% of American rapes of female victims are gang rapes. For the last reported year, 2013, the prevalence rate for all sexual assaults including rape was 0.1% (prevalence represents the number of victims, rather than the number of assaults since some are victimized more than once during the reporting period). The survey included males and females aged 12+. Since rapes are a subset of all sexual assaults, the prevalence of rape is lower than the combined statistic. Of those assaults, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that 34.8% were reported to the police, up from 29.3% in 2004.

Given the quote above, we may not have a very accurate picture of how many girls and woman have been raped based on victims not reporting as well as police departments apparently gaming their numbers. This may be why we see such a surge of “believe the victims” statements coming from the #MeToo movement and wider feminism. In fact, going back to the Kavanaugh hearings, once there was a disclosure from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her approximately 35 years ago, those who had been protesting against Kavanaugh for his perceived stand on Roe vs. Wade and other topics, focused on his guilt as a sexual abuser. From what I could see in the news, many woman projected their own victimization upon Kavanaugh, and now that he’s been confirmed, no doubt they will believe that Republicans in the Senate (and probably in the general public) all tacitly approve of sexual violence against woman.

So we have a perfect storm from which to accuse all men everywhere of participating in rape culture which must be battled at all costs, including violent protests.

I agree that sexual assault must be battled and the perpetrators arrested, tried, and if convicted, incarcerated to the maximum penalty allowed by law (and I think those penalties should be severe), but is it true that all men are evil?

yelling
Found at The Irish Times – no photo credit available

No, but is it true that all men are, if not overt sexual offenders, covertly supportive of the subordination of women, especially as related to the sexual act?

That’s like asking if all white males in America tacitly approve of racism because of their white privilege, simply because we were all raised in a culture that is systematically racist.

It’s a tough one to crack.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Genesis 2:18-22 (NASB)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

Ephesians 5:25-30 (NASB)

I’m not going to do an exhaustive search of what the Bible has to say about male-female relationships, but given these two examples, it seems that men and women are literally made for each other, and intended to work together cooperatively within the context of marriage. Further, men are expected to sacrifice themselves to protect their wives (and children), even unto death.

Do you know any men who fit that description? I do, plenty of them. They don’t make the news because men loving their wives and children, providing for them, and protecting them isn’t sensational, and it doesn’t rile people up.

In his article, Rabbi Blech quotes a number of feminist sources saying some pretty rough things about men such as:

“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” -Andrea Dworkin

and

“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” -Catherine MacKinnon

I haven’t researched the contexts for those statements, and perhaps their original contexts modify them, but you have to admit, on the surface, they seem pretty raw.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, I expect to see plenty of misandry in the news and social media, specifically because of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

What I hope people consider, and especially those who think the Kavanaugh confirmation equals “all men are scum” (although I found this article from last July encouraging), is that you’ll take some time to think of the men who are or were in your life who aren’t or weren’t scum, and in fact, who are or were really supportive.

Maybe it was your Dad, an Uncle, or Grandpa. It could have been a teacher, a neighbor, a bus driver. If national attention has become a raw nerve in terms of Kavanaugh in specific and men in general, it’s important to remember the other side of the coin. Men, from God’s point of view, were not intended to victimize women, we are intended to protect and nurture women, including from men who would harm them.

man rescuer
Man rescuing a woman and child after Hurricane Harvey – photo credit unavailable

One of my Facebook (and in real life) friends posted a lengthy quote about a week and a half ago:

Men ask why women are so pissed off. Even guys with wives and daughters. Jackson Katz, a prominent social researcher, illustrates why. He’s done it with hundreds of audiences:

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.

Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

Then I ask the women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.

Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”

― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help

(The first man to minor in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. in cultural studies and education from UCLA.)

It bothered me, but it took a while for me to figure out why. One man responded thus:

Funny, he never asked what men do to protect their wives and daughters from assault. Let alone the neverending worry that comes with the weight of responsibility of being the protector of the family. Men aren’t heartless mongrels. Unfortunately, they don’t teach that fact in women’s studies.

This is a portion of my response:

This bothered me a lot when I first read it, but I couldn’t figure out why. Then, last night, I had a nightmare about two people trying to take my grandson from me. Even though I stopped it in my dream, I still work up horrified.

I realized the question you ask men isn’t what they do to protect themselves, but what they do to protect their families, because after all, that’s our role, at least once we marry, and especially once we have children, and in my case, grandchildren.

Also, this wee missive assumes there is only one kind of assault, sexual assault. In fact, men, women, and children are subject to all manner of physical assault.

grandpa
Found at Care.com – photo credit unavailable

Know that if there are some men in the world who are dangerous to women and children, there are also plenty of us who are not, and in fact, who are dedicated to protecting our families. I hope you know a man like that. If you do, and if he’s around, you might want to talk with him for a while today and remind yourself that men can be good, too.

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Grandmother of Valor

Rav Moshe Aharon Stern, zt”l, explains that determining who has attained true greatness is no simple matter. “There is no middle way when dealing with the absolute truth. Either something is true or it is false. But how can one tell if someone is truly G-d fearing and whether he is a true scholar? We find an answer in an aggadata brought on today’s daf. In Niddah 33, we learn that when Rav Pappa visited a certain city and wished to determine whether there was a G-d fearing scholar to be found there, he addressed his question to a certain grandmother who resided in that place. He asked, ‘Is there a talmid chacham in this city?’ She immediately replied that there was. ‘There is a talmid chacham called Rav Shmuel. If only I could be like him!’

“Rav Pappa thought to himself, ‘Since she blesses herself to be like him, he obviously has yir’as shamayim.’ One may wonder why he chose to rely on this woman’s reply, of all the people of the town. We can understand this in light of a different statement recorded in the name of the sages. In Berachos we find that women tend to understand the true character of their guests more than men. G-d created women with a special sense to recognize falsehood immediately. This is why Rav Pappa asked a grandmother. He wanted a true answer and figured that, in that town, his best chance of getting one was from a woman!”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Women’s Intuition”
Niddah 33

While you may assign little reliability to this commentary, I think there may be some truth in it. In this age of “everyone has to be equal,” we tend to interpret that statement as “everyone has to be the same.” Of course, there are obvious physical differences between men and women but even those are coming under scrutiny and being discounted as “not that different.” For instance, this recent article published at The Good Men Project, a website that supposedly gives us a “glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century,” (according to their About Us page) seems to say that “masculinity” can only be “enlightened” by “confessing” that men and women are almost completely alike, with only minor differences in mental, emotional, and physical structure and functioning.

Please understand that I’m not promoting sexism or exploitation of women by men in framing my comments this way. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that men and women can and should have equal opportunity to resources and be treated with equal honor and respect, but that doesn’t mean men and women have absolutely no intrinsic differences.

However, in the viewpoint of Christianity, Paul may appear to muddy the waters just a little bit.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. –Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

In certain areas of Christianity, the phrase “neither Jew nor Greek” (with “Greek” often interpreted to mean “Gentile” or “non-Jewish person”) seems to indicate that whatever roles, functions, and covenant differences that once existed between the Jewish and non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah were eliminated because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But did Paul also mean that the roles and functional differences between males and females were also eliminated?

Probably not, since in context we see that Paul is referring to different groups having equal access to being “Abraham’s offsprings” through the promise of Christ. Slaves were still slaves, freemen were still free, men were still men, and women were still women. It is interesting to note that since Paul declared both men and women having equal access to the “resource” of Christ, he may appear to be somewhat “feminist” in his approach to the men and women of his day.

That’s not how the Bible usually depicts him.

Derek Leman recently posted an article on this blog called, Now a Non-Jewish Messianic Female Rabbi/Pastor. This topic has spawned a lively discussion in the comments section about the nature of the rights of women in the early first century church. The rights and restrictions applied to women in the church today seem to hinge on whether we see the letters of Paul as eternal truths or as contextually limited instructions to specific groups. According to a series of Leman’s comments on his blog, he supports the latter interpretation.

You learned from your background to read the Epistles like unchanging halakhah. Guess what? They’re not. They are specific advice to specific congregations and in particular situations. There … is … no … unchanging … law … against … female … leaders.
…..

(1) Letters from apostles to congregations do not establish new timeless commandments.

(2) Female leadership was accepted in Israel and by the apostles (Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Philip’s daughters).

(3) Apostolic instructions for various congregations are not uniform because there is no one model of congregational structure that is a pattern in heaven (an absolute divinely commanded model).
…..

Okay, let’s start with your understanding of the epistles. You think they are new Torah establishing new timeless laws which must be followed for all time, right? I said they are not. I said they are letters about specific congregations in specific places and times.

So, step 1. Is there a law before Paul write 1 Timothy (and/or 1 Corinthians) that women may not have leadership? Please tell me where it is.

Step 2. So I am supposed to believe that God waited until one of Paul’s later writings before revealing a new commandment: woman, thou shalt not teach or have leadership?

Step 3. If you say that the letters of the apostles are timeless commandments, how do you understand numerous scriptures like: 2 Tim 4:13; 2 John 10; 1 Cor 7:8; 1 Cor 7:26-27 (are we still in that “present distress” Paul mentioned?); 1 Cor 11:5 (it means a veil over the face, not a hat); etc.

Step 4. Tell me how the epistles “command” a congregation to be structured. What must the leadership structure be? Are the various letters consistent?

Step 5. Or you could come to realize epistles are not “new Torahs” but advice usually based on Torah and the teaching of Yeshua to specific congregations in particular situations. We no longer live in a world where slavery is widespread (in the West, I mean); so 1 Cor 7:21 makes a little less sense now. There are no bad connotations for women not wearing veils in our society (so no Messianic or Christian burkhas necessary). So we should read epistles differently, as applications of Torah and Messiah to specific situations. We can learn from the way these were applied to specific situations. But, back to 1 Timothy 2, how do we justify the idea that God was laying down a new commandment here? Is this the way God gives commandments? Or is it more reasonable to assume this is something that fit the situation of Paul’s congregations in Paul’s time?
…..

I’m not sure how this debate is going to turn out and my goal for this “meditation” isn’t to “join the fray.” I only want to show how devisive the issue of the role of women in the church and synagogue remains in the arena of religion.

Now let’s move one step backward from this debate and take a look at two related viewpoints of women in Judaism. The first is from Proverbs 31:10-31 which describes “the woman who fears the Lord.” This is the basis for the other related perspective of women in Judaism, referred to as Eishet Chayil or “Woman of Valor,” which is a blessing typically sung in Jewish homes on Erev Shabbat.

The English translation of the first part of the song says:

A Woman of Valor, who can find? She is more precious than corals.
Her husband places his trust in her and profits only thereby.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and flax and cheerfully does the work of her hands.

This may not fit your picture of a completely liberated, self-actualized, feminist woman of the 21st century, but we do see that Judaism has a history of honoring and valuing women within the community. That “valuation” may have become distorted over time, relative to the history of patriarchal rule we find in both traditional Christianity and Judaism, but I think we should re-examine those assumptions. Regardless of your views about whether a woman should teach men or should lead a congregation, we have ample enough evidence to believe that women tend to be more sensitive to the needs of the family and community, including their spiritual needs.

When I regularly attended a congregation, I couldn’t count the number of women who would come to services bringing their children and, in some cases, grandchildren with them because they wanted the children to honor God, while their “men-folk” remained at home or were off doing some chore or playing some sport. Of course, this isn’t universally true, but the anecdotal evidence is so ubiquitous that it has become cliche. A classic example of this phenomenon on the web is the Spiritually Unequal Marriage blog, which provides a forum for Christian women to interact and share their experiences being married to men who don’t share their faith.

In a way, this seems to lead us back to our “story off the daf” and the grandmother who could immediately identify the most “God-fearing scholar” in her town. Consider that the fellow she identified might not have had the reputation of being the most “God-fearing scholar” in the eyes of the town’s populace, but even someone humble and unassuming in his piety wouldn’t escape the detection of a true “woman of valor,” especially one who has lived many years, raised children and grandchildren, and has the experience and wisdom to see past the surface of a man and into his heart.

The differences between men and women go all the way back to Genesis and reflect the design of God for each of us. While human beings have imposed different roles, responsibilities, and restrictions onto males and females over human societial and cultural history, I believe there is something that God programmed and hardwired into humanity that serves to define us as men and women. Modern secular, progressive thought sees sex differences (as opposed to gender differences, which can become much more complicated) as socially imposed and with those impositions removed, imagines that men and women are not only be equal but hemogenous, and exhibit few if any differences.

While I believe (I state this again for clarity) that men and women should have equal access to resources in society and have been designed under Heaven to have equal access to God, that equality doesn’t presuppose or require homogenization. Replacing “him” and “her” with “it” neither elevates women in a social and cultural context nor reflects the true honor of women as originally established by God.

Differences aren’t bad and being different doesn’t mean you are unequal. It can mean that you are special and have a purpose to fulfill that cannot be accomplished by anyone else.

Sometimes only a grandmother can tell you where to find a talmid chacham in her town.