The following is a note I jotted down and posted for opinions on Facebook. I plan to follow up with further thoughts after a discussion was started and I had time to think deeper.
need to talk this out somewhere.
sometimes I hear friends say how nervous or worried they are about raising girls because it comes with so much *teaching* and complications – because there’s so much work to do for girls to keep up with society’s expectations or breaking the expectations. ok I dunno if friends say it, but I say it.
and for me a lot of that comes out in ‘establishment judaism’ – expectations built in either on purpose or as a byproduct of the way establishment defines jewish tradition and standards. now that I have two daughters in the ‘system’ – which is pretty much society itself – I’m reliving all these feelings of being put down, jewishly-speaking, while growing up in the ‘system’. wearing skirts five days a week while boys wear pants limits you – it limits how you are portrayed and it limits your definition of yourself. it tells you what you are and what you are not. being expected to bring the challah ingredients or the snack for ima shel shabbat on Friday while boys are expected to bring grapejuice – limits. handing out the tzitzit to the boys, as the toranit, limits. it limits and it sends a very strong message – my place is here to give and give and give. give the boys what they need to be chazan and lead. and then take a step back and follow.
there was a week back there when my four year old wanted to wear tzitzit every day. who could blame her? I remember standing to the side on simchat torah watching the boys and men dance and make a show and be the center of the universe. me, and my mom, and my friends’ moms.
I’m raising two girls and every other day something pops up to remind me that things don’t change easily. or at all. and I moved across the world to a jewish country embedded with traditional jewish establishment. and I live in a *mixed* community, but when applicable, the judaism standards are set for the mainstream and everyone expects it.
it’s unfortunate that I don’t want to send my girls to the same school my son is in. he’s having a great time – it’s beautiful. I’m so happy for him. but I know it won’t be the same for them. the expectations will be different. the dress will be different. the language will be different. the way they are spoken to will be different. and so it goes, on and on.
and that’s what put me down in jewish day school. that’s what I think failed me. and I went to a relatively progressive one! and I’m still working on my self, more than three decades in the making, and I don’t even know where to start with my daughters. ‘just being myself and showing them’ is not the answer – I’m jaded and traumatized and damaged.
and the sad thing is, at 4.5 and 1.5, my daughters are already on that path.