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Feb 09 2012

This god certainly hates women

Another one gets away. Deborah Feldman was raised in the reactionary Hasidic Satmar community based in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. She escaped.

In her memoir, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” out Feb. 14, she chronicles her oppressive upbringing and arranged marriage.

At 23, emboldened by classes at Sarah Lawrence College, she left her husband and the community for good — taking her 3-year-old son with her.

So often the way – college classes inspire and/or embolden people to escape. Fundamentalists are right, in their terms, not to want their children to get tertiary education.

She was married at 17, to a man she had met once. Their sex life was creepy beyond belief.

After the first time, you have to call a rabbi and he asks the man questions — did this happen? And he declares you either unclean, or not yet consummated. Once you’re consummated, you’re unclean, because you bled. So after the first time, your honeymoon is a no-sex period.

For two weeks every month, he can’t touch you. He can’t hand you a glass, even if your fingers don’t touch. He has to put it down on the table and then you pick it up. Secondary contact can’t happen. If you’re sitting on a sofa, you have a divider between you. It makes you feel so gross. You feel like this animal in the room. If there’s a question about your period, you take the underwear and put it in a zip-lock bag, and give it to your husband. He takes it to the synagogue and pushes it into this special window and the rabbi looks at it and pronounces it kosher or nonkosher. It’s so disgusting.

Maybe a little.

She says things are getting worse.

Over the past 10 or 20 years [the Hasidic community] has gone from being extreme to being ultra-extreme. They’ve passed more laws from out of nowhere, limiting women — there’s a rule that women can’t be on the street after a certain hour. That was new when I was growing up. We hear all these stories about Muslim extremists; how is this any better? This is just another example of extreme fundamentalism.

And notice the common element: it’s all about controlling women. It’s all about making the restraints tighter…and tighter…and tighter. God is always A Man; men are always the people, and women are always the others; the people always have to keep the others down; down down down. The people always have to strip the others of all rights, all capabilities, all modes of escape and autonomy. This kind of religion seems to be about almost nothing but puffing up men and stamping down women. It’s religion as constructed by stags in rut.

 

 

24 comments

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  1. 1
    Orlando

    What a courageous woman.

    The Jewish and Islamic extremists remind me of the episode of the original Star Trek where there were two alien races hostile to each other: one race had half of the their faces white, the other half black; and the other race had the same colors but the sides of their faces were reversed. And they could not see that they were essentially the same race.

    The catholic bishops would certainly approve of the Hasidic and Islamic control of their women. After all, they share the same imaginary woman-hating father figure.

  2. 2
    Cliff Hendroval

    Here’s another good story about another escapee: http://nymag.com/news/features/48532/

  3. 3
    Josh Slocum

    Good grief. I had no idea they were THAT nutty. I sincerely hope she’s right that the Internet and the ubiquity of mobile devices will actually dig the grave of these controlling enclaves. . . but. . . .people have to be unafraid to use them, even if they can get access. We’ve had radio and TV for 70 to 120 years, and widespread printed books for hundreds. Didn’t do any good in places like this “community.”

  4. 4
    Sunny

    All an elaborate ruse for the rabbi to engage his used panty fetish.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Thanks for that, Cliff.

    Yikes. Again.

  6. 6
    Scote

    “All an elaborate ruse for the rabbi to engage his used panty fetish.”

    Yeah, even the panty obsessed Japanese can’t a get women’s husband to actually deliver her panties to them.

    But how is it that a man can’t even sit on the same couch with a woman without barrier but he can carry her panties around in a bag? Aren’t they worried that treif cooties will leak through the bag?

  7. 7
    Cliff Hendroval

    I actually live in the town that the Village of Kiryas Joel is part of. They wield tremendous political clout from the local level all the way up to the state. Despite that, it’s the poorest incorporated area in the United State because almost no one works – the men can’t take jobs partly because they don’t speak English and partly because they don’t like non-Satmars. There is a huge and increasing problem of mental retardation in the community because inbreeding is turning their double helixes into Moebius strips. (Funny how they have problems getting new women to join the community.)

  8. 8
    Captain Mike

    It’s religion as constructed by stags in rut.

    Speaking as a fairly close human equivalent, I can’t agree. Taking your partner’s underpants to the rabbi for examination is considerably stupider than anything I could have come up with, even on my worst days.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Ok religion as constructed by stags in rut with a cerebral cortex added.

    It’s not really stupid within the terms of the arrangement. Rule 1: control female reproduction. Rule 2: do whatever it takes. Elaborate fusses about menstruation fit right in.

  10. 10
    interrobang

    Aren’t they worried that treif cooties will leak through the bag?

    They seem to think plastic is pretty well impermeable. A formerly-Orthodox colleague of mine told me that if I should ever consider kashering a kitchen, I should buy stock in plastic wrap companies first. I’m not Jewish, but we were talking about it in the context of an article about the Obamas having the White House kitchen kashered for some event or other.

    I don’t care so much about the casual contact rules. I just spent a week in Jerusalem a couple of months ago, and I have a bunch of male Orthodox (normal Orthodox) coworkers. I really didn’t mind not shaking hands or anything, but I don’t care for that sort of thing in the first place. You want to not spread germs directly to me and spare my autoimmune enthesitis? Cool! (I do recall that at one point, I stumbled, and my quite-observant boss automatically reached out as though to grab my elbow.)

  11. 11
    Tim Martin

    Oh jesus. Do not read the top rated comment on that page. Or the scores of people who have agreed with her. It hurts.

  12. 12
    Captain Mike

    @ Ophelia: Thank you for a more complete explanation, but I would have to say that they’re more like stags in rut who have had significant chunks of cortex taken out. It’s always seemed to me that limiting the sexual choices and reproductive rights of women will quite naturally lead to reduced numbers of women who are willing to engage in sexual activity.

    Of course, that’s probably where they’re coming from. I suspect that they assume that if women can fuck who ever they want, then women won’t fuck them.

  13. 13
    LykeX

    It’s always seemed to me that limiting the sexual choices and reproductive rights of women will quite naturally lead to reduced numbers of women who are willing to engage in sexual activity.

    Which is where rules about “marital duties” come from.

  14. 14
    'Tis Himself

    We should remember the Hasidim and other orthodox male Jews say this prayer:

    “Blessed are you, lord our god, king of the universe, for not having made me a woman.”

  15. 15
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    They seem to think plastic is pretty well impermeable.

    Aluminum foil. I think that certain sects could keep BacoFoil in business even if the rest of the world stopped using it.

    What I found sort of odd was a woman who went into this conservative sort of Judaism after being more-or-less secular most of her life. I found myself occasionally surprised or confused by the sudden adherence to rules I hadn’t seen obviously practiced before, because the rebbe was pretty relaxed, but it seemed to be more about being observant than shaming. (Lubavitcher, for reference.) Still, I was mildly uncomfortable because I know what those rules are about.

    I guess the heart wants what it wants, and when you’re lonely and in your seventies and eighties and find a nice fellow, you’ll put up with or join in some weirdness.

    And, apparently, the whole neighborhood was worried for my immortal soul when they saw me working on a Saturday.

  16. 16
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    And, apparently, the whole neighborhood was worried for my immortal soul when they saw me working on a Saturday.

    Maybe they were worried about their own souls rather than yours. The next step is the whole neighborhood pitching in to stone you to death.

  17. 17
    GordonWillis

    We’ve had radio and TV for 70 to 120 years, and widespread printed books for hundreds. Didn’t do any good in places like this “community.”
    .
    A thought I had while reading this: it doesn’t matter how often the case — any case — is made, “believers” can just ignore it. They go about their lives as if no one had ever said “the sun doesn’t rise or set, the earth revolves”. For them, the injunction is: just stay within your little enclave and not see the world passing by: only the world inside your head has any meaning; the world “out there” means flesh means temptation means sin… “Believers” are proof against anything one says because they just don’t look; their attention is turned inward, and any discord requires an adjustment in favour of their dreams, not a conformity of themselves to the reality outside. Point out the sun to a blind man, converse with a deaf man.
    .
    This kind of religion seems to be about almost nothing but puffing up men and stamping down women. It’s religion as constructed by stags in rut.
    .
    In my most pessimistic moments, I feel that all religion is. Maybe one can make an honourable exception for Buddhism (ignoring various superstitious misogynistic accretions) or Taoism (ditto) or Confucianism (but only if one is a born-again male civil servant — well, alright, not Confucianism, then). But where the monotheistic triplets are concerned, I suspect that they are little more than the apotheosis of the goat-herding tribal patriarch who happens to have heard of the king of Ur or Babylon: the man who measures his power in fleeces and flocks and fields, in sword and soil and sons, and in the women he possesses. Alpha male rules, omega males put up or shut up, and all males barter “their” women for sex, under licence from the patriarchate. Anything that threatens the patriarch is a bad thing, whether it’s male lust or female whinging. Women speaking, showing their faces, being clever or adept, in any way not conforming to rule, is bad for the market. Worse, it makes alpha males feel threatened — even stupid — and that simply can’t be allowed. It’s an offence, it’s shameful (for whom?), it’s a sin before the alpha male Lord. And even the laziest, most uncombed and unkempt and unwashed and piss-stinking omega male thinks he’s an alpha. Religion is about apes who want to be stags, rats who claim the right to fuck every virgin in heaven, monks who want to be Christ to their wives and daughters. Sex is what it’s about. And is there any difference between autocracy and the mafia? Isn’t it just a licenced form of criminality?
    .
    I know I am offending a million oh-so-sincere “seekers” after “truth” who so want everything to be nice, but that’s just too bad. I would go further, and say that even in the absence of religious belief it’s the driving force of many male atheists: all those despicable cretins who think that being atheists makes them so much all right that they can be offended when women tell them to lay off, who think that they have the right to send sexual messages to a fifteen-year-old girl. The lowest social common denominator is male sex. Religion is just male behaviour elevated to a grand cosmic scale, the apotheosis of the goatherd…or the goat.

  18. 18
    Hypatia's Daughter

    #17 GordonWillis Wonderful rant!

    And even the laziest, most uncombed and unkempt and unwashed and piss-stinking omega male thinks he’s an alpha.

    This was the dirty secret of patriarchy that so many men don’t get. The big guys lord over the little guys. The little guys get to lord over their women & children as compensation. Most men don’t get to be king, but a man’s home is his castle and his family are his own personal serfs.
    So he gets to make all the decisions for his family and society doesn’t interfere in how he treats them (like raping his wife and beating his children) because it protects the social order by keeping his evil impulses at home and off the street – can’t have him beating up his neighbors or raping their wives.
    Of course, most of this has been changing in the past 100 years; but it’s hard to give up what you thought was your right given to you by man, god and nature.
    When modern guys complain they aren’t benefiting from patriarchy, it because they are the “omega male”, the “little guy”. The rewards aren’t as good as for the alphas; and changing legal & social mores have diluted their dominance over their families.
    Patriarchy is not a good deal for the average guy today. When guys realize this, they may be willing to unite with women in throwing out its last tattered remnants.

  19. 19
    JoeBuddha

    #17 GordonWillis:
    As a Buddhist, I wouldn’t make much of an exception for Buddhism. Although what I practice has no doctrinal sexism, equality isn’t exactly an historical feature of the practice. As a matter of fact, the above quote, “Blessed are you, lord our god, king of the universe, for not having made me a woman.” can be found in the scriptures practically word-for-word (except for the god part, of course).
    The main redeeming characteristic is the fact that you’re not told what to believe and that seeking understanding is the whole point to the exercise.

  20. 20
    Svlad Cjelli

    Whence this slander against stags in rut? What stag would want this?

    Honestly, cityfolk.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    City folk! It’s an outrage. That comparison came from my experience as a zookeeper. (Well yes it’s an urban zoo, but the practical animal knowledge isn’t particularly urban.)

  22. 22
    maxamillion

    GordonWillis says:
    … They go about their lives as if no one had ever said “the sun doesn’t rise or set, the earth revolves”. F

    It bugs me that no one has come up with an alternative expression for Sunset and Sunrise.

  23. 23
    LykeX

    I seem to recall that somebody did. I forget who. Google is being unhelpful, but I have a vague notion it may have been a science fiction writer.
    Anybody know what I’m talking about?

  24. 24
    Moribund Cadaver

    One could argue that many of the eastern religions, while possessing misguided and misogynistic elements due to the history of societies being dominated by assumed male privilege, are still relatively honest attempts at explaining the human experience in life. So their heart is in the right place.

    But the the OmniGod Triplets have often been described as Master-Slave paradigms. They contain within them the rhetoric of the slave holder convincing the slave that he’s better off on the plantation. That there’s “no place out there for him in the world” and that Master really does have his best interests at heart. Perhaps this is a reason why the big three religions create so many spin-off cults and micro-sects – because the structure of a genuine cult is embedded in their very design.

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