What If God Is Sexist?
Women today grow up knowing we can be anything we want to be—doctor, lawyer, CEO, president. Never mind that the last election perhaps imbued girls with the sense that they could be anything, but not quite president. Orthodox women today grow up knowing we can be anything we want to be except rabbi or tefillin-wearer or ba'al koreh or, in some circles (not mine, I should note), Talmud-learner.
Certainly, approaches have changed, and women have found more of a place within the realms of halacha in the Jewish community than they have had in the past, and that is fantastic and should continue, but there are things that so far as I can tell Jewish law can never let women do or be. Like a witness in beit din. Like a member of a minyan.
Which leads to the question: What if the God and religion I believe in are sexist?
It seems pretty clear to me that some semblance of gender roles and what we would call sexism are inherent in Orthodox Judaism. Judaism's approach toward women is different than its approach toward men: We have different (read: lesser) obligations than men have. And arguments like the one made by an Orthodox rabbi in response to the first female black rabbi that "Orthodox Jews have the highest respect for women and they play the most important role—to raise a true Torah Jewish family" are, well, disingenuous at best.
Not because I don't think raising a family is important but because I want to be valued for my intellect, for my commitment, for my ambition, for my ability, not for my physical ability to bear children or for raising them. (Not to mention that I don't think raising children is solely the woman's domain.) I want the same things in my religious life that I have in my secular life.
I believe in feminism in the secular world. I believe that women should be considered equal in the work force, that women should be given equal opportunities, that women have equal abilities. But what if religion doesn't play by those rules?
I may not understand all the laws I believe are divine, but if I believe they are divine, then I need to accept them. Which doesn't mean accepting mothering and homemaking as my role in Judaism (more on feminism within Orthodoxy at a later date), but it does mean that while I will not tolerate sexism in any other realm, I have to accept some sort of gender roles in religion as ideal.