Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gender divide in OTD blogs

So during my interview with that professor who studies blogs, at some point we got to talking about the gender divide in OTD blogs.

This is based on my own observations, and I'm not saying it's true across the board, but anecdotally I find that men who write OTD blogs tend to write more about arguments against religion, or current events, or things that are not personal to them, while women tend to write more about their own personal stories. The notable exception being in the past the now defunct blog Lubabnomore, and now Unpious but I bet if someone analyzed the gender of the authors and the content, the overall patterns would be similar. I'm not saying men NEVER talk about personal experiences, but looking at overall patterns of posts, there is a definite gender divide.

Actually, now that I think about this, in general I find this applies to all Jewish blogs. And maybe all blogs entirely, but I've seen many non-jewish blogs written by men who write about personal experiences (daddy bloggers for one) and I also follow intellectual blogs written by women- for instance Sociological Images is one of my favorite blogs and had been run entirely by two women up until very recently. But look at the jewish blogs- look at the type of posts written in Dov Bear vs. the types of posts in In the pink (both jewish blogs, the first by men the second by a woman). You'll find the same thing- intellectual arguments vs. personal experiences.

As a sociologist who studies gender I can give you several possible reasons for this. The obvious one most non-sociologists come up with is the "essentialist" biological argument that men and women are essentially different, their brains are wired differently, with men focused more on intellectual arguments and women focusing more on personal life.

But I think it's more the gender roles we grew up with. Especially in the orthodox jewish community- the OJ community tends to have very traditional gender roles. In part because the religion itself puts such an emphasis on gender differences (in the types of mitzvahs one can/is obligated to do), and when you create divisions like that you have to create justifications for those divisions. And the OJ community definitely has its justifications.

Other forms of Judaism such as Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism have specifically dealt with the gender inequalities in the religion to varying extents. In fact, I might argue that some more religious forms of conservative judaism and modern orthodoxy are ONLY separated by the gender role differences, and other than the way they approach women and gender (mixed seating, allowing women to do more than they could in MO), the religions are pretty much exactly the same. Therefore modern orthodoxy has an inherent interest in upholding traditional gender norms, since that is the very thing that distinguishes them from conservative Judaism, that is where the break occurred between conservative judaism and modern orthodoxy, so to give up on that would be to give up on what makes them a unique faction of judaism.

(Caveat: This is based on my limited exposure to conservative jewish views, and I'm sure someone who knows more about CJ views can challenge me on this point and that there are more intellectual differences I don't know about. But I went to many many conservative jewish services during my long gradual journey "Off the derech" and it always struck me that really the only major difference between that and the services I grew up with was mixed seating and female cantors- and maybe some different tunes for a few prayers).

One traditional gender role is that men are not supposed to talk about their emotions, especially stuff that might be hurtful to them. We start teaching men this at a very young age- "Big boys don't cry" ever heard that dudes? Men are not allowed to cry, and I think are not really taught the language of expressing emotions, which can restrict their ability to face those emotions head on. Now this is a general gender role, but within the Jewish community I think the blustery non-emotional douchy type of guy is fairly common. Frum satire calls a subset of this type of man- the type who also like gadgets- "Hockers." Not that all jewish guys are hockers, but the hocker type guys (and the guys who are not hockers but have similar gender expectations- the socially conservative jewish dudes), create an atmosphere in which guys expressing emotion is frowned upon.

As an OTD blogger who writes about my personal experiences, I can tell you that the process of writing is often an emotional catharsis for me, that often brings up very painful emotions. I could imagine that this might prevent some men, who don't know exactly how to deal with those emotions and were taught that "real men" don't express such emotions, from writing about their personal experiences.

Anectodally again, I think part of the reason I had such a hard time dating jewish men is that I have very non-traditional views on gender. I like breaking pretty much every gender norm there is- for instance right now I am the breadwinner in my house, while my husband takes care of most of the housework things. And I think that's freaking awesome. I have always broken these norms, and whenever I was told I couldn't do something because I was a girl, I set out to do it. If I was told that girls did X, I would do the opposite of X. What can I say, I'm a contrarian.

For years before I met my husband I dated many many jewish men, and differences in ideas about gender came up again and again. I once had a jewish man freak out on me during a date because I offered to buy him a drink after he had paid for the first round, and "Women don't buy men drinks" (Needless to say there was no second date). Heck, part of the reason me and my ex fiance from way back in the day broke up was cause I wanted to go to grad school and be a professor (which requires lots of moving around to random places like my current home in the south), and he wanted to stay in the same place and for his career to be the "main" career in the relationship. He dumped me the day after I started sending out my grad school applications- maybe before then he didn't take me seriously. Later on he married a woman without many career ambitions.

I ran into these types of problems again and again while dating jewish guys, but I always knew plenty of non-jewish guys who had non traditional views on gender, like I did. I ended up marrying one of those. I can't imagine any one of the jewish dudes I dated happily doing laundry for me the way my husband does. Not that such men don't exist in the jewish community - I'm sure they do- but they seem to be rare and I never was lucky enough to find one to be in a relationship with.

So again, in my experience, jewish men in general seem to have stronger gender-related norms than the typical American man (and those are pretty strong to begin with). This translates into a culture that makes men less likely to express personal emotions. And even after escaping that culture, OTD men still often have those strong ideas about gender and masculinity- at least insofar as showing emotional weakness is seen as a sign of diminished masculinity.

On the other side, women are taught that intellectual arguments are the realm of men. In high school we learned the mishna, but not the gemarah (non jews: The gemarah is basically a recording of a bunch of rabbis arguing over the exact meanings of the mishna, the mishna is a recording of "oral jewish law" - AKA the traditions that didn't necessarily have a biblical source- that was written down around 1800ish years ago). The gemarah is where the intellectual debates took place, where you could learn the ways of arguing. I sometimes wonder if attending my dad's gemarah shiur for about 7 years led to my later academic career, since I honed a lot of my arguing skills in that shiur when quibbling with my dad and his friends over various arguments in the gemarah.

So men are taught the intellectual debates that followed the law. Women are taught the law with the debates, if that. In high school the only jewish laws I learned about in depth were laws related to cooking and keeping kosher. All the laws I needed for a future career as a jewish housewife. And this was at a high school that called itself "Modern" too. Apparently modern didn't really include the second wave of the feminist movement (The one that took place back in the 1970s).

Women also don't have the restrictions against expressing emotion since the wider orthodox Jewish culture sees women as more emotion- driven anyway, and their gender identity is not tied up with the idea of denying their emotion. Hence the gender divide in OTD Blogs.

So AMIRITE? I notice I just broke the norm I'm describing by having this whole post devoted to an intellectual discussion, but even within this more "Intellectual" post, looking back, I seem to have inserted a bunch of personal experiences in this post anyway.

I hope some male OTD bloggers will take this as a challenge to write more personal posts. When I read blogs I find the personal experiences a lot more compelling to read than the intellectual debates or the current events. I didn't become a sociologist because I'm NOT nosy about people's personal lives. :)


  1. I write from my emotions and experiences because I don't know how else to write. For me the emotional and the intellectual can't be split up. I also find personal accounts more interesting and I will usually skip a post that is just an argument.

  2. "wider Jewish culture sees women as more emotion- driven anyway"

    What are you talking about? Maybe the charedi or OJ culture but NOT, in any way, the "wider Jewish culture."
    You make the distinction between Conservative (and Reform) and MO, then you lump 'Jewish' as all of it?

    You're way, way off base on that. There are many examples of stay at home dads at our Jewish Day school - including me - to play to your need to 'go against the grain.'
    (But then maybe it would be too normal and you would need something ELSE to go against?)

  3. Sorry,I meant wider jewish culture as in orthodox jewish culture, you're right, it's a bad habit from back when I grew up orthodox and they acted as if orthodox jews were the only jews. I'll correct that.

  4. Thanks for putting your finger on that sore point :P I often have ideas for blogging about things in every day life but I either forget about them or find that it is harder to write these posts than normal, intellectual-ish posts. Of course there is always the part of men not knowing as well how to express their emotions.

    But in my case I think it has to do a lot with the fact that the emotional part is so overwhelming and covers so many ideas, things that happened and every day life, that it is just too much to blog and too little time!

    I am also in many ways still quite conservative about the paternal role when it comes to buying drinks for women (not even on a date, just in general), being comfy with my wife working parttime and my being the main breadwinner, etc.

    Still, my wife often does the paperwork whereas I do work in the kitchen and in the house that she doesn't.

    Having said that, I will (bli neder, fingers crossed, yadda yadda yadda) try to once in a while post about my feelings.

    AE: Did I ever tell you I consider you to be the OTD blog mother figure? :P

  5. boxed whine- I also find personal accounts interesting, I'll always read those but I sometimes skip long arguments that are just arguments too. :)

    UK- It's not as if my blog is that old? It's so weird, but I guess I am one of the oldest OTD bloggers out there...when I started I think it was just Jewish Atheist. But I only started this blog in mid 2007, so it's less than 4 years old.

  6. Very interesting point. I think similar points have been made about male vs. female authors in general.

  7. What you write is probably generally true but too stereotyping as I see the same differences in gender expectations in non-Jewish cultures. I've seriously dated non-Jewish women who had stronger gender divide expectations in terms of both how dating should proceed and how a household would be run than I did (from China) and less strong expectations (Sweden) and about the same (US and China again; this time my now wife).

    Maybe because my mother was well-educated I had more equal gender norms anyway. I guess we were closer to conservative than MO by today's standards.

    Now, I do most of the household cleaning and my wife does most of the cooking that is where we have comparative advantages. We wash our own clothes though mostly. I do the finances (the other Chinese woman thought women should run the household finances) and she does most of the food shopping. These are just the things we prefer to do. She drives, I navigate etc.

  8. > I can't imagine any one of the jewish dudes I dated happily doing laundry for me the way my husband does.

    Interesting way of putting it. You talk about breaking gender roles, yet here you imply that doing the laundry is really your responsibility, but your husband happily does it “for” you.

    I do the laundry, but I don’t think of it as doing it “for” my wife. It’s more that the laundry isn’t going to do itself, and I have more time than she does, so I do it. When we were first married and she was the one with more time, she did it.

    While I agree with your analysis of social norms and their influence on blogging, I think that the way boys and girls are taught to relate to religion in the yeshiva system also plays a large role. Boys relate to religion intellectually: it’s not just that they learn how to argue by learning gemara, learning gemara is itself most of their religious experience. Girls on the other hand learn the storybook parts of Nach and inspirational stories, thus their religious experience is more emotional.

  9. The line between Conservative and MO is much greater than gender roles...

    A MO Congregation will be publicly Shomer Shabbat. A Conservative Congregation will not be, the Rabbi and maybe a handful of families will be observant.

    The Gender divide is the main difference between YCT Judaism and JTS Judaism.

  10. I think you'll find a distinction also in that the vast majority of Jewish apostates to atheism are male and in fact the vast majority of atheists are male. I believe there are hormonal reasons for this, as I've explained here.

  11. I think partially its also about skills. Men in general have much stronger mishna/gemara skills so they can pull up many things they've learned to prove/disprove things. Many women do not have those skills.

    My husband and I are both Orthodox and we share household responsibilites. He does laundry like nobodies business LOL.

  12. G*3, what I mean by my husband doing *my* laundry is that my husband will often do loads of laundry that is just *my* clothing, and will fold and put away all my clothes for me. Not that he is doing something that is my responsibility, but since it's frequently all my clothes in a load of laundry (I seem to wear a lot more clothing than him and have to dress all nicely for work, so I somehow end up with like twice as much laundry as him), it does feel as if he's doing something *for* me. If that makes sense.

    Also I guess when we first moved in together we both used to do our own laundry, but now he does it all, so it feels like he took over a responsibility we both used to have?

    Who knows why I word things the way I do...ha!

    Moom- I'm sure there are many cultural traditions with very traditional gender roles, just that Judaism is one of them, and has more traditional/old fashioned/whatever you want to call it gender roles compared with mainstream US culture.

    In our house, my husband (who is currently unemployed so he does more than he does if we were both employed) does the laundry, dishes, floors, lawn mowing and gutter cleaning, most pet care, about 3/4ths of the cooking, most of the food/pet shopping, and cleans the bathrooms. I cook about 1/4th of the time (especially big things that can be frozen and used later, like soup), yard work other than mowing (trying to control some of the crazier weeds- which is a major job in the south, trimming bushes, etc), I do the household finances and bill paying, and I sometimes go to the grocery store and walk the dog (but both of those last 2 usually WITH my husband). We do the big jobs like raking and deep cleaning the house once or twice a year together.

    good point about the story book version of nach vs. the intellectual part in how kids are taught- I think that's very true. I also notice that I use illustrative stories a lot in my own teaching -although it's a sociology class, so it IS about society, and my stories are always relevant to the lesson plan (unlike some profs I've taken who told random stories with no connection to the class material), I wonder if that was influenced by the way I was taught as a child? I think it definitely helps at least some of my students to understand some abstract theories I'm talking about if I give a concrete example through a story...

  13. Miami Al- So what are the differences? The shomer shabbat thing...well that sounds like a matter of religiosity, not the specific beliefs of that faction. It's true that there are a lot of people who attend conservative shuls who are not entirely "religious", but that doesn't mean those are the beliefs of the congregation, it just means the congregation is more open towards people with varying levels of observance. Religiosity and religious beliefs are not the same thing...

    As I said, I have a limited exposure to conservative viewpoints. My paternal grandparents went to a conservative shul (They are more "traditional", my dad is a BT), but whenever we visited my parents insisted they go with us to an orthodox shul, so I was only there a couple of times (like when my grandfather was honored for something). And then I went to a few services in college/early grad school when I was trying out different types of judaism to see if anything stuck. As long as I went to high holiday services I always went to conservative ones, cause they were familiar enough that it didn't feel like a different religion (unlike reform/reconstructionist services) but didn't have the gender issues I hated about orthodoxy. So this might be my own bias- it's only based on maybe 10 times of going to conservative services, I've never actually sat down with a conservative person and had a conversation about beliefs (although I have done so with a reconstructionist rabbinical student and a reform rabbinical student).

    I have no idea what YCT JTS the jewish theological seminary? I thought that was reform? (I could be mistaken, but I knew someone who went there who was reform)

    Shira- it's definitely related to differences in knowledge...some of the arguments I've read on OTD blogs are ones I could never have come up with myself, because I never learned the relevant part of the tanach or gemarah. But that doesn't explain why there's so few personal experiences in men's OTD Blogs...they could have the arguments AND the personal experiences, no?

  14. I find that the same holds true in literature. Women tend to often create characters that are more fully developed emotionally. Men tend to write about their characters' actions.

  15. Interesting. I think you're right about the gender divide in OJ, but re: blogging and writing generally, the phenomenon you describe may be even broader. Jamie Pennebaker has some interesting work on gender and language usage. (e.g.

    Generally, they find a tendency that "women use words that reflect social concerns, whereas men refer to more concrete objects and impersonal topics." Doesn't comment on whether or not it's biological or not, but it seems like a wide phenomenon.

  16. Whoops, it looks like that link isn't displaying properly. Here it is.

  17. I've also noticed that women tend to describe the shape and size of objects using food as a descriptive basis whereas men are more likely to reference sports equipment.

    For example, she might say: "It was the size of a peach," whereas he is more likely to say: "It was the size of a baseball."

  18. Are you right? Partly yes, partly no.

    Yes, I've noticed an online gender divide, big time. I got online just over 11 years ago with parenting boards that were largely female. When a male poster would come along, there was a noticeable difference. In general, female posters did tend to focus more on relationships. They would send out greetings and hugs and remember someone's due date. They were also far more sensitive to differences in opinion and perceived criticisms. A fairly neutral statement like "breast is best" would get a ton of responses about guilty-tripping and stories about how someone couldn't make it work. You'd get some cat-fights.

    OTOH, many of the male posters tended to be more dogmatic and blunt. There was far less relationship-building, and in some cases they never really picked up on the social culture of their boards and came across as jerks. [I remember one on the Babycenter religious debate board called some of us a "clique of believers", which was a hoot because we were a group which included evangelical Christians, strict Muslims, Orthodox Jews, agnostic Jews and Mormons, and we really didn't agree on anything else.]

    As I've mentioned in my blog and noted to some of your commentators, I don't appreciate the use of terms like "whore" or "bitch" in some men's blogs. I don't care about the context - it is inherently sexist and disrespectful.

    As for gender roles - I think it's possible that you saw a backward part of the the Jewish world, combined with a more enlightened part of the non-Jewish world (since you are an academic).

    All I can say is that my Jewish husband couldn't read Robert Munsch's "Love You Forever" to our baby girl without dissolving into tears, and he took paternity leave back in 2000.

    Re Conservative vs. Modern Orthodox: Yes, gender issues have been a flashpoint for difference, but no, they are not THE difference.

    You have a range in both movements. I grew up in an ultra-traditional Conservative congregation that STILL is not egalitarian. Gender equality came AFTER previous compromises on halacha. OTOH, on the extreme left-wing of the Modern Orthodox movement, there are those who feel strongly about fairness in gender issues and who are committed to maximizing participation to the limits of halacha - see Shira Hadasha congregation, Rabbi Avi Weiss and JOFA. So, I don't see the left-wing of MO wanting to reinforce gender roles as a way to separate themselves from right-wing Conservative, but I have seen gender issues used WITHIN both Orthodoxy and Conservative as a sort of barometer, in really unfortunate ways.

  19. Miami Al:

    The difference between Orthodox and Conservative congregations is a largely-American selection bias, combined with different birth rates, as opposed to something which really says anything about Conservative or Orthodoxy per se.

    In the US, only about 10% of Jews are Orthodox, which means that the average Jew does NOT attend an Orthodox shul. Thus, those that do tend to be a self-selected group which is more committed to observance.

    By contrast, in places where Orthodox congregations are dominant, they serve the broad spectrum on the Jewish community, including many who aren't observant. Secular Israelis will be bar mitvahed, married and buried by Orthodox rabbis. Orthodoxy (esp. Chabad) is also dominant in the former Soviet Union. It's also very common to see South African Jews who affiliate Orthodox but aren't shomer Shabbos. Even within North America, there are differences - Orthodoxy is dominant in Montreal, so it's not uncommon to have less observant Jews as members of Orthodox shuls. Outreach-oriented Orthodox shul (Chabad, Aish, etc.) also have a different dynamic, and can have a membership which is less observant that some modern Orthodx or even committed Conservative congregations.

  20. Well, I do agree that men and women are naturally different both physically and how we relate to the world (and everything in between).

    But I would agree with G3 regarding this particular phenomena in Jewish OJ blogs. It's the boys that are in the world of Talmud/mishna/midrash. That is all their world is. And typically, an OTD will blast that which he knows and was exposed to. So they will dig at all the errors and what they feel are just stupid claims in all of the above. Girls don't have those experiences in OJ.

  21. I think that it all boils down to mental androgyny.
    Some people are naturally androgynous, and are able to develop and maintain a balanced thought process even in a strictly gendered society (the old mythos of the 'Third Sex' and the current 'gender-queer' movement being prime examples of this).
    However, the majority of people must be taught to utilize both so-called 'feminine' and 'masculine' thought processes. Unfortunately, the keyword here is 'taught,' because these same people are just as easily taught to maintain rigid gender roles.
    Thus, most individuals raised in heavily gendered societies (i.e Orthodox Judaism) have a harder time developing their capacity for mental androgyny than do those born into a relatively egalitarian environment, simply because of their early socialization into either hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine modes of being.
    So, rather than simply chalking the phenomenon up to females and males ‘thinking differently,' I submit that a better premise would be that 'female-minded' individuals are more inclined to think about religion and their break from religion emotionally, rather than intellectually.
    The distinction is subtle, but is of incredible importance nonetheless.

  22. I don't know though Sarra the idea of a female minded vs.male minded seems to harken back to ideas that women are 'naturally' more emotional and men are 'naturally' more intellectual, an idea which has been used for countless generations to justify the lesser social position of women in society.

  23. AE:

    JTS is the Jewish Theological Seminary, which is Conservative.

    YCT is Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a Modern Orthodox rabbinical school which, to simplify things tremendously, is "left wing modern orthodox".

    I once went on an interdenominational rabbinical student shabbaton, and was shocked to find out that there's a whole lot of gender stuff going on in the non-orthodox movements. The female Conservative, Reform, etc. rabbinical students had a lot to say about how the egalitarian movements aren't quite the gender-neutral paradise they're supposed to be.

  24. I have issues with calling an intellectual approach "male" (unless my brain is somehow "gender-queer").

    The idea that women lack intellectual and logical thought is pure bunk, as the ever-rising percentage of women in universities will demonstrate.

    It is somewhat true that women in the more right-wing Orthodox sects don't have the same exposure to the inner workings of Gemara, although there are some that are decently educated. I was actually shocked by some of the postings on imamother. Some of the women truly had no clue as to why they did what they did, and had no insight into the halachic process beyond "my rav says X", or "X is not done in our community".

    That said, I have noticed differences, IRL and online, in speaking/posting style and navigating the social terrain.

    IN GENERAL, women seem to focus more on the bonding, in seeking approval, in getting more personal, and the biggest conflicts are often relationship-based.

    IN GENERAL, men are more focused on the concrete, don't openly display the same sort of emotion in a public space, don't really care as much about being liked or judged, and tend to have a more aggressive style.

    Both tendencies can be socialized out to a degree - I don't talk about cooking or kids in my professional writing, and men in professional settings learn that being foul-mouthed and overly aggressive isn't tolerated.

  25. JTS is the Jewish Theological Seminary, which is Conservative.

    JTS is the formerly Orthodox Rabbinical seminary turned Conservative one. While it's Orthodox roots are now nearly a century out of date, it had historically held on its staff Conservative Rabbis that might have had Orthodox Semicha and Rabbis that pre-dated the full egalitarian push of Conservative Judaism.

    The Conservative movement has a school in LA, and there used to be two more (I think) though they have closed down. Historically, JTS was more traditionalist and other schools were more liberal.

    With each leftward lurch in the Conservative movement, more of the "old school" JTS staff have left and left the Conservative Law Committees, which reinforces it's move into the Reform Movement with more Hebrew.

    On paper, JTS and YCT have a handful of differences, largely with gender roles, etc. On the ground, Conservative Jews couldn't be more different from Orthodox Jews.


    " So what are the differences? The shomer shabbat thing...well that sounds like a matter of religiosity, not the specific beliefs of that faction. It's true that there are a lot of people who attend conservative shuls who are not entirely "religious", but that doesn't mean those are the beliefs of the congregation, it just means the congregation is more open towards people with varying levels of observance. Religiosity and religious beliefs are not the same thing..."

    From an Orthodox perspective, where "religious means" observant, yes, you're right. From the perspective of the 99.8% of Americans that aren't Orthodox Jews, religious implies a combination of beliefs and "Church/Temple/Mosque attendance" and religious observance would refer to properly tithing (Catholic), Kashrut/Shabbat (Jewish), Praying 5 times/Halal (Muslim).

    So while Conservative Jews may think that one "ought to keep Shabbat" few of the younger generation would think that you do so in an Orthodox manner. They probably think that you ought to go to services before going to lunch etc. So the "Shomer Shabbat Conservative Judaism" really only exists within the halls of JTS, which still requires its Rabbinical students to be Shomer Shabbat

    Whereas inside of the Orthodox world, there is an expectation of observance that there wouldn't be in the Conservative world. People in the greater Orthodox world that aren't observant will usually get take-out / pre-prepared food to bring to someone's house, whereas a Kosher family is an oddity in the Conservative world.

  26. A Miami Al

    "whereas a Kosher family is an oddity in the Conservative world."

    It depends on the level of kashrut. Torah or biblical kosher - no mixing, eating fish out, no pork/seafood - is very prevalent in the Conservative world. I've also noticed in some homes strict kashrut standards inside (100% kosher meats, 2 sets of dishes), but eat 'almost' anything out of the house.

    The 2 or 3 kitchen extremes that are prevalent in the Orthodox world, no, but I don't think 'some' kashrut standards is an "oddity" at all.

  27. Apparently, I know a whole lot of "oddities", lol.

    To be fair, I know that Canadian Conservative Judaism is different from its American counterpart, and I also realize that I may just have a freakishly devoted-to-both-Judaism-and-feminism base of friends.

    One of my friend's did actually attend JTS, but as for the rest - we're far away from it in Thornhill, Canada. I just know a surprising number of people who attend Orthodox or Chabad shuls, send their kids to a community Jewish day school with roughly Modern Orthodox outlook, and then send their kids to Camp Ramah. I guess we're weird up here.

  28. JRKMommy,

    No, I just think that your circle looks a lot more like American Orthodoxy a generation ago than today.


    I'm not suggesting that SOME Kashrut is an oddity in Conservative circles, there are still many traditional Jews left. Behaviors I would consider extremely unusual in the Conservative world that I would consider pretty normal, even if not universal, in LWMO communities:

    1. Eating only certified Kosher cheeses (there is a Conservative Teshuva that permits this)
    2. Drinking only certified Kosher wines
    3. Only eating Kosher foods -- i.e. not eating food at non Kosher friend's homes
    4. Observing the no-cooking rules on Shabbat
    5. Refraining from electricty on Shabbat
    6. Making Havdalah on a weekly basis

    So while in a Conservative congregation, it used to be common for a Kosher kitchen in many homes, and Kosher style in the rest, that is seemingly decreasingly the case.

    The reason I chose oddity... Would this behavior be common, uncommon but normal, uncommon:

    an extended family member dies, friends bring food to the shiva house, only kosher foods are served, the non kosher foods brought in are thrown out/not served

    From my experience, that behavior is just plain uncommon in the Conservative world. Even those that keep kosher homes don't expect others to know/honor that when visiting.


    Just suggesting the LWMO "communities/Shuls" and Conservative Shuls have very different "rules" even if the ideologies espoused by the leadership are similar.

  29. MiamiAl -- while I'm sure there are exceptions on the LW-MO side I would agree 100% with your list from the Conserv side.

    I would agree the difference between Conserv and even LW-MO is pretty big in practice, I don't think it's very big in terms of views on God, Torah and living with halacha in a modern world... much closer than Haredi and LW-MO are for example.

  30. "Would this behavior be common, uncommon but normal, uncommon:
    an extended family member dies, friends bring food to the shiva house, only kosher foods are served, the non kosher foods brought in are thrown out/not served"

    Neither choice - kind of.
    I can't think of anyone who would bring a non-Kosher STYLE dish.
    It recently happened that the word was sent out to please bring pareve food only to a family sitting shiva and only those closest brought/choose meat or dairy meals to compliment.

    BUT it's all from the context of your list to start with - so all really kosher style.

    But doesn't all of this cloud the main point -- there IS a real and relevant middle ground? Between the air being sucked out of the room by the extremes of Reform and Haredi, too many folks like AE don't even get how extreme her family is (look at her orginal "Freudian slips"). Many of them go OTD to nothing because they don't know what's out there, Judaism gets equated with the extremes to them.
    Conversely, our friends who are non-Jewish or Reformed look at our Conservative life and think we're going "Frum any day now." It's almost laughable (and sad) how little they know.

  31. Chaim,

    100% in agreement. AE has no clue that she wasn't close to mainstream Orthodox. Indeed, if you are in an Orthodox community, a regular minyan goer, and shomer shabbat, it's very easy to NOT realize how quickly you can drift to the extreme.

    The LWMO World has many people that take their Judaism seriously enough to be Shomer Mitzvot, but do NOT make it the center of their life. However, if you only pay attention to what goes on in Shul, it's all Shiurim, etc.

    But if you are a traditional Jew, if you are Shomer Shabbat, you're going to be WAY more comfortable in a LWMO Community than a Conservative Synagogue, unless you are in the pre-kids or empty-nester phases, where Synagogue life matter more than communal life.

    The reason I made my list and wasn't talking about Kosher style... if you are a family that straddles the Conservadox fence, family members in both Conservative and Orthodox synagogues, communities, and practices, then generally "family" events are going to cater to the most right-wing element.

    Bringing Kosher Style, but not Kosher, food to a Shomer Kashrut family would be inappropriate, something "just not done" in an Orthodox community, no matter how LW, but happened in my extended family's warm and loving Conservative congregation which would have created some awkwardness with my children if they were older than they were at the time.

    I would also say that in terms of religious viewpoints/ideology, LWMO and Conservative Judaism are VERY similar, hence my comment that the line between YCT and JTS is gender lines. However, once the JTS-trained Rabbis leave, they'll be joining a Congregation where a committed core have Kosher kitchens and come to services, and the extended community isn't interested beyond a Bar Mitzvah. The YCT Rabbi, once finding a job in a Shul will likely be working with a community with a committed core of Shomer Mitzvot families, and an extended world of semi-observant families. So while the views INSIDE the Yeshivot are similar, it's not the same once you enter "the real world."

  32. I agree with Chaim and Miami Al that AE, as well as many other OTD bloggers, tends to view Judaism through the lens of her own background without necessarily appreciating the extent to which other authentic options exist.

    It almost seems as though that can be the last Orthodoxy that remains unquestioned for some: the idea that X group is more than just a subgroup or sect within Judaism, but that it actually represents the most authentic form of Judaism while others are merely watered-down or lazy. That's what I see as the radical part of Modern Orthodox ideology - saying "no, it's not that I'm not yet on your level, it's that I believe that halacha doesn't require X at all, and may even require us to do Y instead."

  33. I know other authentic options exist, as far as any religion can be called "authentic" given the massive amount of changes over the years. I've been to various conservative, reform, reconstructionist, "traditional" services, in different cities (NYC and Philadelphia and even Israel while on birthrite) and in several different temples/synagogues/congregations in those cities. I've been to the places where they have a friday night potluck with one table for kosher food and one table for "kosher style" food.

    I didn't just stop being observant at age 15 and never do anything again, from around age 18 to around age 24 I tried to explore all the options for judaism and to find one that *fit* (although in the end I figured out I was doing this out of a sense of guilt/obligation and not because I enjoyed going to services or got anything out of them). I've had long conversations with rabbis of various denominations, and when I was in Philly I actually used to hang out with a bunch of people who were going to rabbinical college there all the time (I think it was reform?) cause one of my BFF's girlfriends was in the school. I also was heavily involved in Hillel when I was in college (I was even VP for one semester) and was very active in the young jewish professional/grad student network in philly for around 2 years, and through that met all sorts of people practicing all different forms of Judaism.

    I actually think (/speculate) that conservative judaism is probably closest to the type of judaism that was practiced back in the day. Other then the more modern gender roles, but that's a societal wide thing, rather than a judaism-specific thing. I'm sure people in ancient Israel weren't putting water filters on their sinks(wells?) or triple washing strawberries or whatever.

    As for mainstream judaism- well only around 11% of jews are orthodox (although I'm sure that will grow due to the very high fertility rate) so I think of mainstream jews as conservative + reform jews who do make up the bulk of jewish people- I figure the majority of jews (at least the ones who practice anything) are kinda like this prof I met in grad school, she celebrated a lot of the jewish holidays, and every few months her family would get together for a shabbas meal, but religion was just one part of her life among many (unlike the jews I grew up with, where religion WAS their life).

  34. oh and I do realize how extreme my own family is despite their self applied label of "modern." My parents always talked about modern orthodoxy as the "middle of the road" religion that wasn't too extreme to the right or left, but as I got older I realized how *not *moderate they are. When describing my childhood to non jewish friends I've been known to use the word "fundementalist"

    Actually one of the few people down here I've really connected to is this lady who grew up in a christian charismatic cult (but is now an atheist) out on a farm in the middle of nowhere- we've really bonded over the similarities of our childhood and how similarly our parents have reacted to us leaving the religion we grew up with.

  35. AE,

    I'm pretty sure that the closest to "Judaism back in the day" is Sephardic Judaism pre-1980. The religious leaders were charismatic and of limited scholarship, focused on tending their flock of Jews. There was always a small minority of observant families, and an extended group.

    There is SOME truth to the over-simplification of Orthodoxy that between the Karaites and the Reform Jews, there was no "non Orthodox" movement, so while people might have been non-observant, they weren't "observing" something different.

    However, except for the first generation or two in Germany, there never really was an observant Reform movement, where people observed a different and more Protestant Judaism.

    " figure the majority of jews (at least the ones who practice anything) are kinda like this prof I met in grad school, she celebrated a lot of the jewish holidays, and every few months her family would get together for a shabbas meal, but religion was just one part of her life among many (unlike the jews I grew up with, where religion WAS their life)"

    I would think that that is the "right wing" of the non-Orthodox world, but yeah, that's the traditionalist camp. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Pesach are in. Sukkot MAY be in if the father likes playing with power tools. Simchat Torah is in when there are Hebrew school age children. Shavuot is out, unless mom is Israeli in which case it is cheese-fest.

    Shabbat meals were non existent in some families, and they were constant/near constant in others.

  36. i think my blog has a mix of personal and theoretical posts.
    Although the theoretical posts are often spurred by something in my life...
    Lately though I haven't been writing much personal stuff. I just haven't felt a need for catharsis much anymore. Wierd, I'm not on any medications or anything. I think I just got all the most important stuff out already. Perhaps I will pick up more a few years down the road.

  37. Belated response, and for some reason I can't figure out how to reply to the previous comments directed at me. Hmmm.
    Anyway, I now realize I should have emphasized the 'so-called' in my little spiel above, where I argue that so-called 'feminine' patterns of thinking tend towards the emotional, while so-called 'masculine' cognitive processes tend towards the analytical.
    So let me set the record straight now. *Of course* I don't think that certain thought patterns are *inherently* 'female' or 'male.' That would be absurd. I'm a female, and I have never subscribed to classically 'feminine' thought processes-- far from it, in fact.
    Rather, I am simply acknowledging that our society as a collective feels the need to associate certain mental characteristics with either sex and, in response to this reality, I argue for divorcing these (admittedly socialized) constructs from one's actual sex.
    It's more a pragmatic argument than a semantic one, though, so I can see where one might be confused.
    Basically: Supposing there are two different ways of experiencing the world around us, visceral emotionality and clinical intellectualism, and accepting that our society (arguably arbitrarily) associates the former with the female and the latter with the male, a better premise would be that those who engage in what we (again, quite arbitrarily) might term 'female' mental processes are more likely to be emotional about their experiences-- regardless of biological sex.
    It really all amounts to one giant tautology, anyway.

  38. AE -- I think YOUR writing style makes the case more specifically to the reason WHY men don’t write about their feeling more.

    Sure, women ‘in general’ tend to write a more personal style, whether it’s Maya Angelou vs Martin Amis or Joyce Carol Oates vs Norman Mailer, it’s a pretty established norm (with OBVIOUS exceptions of course).

    Also, I’d agree with you that specifically with OTD issues, women are coming out of a different education style vs the men.

    BUT, the way you specifically generalize – and get away with it – is something a guy could never do.

    For example, you say “I think part of the reason I had such a hard time dating jewish men is that I have very non-traditional views on gender.” OK, are we talking about OJ men? You admit that “Other forms of Judaism … have specifically dealt with the gender inequalities in the religion to varying extents,” and you admit that “from around age 18 to around age 24 I tried to explore all the options for judaism and to find one that *fit*” so that sort of implies that you dated more than a few non-OJ types. Heck you said you did Birthright, no ‘sexy dark’ IDF guys fit the bill?

    Sorry, but the whole gender thing just doesn’t ring true for about 80% of the non-OJ Jewy guys I grew up with or know. Heck, I would say BY FAR I knew more Jewish guys on the general side of gender equality in college than non-Jews, without question.
    WHY did you reach this conclusion? I don’t know, perhaps it’s all just intellectually dishonest or more likely your POV is clouded in some way by your need to be a “contrarian” and perceived damages by Judaism. Who knows. And frankly I don’t really care. But if I said the SAME THINGS, verbatim about women, just switch the words ‘men’ with ‘women’ and I’d get slammed.

    Let’s try it: “I ran into these types of problems again and again while dating jewish girls, but I always knew plenty of non-jewish girls who had non traditional views on gender, like I did. I ended up marrying one of those.”
    There would be NO WAY, as a guy, I could get away with this type of comment. Because everyone would now that it isn’t true, or it’s just an excuse to marry someone with “schiks-appeal”. THIS is why men don’t write more about their feelings, women are given more leeway and can get away with stuff guys couldn’t.

    “Not that such men don't exist in the jewish community - I'm sure they do-“ gee, thanks for the carrot, “but they seem to be rare and I never was lucky enough to find one to be in a relationship with.” So you were basing who to be in a long term relationship with on laundry? Of course I don’t believe that, it was a litmus test that we Jewish males, for all your hard work and diligence traveling the world and spread across states and denominations, even – Reconstructionist - failed.
    Sorry, but that just doesn’t ring true in ANY way.
    And if you DIDN’T really try to date non-OJ guys, and it’s all semantic splitting hairs again about the OJ vs entire Jewish world, then wasn’t the exploration a failure? You don’t mention that so I have to assume you at least tried. My Hillel sucked, I had a hard time finding Jewish girls I clicked with in college, but they WERE there if you wanted to find them. They came in all types, colors and stripes even if MOST of them seemed like stocky brunettes with car & job fetishes at first glance.

    YOU, because you’re a woman who writes what she “feels” (vs KNOWS), adding the wounded bird syndrome of escaping the trappings of OJ life (a life that admittedly is tougher for women with your pov), gets the cover needed to not get called on this stuff, so you keep writing it.
    I, as a man, could NOT get away with it. THAT’S mainly why it’s a women’s world when writing about your ‘feelings.’

  39. I dated plenty of non OJ men...I haven't been orthodox since high school and I haven't dated any orthodox men since I've not been orthodox. The last was my ex fiance, who was OTD as well (although we were both mostly orthodox when we started dating)

  40. Interesting point.

    This gets back to something that I've been finding in a few of the OTD blogs that I follow: we all have different life experiences, and it's hard to argue against someone who believes that they have explored the options out there but never came across the reality that you live.

    The simple fact is this: We all live different lives. We all tend to see ourselves as the center of the universe. We all tend to believe that our own experiences reflect the experiences of others.

    I'll be another example that AE, as a sociologist in the South, may relate to:

    Once upon a time, I spent a lot of time on mommy boards like Babycenter, debating about things like breastfeeding and spanking/discipline. It quickly became apparent that my life as an urban Canadian mom seemed to be on a different planet from the Southern mamas. The breastfeeding experiences were entirely different. It was the spanking issue, though, where the biggest differences came out. I had literally never seen the "loving spanking not done out of anger" that some of them mentioned, and when I saw pictures of paddles still used in some southern schools, I literally felt sick to my stomach. From their end, they had never seen any child who wasn't spanked who didn't have a parent who abandoned all discipline. As much as I could talk about positive parenting, they simply didn't believe that it existed, because they had never experienced it. If they had met me IRL, I could have introduced them to my kids and shown their report cards, and let them see what our life looked like in action.

    Instead, we'd have exchanges like this:

    Southern teacher: Sometimes, you have have to spank to keep order!
    Me: No, there are alternatives.
    S: Do you think I haven't tried? I use it only as a last resort! We've done yelling, stickers, charts - you name it. Besides, I've never seen a kid that was never spanked who wasn't a complete brat.
    Me: You've never met my kids. [Start to think that if yelling and reward charts are the only alternatives she knows, it's no wonder that she's not succeeding, since the whole paradigm is off.]

    In the end, I was able to convince a couple of Southern moms - but only after debating and discussing things for a few years, so they got to "know" me, and really getting into TONS of detail about positive parenting among Orthodox Jews, so that they didn't just dismiss me as a hippie with no rules or religion.

    So....I guess I wonder about exactly who these enlightened non-Jewish men are, and exactly who the emotionally repressed Jewish men were. It's very possible that AE and I have simply met very different men in our lives. I can't think of any Jewish men that I know under the age of 50 who are the way that AE describes - but I'm a lawyer, married to another professional, and we tend to know university-educated people. I've met plenty of non-Jewish men with sexist attitudes - but I've practiced divorce and child protection law (and therefore seen the worst of the worst in people) in heavily Italian, Portuguese, South Asian and Arab areas (where I wouldn't meet Jewish clients).

  41. @JRKmommy
    I'm not really challenging AE's beliefs or her not marrying Jewish. This is her blog to write her EMOTIONAL journey and of course we're all clouded by our own lenses of experience and we're going to find what we expect to a degree.
    No matter that it's peppered with academic musings, it ISN'T a sociological paper, it's just thoughts.
    No, I'm challenging that the WAY she writes can only come from a woman.

    How can ANYONE college educated in this day and age, no matter where they CAME from think that MOST Jewish men are non-laundry doing sexists? This just doesn't jibe with any social norm (outside the OJ world).
    So to make blanket statements about "most" of us Jewish men that go against this norm, and not be challenged by it by her regulars, is the result of her position, style, situation and, yes, sex.

    A man could NOT write this way.

  42. I didn't say most jewish men are non laundry doing sexists.

    What I said was most jewish men have fairly traditional ideas about gender roles, and that of the ones in particular that i had dated, I could not imagine any of them doing laundry.

    I stand by that statement. Most practicing jewish men that I have met, orthodox or otherwise, have fairly traditional gender roles. By fairly traditional I do not mean they keep their wife chained to the kitchen (since that was never tradition) but that things like me proposing to my husband (which I did) or following my career vs. following his career (which I also did) would not be their first impulse.

    Maybe the philly/NYC men were particularly socially conservative.

  43. Chaim and AE:

    I guess I could sum it up by saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

    Saying "most of the Jewish guys that I knew or dated were X" is a subjective statement. Only you know who you dated.

    However, saying "most Jewish guy are X", as a general statement, is either objectively true or it is not. It's not a matter of personal opinion. Theoretically, you could design some sort of statistically valid survey to measure attitudes toward sex roles.

  44. @JRKMommy -- YES, of course it comes down to subjective vs objective.
    What I'm pointing out is that AEs subjective opinion of Jewish men goes against the grain of common opinion and yet she can still get away with making strong, sweeping negative generalizations on an entire class of people that I, as a man, could not reciprocate.

    @AE - I'm not questioning your experience, just how it's parsed for the public. Actually I'm not questioning that either, just using it as an example of WHY guys don't write from their 'feelings,' we could not generalize negatively like you do.

    "What I said was most jewish men have fairly traditional ideas about gender roles .."
    Most of ALL Jewish men?
    Again, THIS is EXACTLY the kind of statement that I just could NOT get away with. Women would be "sticking up for the sisters" or more likely just thought I was just a "gross guy" and simply didn't read my blog.

    Now your hedge:
    "I stand by that statement. Most practicing jewish men that I have met, orthodox or otherwise, have fairly traditional gender roles."
    Of course MOST OJ men have traditional views, that's why their Orthodox.
    Did you fail to pick-up the social clues that "liberal" Jews are, well, liberal?

    You went out of your way to say "I dated plenty of non OJ men" but you didn't qualify originally, why now? Are you qualifying?

    AGAIN, I'm not challenging your experience, you can flip a coin 10x and have it come up tails 8 of those - then do it again and get the opposite results. It happens.
    I'm simply pointing out that you make sweeping negative generalizations that even the culture as a whole sees differently and can get away with it.
    A man can't. And that makes writing about our 'feelings' a different sort of process for us.

    (fyi - I grew up in Brklyn, NJ then SoFla and now live in Atlanta, I've never noticed a glaring difference in gender stereotypes by liberal Jews.)

  45. I assume AE hasn't met and dated all 6 million Jewish males on the planet. The pool of Jewish guys that AE has been with is going to be a tiny percentage of that, in a specific geographic area, and likely to narrowed by other personal considerations as well.

    So yeah, female touchy-feely language notwithstanding, I think it's fair to say that if you are going to "stand" by a mass generalization of most Jewish men (as opposed to just describing your past dates), you need some actual evidence.

    I also assume that as friendly as AE may be, she doesn't know all 3 billion males on the planet either, so generalization about non-Jewish men based on her personal experience wouldn't be all that valid either. How many of those non-Jewish men, for example, were academics?

    FWIW - my brother-in-law is a stay-at-home-dad, my husband took parental leave for 12 weeks, I know women who are the primary breadwinners in their families, and I know plenty of Jewish female doctors whose husbands relocated for their jobs.

    I assume and hope that in her sociology classes, as opposed to a personal blog, personal experiences aren't a valid basis for generalizations. We actually had an issue with that in a graduate sociology program here.

  46. never fear, my classes are based on research and my research is peer reviewed before publication (and based on quantitative evidence, not anecdotes). My blog is not my job. My blog is a place to make sweeping generalizations about random things I think about, cause that's where i can get away with such things. :)

    Yes, anecdotal evidence is not evidence, and for every anecdote I have one way I bet you will be able to find one the other way. Because they are anecdotes and not evidence. And even if there was a statistical trend, and jews were statistically more likely to be socially conservative than women (which oooh I bet i could test, I will check around with some numbers), statistics are never 100% so you could still find plenty of people who are not that way.

    But anecdotally, if I were to make a rough estimate, I've probably met about 300 jewish guys in philly and closer to 1000 in NJ/NYC at various singles/young professionals/Hillel/Birthrite/NCSY/Other Jewish events, I've talked to approximately 200 dudes on jdate, and I've been on first dates with around 30-40ish? (and have been in relationships lasting longer than a month with 7. And I probably have around 400 jewish friends on facebook, both orthodox and many otherwise, and this is a general trend I would say I have seen among that group.

    But again, that's just anecdotal. I'm going to look up some recent survey data to see if there is enough jews to perform statistical tests of difference for them vs. other men in the sample on questions pertaining to gender roles. It's happening. :) Maybe not till later this week though.

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    Is one.
    (Make it one long URL)

  49. Interesting, that report says that reform jews are significantly more likely to agree with the statement that it's ok for women to work than other types of jews. But yeah the other stuff isn't broken down by gender.

    I know what dataset they use for these analyses and I can probably run some more sophisticated analyses that would be for men only. But what are the appropriate comparison groups for "secular society" - everyone not Jewish? Do we include evangelical christians, religious muslims and amish people in there? And who do we define as jews- people who are jews in name only, or jews who practice the religion at all?

    Oh and what age groups- everyone 18+ (The survey doesn't survey anyone under 18)? Or should I restrict it to certain age groups?

    This is all assuming the sample size is big enough, I didn't see anything in that report about the sample size (although I didn't read it too closely either)

  50. @AE - you're the one making the blanket generalization about all Jewish men, so include all, Ortho too.
    Comparison group ... how about "secular men raised by fathers in vegan communes?" lol
    No, break it down however it works, but a general religious, secular, etc should suffice.
    Age too. I doubt Jews are any different than any other class re trending liberal when younger.

    Every general poll I've seen of values, Jews, and that includes Jewish men, support liberal ideals at the top or near the top in every main category - abortion rights, gay marriage, womens rights, etc.

    From the one I sent:
    20.C Wife Working if Husband Can Support Them
    Religion % Approve
    Jewish 90.2
    None 85.9
    Fundamentalist Protestant 77.2


    21.F Wife Should First Help Husband’s Career (% Disagree)
    Years Jews Non-Jews
    1972-80 61.6 41.1
    1981-90 69.6 65.1
    1991-2002 88.1 76.0

  51. Interesting study, although not particularly surprising to me.

    I liked the way that they pointed out that less religious Jews were actually FARTHER from the mainstream attitudes by these measures than religious Jews.

    One of my pet peeves is the way that some in the Orthodox community tend to dismiss liberal attitudes as being a result of "assimilation". My argument is that is anything but assimilation, since Jews are considerably ahead of the curve on these issues, and were often leaders instead of followers. The influence clearly came from within - often from basic Jewish values, combined with the historical experiences of the community and urban setting.

    OTOH, one can maybe look at certain trends in parts of the Orthodox community as a sort of "assimilation" into the norms of other more traditional or even fundamentalist religions.

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