In defending a gendered Orthodox Judaism (“Why a Gendered Judaism Makes Sense,” Opinion online), Rabbis Chaim Strauchler and Joshua Strulowitz ask why “a standard for egalitarian living would be demanded of religion, but not from the marketplace or from popular culture.”
This argument by analogy fails to take into account that societal gender norms are not binding on any person — no girl is prohibited from wearing blue, and men have the freedom to see romantic comedies if they enjoy them. The prescriptive halachic gender roles Rabbis Strauchler and Strulowitz defend, on the other hand, do not accommodate or even acknowledge the many women and men who do not comfortably fit traditional models of femininity and masculinity.
Worse, this comparison to the secular world completely ignores the
workplace and academy, where egalitarianism is expected (even if not always realized). It’s hard to imagine that Rabbis Strauchler and Strulowitz would send their daughters to schools that refused to teach girls math or science. Or defend corporations that refused to promote their daughters to executive level jobs on the basis of gender. Gender disparities are not accepted in the secular context where each person’s unique ability to positively shape our world is concerned; why should they be embraced in the religious context when those are ultimately the stakes?
Or is participation in religious life really no more significant than whether one reads Sports Illustrated or Vogue?