Segregation is growing in the Israeli charedi community states a recent JTA article, and with trends like “Mehadrin” Jerusalem bus lines, photoshopped images removing women’s faces and women donning burkas it’s difficult to refute the claim. Are women being banned from charedi society?
Insular communities, by definition, tend to isolate; shunning modernity and technology are usually part and parcel of that isolation. But in recent years, the charedi world has seen a sea change, at least when it comes to media. The high-quality glossy weekly magazines, whether it be Mishpacha or Hamodia’s Inyan, offer a unique opportunity to gain an inside view of a world difficult to access.
While in some ways the picture offered may affirm pre-conceived notions about the ultra-Orthodox, in other ways, readers will be surprised. There is coverage of the outside world, smart political and social analysis, features on historical events than many have forgotten, profiles of rabbinic and lay leaders, creative recipes featuring quality ingredients and surprisingly honest advice columns.
But where the magazines fail and reveal their narrow mindedness, is the banning of the female form. A moving obituary about a women will include photos not of the deceased, but instead of her father or husband, even though the article has made clear the woman herself is a role model in her own right. Why therefore, is she trumped by the males in her life?
The women-oriented magazines, including Binah and Mishpacha’s Family First, make it clear that the charedi world recognizes women as important community members – or at the very least as customers, but even in these magazines depictions of women are verboten. An article about a woman overcoming a challenge will feature a male figure mountain climbing. Or a feature about autistic children will include pictures of boys, but not girls. Even an a vitamin ad, for example, will contain the image of healthy-looking boys with curly sidelocks attesting to the product – but no complementary rosy-cheeked little girls.
The issue famously came to a head earlier this year, when the chassidish newspaper Der Tzitung published an official White House photo – but an altered version, theirs without Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Their editorial board claimed that the laws of modesty prevented them from publishing a picture with the female form, but when did Orthodox Judaism become fundamental Islam?
The JTA article talks about the disturbing growth of women donning “a poncho-type garment intended to make the female form as shapeless as possible”. Although this remains a small group, why is wearing a burka gaining any traction at all?
About the segregation on buses, one woman said, “The temptations men feel are great, and it’s hard for them not to look at women. Sitting separately helps them not to look.” Because men have no self-control? That kind of argument discriminates against both men and women.
What’s your view? Are women discriminated against in the religious world? Post a comment here or on our Facebook page.