Friday, October 23, 2009

does my voice turn you on?

I hate the whole 'Judaism is sexist' movement - because I really don't think that it is, or rather, that it is meant to be. I was raised and educated to believe that women are equal but different. That women have just as many rights, and way fewer obligations in terms of our religion, which is really just how I like it.
I like that I don't have to get up at 6 in the morning to daven with a minyan. I like that I don't have to wear extra articles of clothing. I like that I get to thank G-d for making me the way I am (I always thought of it as a compliment, thanking Hashem for making us perfect - and something that men don't get to say).

One thing that does kinda get on my nerves is the whole Kol Isha thing. I'm usually a 'na'aseh v'nishma' girl, and while I do 'do' this mitzvah, sometimes I wish this one weren't so serious. I have some friends with truly amazing voices, two who even take professional voice lessons and could definitely get famous or star on Broadway if it weren't for the Kol Isha issues. Sure, they could probably still make it in the 'women's only' section at Eichler's, but I wish they could do a little better with the talent Hashem gave them.

Then there's the whole awkward, what-do-I-do-when-everyone-else-is-singing-zmiros thing on Shabbos. At my house, I've been blessed with a father who sings tunes that no one else ever knows (our family joke is that it's probably because he makes them up as he goes along). And so, I don't really do that much singing at home.

But when I'm at someone else's place, it can get a little confusing. Some people hold by the 'kol isha doesn't count if there are guys singing too' philosophy. Which is totally cool in my books and which is how my MO day school held. But other people are a little more strict about the whole thing. Which I'm cool with too - because really, I don't think my voice is all that delightful. But when the family has a house full of daughters who do get to sing, I kinda feel left out. And sometimes it's hard to tell how a family holds. So if I'm in a house where people expect their female guests to sing - am I being rude if I don't?

Going back to my issues with the issue - I do sort of understand why Kol Isha was invented in the first place. Singing can definitely be sexy. Who knows - maybe the Rabbis of the Talmud predicted just how sexy it would get. (anyone hear Britney's latest explicit single, '3'?) But for every Britney and Madonna, there's a Regina Spektor - who sells tickets based on her voice not on her 'performance' (well, so far at least). Why do  the frum Reginas of the world have to stay quiet?

All I know is this..... my voice = definitely not sexy.

17 comments:

DYS said...

How did you go to a MO school and yet end up so concerned about kol isha even when singing zmirot with others? Most of the MO I know who are worried about kol isha are only worried about solos.

And in today's world, the only place a woman's voice is sexy is when there's visual titillation along with it. It's only the frum community that feels differently. By making something "forbidden", they imbue it with sexuality.

Data said...

Considering how the last time I sang to myself my 2 year old niece said, "Can you just STOP it?" I don't have any desire to sing with an audience that doesn't share my gene pool.

In college, plenty textbooks and women psychologists found an opportunity to peg Judaism as sexist (I screamed, hollered, frothed at the mouth, wrote fabulous papers to the contrary) but kol isha wasn't even on their list.

Keeping in mind how times have changed - circuses no longer involve slaves getting torn to bits by lions - what did kol isha mean at one point? Ululating? And at a time when women didn't exactly chat with the company.

Women also used to cover their hair from bas mitzvah on too, before marriage.

Anonymous said...

the material maidel sideswipes her namesake. is there perhaps a rift? can this be connected to mm's recent sighting with ritchie? watch next week for more inside scoop.

Tzafra said...

Here people, have some general knowledge. There is no such mitzva as Kol Isha. The mitzva as it applies to women is Lifnei Iver Lo Titen Michshol, and is the basis for other things of this sort as well.

Vox Populi said...

>I was raised and educated to believe that women are equal but different.

You were raised under Plessy v. Ferguson? I didn't think you were that old.

>That women have just as many rights, and way fewer obligations in terms of our religion, which is really just how I like it.
I like that I don't have to get up at 6 in the morning to daven with a minyan. I like that I don't have to wear extra articles of clothing.

As I'm sure African-Americans were happy, before 1964, that they didn't have to vote, sit on juries, go to normal schools, and use white people water fountains. What a relief!

>I like that I get to thank G-d for making me the way I am (I always thought of it as a compliment, thanking Hashem for making us perfect - and something that men don't get to say).

That's some fancy figurative translating you did there.

Vox Populi said...

>And in today's world, the only place a woman's voice is sexy is when there's visual titillation along with it. It's only the frum community that feels differently. By making something "forbidden", they imbue it with sexuality.

What makes you so sure about this? As a guy, and I don't think I'm an abnormal one, I can tell you that women singing can be "titillating" even without the visual stimuli.

kisarita said...

I don't know how you can possibly think that curbing a woman's voice from singing in PRAYER, can be considered religious, let alone not sexist.

Notice that the exemption from prayer, minyan, etc,may be more convenient but they're all part of the same coin- they are all basically saying the same thing- women's prayers are somehow unworthy, or at least, not worth enough. Definitely not as much as men.

Singing is a basic form of self expression, is a joy in itself, while its not the same as a clitoridectomy, To have that curtailed is oppressive to pretty much Everyone, including the frummest of the frum.

chanief said...

I used to believe as you did, that Judaism was not a sexist religion. Then I stopped drinking the kool-aid. It absolutely is, just like every other religion conceived of and birthed in a time where society in general was completely sexist.

Dan - Israeli Uncensored News said...

Right, it is odd to hear unisex arguments. Men and women are different in many important aspects. None is better, as apples are not better than peaches, just different. Different goals, different obligations.

jewpublic club said...

I know from the history of theater that until 1800's, almost entire human race held of the same regarding kol isha or woman's voice or even performance. Young boys usually had to sing and even dress up as ladies in Shakespeare's theater as well. why boys? Their voices and appearances are just like that of a lady (all that because of the same belief). It is only secular society's innovation that women not only play but also sing in public areas. But that provokes us to another question - are our boys choirs serving the similar purpose?

onionsoupmix said...

I just wrote about kol isha this morning. Weird :)

Maidel said...

chanief - i still don't believe that judaism it is sexist... how could it be? that's like saying that G-d is sexist...

Maidel said...

Vox Populi - great citing there... maybe you should consider changing your name... you certainly don't speak for me.

what's wrong with saying that women are different from men? you don't have a vagina, you don't have to go through childbirth, you don't have to make the choice between your career and your family. we're not living in some communist fantasy here where you can make barley out of wheat.

Vox Populi said...

>what's wrong with saying that women are different from men? you don't have a vagina, you don't have to go through childbirth, you don't have to make the choice between your career and your family.

Okay, and you don't have a penis and you don't go standing up. Let's make you a second class citizen!

I never said that men and women don't have differences. I just fail to see why a woman's biological differences necessitate that she have less rights and responsibilities than a man. Are you dumber? Less capable of waking up in the morning and going to davening? It's silly to brush this aside and say you'd rather not have these onerous responsibilities. That's not how civil rights work. There are rights and responsibilities. Both in theory and in practice, it's very hard to partake of one, and not the other. Those that don't shoulder an equal responsibility in society, will almost never share in the equal privileges.

What you're doing is very analogous to an Uncle Tom - what do I need all this book learnin' for? It's so hard! I don't need to learn to read! Readin' is for uppity Negroes! I don't need to vote; sit on a jury; serve in the army; pay taxes! These are all such burdens!

How exactly does your alternate system of biological plumbing make you unable to share equally in the rights and responsibilities of Jewish personhood? You mentioned that -

>you don't have to make the choice between your career and your family.

Why not? Men can take parental leave, and in many countries, like Sweden, stay at home fathers are common! Just because you want to bear a child doesn't mean you have to sacrifice a career, or your religious and civil obligations. It's not the '50s.

And please don't tell me that you do share equally in the responsibilities of Judaism because you say a different bracha every morning, or because you raise gevaltige yiddishe kinderlach or make chicken soup. Or that you just have a separate, but equal, mission in life. Because as even the American Supreme Court recognized in 1954; "separate but equal" is an oxymoron.

If you want to make the argument that Judaism is not sexist, go ahead. But try harder. Saying, essentially, that you personally don't mind sexism is not an argument.

Maidel said...

vox - you're twisting my words now. you're using old arguments to refute something i never said.

I don't believe that women have to stay home and take care of their children. I don't believe that women should be excluded from actively partaking in Jewish traditions.

and no, i do not think that Judaism is sexist. i stand by that. because as a religious Jew, it goes against my belief that the way I live (or rather, try to) is divinely-inspired. In my opinion, a system that is meant only for people of one gender is not something that G-d would have set up.

However, G-d did create a world where each and every person is unique. No matter how hard I try, I'll never be an Olympic athlete, I'll never win a Nobel prize for Science and I'll never qualify to be President of the United States. Do I cry? Do I scream at G-d for the 'unjustness' of this? Is it even unjust at all? I think not.

Vox Populi said...

>vox - you're twisting my words now. you're using old arguments to refute something i never said. ... I don't believe that women should be excluded from actively partaking in Jewish traditions.

But you also said

>That women have just as many rights, and way fewer obligations in terms of our religion, which is really just how I like it.

>Is it even unjust at all? I think not.

It would be if the fact that someone won a Nobel Prize or a Gold Medal entitled them to substantively more civil rights.

First of all, you're wrong - you don't have as many rights or abilities in Jewish law.

Second, fewer obligations, by definition, mean that you don't partake equally in Jewish traditions.

>because as a religious Jew, it goes against my belief that the way I live (or rather, try to) is divinely-inspired

Wait, you don't believe Judaism is divinely inspired?

Moshe said...

You don't need a man singing for it not to be considered kol isha, 2 women is enough. Pretty sure most yekis have women singing zmiros.