So there were some visitors in synagogue this shabbat. (It's quite gratifying that I'm getting to the point where I can spot visitors as opposed to regulars I don't recognize.) Anyway, the male half of the couple asked me if I was the only woman in the community to wear a tallit. I told him that there are a handful of us, and also mentioned that there are semi-regular "egalitarian" services where women's participation is positively encouraged and that a lot more tallit-wearing women show up at those. He said something about a lot changing in 50 years but I couldn't tell whether he was being approving or critical. I didn't bother getting into an argument about whether this is actually an innovation, anyway.
It turned out that the person I'd been speaking to is rather a famous rabbi. So famous in fact that I had previously assumed (in a vague, non-specific sort of way) he was dead, as he is mentioned so much in historical accounts. And as he was leaving he said to me:
Keep flying the feminist flag with your tallit!I said that it wasn't a feminist tallit, but in the conciliatory manner one uses for contradicting strangers.
I am sure the rabbi meant well (and now I know who he is I'm fairly sure he is pro egalitarianism). And no, I don't think it's insulting to be thought a feminist. It's just annoying that people should make a whole string of assumptions about my politics because of something I do for religious reasons, not gender political reasons.
( So why do I wear a tallit, then?Collapse )
Is that "flying a feminist flag"? I don't see it as such. I don't put gender politics above religion; in this particular case, I think the differentiation between men and women is not justified and that's why I ignore it. But I don't have a problem in principle with men having different ritual roles from women. (And now that I'm a bit more mature I don't think anyone who comes to a different conclusion from me on this issue is old-fashioned or sexist, either.)
Words that might need explaining: tallit is the Jewish ritual garment, often described as a prayer shawl, usually white with black or blue stripes, and where the important part is fringes at the corners tied with knots in a specific pattern. Tallissim is the plural that comes most naturally to me; it's sort of Yinglish though and probably not a "real" word.