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Women’s Rights (Noach – 10/20/17)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

Women’s Rights
Last Sunday night (10/15), sports announcer, Al Michaels, made a small faux pas, he said, “I mean, let’s face it, the Giants are coming off a worse week than Harvey Weinstein.”
Now, I understood what he meant, and there was definitely truth to his statement; it was a horrific week for Harvey Weinstein.  But if we view this person, this predator, like he really is, someone comparable to a serial rapist, would Michaels have said the same remark? No! No one would care that a true villain had a bad weak, it’s best that he was caught.
The remark itself reflects the mindset that was the basis for this behavior, as Weinstein said himself, “When I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s all the rule about behavior and workplace were different. I just didn’t know any better, this is how we did things in the old day.”
Quentin Tarantino, famed director who worked with Weinstein, said that Hollywood needed to take the situation more seriously because the industry had been “operating under an almost Jim Crow-like system that us males have mostly tolerated. We allowed it to exist because that’s the way it was.”
This behavior is so old, one could say its right out of the Bible. The first story in the Torah is our version of Pandora’s Box. G-d tells Adam don’t eat of the tree of knowledge, for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. You will bring death and all deleterious things into the world.
But the woman was curious, and perhaps easy to seduce.
The serpent tells her, “”You will surely not die. For God knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like G-d, knowing good and evil.”
The woman wanted this knowledge and she ate, bringing death and hardship onto Humankind.
16 To the woman He said, “I shall surely increase your sorrow and your pregnancy; in pain you shall bear children. And to your husband will be your desire, and he will rule over you.”
טז אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁ֣ה אָמַ֗ר הַרְבָּ֤ה אַרְבֶּה֙ עִצְּבוֹנֵ֣ךְ וְהֵֽרֹנֵ֔ךְ בְּעֶ֖צֶב תֵּֽלְדִ֣י בָנִ֑ים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָתֵ֔ךְ וְה֖וּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּֽךְ:
The very first story in the Torah explains why women are subservient in society: because, they initiated the first disobedience to G-d, therefore, they’re not going to be in charge anymore.
The female plight only worsened from there. By Noah’s times:
1 And it came to pass when men commenced to multiply upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them.
א וַֽיְהִי֙ כִּֽי־הֵחֵ֣ל הָֽאָדָ֔ם לָרֹ֖ב עַל־פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וּבָנ֖וֹת יֻלְּד֥וּ לָהֶֽם:
2 That the sons of the powerful saw the daughters of man that they’re good, and they took for themselves women from whomever they chose.
ב וַיִּרְא֤וּ בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּנ֣וֹת הָֽאָדָ֔ם כִּ֥י טֹבֹ֖ת הֵ֑נָּה וַיִּקְח֤וּ לָהֶם֙ נָשִׁ֔ים מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּחָֽרוּ:
Women were for the taking. In that generation, it didn’t make a difference if they were single, married, engaged, mature or not, the powerful men took the women that they wanted.
G-d brought a flood to condemn their actions, but it seems that 4000 years later, there’s still a problem of powerful men believing they can take any woman they like.
In fact, sexual harassment as a legal prohibition in the workplace only entered our lexicon in 1991 when Anita Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her boss at the United States Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment.
This year there’s been a number of busts in this regard: Bill Cosby, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly.
After Gretchen Carlson accused Roger Ailes and became a public figure in the fight against  workplace harassment,  she says that over the past 15 months, she heard similar claims from “thousands of women: fast-food workers, single moms and many other women just trying to make ends meet.”
Mira Sorvino, who initiated the accusations against Weinstein said, “We live in a culture in which sexual harassment and rape are rife, part of the power dynamic between men and women in the workplace.”
Perhaps now things will change. Perhaps the behavior that Weinstein grew up in 60’s and 70’s will become intolerable now. Perhaps men won’t feel as entitled and/or women will feel more able to speak up.
I remember growing up in the 70’s. We used to degrade the weak boy athletes by saying “You throw like a girl.” I don’t think that’s an expression anymore. We used to say Blonde, Polish and Shfartza Jokes; we don’t do that anymore. We used to call others “gay” as an insult. Thankfully things have changed and hopefully this issue of male sexual harassment will fall to the wayside as well.
We’re living in times of great change. We’ve all seen great improvements take place from when we were young, and more positive changes will occur in the future. Let’s empower your daughters to speak and stand up for themselves, and teach our sons to treat women as equals. Let’s help make this issue and others of injustice and inequality become relics of the past.
R’ Neil

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