Thursday, April 19, 2007

Can Someone Please Explain This To Me...

... without resorting to "they're misogynistic?"

From Hashkafah.com:

I am aware that I am not the only (ex)chasideste on H and I was wondering what you all feel about women driving. Here in London a child who's mother drives will not be accepted into a chasidishe chieder or school. It is preferred that women use (arab) taxi drivers - regardless of the length of their trip, and no one blinks if a family has an account with a specific firm who will send them the same driver whenever he is available, which effectively means that women will be taking trips as long as an hour in both direction (from stamford hill to the west end [shopping district] or other malls even further away) with the same man, fairly often.

I am at a loss to understand (i.e. what's the halachic (or "minhagic") for the prohibition (or disapproval) of female driving among some Chasidic groups. It can't be an issue of tznius, since a woman is no more exposed when getting out of the front seat of a car than when getting out of the back seat.

In fact, I would think, based on the author of the quote above, that having women take a car service repeatedly with the same non-Jewish man over and over again can present possible violations that are certainly worse than could be possible if a woman were driving alone in her car.

Obviously, for the Chasidic community in London, this is a big deal. The fact that they're willing to keep kids out of school because of this (a stupid idea, IMHO, but that's for another day) clearly says that they consider this issue to be very important. But, assuming that they're not all misogynistic idiots (I refuse to believe that all Chasidim are that way) then what is the basis for the restriction?

The Wolf

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Their idiot rabbi was drunk and thought it was a good idea?

Anonymous said...

It is a problem in tzniut, but not because of getting in and out. They view it like you or I would view a woman riding a float down 5th avenue with everybody looking at her. It's a halachik concern based on a cultural context.

BrooklynWolf said...

That might hold true if a woman driver were rare and would attract attention (as a woman riding on a float on 5th Avenue would). But today women drivers are so common that a woman who needs to be chauffeured around will actually attract more attention.

The Wolf

zach said...

The issue is that many Chassidic women are not safe drivers due to serious foot injuries resulting from a good stomping at the chuppah.

Mike S. said...

I wonder, based on a shidduch question I heard, if it isn't shoulder belts, assuming the use them in London. At least one young woman told me that they are now being asked if they wear seat belts, and no is the preferable answer because the shoulder belt is though to emphasize her contours too much.

Hatam Soferet said...

I understand (from someone who interned in a shechita place for a summer) that there are certain meat hechschers that won't accept shochetim whose wives ride in the front seat of the car, never mind actually driving the things. So it's not just London.

I suspect it's a control issue, although I very much doubt it would ever be articulated that way.

G said...

Some are caught up in a trend of chumra one-upmanship, the rest are sheep.

Ari Kinsberg said...

mike and hatgam soferet:

please tell me you are both kidding

zach:

"The issue is that many Chassidic women are not safe drivers"

at the risk of engaging in stereotyping, all chassidim, men and women, are not safe drivers. as such neither should be permitted to drive.

i refuse to drive to my mother-in-law in boro park on friday unless we are actually going there for shabbat.

Zach Kessin said...

I wonder, based on a shidduch question I heard, if it isn't shoulder belts, assuming the use them in London. At least one young woman told me that they are now being asked if they wear seat belts, and no is the preferable answer because the shoulder belt is though to emphasize her contours too much.


So there is a move to put people actively in danger (not wearing a seat belt increases your risk if death or injury by a LOT) to protect a very iffy enhancement of modestly. I think we are trying to be Saudi Arabia here.

I'm going to go cry now.

Mike S. said...

I am entirely serious that one young woman told me that. Of course, I can't be completely sure she wasn't pulling my leg, but I don't think she was. It does strike me as an example of a clear violation of a d'oraita in favor of a chumra in tzniut, but them I am a physicist so what do I know.

The Hedyot said...

IMHO, it's an issue of control. They don't want women to be too independent. Having the ability to drive means they can come and go as they please to wherever they want, whenever they want. Such a reality scares the bejezzus out of them, since they know that many people would take steps to escape the confines of the community if given the opportunity (I'm not talking actually leaving frumkeit, just engaging in things which the community prohibits). Doing such things will, in all likelihood, cause the people to have less of a reverence and dependence on the community, even if they don't actually stop being frum.

stillwonderin' said...

Oh please. They're not misogynistic. They're morons

BrooklynWolf said...

Hedyot,

Wouldn't the same reasoning also apply to men?

The Wolf

Yaacov said...

The men honor women as their spiritual equals.

But some spirits are more equal than others.

Shira Salamone said...

Perhaps it's assumed that the rabbanim will control the men and the men will control "their" women (wives and daughters).

Anonymous said...

>
Wouldn't the same reasoning also apply to men?

Other social control tools exist for the men (e.g. lack of education). There's plenty for both genders.

Toby Katz said...

I think it has to do with charedim taking a little while to catch up with the rest of the world. They'll come around.

Let me explain what I mean about catching up. I am old enough to remember a time when there was no such thing as a two-car family. IF a family even had a car at all, there was only one. Naturally, when there was only one car, the man drove it.

For shopping or whatever, the whole family piled into the car and went to the grocery store together. I hope I don't need to explain why, when there is something strong, powerful and expensive and there is only one of it, it will naturally be the man who drives it. That is just human nature. In every human society ever studied, when cars are introduced, it's the men who drive them. Driving is just so manly, what can I say?

So when a few women -- and at first, it is always only just a few -- start driving cars, they seem to be engaged in masculine behavior. A car functions in society as a beged ish and doing something so masculine as driving an aggressive, powerful and expensive object (aka a car) certainly seems to lack feminine refinement and modesty.

Even in totally non-Jewish societies, like America fifty years ago, there was a sense that there was something brave, bold and unconventional about a woman who drove a car.

This instinctive feeling that there is something mannish and unseemly about a woman who drives lasts until a society becomes affluent enough to afford two cars per family. At that point so many women start driving that driving loses its association with "the man of the house." Men start making jokes about "women drivers" to cover up their feelings of loss. Any association of cars with testosterone is completely submerged when Mommy's car becomes full of toys, dirty diapers, moldy peanut butter sandwiches and Uncle Moishy tapes.

In America the only community that frowns on women driving is the Satmar community, and they are mostly an urban people who cannot afford to maintain two cars. Everywhere else in America, all frum women, left to far right, drive cars, and no one thinks anything of it.

In Israel, among secular Israelis, very few families have two cars, and the overwhelming majority of drivers are men (see above: in a one-car family, the Man drives). As soon as Israel catches up to America's affluence and they have two-car families and the sight of women [chiloni] drivers becomes a common one, and also as soon as charedim start living in places where a Mommy car is both possible and necessary for commuting, transporting kids and so on (I think maybe Bet Shemesh is already such a place), charedi opposition to women driving will fade away. That's what I meant about charedim catching up to the rest of the world.

Note the trajectory that women voting took and you will see the future of women driving. In all western societies, men had the vote long before women did, so when women did start voting here and there, it seemed a rather masculine activity. Exercising power and all that. So charedim banned women voting. But eventually voting completely lost its association with masculinity. So now (except for small pockets of resistance) it is considered not only acceptable, but positively obligatory, for charedi women to vote.

Now I will tell you something both interesting and true -- true in America and in Israel, among religious and secular people, Jewish or not: most married women follow their husband's lead in deciding whom to vote for. (This is the reason that married women tend to vote Republican while unmarried women -- who don't have a husband to teach them about politics, but need someone to take care of them -- vote Democratic.) When charedim noticed this pattern, they realized that if they allowed women to vote, this would mean in practice that every man would now have TWO votes. So it's been a long time since anyone said boo against women voting.

When charedi women start driving, though, it won't be quite the same. Married women may vote like their husbands but they won't drive like their husbands. You will find that they will use their blinkers before making turns, they will let other drivers in when the road narrows, and they won't lean on their horns to make red lights turn green.

Mike S said...

Toby,

I don't know how old you are, but I am old enough to remember when one car families were the norm. And no, it was not unusal for women to drive. In fact, a typical pattern was for the woman to drop her husband off at the train, use the car all day and pick him up in the evening. It is true that for family excursions, the male tended to drive, but moms still did the carpooling.

Anonymous said...

"Hatam Soferet said...
I understand (from someone who interned in a shechita place for a summer) that there are certain meat hechschers that won't accept shochetim whose wives ride in the front seat of the car, never mind actually driving the things. So it's not just London."

Of course, that's the greatness of Chassidishe shechita. Everyone must only eat Chassidishe shechita, otherwise you may be supporting women riding in the front seat of cars.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that cars were seen as "mennish" and women back in the fifties were willing to play the "housewife" role. However today, is working out of the home for women "mennish". No! The necessity is there to earn money and even some Satmar women work out of the home. I agree that not allowing Chassidic women to drive is just another way to repress women and keep them on a leash.
P.S. I am a 1-car family today and I, the woman, drives on all long trips as my lovely husband naps :)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i refuse to drive to my mother-in-law in boro park on friday unless we are actually going there for shabbat.

Ari:

that's just because you're jealous of our Mad Boropark [Driving] Skillz (tm)

;-)

triLcat said...

regarding showing shape with a seatbelt, jeez... have they never thought that you could just put something over the woman?! Better she risk her life than think a little bit???? Not that I think it's a reasonable issue to begin with... but let's pretend it's a problem... so keep a towel or a light blanket in the car.

And btw, I know plenty of (religious) couples with one car where the wife takes the car most days. The two exceptions I know - the husbands have given up begging their wives to get a driver's license...

Tzipporah said...

I hope I don't need to explain why, when there is something strong, powerful and expensive and there is only one of it, it will naturally be the man who drives it.

most married women follow their husband's lead in deciding whom to vote for

ROFL - Toby, take your head out of your a$$, please! It sounds like you're still stuck in the 50's.