When I first moved to Brooklyn, I noticed two related, yet equally perplexing inter-gender phenomena/rituals: As a woman walking down the street, if I
- Wished a male "Good Shabbos", he didn't respond.
- Approached a male on the sidewalk ,the man would look up at the sky or otherwise make a grand display of not looking at me.
My ex-husband used to say to me, "Don't worry. They look! All men look". :) But I will admit that these encounters continue to disturb me. Perhaps my reaction is due to my never having had such an experience before moving to Brooklyn. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am mildly insulted by the experience.
When you begin to live in the hermetically-sealed environment that is ultra-frum Brooklyn, you begin to notice that there is, like it or not, an "Old Boys" mentality to the men. It permeates everything, from when you're doing your shopping to when you are at work to when you attempt to park your car at the end of the day. Men rule here.
Now, I go on record as saying that I like men to be men and women to be women; I am most comfortable when in a traditional feminine role. Indeed, I have zero interest in the "freedoms" of feminism, because I find feminism to be a flawed ideology that has actually worsened women's lot. Instead, I want to be equal with a man but remain a woman. Hopefully you can grasp the distinction without labelling me "oppressed". :) But despite yiddishkeit's innate equality between genders, gender inequality does exist around these parts.
As a result, when the men do their song and dance pretending that I am invisible, I feel that inequality. And when they don't move out of the way, but rather expect me to step aside! Well,that actually upsets me. I may be a woman, but there's no excuse for chivalry to be dead.
You can consequently imagine that now, almost 5 years into living in Brooklyn, it comes as a surprise when non-Jewish men look at me on the street (or cat call, depending on their culture, lol). And while yes, I am being acknowledged in a way that is sexual and therefore not empowering, I *am* being acknowledged. In short, is the act of frum men ignoring me any more respectful than the non-Jewish men staring/making comments?The answer is no.
I guess it would be fair to say then that if I were choose how I prefer to be disrespected, it would be in the goyishe style. Because I just don't buy the claim that pretending I am invisible is actually about tznius. Jewish men may sing the praises of the righteous woman layl Shabbos, but you will note that in order to sing her praises, they are acknowledging she exists.
So stop pretending you don't see/hear me, guys. Because the nicest take on it is that you're being rude. And the last thing we yiddin need is more fodder to be twisted into "evidence" of the misconception that Judaism is misogynist. At least, that's my humble opinion.