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Feminism: chat

Religion and the patriarchy

50 replies

QuentinBunbury · 26/08/2021 09:38

A Jewish woman waited 9 years to be granted a "get" by her husband to allow a religious divorce.
To prevent abusive husbands using the granting of a get to control their wives, the UK wrote into law this is coercive control and they can be prosecuted.
Now some rabbis are saying that the get is only valid if granted by free will so any woman using the law to encourage their husband to provide a get, isn't getting a valid religious divorce Angry
I mean, FFS. I'm posting this as an example of how social structures (in this case religion) enforce patriarchy. The man has ultimate power over the marriage and not surprisingly, controlling coercive men abuse that power. And then religion doubles down to protect the structure and not the women.
Although this story is about orthodox Judaism I'm sure other religions have similar strictures.

OP posts:

SudokuZebra · 26/08/2021 10:46

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

onlychildhamster · 26/08/2021 10:59

This happened to my MIL. Her ex said that if she didn't give him 100K, he wasn't going to agree to the divorce and so she wouldn't have a get. She did remortgage the house to give him 100k and then he went off to thailand, leaving her with 4 kids (though most were over 18 at that stage). My DH has never forgiven his father for that. In places like Israel, a man can go to jail for refusing his wife a divorce, Of course there is no way to enforce that in the UK (though there has been talk of having a register of british men who refuse their wives divorces so they can't enter israel). Anecdotally, I have heard that the community does try to punish the man by boycotting his business, not calling him up for aliyah in synagogue, generally pressuring him until he grants the divorce, but I guess that only works for men who care about what others think of them!

Its also a big reason after hearing my MIL's story that I didn't convert to orthodox judaism but chose Liberal Judaism where gets do not exist. I am also heartened that my MIL's daughter had a civil marriage in the USA followed by a Masorti/Conservative (its like the more strict that Reform but more modern than Orthodox) wedding ceremony in Israel. So she wouldn't need a Get if she divorces in Israel. My MIL tells me that if you have an orthodox marriage, you can get a clause inserted in the ketubah (marriage contract) that the husband is not allowed to refuse divorce in any circumstances but that can't be very common or we wouldn't keep hearing about situations like this.


QuentinBunbury · 26/08/2021 14:55

That's interesting only and reassuring.

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TeiTetua · 26/08/2021 17:03

If anyone needs an explanation, a get is a statement issued by a Jewish husband that he is divorcing his wife. Under Orthodox law, only the husband can issue it, and it's the only way a couple can get divorced.

I remember that the state of New York passed a law saying that in cases where a get or its equivalent is required, after a legal divorce the husband would be required to issue it. But the courts declared that law invalid, on the grounds that it involved the state in religious affairs. (For most people, you could get married in a church, but if you end up divorced, that would be a totally secular event. If you're in a religion that doesn't accept that, like the Catholics, that's your problem.)

In Israel there's no separation of church and state. If a couple divorces, the husband is ordered to issue the get. If he doesn't, he can be found in contempt of court and put in prison until he obeys, and there are supposed to be cases (true? mythical?) of men who've been jailed for years for not doing it. You also hear about Israeli couples who go off to Cyprus or somewhere, in order to have a secular wedding; Israel only allows Orthodox weddings, but it'll accept marriages performed elsewhere.


onlychildhamster · 26/08/2021 17:10

@TeiTetua heard of a case where the guy was imprisoned for not giving his wife a get and he would rather sit in prison rather than do it.

Yes I know of people who go to Cyprus as they are reform jews and don't want an orthodox ceremony. And of course if an Israeli Jew wants to marry a non Jew, he can only do that overseas but it will be recognized in Israel. My SIL wasn't technically married in Israel, the masorti ceremony wasn't a legal ceremony, the actual marriage was in America in the courthouse.


NiceGerbil · 27/08/2021 03:02

I saw this on the news.

This is about a subsection. Where the woman wants to remain in that religious community- and that's understandable children family etc.

Most Jewish people are not that strict. She's charedi it says in the article so we're talking Stamford hill I think?

In which case I'm amazed she's talking to the press. Because that will get her excluded from the community anyway.

Other thoughts-

I think if you're divorced you aren't allowed to remarry in RC church and if married elsewhere it's not recognised.

There are closed religious groups around where I doubt anyone has much leeway at all. Thinking exclusive brethren.

I have read about marriages done religious but not valid legally and the women find out years later.

In the end this isn't a matter for a law about gets. It's an issue with the more closed religious groups in the UK. Who generally don't get I dunno. Checked everyone is ok? Education DV etc. I think that's the issue.


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 06:56

I would dispute that this isn't a big problem in the Jewish community. According to the census,56.3% of the community hold synagogue membership of which half are with orthodox synagogues. So that's 25% who definitely identify as orthodox. There are also a lot more because not everyone can afford synagogue fees, I know many religious orthodox Jews who don't belong to any set synagogue but are very religious. At the same time, many people who hold synagogue membership are not religious at all. However, anyone who identifies as orthodox (regardless of level of practice) would need a get to remarry in the Jewish faith. I assume that if taking part in Jewish life cycle events- bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, getting buried in Jewish cemetery wasn't important to them, they wouldn't bother paying the synagogue fees-£500-1000 per year, depending on synagogue or family membership. Younger people below 30 generally pay £150-300..not too sure about exact prices, but my MIL pays £500 per year, I pay £360 for DH and I as we are a young couple, I think orthodox family membership is probably a lot cheaper than £1000 (my shul is £1000 as it includes religious school for the kids since most are not in Jewish school) but probably more than £500.

Any orthodox synagogue requires a get in order to remarry if you are divorced. The thing is- it may not be an issue for most women cos I think most normal Jewish men aren't so abusive but it doesn't mean that it can't be used as a way of blackmail during divorce negotiations as it was in my MIL's case. My MIL is orthodox but not charedi. She isn't rich but as they co-own a London house, there was quite a lot of money at stake, and it would be the same for most Jewish couples who live family homes in north London. There is definitely a power imbalance and there have been many conversations in the community about it..


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 06:59

Forgot to add that you need to be a member of a synagogue to marry in the faith (law of England and Wales), synagogue fees often include or subsidize burial fees and you also need to be a member if your children want to have a bar mitzvah in the synagogue. Anyone can attend services but these are the 'material benefits' of synagogue membership in addition to stuff like getting guaranteed free seats on high holy days, access to events and lectures etc.


Shehasadiamondinthesky · 27/08/2021 07:01

This is why I converted to paganism years ago, I have no time for patriarchal religions, my God is a Goddess.


WaterBottle123 · 27/08/2021 07:04

I've always taken the default purpose of all religions to be the oppression of women. It's hard to see what other purpose they serve.


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 07:08

@WaterBottle123 it's not all rabbi is a lady..women are equal in liberal judausmz we get to read the Torah in synagogue, participate fully in religious life, gets aren't even issued or recognized. It's the form of the religion. However orthodox Judaism is the predominant stream in the UK, even if most people practice it to varying degree and you wouldn't think most are that religious. However, I would say that most Jews want a ritual marriage/buried in a Jewish cemetery and have to go through the orthodox Jewish institutions to do that.


WaterBottle123 · 27/08/2021 07:21

@onlychildhamster interesting! However the very fact you are religious makes you more likely to marry? And marriage as an institution oppresses women. Women after marriage are less likely to prioritise own earnings, more likely to do the majority of housework etc. So whilst this isn't prescribed by the religion per sec, religion promotes marriage which is a de facto patriarchal tool.

Without religion would we have marriage? Imagine a society without marriage and how different women's roles through history might have been!


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 07:51

@WaterBottle123 I like being married and my husband does the cooking (and also earns way more than me), we share all finances so can't help you there. It's more about the man than the institution.


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 07:53

@WaterBottle123 also I am Chinese and most Chinese people are atheist and marriage is very important to Chinese people. Single mums are very it's not just a religious thing.


QuentinBunbury · 27/08/2021 08:57

I think religions generally have a big part to play in upholding patriarchy. And trying to keep religion and law separate where religions are encouraging abuse of women and girls shouldn't be accepted. For example, the forced marriages of abused girls who've had sex underage in the USA shouldn't be allowed.
What shocked me about this article was the rabbi they quoted saying women couldn't use the law to acquire a Get, as then the Get was invalid. Essentially saying women are at the mercy of their husband to divorce. I'd have hoped for a bit more sympathy for women in abusive marriages

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samG76 · 27/08/2021 09:12

I'm sure I've read loads of studies showing that children whose parents are married have better life chances. It can't just be about religion.


samG76 · 27/08/2021 09:14

Thar's not to say that the rabbis who made the statement about coercion (who are from a small minority within orthodoxy even in the UK) don't need a severe kick up the backside, or even to be sacked.


PlanDeRaccordement · 27/08/2021 09:18


I've always taken the default purpose of all religions to be the oppression of women. It's hard to see what other purpose they serve.

I think you mean the three Judeo-Christian religions, not all.

WaterBottle123 · 27/08/2021 09:23


I'm sure I've read loads of studies showing that children whose parents are married have better life chances. It can't just be about religion.


Well you probably have as those studies conflate marriage with being middle class. Wealth is key predictor of children's life chances, as evidenced by the British Birth Cohort study of more than 50 years.

However middle class women's outcomes get worse after marriage- lower earnings, lower pensions, more emotional load.

PlanDeRaccordement · 27/08/2021 09:23

Without religion would we have marriage? Imagine a society without marriage and how different women's roles through history might have been!

We don’t need to imagine this as history has many examples. We have no religion in China, only philosophy. And yet men could have multiple wives and concubines and women were still property. Often sold by their parents.

Soviet Russia for a time banned all religion and marriage. They set up breeding programs where you’d be assigned to a man of the Communist Party’s choice and forced to bear their children. You were also forced to be a working mother (unless communist party elite), and often your children were taken from you at a young age and raised in Party boarding schools. If you refused, you’d be deemed a class traitor and sent to the gulag, often raped by guards and often die of starvation or get shot and killed for minor infraction.


Brefugee · 27/08/2021 09:32

I think it is a good argument to separate legal from religious marriage - for all religions - as you have in many countries.

In Germany it is quite common to have the legal ceremony and then the religious one (the religious one has no legal standing) and many people don't bother with the latter (you have to belong yo the church, not sure about other religions, and that means paying church tax which many people object to).

People who take the religious part seriously often treat the civil part in the same way you would to register your car: turn up, sign papers, go back to work. Legally they're covered, but the religious part for them is the "real" marriage ceremony.

Conversely - assuming the partner who wants the divorce can safely get away - a divorce gives you the right to remarry or whatever, even if your religion forbids it. (for sure in sma orthodox or pretty closed religions this can be impossible).

I prefer this, tbh, to give people a bit more safety.


TheSockMonster · 27/08/2021 09:44

Patriarchal societies tend to produce patriarchal institutions. Any institution that holds power is open to corruption.

I think most of the Abrahamic religions and their off shoots do not come from a place of equality for women. I don’t deny that most were a force of good in their time. I know that Islam and Christianity both advocated for a better deal for women. A better deal, but still second class citizens.

I don’t know how old institutions rooted in patriarchy can ever truly shake it off.


QuentinBunbury · 27/08/2021 09:46

I think it is a good argument to separate legal from religious marriage - for all religions - as you have in many countries.
Yes agree with this. I don't think religious beliefs should expect to be exempt from the law though.
Abuse is illegal, even if its condoned by a religion

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onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 09:52

@PlanDeRaccordement I would say that in Ancient/pre-communist China, there was folk religion- worship of local gods and ancestor worship. And buddhism/taoism are religions. I would consider confucianism as a philosophy but some people would argue it is a religion. Before the communists took over and banned all religion/superstition, Chinese people had fused beliefs i.e. prayed to buddha, Guanyin, fortune god, worshiped ancestors (ancestor tablet altar at home). My Catholic grandma had fortune god statues in her room, chinese people have a different interpretation of religion compared to westerners.

And officially Chinese men had 1 wife and many concubines (my great grand mother was a concubine in colonial malaya even though it probably wasn't allowed). Concubinage was banned by the Communists and died out, but if you look at Hong kong, Hong kong only outlawed concubinage in 1971 but it had basically died out at that point as HK was relatively affluent. Generally like in the west, women's rights improved as they worked out of the home and gained financial independence.

However in communist China, this was all forbidden. Thats why the majority of people in China officially identify with atheism. Outside of China, most Chinese people also don't officially affilate with any religion though Christianity is popular, Buddhism less so with the younger generation (except maybe in places like Taiwan).


onlychildhamster · 27/08/2021 10:18

It is also insane that for many Muslim women in the UK, the nikkah ceremony is not a legally binding marriage which impacts negatively on the woman re finances and custody arrangements as they are forced to fall back on Sharia courts.

They should have the German system like @Brefugee says. I myself married in Germany as we were living there at the time. It would protect vulnerable women and children much better.

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