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For a man who takes his religious obligations seriously, life is a pretty obligating affair. Instead of casting him as a reluctant participant in a ceremony designed to rob him of his freedom – the unspoken message of wild bachelor parties held the night before a wedding – Jewish law casts him as the proactive initiator.
He commits to her, he promises to support her, he obligates himself to take care of her needs.
Obligating the man might be seen as an acknowledgement that if it isn’t safe for her to be vulnerable, a woman might, symbolically, take her heart off her sleeve and hide it behind a stone wall to keep it safe. Jewish law asks man to take responsibility not because women are weak and needy, but because we, as a society, are needy – life is about love, so we have to make it safe to love.
Perhaps today’s accomplished woman can wrestle all the lions and tigers and bears by herself, but when she does, she may not have a lot of room left in her life for vulnerability.
To my mind, the biggest tragedy had already happened: here was a man who at 38 didn’t realize that the most important thing in life is not to be understood – it’s to be man enough to understand someone else!
Love requires vulnerability, but it is dangerous to make yourself vulnerable to someone who is focused not on you but on fulfilling his own needs.
Judaism – which is more into equity than equality – has no problem saying that men and women relate differently to relationships.
How does it affect men when we look at them like that? What are we supposed to make of the fact that for the first time in history, there are more single than married women in the United States, and – astoundingly – one in three babies in the United States is born to an unwed mother? For a woman, who came into the world in the context of a relationship – Eve was created as Adam’s wife – life is often about relationships.
The answer is that she buries them deep inside her, and steps out to negotiate in a man’s world. When men are repeatedly told how not much is expected of them, sometimes they sink deep into the quicksand of hedonistic self-serving self-service.
I recently met a 38-year-old man who told me that in his mind the biggest tragedy would be if he had married a woman who just didn’t understand him.
They critiqued what they felt was an unacceptable portrayal of gender: The three authors [of the research] condemned the [school]…on the grounds that it strengthened gender stereotypes…
One teacher who received particularly severe criticism was a man who dared to speak to his students – all boys – about what it means to be a productive man.