Session Submission Summary

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Orthodox Women’s Perspectives on Religious Gender Identity in Liminal Spaces

Tue, December 19, 3:15 to 4:45pm PST (3:15 to 4:45pm PST), San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Lower B2 (06) Salon 1-2 (AV)

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Orthodoxy is often seen as fairly insular with gender practices that sets it apart from contemporary egalitarian society. This session examines different manifestations of liminal spaces Orthodox women find themselves interacting in and asks how their gender identity carries itself into those spaces.

A salient theme across all panelists’ work is the ways that Orthodox women may defend communal gender constructs in interactions with non-Orthodox individuals, while simultaneously exploring the possibilities of gender reform within their own communities. Orthodox Jews often feel responsible for ensuring that individuals outside the group have a positive understanding of their way of life. A limitation explored here is participants’ possible reluctance to share negative experiences. However, through encounters with the outside world, certain ideals (such as egalitarian gender views) have led group members to reflect on community gender norms, possibly to the extent of integration. Rigid gender norms may compel some to leave their home environments and religious practice, while those who "stay" may adopt varied perspectives on their relationships with gender and identity. Some acknowledge but accept the limitations of gender in the community, some may gently push against boundaries to slowly integrate some gender ideals borrowed from the “outside” world, and others may feel compelled to defend those norms and practices.

The panel will address questions such as the following:

How does being confronted with non-Orthodox beliefs about gender impact Orthodox women's identities? How do current or former Orthodox individuals perceive gender in nontraditional contexts? How are Orthodox female Bible teachers impacted by having to navigate questions from students regarding their community gender roles? How do Orthodox adolescents engage with non-Orthodox adaptations and interpretations of holy texts? How do Orthodox adolescent girls navigate the construct of modesty, using Torah, related interpretations, and outside influences? How might contentedness with Orthodox gender roles interact with one’s reflection of their time as a religious person - and potentially influence the decision to stop being religious?

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