Thursday, March 08, 2007

My Crusade

I prefer not to tell stories from my personal life, mostly because they're terribly dull. But I'm going to make an exception, because I currently find myself embroiled in just the sort of practical decision that I have previously hoped would remain academic and feared it would not. Well, it didn't.

A story:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who went to Bar Ilan law school. All the students in law school had to take a class in Hebrew Law, for which they were classified according to background and/or level. There were three classes: A class for chilonim, a class for religious students, and a class for graduates of "yeshiva gevohah" (basically, post-high school yeshiva). The girl, through cleric whatnot, was placed in the lowest level, but the people in the law secretariat promised her that she could switch levels when the proper time came, all on her own, without the filing of papers and so forth. And the girl was very happy.

Now, just to clarify, this girl was very into the learning of Gemara, and she had not only done a year of post-high school learning, but also had been involved in all sorts of various crazy Beit Medrash programs and learned Daf Yomi and so on and so forth, and so she decided that she was going to transfer herself into the highest level. She knew that the level would be largely male, but this was not a particularly novel experience for the girl and she figured it would be worth it.

Time passed and the girl tried to switch levels. But the nice people at the class-registering place told her that she could not go into the highest level. "That level is only boys," they said. "Is it forbidden for girls to join," asked the girl a little annoyedly, "or is it just that there aren't any currently there?" "'No, no, no girls," said the people, "you see it's really just for boys who have gone to hesder yeshiva." "But I am positive," said the girl, "that I am capable of keeping up. I have male friends who are in the class who only did one year of post-high school learning. Is there some test I can take? Is there somebody to whom I can talk? Are you sure this is totally impossible?" "I will check," said the nice registration people, "and then I will call you back." And a little while, they did call back. "Yes, yes," they said, "we have checked and it is totally, absolutely, and categorically forbidden for girls to be in this class. So sorry."

And thus was born the crusade. Now, let me say. The girl is not in the mood for a crusade. She has neither time nor energy. Nor a desire to become the sort of crazy feminist that she enjoyed mocking in her more contemptuous youth. She isn't dying to be a Rosa Parks, nor yet a suffragette. She really, really doesn't have the will to play beaurocratic tag with every department in the law faculty. But the girl has three reasons for really wanting to switch classes.

1) Her Americanly liberal principles are just a tad offended by the idea that the boys get their own special higher level class, while all religious girls are thrown into the same group, regardless of level, background, or ability.

2) The level that she is in is really stupid. Maybe it was just the first one, since it was all introductory-like, but she isn't crazy about the professor, the material seems to be on a low level and taught slowly (what there was of it) and her classmates....well... Most of the girls are ulpanistiot (the term isn't really translatable). She is increasingly discovering that the average religious zionist, well-educated, intelligent, choosing-to-go-to-secular-college Israel girl has religious opinions so conservative and...traditional that they would put the girl's former Beis Yaakov classmates to shame. The example that she loves to quote: The professor mentioned that the Code of Hammurabi (sp?) was written before the Bible. One girl raises her hand and says, "But the Torah was written before the world was created!" Everybody is crocheting kippot and mumbling shocked mumbles of "kefirah!" and "Nu! Really!" and so forth. There are all of 12 boys in the 60+ person class, and at least 4 are ex-religious. Perhaps the higher level won't actually be any better, but it ought to be more challenging, and will at least theoretically have a more educated group of students. (And if it isn't harder, why exactly won't they let her in it?) Plus, her current schedule gives her 9 consecutive hours of class, and she really just can't take it, although this probably isn't one of the reasons she should most publicize.

3) She is more than a little bit of a dafkanik.

The good news is that many of her classmates, including some of the boys in the higher level, are very supportive and helping the girl be slightly less of a chicken. The bad news is that absolutely nobody was in their offices today, nor will they probably be so at any point before the first class on Sunday morning. So the next couple of days (that is, after the weekend) are going to be spent running around to various departments and secretaries trying to find who exactly is in charge of this decision, convince them of her right to switch or, failing that, find who's over their heads that she can whine about sexism to. It's all, I'm afraid, a bit of a pain.


Miri said...

"3) She is more than a little bit of a dafkanik."

so true. the crushingly honest realism of it! is totally appreciated. fight the good fight sister! I'm behind you! (not that that necessarily does you any good, but since I feel like I maybe kinda sorta got you into this whole thing by getting the feministness started to begin with, I really feel I ought to take some measure of responsiility here.)

viva la revolution!

Halfnutcase said...

... and tobie likes to talk about her self in third person. Cute.

maybe they're affraid that you'll michshol the religious bochurim ;-). Personaly I think that much of the whole thing about that is just silly anyway. If the boys want to control themselves they will, and if they don't they wont. It's certainly not productive to keep them so isolated from girls to protect them when the whole rest of the world that they see everyday is so much worse than talking to a tznua girl.

Anyway, I wish you much success on your current endevour, especialy as I don't think that girls should be denied the higher classes if they can and want to keep up with them. And connecting this with the above and the current endevour it wouldn't be a crusade without victimizing some innocents along the way now would it?

My gracious sympathies for situation with your classmates. Many wishes that you should be more successful than richard was.

Tobie said...

miri- oh right, bc I was totally a perfect beis yaakov girl until you started poisoning the ol' mind.

hnc- I don't really! I mean, that would be totally icky egotistical. Just when I'm telling "once upon a time" stories about the annoying things that people do to me (see the Bezek rant, for example)

And I can hardly think that it has anything to do with me and my feminine whiles- I mean, the boys are in classes with girls for every other class that they take in university, including a bunch of chiloni girls who typically wear a lot less and flirt a lot more than I do. If they couldn't handle the existance of females, they wouldn't be in a mixed college.

Halfnutcase said...

maybe not, but somehow it wouldn't surpise me if the professors who teach those particular classes somehow think that this is different than algebra, history, english lit, and psychology.

It really wouldn't surpise me, But it was a joke anyway.

by the way, it's spelled feminine wiles. whiles is not a word, (although while means occouring at the time of) and wile is defined as "n. a decietful stratagem or trick 2. a dissarming or seductive manner, device or procedure v. 1. to lure, to entice 2. to pass ageeably."

your educated enough to know that difference.

Irina Tsukerman said...

OK, so they want to keep the guys separate from the girls. Which STILL doesn't explain why they won't create a higher-level class for the girls? (which still probably won't be the equivalent, because, as you said, most people have a lower-level education...) Strange, very strange. I'm wondering what kind of excuse they will come up with for refusing to teaching more challenging stuff to women. Good luck!

Tobie said...

hnc- you may have meant it as a joke, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were correct. Sometimes my school depresses me.
And you are right- whiles is not a word, other than in the sense of "whiles away the time", which is not useful in this context.

Halfnutcase said...

Um, tobie, no, that too is wiles.

Tobie said...

tr.v. whiled, whil·ing, whiles
To spend (time) idly or pleasantly: while the hours away.


Halfnutcase said...

well thats very weird. Not often do you see two different valid ways to spell the same word in this language.

(look at the second verb definition that I quoted).

English is so weird a language, someone aught to go out and officialy gut it and systematize it for us, then maybe we wouldn't be the second hardest language in the world to learn.

Tobie said...

second hardest? next to Chinese, or what?