This is nothing that hasn’t been said before.
Men and women are different. Yes by nature and yes by nurture. When daughter#1 was born, I found a truck set that was also a sand set; it came apart and could be used in all kinds of ways. I thought it was ingenious and surely it would be well-used. She didn’t touch it. But then again, she was not a fan of sand. The first time she walked on sand was in a playground and I remember her ferkrimpter punim. Yiddish was made for faces like that.
So there was a change with the toy and daughter #2. She would put her bears on it and let them play. Progress; but no movement, feminist or otherwise.
And when they got a little older, and we would have guests over, who happened to be women, and it wasn’t Shabbos or Yom Tov, my girls would ask these guests, “Do you have make-up?”, which was their way of asking “Are you a real woman?”
Son#1 would play with the bears and the dolls, because of course, I was going to make sure that he would be comfortable with the dolls. I clearly hadn’t learned my lesson yet. The lesson is simply have enough of everything around so that they can re-create their world in play.
This son would look up, even as a baby, to the sound of a passing motorcycle, truck, anything fast and loud. Some of his first phrases were “ocean liner boom!”. How cute and how boy. They simply like loud, big, fast. And of course, let’s not forget the “it’s not a gun” guns, made out of Legos, bread, anything that could be shaped. Of course I never let my children play with guns. But their anatomy told them something different, naturally. And son#2 most likely broke the toy, seeing what would happen if he threw it out the window or down a large set of stairs. Which, actually, is what I did as a little girl with my Tiny Tears. I threw her down the cement stairs leading to our basement “to see if she would cry real tears.” Her forehead broke, but she didn’t cry! From that point on, she wore a very large bandage across her forehead. This was approximately the same period that my parents brought home a new baby sister…so nature and nurture?
A number of years ago, at the last school dinner that we went to out of our choosing (translation; we paid), we were chatting with another couple as we were going into the main hall to sit down. This wasn’t overhearing, since we were still walking together so this was “on the record”. The husband noted, “Didn’t so and so look nice?”, which was volleyed back with “She wore that at so and so’s something or other.” Hmmm. I didn’t know about whom they were referring, or I don’t recall. But I was astonished that he would comment about how another woman looked, number one, and then the retort was stunning. I just remember smiling. Another case of being found dumb.
So what is the lesson we should bring forward about les différences? This week’s Torah portion talks about jealousy and rebellion, and the nature of women to support and/or defend their husbands. Some women fail and some succeed. What are they thinking of when they are defending their spouses? Are they thinking of what’s best for their families or themselves? Are we learning to respect ourselves in the process?