“No girl should get married unless she is willing to be subservient to her husband.”
“No husband should feel inferior to his wife, just because she supports him.”But while I personally agree that no one should feel inferior based on their private financial arrangements, our teacher apparently had no such faith in the self esteem of the would be male Talmud scholars- “One of my students would give her entire paycheck, unopened to her husband to deposit- so he should feel like he earned it.”
The self esteem of women was apparently of lesser importance. “I used to have my daughters do chores for my sons, so as not to disturb their learning,” said another teacher, a prominent Rebetzin. I recently discovered that this practice didn’t originate from her; it originated from Rebbetzin Rishel Kotler whose biography I found lying around not long again the women’s section of a nearby shul. Rebbetzin Rishel was also praised for making herself scarce at her husband Rabbi Ahron Kotler’s deathbed, to make way for his students, his true soulmates, to be with him during his final hours.
Our teacher told us these and other stories of female self denigration with great relish, including them in her parshat hashavua curriculum on par with Rashi and Ramban. It seemed that nothing that we as females could do, could possibly be as important as the Talmud study a male could do. Not even giving birth. We heard stories about Rebbetzins in labor in one part of the house, holding in their grunts and groans, so has not to disturb their husband’s study sessions in the adjoining section. (So much for lip service paid towards the idealization of Jewish motherhood.) “I don’t expect you to be at that level,” she said magnanimously. “But at least, when you’re NOT in labor, remember this story and don’t interrupt.”
Though Talmud apparently was the be all end all the pinnacle of Jewish observance, it was never taught to us. That in itself was not unexpected- teaching Talmud to women is still a relatively new phenomenon. But the young women were not taught ANY of the classic halachic sources. All material was presented orally by a Rabbi standing in front of the room, with the occasional use of a popular practical guide. Fluency in original sources was limited to Tanach and commentaries and mussar sefarim, neither of which, in the long run, are thought to be authorative relative to halacha. In an institute that prided itself on its supposed high level of learning, the reason for the omission could only be ideological.
I once asked an instructor why did we not, at least, study halacha from a standard halachic text. “So you shouldn’t think you can pasken,” was his answer. “You should have been a boy!” he exclaimed with enthusiasm toward a student who had made a particularly astute point. But alas, we were females, so no matter how profound our abilities, our poor teacher was forced to continue educating us towards mediocrity, to keep us dependent on the guidance of men and of the religious establishment.
(excerpt from long article found here)