Not new, but still really good! Hannukah sameach!
Sarah is acting mayor for ten days. During this time Joe runs over the sign at the town entrance, Sarah gets a new one that has many languages on it – but no English. Yassir is relegated to be the pretty face next to the mayor and launches his own campaign to teach people how to use tools. McGee takes up painting and Amaar has to pretend to like the results.
Fatima: About that sign.
Sarah: Oh, don’t tell me you want Nigerian on that sign.
Fatima: Of course not. I want Yuruba, what we speak in Nigeria.
This episode takes a satirical look at gender roles. Sarah is doing business with the men, while Yassir has drinks with the spouses. We have Yassir behaving irrationally ("like a woman") when Sarah criticizes his campaign and in the same episode have him being the stereotypical man who does stuff with tools. The episode is more comedy than anything and does not provide us with information on how gender roles are viewed in Islam, but I want to talk a bit about gender roles in Judaism.
First off, this is a highly controversial topic and probably many people won’t agree with what I am writing. Traditionally, Judaism is very gendered and prescribes different roles for the two genders. Women and men have different religious obligations. While both are required to pray, only men are required to pray in "public", i.e., in a group. That women are not required to do so, leads to their traditional exclusion from various roles that are reserved for those who have the requirement of public prayer (i.e., men): women do not count for the quorum of 10 men required for a prayer service, women do not lead services, women do not read from the Torah, women do not put on Tallit and Tefilin. Nowadays, this is still the way prayer works in many traditional orthodox communities. In some modern orthodox communities and in other streams of Judasim, women do some or all of the above. And many (non-orthodox) synagogues have practically erased all gender differences in rituals.
The different roles (and probably a good dose of historical discrimination of women and sexism) are reflected in non-ritual parts of Judaism as well. When we look at "preferred lives" for men and women, there is the ideal that women take care of the house and children and men learn Torah. Women are mothers, men are learners. The role of women is not unimportant, the home is the place where lots of Jewish rituals happen. But what if a women does not want or cannot have children? The ideal role of men is different from what Westerners usually associate with traditional male roles (feeding the family). But what if a man is not made to be a learner? And then there is the whole issue of whether it is permissible for a woman to fill the man’s role of learning Torah. Hence the hot debate in orthodoxy about whether women can be rabbis (the non-orthodox movements have long decided that yes they can). If you wonder whether women can learn non-religious stuff – that is usually not a question. Orthodox women are doctors, lawyers, you-name-its. Some circles prioritize men’s learning so much that it’s the women who earn the money for the family and the men learn Torah full-time.
It is a pity that we haven’t seen more about Islam’s vision of gender in this episode, but I would guess that – like Judaism – there is some discrepancy between Western egalitarian values and traditional role models. And while there is definitely a defensible basis in Jewish/Muslim thought and we maybe shouldn’t throw all of this away, the concepts are probably influenced by any number of things besides Judaism/Islam (from traditional sexism to making a statement against the sexualization of secular society). There has been a lot of discussion and change going on about this topic in the last few decades and I doubt that we have reached the end of it.
I am sorry for the long break in posting. Life has come in the way and I simply didn’t have the time or the piece of mind to sit down and blog. I have a list of topics I want to address, but you will have to wait until January to see the first post I suppose. Sorry! But don’t worry, I’ll be back!