Generally, when I consider feminism and religion, the two phenomena don’t seem to mix very well. Most of our major religions, at least traditionally, have demonstrated a tendency towards patriarchy. Unfortunately this patriarchal tenancy showed itself last year when a prominent Washington, D.C. rabbi “was arrested for allegedly videotaping women in the mikvah he supervised.”
For those outside the Jewish faith (including myself), the mikvah is a ritual bath used for conversions; by orthodox women after menstruation and childbirth; or in non-orthodox communities for life transitions like a “bar or bat mitzvah, or when you’re ending a period of grieving, or marking an important anniversary.”
After the rabbi’s arrest, local women understandably felt uncomfortable about the mikvah, but several synagogues banded together to host a “Take Back the Mikvah” event to make sure the mikvah and its immersion ceremony remained a positive ritual of renewal for women in the community. The event included a discussion of the mikvah and its troubles throughout history (all the way back to 1500 years ago!), a demonstration of the immersion rite, and an overall sense of community support for the women interested in experiencing the ancient ritual.
I was very inspired to hear that this group of women banded together and refused to let patriarchy limit their access to spiritual healing. Score one for women in the otherwise lopsided Women : Religion scoreboard!