Since Shabbat Chol Hamoed (yes, that is 13 days ago) I have had flu. Not man flu (as many of my friends asked) but the real thing – and it has not been pleasant. Still I am on the road to recovery and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to write for the first Machshavot of the year!
The question is why was I accused of having man flu? And what it is?
Man flu is a pejorative phrase that refers to the idea that men, when they have a bad cold, exaggerate and claim they have the flu. This of course is greatly offensive to men and doesn’t seem to have any scientific basis.
In fact, a 2010 survey by the Office for National Statistics reported on by the BBC World Service suggested that women call in sick twice as often as men do. However, absence from work is not always related to a woman’s illness as women are ten times more likely than men to stay at home to care for sick children, and more likely to be caring for elderly relatives.
According to researchers at Cambridge University, evolutionary factors may have led women to develop more rigorous immune systems than men due to differing reproductive strategies. In addition, a 2011 study conducted at the University of Queensland suggests that female hormones (such as oestrogen) aid pre-menopausal women in fighting infections, but the protection is lost after menopause.
So, in summary – it seems that men can’t fight infection as well as women and it once against stresses how different we truly are. And I did have real flu!
However, society as a whole is trying desperately to show that we are not different at all and is striving in many ways to remove the need for gender. Schools here in the UK are now trying to create gender free schools. Of course, we have to strive for equality for all but that does not happen by negating our differences as males and females which has been shown clearly by science and of course by Halacha.
Today BBC world service broadcast their programme about Partnership Minyanim, which I agreed to participate in and was recorded about a month ago. My view (in line with the Chief Rabbi) was that these gatherings are not part of the Halachic framework and that we need to work in an evolutionary way when it comes to women in Judaism and not a revolutionary one. There have been tremendous strides in the last two decades dealing with women’s learning, women’s leadership and opportunities in tefillah across our shuls. So can more be done? Of course, but it must be done in a spirit of halachic consensus and Jewish unity.
The show was not exactly 3 against 1, though at times it did feel a tad uncomfortable – I think a lot of good points were said and I hope my presence there added to the discussion.
I was concerned after I knew they were going to take 50 min of recording and edit it to 27 minutues. However, the result was not too bad – please listen and judge for yourself.
My main reason for agreeing to go on was to stress the middle ground that I feel Mizrachi has to address, while the Jewish world seems to move more to extremes, both to the left and the right.
As I said in the show, we have to strive to make sure that all people are engaged in shul life, men as well! The challenge of our age is to make sure we are living our lives in the 21st century with all that it comes with while maintaining a firm belief and observance of Halacha and Mesorah.
Not a simple challenge – especially when you have a fever of 40 degrees!
Rabbi Andrew Shaw