Let’s try putting our money where our mouths are this year.
People in my circles are both progressive and Jewishly observant; we have important conversations about being inclusive and making change in the world. At both seders this year, my awesome friends and family will doubtless talk about interesting halachic arguments, Black Lives Matter, protecting trans rights, sexism in politics, and why capitalism is problematic.
We’re so progressive! So rad! So “woke”!
However, we are not nearly as progressive as we think.
At both seders this year, as soon as people finally put their forks down and the children are off hunting the afikomen, everyone who was NOT raised with male privilege will immediately start stacking plates and bringing them back to the kitchen. All the people raised with male privilege will sit back, relax, and keep talking.
“But we’re feminists,” you protest, “That won’t happen at my seder!”
Oh really? Watch and see. During times when fancy dishes come out, the sexist tropes of the past come out to rear their ugly heads too.
“But I’m just trying to be polite,” the guests raised without male privilege say, “I don’t want to let the hosts do all those dishes!”
I hear you. But you should still stay put at the end of the meal. Let the uncles have a turn. Let cousin Shlomo pick up your plate from in front of you this year, instead of vice versa like every other year. Have an extra sip of wine, guests who weren’t raised with male privilege. Recline like the haggadah tells us to.
“But he doesn’t know how to do the dishes right,” the hostesses raised without male privilege claim, “the fancy ones are too delicate, and everything always ends up smudged when it comes out of the dishwasher.”
So let the dishes break. Isn’t equality in your home more important than a dish? If they’re smudged, have him do the dishes again.
“I never even noticed who does the dishes at the end of the meal,” say the guests and hosts raised with male* privilege. That’s okay! Now is a great time to start noticing! I believe in you–you are a good person, dedicated to making the world a better place in all of your actions. You can help liberate your household from old sexist tropes! You have the power! You have a sponge!
“But this is so small and petty–who even cares? What does it matter?”
Yes, a person raised with male privilege picking up a scrub brush and a dish at the end of the seder will not solve gender inequality around the world. However, it will solve gender inequality in that house for that night, and that does indeed make a difference. Do not underestimate what happens in the home; not all political actions happen in the streets or in policy hearings. The task of changing the world is not up to you alone, but neither are you free to desist from the task.
We are not free until EVERYONE is free. So do the effing dishes.
*My trans women sisters, your journey might be a bit different here. If you feel like you have the impulse to jump up and help with dishes at the end of the meal despite having been raised with a certain amount of male privilege, I’m betting it’s a bigger blow to the patriarchy to just chill with me and have a glass of wine at the end of the meal. But you do you!