I was at an orthodox wedding a few weeks ago and noticed something very interesting. After making my way through the extensive shmorgasboard (sp?), I ventured into the “chosson’s tisch,” as per my male-y duties. It was there that I noticed a pan or two of hotdogs, hamburgers, and French fries. It hit me: why was there none of this food in the general shmorgasboard, the one intended for the woman during kabbalat panim?
I asked a few friends at the wedding why they thought such a phenomenon existed and the general understanding was that hotdogs, hamburgers and French fries are “boy food” – meaning they are less dainty than grilled Portabellos, chicken stir fry, or turkey carving stations – i.e. other, less boy-ish shmorg foods.
However inconsequential this difference in food was at the wedding, I found it perturbing. I know many a girl who enjoys eating “boy food.” Why do distinctions even exist in food? Why is food associated with gender? Why can’t boys eat dainty things and girls eat messier, meatier, and/or greasier things? My overall issue with the gendering of food relates to tradition. What it comes down to is that traditionally, men enjoy foods like hotdogs and French fries and girls have tended towards vegetables and lighter foods. But why does that need to be a case? Tradition is important, especially in religion (I know every word to Fiddler On The Roof’s musical opener). But will breaking tradition when it comes to food really upset anyone that deeply? Or cause chaos? Probably not. So let the girls eat some damn hotdogs.
My second issue with gendered food at this wedding – and this one is slightly more charif (food pun intended) – also relates to tradition. There is a heavy emphasis on tradition in Judaism (as outlined in the opening number of The Fiddler On the Roof). And for good reason, too! By being gay, however, I am intrinsically breaking tradition. So much of Judaism’s traditions base themselves upon gender, gender roles, and heterosexuality. Unfortunately, not everyone is heterosexual, and only in recent years are more and more orthodox Jews coming out as gay. In order to not only accept, but to recognize them within the orthodox community, tradition needs to be viewed differently. And we can’t start with such things as “boy food.”
I am not sure what to suggest in terms of “breaking tradition” on homosexuality in orthodox Judaism, mostly because I don’t want to get my head bitten off from angry readers, but also because I don’t yet have a flawless suggestion. Heterosexual traditions are a staple in our religion, and I am not asking to uproot those foundations. All I would like is for homosexuality to be recognized as merely existent in orthodoxy and for people in the community to respect an “untraditional” (re: gay) couple – just like they can respect a girl eating a hotdog.