In response to and learning from both Dina’s very informative post and an assignment for my Gender Studies class, I wrote a “Gender Deviance Diary” entry on my experience wearing a kippah. Here it is:
I occasionally go to Friday night services at an egalitarian Jewish Renewal synagogue. This Friday, I forgot my kippah (head covering usually worn to symbolize a connection to and reverence for God) at home. Kippot are usually worn by men. Some speculate that women do not wear them because they are inferior to men in the eyes of God. Some say Jewish women are already instructed to dress modestly so there is no need for them to have an extra piece of fabric to portray religion. And some say that women tend to experience spirituality more than men so kippot – that extra force – are unnecessary.
It seems to me that all of these reasons give specific ways in which Jewish men and women perform gender, the ways in which men and women exhibit differences so drastic and internal that even their communication with the God of their understanding must be customized to socially constructed gender norms.
This summer, I ordered a kippah along with my male (and one other female) friends from my Israel program. The name of the program is embroidered on the rough blue fabric and I felt a part of when I wore it for the first time on our second to last night in Jerusalem. The kippah was a way in which I could be one of the boys and a way in which I could stand out as a deviant feminist woman in a city of great conformity.
When I got home and found a feminist synagogue I identified with, I began to wear the kippah off and on, but not once have I worn it to communicate explicitly with God. I wear a kippah to remember an amazing summer and to perform my gender. In deviating from Jewish feminine rules, I perform the Jewish feminine because I am broadening the definition of what it means to be a woman. I wear a kippah to be deviant, to be noticed for it, and to symbolically advocate for those women who want to wear a kippah to pray.
Funny enough, my mom brought my forgotten kippah with a single hair clip to synagogue and, upon seeing the lone bobby pin, I realized that my long feminine curls could not balance a kippah with just one pin and so last night, I performed my gender by looking at the symbol of performance – the kippah – and laying it aside for another time. Deviance can always wait.