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Criss-crossing Boundaries: Ultraorthodox Jewish women go to work

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The most prestigious work in the ultraorthodox Jewish community is full-time, unpaid, religious study, which is allocated to men. As a result, married women are often responsible for both homemaking and breadwinning. This study examines the 'going to work' of these Israeli wives as an encompassing operation of two directions—the going to and the coming from work. First, it analyses the sociocultural evolution of ultraorthodox gender identities which induced the 'going to work' of the wives. Second, it probes the personal consequences of job-related exposure to modern values of work and gender, following the wives' 'coming from work.' In-depth interviews with 55 married women holding out-of-community jobs that increase their exposure to modern norms revealed discontent regarding domestic help and the financial contribution of their husbands. Dissatisfaction was articulated in subtle terms, by referring to fatigue and the hope that their husbands would eventually look for paid jobs. Such expressions of discontent, associated with the 'coming from work,' are suggestive of private resistance and the modification of personal values. The gendered geography of ultraorthodox women's work illustrates also the geography of their subordination and resistance.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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