Cross-Dressing in Jewish Law and the Construction of Gender Identity
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 38, Spring 5781/2021
- pp. 46-68
- Additional Information
This article reassesses certain assumptions concerning the conception of gender as a rigid binary structure within Jewish tradition, through the analysis of the scriptural ban on cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5), and its development within past and contemporary Jewish legal discourse. It proposes that the prohibition on cross-dressing has traditionally been interpreted in two opposing manners—an essentialist approach and a functionalist approach. Both options, from the early rabbinic literature down to the contemporary responsa literature, were seen as halakhically valid. Thus, the standard contemporary theology affirming a rigid gender binary as the sole halakhic truth represents just one hermeneutic option. This halakhic “truth” has served as a political device wielded against Jewish religious feminism.