Rashi's commentary has two points; one is about men being the moral guardians of women which would be hard to reconcile with modern concepts of equality. This is based on the Midrash that links going out to the market to the abduction and rape of Dina “as every woman who goes out to the market, in the end will be ensnared”. This has echoes of the controversy about Sheik Hilaly talking about immodestly dressed women as “uncovered meat”. There are Midrashim about women being the spiritual foundation of the home etc. but it would seem that these are about ‘soft power’ of influence not control. The 2nd aspect is about obligation to bring children into the world beginning with marriage and initiating intimacy. Generally, obligation matches ability and in the male dominated world of 900 years ago men held the cards, they still often do. Of course, men cannot bring children into the world without women and a woman can only be married in accordance with her will, forced marriage is out of the question.
A Muslim speaker at UWS argued that women are worse off with Feminism in that they are expected to do everything men do and that their differences are not acknowledged. While the nature vs. nurture debate will go on forever, there are times when religion demands we resist the urges of nature or the vices we absorbed as we were nurtured. To what extent should religious law accommodate human nature or learned behaviours that have become second nature and allow for them like exempting women from unrealistic obligations and to what extent does the ethical imperative demand that religion subvert these? The example of the (an attractive woman on the battle field that is the law of the Torah makes permissible under debated conditions to a soldier is a case where the Torah adjusts to deal with the reality of the “evil urge”-Yetzer Harah).
Religious Conflict- a red herring?