‘Unorthodox’: The Real Woman Who Inspired the Series Says Women Were the Ones Who Oppressed Her

The Netflix series Unorthodox debuted in March 2020. A fews after Deborah Feldman published her memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, in 2012, the story was developed into a Netflix series. The writer — on which the Unorthodox main character Esty was based — says she doesn’t look at the patriarchy the same way that people outside of the Orthodox community do.

The writer of the memoir that inspired Netflix’s ‘Unorthodox’ talks about her life in the Satmar Jewish community

Unorthodox Esty and Yanky
Amit Rahav and Shira Haas in Netflix’s Unorthodox | Anika Molnar/Netflix

In the four episodes of Unorthodox, it’s hard not to see the women in the Satmar community as oppressed. Men — but specifically — the rabbi seem to run the show and make all the decisions.

However, Feldman didn’t always see it that way. Especially when she herself lived in that neighborhood. In a recent interview with the New York Times, the Unorthodox writer recalled:

When I married my husband, I just remember being so impressed — in a bad way — by the fact that he was completely in the grips of his mother. It took him a very long time to free himself from that.

When she started taking a feminist philosophy course at Sarah Lawrence College, her mindset was challenged once again. Classmates told Feldman: “you left the patriarchy.” But she didn’t see it that way.

“Well, if I left the patriarchy, where were all the men in this patriarchy? Why were they always bent over books while the people who oppressed me were women?” Feldman wondered. Looking at her life, it wasn’t men who had oppressed her the worst.

“Why was it that the people who hurt me the most were my aunt, mother-in-law, female teachers, the female mikvah attendant, the female Kallah teacher, and the female sex therapist?” the Unorthodox scribe told the Times.

Deborah Feldman believes ‘women make the story real’

On Unorthodox, Feldman explained further reasoning behind her thoughts on gender in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Unorthodox Esty
Shira Haas as Esty Shapiro in Netflix’s Unorthodox | Anika Molnar/Netflix

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“… if you look at the story of Esty, it’s women who are making the decisions,” the writer argued. “It’s the women she’s interacting with, who are basically the driving force behind community life, the engine behind the story.”

It’s a completely different perspective with which to view the Netflix series. Feldman continued:

If you watch the series with this in mind, you realize that the men are actually kind of passive figures carried along by the story. They play the roles in how it’s been told, but it’s the women who make the story go on.

Will there be a season 2 of ‘Unorthodox’?

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Metro reported earlier this year on a conversation with Unorthodox co-creator Anna Winger. The publication noted that the series was “so successful that people … flocked to social media, crying out for a second season.”

However, Winger “poured cold water” on the concept of Unorthodox Season 2. She said she and co-executive producer Alexa Karolinski always planned that Esty’s tale would be told in four episodes.

“We’re not doing a sequel to this because we feel that we really told this story,” Winger told Metro. “It was always designed as a mini-series.”