I think a lot of women don't know quite how to respond in their own mind to this, and I think there is trepidation or a lack of skills in looking it up. So a lot of people (including men) fall back on apologetics or trying to pretend it's not there or trying to understand it superficially (with all the negativity that implies).
But first, here's an explanation of daat (or daas, if you prefer):
Daat is very hard to translate because it means different things in different contexts. In some contexts, daat means “knowledge” or “mind,” but neither of those definitions relate to daat in this context.
In Kiddushin 80b, Rashi explains daat kalah as being more "easily swayed/influenced/seduced” by subjective factors.
So there you go.
And yes, men are also swayed by subjective factors, like their physical needs (which is why some men can "forget" really important things or behave irresponsibly and selfishly when they are tired or hungry or worse), but an observant person will see that it's still different than the way in which women are swayed and influenced.
For example, it's easier to convince women to act against their own interests or values or integrity or knowledge than it is for men IF the women are not firmly anchored in emuna.
This is why history is replete with out-of-wedlock conceptions and women functioning as "ladies of the evening" and more recently, the feminist movement and the female pro-abortion stance and joining military combat units. It's immoral men and immoral women taking advantage of such women's daat kalah for their own evil agendas.
In contrast, Chazal heaps praises on women's steadfast emuna and loyalty to Hashem, praising women for keeping the halachot they know more faithfully than men.
So steadfast emuna counteracts any downside to daat kalah.
The prime daat source—Chazal—imbues every person with a center of spiritual gravity to hold him or her securely in place. The more one learns AND internalizes Torah, the more daat he or she has.
Women don't completely lack daat, we are just daat-lite. Men have both daat and binah, but women are lighter than men on daat and heavier than men on binah, baruch Hashem.
Dealing with Daat Kalah
If you are female, you are innately light on daat.
Yes, you are.
But it doesn't mean that you can't achieve personal greatness.
Sara Imeinu was a higher-level prophet than her husband, yet she still had daat kalah.
Beruria was a screaming genius and a baalat emuna, yet she still had daat kalah.
Chana merited to birth Shmuel and is the prototype for tefillah, but she still had daat kalah.
Hashem set things up like this for everyone's benefit. Men are supposed to provide women with daat. It's part of the innate giver role with which Hashem imbued men.
A lot of men refuse to access their own daat, let alone let it overflow onto others, which is one of the major reasons why things have gotten so wonky in the frum world.
If women are lucky, they have fathers or husbands who are a healthy source of daat. This is a significant part of the male role in family and society. Unfortunately, many men don't know to fulfill this role properly and many women don't understand the importance of being receptive to this male contribution.
If you are a woman and you don't have the appropriate men in your life, or the men you do have are either amei haaretz or namby-pamby misers about providing you with your rightful quantities of daat, then you can turn to learning mussar on your own, learning a halacha a day, consulting with a rav (if he's right for you), or just turn straight to the Source Himself: Hashem (which is exactly what smart Jewish women have done for millennia, actually.)
What Daat Kalah is NOT
Daat kalah is NOT synonymous with being:
- deserving of disrespect
- blindly obedient
- an excuse to denigrate women (including a self-denigrating woman)
It CAN be the root of or exacerbate the above negative qualities, but it doesn't NEED to.
And again, this can't be said enough:
Daat in this context has nothing to do with intellectual IQ.
You (ladies) can have skipped 2 grades in elementary school, achieve early entrance to Harvard medical school, and graduate at the top of your class...and still be controlled by your daat kalah. (Yep. I've seen it, and it ain't pretty.)
On the other hand, you can be a regular student and get married out of high school and balance keeping house while sitting pregnant at your part-time desk job...and be wise beyond your years, a fountain of good middot, wisdom, and brilliantly applied binah. (I've seen this too and believe me, it's something to aim for.)
The Wise Woman of Valor: You
The Torah itself is compared to a Woman of Valor (Eishet Chayil), and other exalted holy female characterizations are:
- the holy Jewish neshamah
- the Shechinah
- Eretz Yisrael
- the Jewish people
- the Sabbath (Shabbat Kallah/Bride)
So in a nutshell, you can have daat kalah and still become:
- a prophetess
- a woman of great wisdom
- a woman of profound intelligence
- a holy woman
- a tzadekes (a completely righteous woman)
- the best adviser to your husband (so says Bava Metzia 59a)
On the other hand, a man has normal amounts of daat, but he can still be an evil pig.
So to sum it all up:
Women who allow their innate negatives to control them are a pain in the neck and damage society.
Men who allow their innate negatives to control them are a pain in the neck and damage society.
Women who use properly what Hashem gives them become a merit for the world (as the Kli Yakar says in Chayei Sara, that righteous women are as vital to the world as the rotation of the Sun).
Men who use properly what Hashem gives them become a merit for the world (like the 36 tzaddikim in whose merit Hashem allows the world to exist)
So everything depends on what you do with it.
Chazal doesn't denigrate women, it states a fact for the benefit of both men and women. (And really, since they mostly expected men to read their words, they mostly wanted men to understand this IN ORDER for men to take proper responsibility.)
Well, if this was your issue (as it was mine at one time), I hope this helped.
Halacha: The Best Boost for Daat Kalah
May we all complete our tikkun in this lifetime without trials or tribulations.