As usual with anything that is authentic Judaism, it's not superficial. It's more complex and contains paradox.
So with that...
There's a very interesting incident described on page 101 in Rav Yehudah Petiya's book Minchat Yehudah (written around 1933) in the chapter on Parshat Ekev. This incident occurred while the rav was still living in Baghdad.
An elderly Jewish woman came to him with the following story:
She owned millstones and had been sifting wheat during in the morning hours when she found a date among the wheat. With the purest of intentions, she made the wrong blessing (she said borei pri ha'adamah instead of borei pri ha'etz) and ate the date.
When she returned to her sifting, she suddenly dozed off and saw an old man standing before her.
"Chen, chen lach, ishah tovah!" he greeted her.
(Chen is often translated as beauty, charm, favor, or grace and the phrase "Chen, chen lah" is found in Zechariah 4:7. So this old man used a beautiful expression of gratitude by saying, "Chen, chen to you, good woman!")
And this old man continued:
"And I give you thanks because you rescued me from the suffering I was enduring, even though you did not rescue me completely."
Then he disappeared.
So Rav Petiyah explained that the soul of this old man had been reincarnated into a date. And just by this simple yet pious woman eating the date, the old man ascended two levels together. As a date, he was at the level of tzomech (plant), skipped the level of chai (animal), and went straight to chai medaber (human).
Rav Petiyah states:
"By virtue of the blessing, he was rectified -- but not completely. Because she made the blessing of borei pri ha'adamah over the date when she should have made the blessing borei pri ha'etz, it's possible that he would have been rectified completely."
It's very interesting that this sincere albeit simple & unlearned elderly woman possessed the ability to completely rectify a lost soul, and even her incorrect blessing still managed to achieve near-rectification. Rectifying souls is what kabbalists on the level of Rav Petiyah do. There are famous stories of tzaddikim rectifying souls by focusing on the special profound kavanot of a blessing before biting into a fruit.
But a simple elderly lady who doesn't even know the correct blessing?
Rav Petiyah offers an astounding reason for this:
"Since women are not obligated to occupy themselves with Torah and learning the secrets of the Zohar, therefore, it was enough for her to rectify the soul of this old man by virtue of a blessing alone."
Men can rectify souls only after lots of learning, mind-focus, and inner purification.
But women can rectify souls just by making a sincere blessing (even if it's the wrong one).
Even more intriguingly, the brief description in the book indicates a particularly simple old woman, a woman who owns millstones and sifts wheat, rather than crochets or embroiders or cooks and bakes like other ladies her age. She's a woman so illiterate and ignorant, she doesn't even know the correct blessing even when the blessing is obvious. (Some blessings are more complicated, like needing to say "ha'adamah" over a banana rather than "ha'etz," but a date blessing is fairly straightforward.)
Furthermore, there's also a chance that she didn't really know Hebrew. Iraqi Jews spoke a form of Judeo-Arabic, which utilized many Hebrew terms (in much the way Yiddish utilizes many Hebrew terms), but she still may not have understood the literal meaning of the all-Hebrew blessing -- which, if true, means that she couldn't have said it with basic kavanah of the literal meaning, which makes it even more incredible that just her sincerity and purity counted for so much.
Finally, unlike the tzaddikim who made specially focused blessings over food, knowing the food often possessed souls in need of rectification, this elderly Jewess had no idea about this possibility.
Yet she was a sincere and pious Jewish lady, so Hashem gave her the merit to achieve a powerful kabbalistic accomplishment without her even realizing it.
But as implied by Rav Petiyah's words above, an illiterate ignorant man could never have achieved the same thing.
Yet there are even deeper and more enlightening implications in this story.
The Jewess Mystique
Likewise, there are Jewish laws purely based on gender that either forbid or permit men or woman to do or not do certain things.
And grounded knowledgeable frum women pleasantly explain that they don't feel the need to engage in men's mitzvot, and that they're even happy they don't bear the same yoke men do. (And men presumably prefer going to a minyan 3 times a day & learning the Daf Yomi to enduring monthly cycles, pregnancy, birth, and menopause.)
Yet it's even deeper than that, according to Rav Petiyah.
For example, because women are mostly forbidden to wear tefillin, this means that women don't NEED to wear tefillin in order to achieve whatever men achieve by wearing tefillin.
In other words, WOMEN CAN ACHIEVE what men achieve WITHOUT specifically male mitzvot.
When I took a tznius class years ago, the speaker explained that a married woman covering her hair is equal to a man donning tefillin shel rosh. Covering your elbows is equal to tefillin shel yad.
Unfortunately, due to the spirit of the times, whenever people talk like this, it sounds like apologetics and patronizing appeasement, like how you try to get a child to do a "biiiiiiig mitzvah!".
(This is despite the fact that specialized photo technology has revealed special changes in the auras of women before and after covering their hair and in the auras of men before and after donning tefillin -- link at the end of the post.)
That's why I like to take sources from before these modern movements. The above story may have been published in 1930s Jerusalem, but it occurred in Baghdad much earlier. Needless to say, turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Iraq was not a bastion of feminism, so we need not suspect that Rav Petiyah was just trying to bulk up women's egos. It's also clear that he wrote the book expecting men to read it, not women.
So we can take his words to heart in the innocence, sincerity, and wisdom with which they were intended.
Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty
Judaism is not a dry, intellectual collection of scholarship.
The entire point of halacha is for the SOUL.
The soul is eternal. This World is a narrow, finite, dim world of only 3-dimensions.
The real world beyond this consists of several different levels and many different dimensions imperceptible and unimaginable to us in our current state.
Our life in this world is finite, 120 years at most.
Beyond that, there is eternity.
This is why the focus needs to go deeper than feel-good or feel-contemporary academic-based arguments, even though a genuine and deeper focus becomes impossible when faced with an opposition that is agnostic at best, and immature, petty, superficial, and glory-seeking.
The Tools You Need
Chana was never and could never be counted in a minyan or lead prayers as chazzan, yet she merited to be the model of prayer for all generations and produced Shmuel Hanavi, who was only second to Moshe Rabbeinu (H/T to informed reader Bracha), achieving more than her illustrious husband, Elkanah. Also, it's interesting to point out that Chana initially achieved the level she did without performing the traditional women's mitzvot connected to giving birth, nursing, and Jewish child-rearing.
Furthermore, holy women achieve their holiness despite regularly entering into a state a spiritual tumah called niddah.
Yes, there are mitzvot traditionally considered in the male realm (like learning Chumash with commentaries), but that women are not only permitted to do, and even receive Heavenly reward for this. (As Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg explained, a woman receives the reward for one who is not obligated in the mitzvah while a man receives the reward for one who is obligated in that mitzvah.)
But as stated above, there are also gender-based prohibitions for both men and women. Those who transgress these prohibitions aren't doing themselves or the Jewish community any good.
Each person has been given the tools he or she needs in order to reach his or her maximum potential.
No one wants a surgeon performing surgery with an electric chainsaw and no one wants logs cut with a scalpel.
You need the tools meant for YOU.
And you'll find your personal tools within your gender, personality, innate character traits, state of health, life situation, culture, and much more.
The Treasure in Your Own Backyard
It's not about women "settling" for second place or being second-best.
It's about women resisting the pressure to expend the time, mental gymnastics, money, and sweat to go digging for gold among rocks in a distant place when she has a field sown with diamonds in her own backyard.
Minchat Yehudah Part I: Teshuvah & What Happens After You Die
For a good explanation and photos of the auras of Jewish men before and after tefillin and Jewish women before and after hair-covering, please see:
The Human Aura (may it be a zechut & an ilui neshama for Menachem ben Reuven -- formerly, I had him identified by his mother's name as per Sefardi minhag, but thank you to Neshama who reminded me that Ashkenazi minhag is different, and thank you to Stella for going out of her way to supply his father's name)
Please click on WOMEN to read more about the holy Jewish women mentioned above.
P.S. Regarding the feminist tides against Torah Judaism: There is a lot more to say, like how some of the leading feminist rabble rebelling against Jewish tradition don't even believe in God, so what do they care about Torah and mitzvot and where women pray and how? They are obviously disreputable hypocrites and rapacious autocrats, may Hashem have mercy and atone for us all.