I just came across this op-ed piece, from e-jewish philanthrophy, by Rabbi Elyssa Joy Auster, criticizing the Conservative Movement for not engaging with girls and young women at summer camp about wearing kippot. The girls, when asked why they don't wear kippot, said "“It’s a boy thing,” or “The tradition is for boys to wear them,”".
I also came across this response, from a young woman whom I met at one of those summer camps, Eliana Light, who has managed to integrate her egalitarianism into her practice in a thoughtful and committed way. She writes that "a woman comes to more [traditionally male-dominated] ritual in one of two ways; she either gradually becomes more learned and aware and, either because of politics or person feelings or both, wants to take them on, or she’s just done them forever and never thought about it." She also points out the importance of having role models.
My own experience highlights the importance of all these factors- I grew up in a community where more women than men wore tallitot, and while more men than women wore kippot, women often did wear kippot. Then I became more observant, and began an in depth exploration of the issues, I discovered much of what I am gradually sharing with you on this blog- that head covering in some fashion has long been part of Jewish women's observance, and that there is a pretty good set of textual reasons for doing so even before I married. My role models included several women a few years older than me at my college minyan, as well as a rabbi or two. (Also, a woman who turned out to be a friend's mother, later on, who I saw across a room with a tichel and a tallis, one shabbat.)
But what really drew me in about Eliana's blog post was her attitude- that her egalitarian practice was both ideological and matter-of-fact. She had done appropriate learning about her ritual choices, even to the point of choosing against wearing tallit katan because she had been doing it "for the wrong reasons" (a decision I feel quite ambivalent about, but that's off the topic- my interest in it here just shows that she has put significant consideration into her actions). At the same time, they are also "just what one does" as an adult Jew- not something that has to be constantly justified or worked-over again and again. It is a balance that I think is the real goal- to approach each mitzvah with serious consideration, but not to be trapped in that contemplation all the time, to the detriment of actual practice. I seriously recommend her piece for that reason, if for no other.