Sisterhood Blog

Our Barbra

By Sarah Seltzer

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This week Barbra Streisand released “Love is the Answer,” her first studio album in four years. This new album is a collection of old-timey jazz standards like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” produced by Diana Krall, meant to recall Streisand’s early days as a club singer. The one small, intimate show she did to promote the album last week at the Village Vanguard is another such throwback, although the ratio of attendees (less than 100 of them) to media coverage (articles everywhere!) surely must have set some sort of record.

I can’t confess myself a major fan of her music, but I have always admired Streisand for more than her extraordinary pipes. For one, she succeeded as a diva and a sex symbol without ever renouncing her Jewish looks or identity. No nose job, and she’s played Jewish characters galore — one of whom was a Yeshiva boy, no less. For another, she’s never shied away from her gay fanbase, one major part of her adoring throng of listeners. Streisand got her start in gay clubs long before Lady Gaga was even born. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, like her beloved character Katie in “The Way We Were,” Streisand has never backed down from expressing her political views, loudly and unabashedly. (This NFSW remix of Streisand’s famous shut-down of a heckling fan reacting to the singer’s anti-Bush skit is still a YouTube favorite).

In a cultural climate that often punishes women in entertainment, particularly beautiful ones, for having opinions or being outspoken, she has stood firm. And because of all of the above characteristics, mixed with her outsize fame and massive sales, Streisand has been subject to the expected smears and mockery. But she continues to do things her way and thrive, a symbol of triumph for all outsiders.



Comments
Suzie Thu. Oct 1, 2009

What's to admire about Barbra Streisand? (from a Jewish perspective, that is). She either created, or at the very least firmly cemented, a brutal stereotype of Jewish women that's certainly still around today, and is probably going to be around long after she's gone.

Maybe she's the Jewish Tupac Shakur in that sense.

Maria Gatti Fri. Oct 9, 2009

How many of you know the other Barbara, one of my favourite singers? The French Barbara (with three As), birth name Monique Serf. I thought she was a much deeper and more complex singer and songwriter than the US Barbra, and she also famously refused any nose job or other renouncement of Jewish identity. Her stage name Barbara (Brodi) was an homage to her Russian grandmother Varvara Brodsky.

There are many homages to Barbara now, including the name of the town square of St-Marcellin in Isère (Alps) where her family took refuge under the Occupation. A red rose with an almost-black border has also been named after her.

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