By fourth grade, I was already a troublemaker — taking on any boy who dared to challenge, in the classroom or on the playground, girls’ equality or worth. I learned from the best of the troublemakers, women who refused to take no for an answer when going after what they want: my mother and my grandmother. And from iconic feminists like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin.
The Jewish Women’s Archive annual luncheon, held March 18 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, was a place where making trouble — and, in the process, making history — was cause for celebration. Steinem, who has Jewish roots, presented awards to the renowned Jewish feminist (and Sisterhood contributor) Cottin Pogrebin, to Elizabeth A. Sackler, the founder of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, and Rebecca Traister, the author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” about women’s role in the 2008 presidential election.
“Judaism…has informed who I am,” Pogrebin told The Sisterhood, to the extent that I think it contributed to what I have done. I was raised with a very, very clear and pressing sense of justice. If things are wrong, we’ve got to fix it. It’s up to the Jews.”
Reflecting on the afternoon’s theme, Traister told The Sisterhood: “Behaving independently as a woman, in almost any way, causes trouble. … If you do something as simple as tell a truth that is different from conventional wisdom or prioritize a story you think isn’t being told loudly enough, that in itself is some kind of rupture, some kind of social revolution, it’s the smallest thing in the world. We are still in a moment when to exercise independence … is ‘bad’ behavior, troublemaker behavior, good-bad behavior.”
Thanks to the Jewish Women’s Archive, though, we now have records of all of this good-bad behavior, the type of behavior that puts heat my blood, and keeps so many of us hungry for justice. And thanks to women like Pogrebin, Sackler, Traister and Steinem, we can see the beauty in being nothing but trouble.