Sisterhood Blog

Blotting Out Female Bodies From Textbooks

By Elissa Strauss

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haaretz

In their ongoing quest to obliterate all signs of women from public life, religious Jews in Israel have now decided that the female reproductive system is obscene and have removed it from their science textbooks.

As Haaretz reports, “the Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals.”

Apparently several publishers have already made the changes, and the revised textbooks are on their way to the Ministry for approval. If these new versions are approved, it will be the first time religious students, of which there are 200,000, will use a different set of science books than students in secular schools. Without those chapters on reproduction, religious students will miss out on the chance to learn about the birds and bees from a scientific standpoint, unless they elect to take biology in high school.

The article doesn’t provide any direct quotes or explanations from those who requested these revisions, but it is safe to assume that it is all about that rather slippery notion of female modesty that has become a point of obsession for the ultra-Orthodox.

Now I can understand why a group of people, male people that is, feel as though images of women offend their modest sensibilities and why they would want to eradicate them. I don’t think it is right. I don’t think it is fair. It is not how I want to live. But at least there is some logic to it.

Though, apparently they just couldn’t stop with the outside of women’s bodies, and now the inside of our bodies have got to go too. Perhaps I lack imagination, but does anyone really find a picture of an uterus and a couple of ovaries arousing? Our monthly menstruation cycles? Oh, and STDs? Chlamydia talk as foreplay anyone?

Here is one section they removed: “Every month (during the woman’s period of fertility) one of her ova (the egg cells) ripens and is released from the ovary where it was created. This stage is called ovulation … Only if a sperm cell reaches the fallopian tube during those days will fertilization occur.” I know, hot stuff, right?

By doing away with these lessons, these religious educators not only further drive home the message that all things about the female anatomy are shameful, but they also put their teenagers, boys and girls, at risk. A huge population of young adults without any awareness of the basic functions of the human reproduction system and what can happen when penis meets vagina is something to fear.

Elissa Strauss, a lead blogger for the Sisterhood, has also written about gender and culture for places like the New York Times, Jezebel and Salon. Follow her on Twitter @elissaavery.


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