Hurricane Irene forced President Obama and his family to cut their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard short, sending them back to Washington a few days earlier than they had planned.
But even a forecast of bad weather hadn’t stopped criticism of President Obama’s vacation reading list. When it began circulating on blogs, I was incensed. How dare they slam him for reading serious, acclaimed, nuanced and politically-tinged fiction on his vacation? How nitpicky and snotty, I thought. Let the man read what he wants.
Furthermore, as a lover and student of literature, I believe we can access truth just as easily via fiction as through non-fiction, and in fact that those barriers are overemphasized in our culture.
It’s ironic that in the very same period that the East Coast is experiencing a hurricane and a rare strong earthquake, we commemorate two “earth shaking” historic events. On August 18, 1920, women won a years-long fight for suffrage with ratification of the 19th Amendment; and on August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans spoke out for jobs and freedom at the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At both those moments, disenfranchised individuals stood up to demand that their voices be heard. To honor these victories for equality and justice, NCJW is proud to join several coalition partners to launch HERvotes, a voter education and mobilization effort for women and those who care about women’s Health and Economic Rights, leading up to the November 2012 elections.
The gains achieved between and beyond 1920 and 1963 paved the way for other landmark laws that have improved the health, well-being, economic security, and equality of women. Now many of these gains are at risk.
Anyone who has spent time arguing about politics–particularly hot-button issues like abortion–is familiar with “glazed-eyes, nodding syndrome” which is what happens when listeners (who may even agree with us) grow uncomfortable with the topic and hope to goodness we move on, soon, and yes, yes, women’s rights blah blah blah. It’s just politics, these expressions tell us; why act like it’s so personal? Or maybe it’s just too depressing and abstract to contemplate.
But when you’re a woman–or a person of color, or an immigrant, or someone dependent on government programs for health or retirement–in this current political climate of austerity and rollback, you don’t have the luxury of having your eyes glaze over or feeling like it’s depressingly abstract.
For you, the political is deeply personal; this is your life.
I am suffering from Periodic Missile Stress Disorder (PMSD), which is being aggravated by the world’s indifference to my situation.
Once again sirens sounded last night in our sleepy town of Meitar and the non-stop booms of missiles falling in nearby Beersheva could clearly be heard and yet we are not at war or even worthy of mention in the international press.
Like PMS, this syndrome makes me unexpectedly irritable and short of patience in otherwise normal situations. But (thankfully) it isn’t quite Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as I have been so far lucky enough not to be in the actual vicinity of direct hit.
But my psyche has been hit time and time again. My PSMD is based in the well-founded knowledge that the end is nowhere in sight and more missiles are coming. As a resident of the south of Israel, I am on a first name basis with more people than I care to count who have had missiles fall in their living room, on their street/school/car, or who have been horribly wounded when they fell only a few feet away.
For once it will be the men sitting behind women, rather than the other way around.
Unlike in Jerusalem buses passing through Haredi neighborhoods, in which women are required to sit at the back while men sit at the front, on the capital city’s new light rail system it will be men sitting in the last car of the trains.
While representatives of the ultra-Orthodox Edah Chareidit have protested the light rail through its years-long development, they now say they will use the last car for men only and coordinate prayers there in afternoons and evenings.
“The distance between the cars solves the halachic problem of sitting behind a woman, so we’ll have no problem sitting there and proving that our insistence on sitting in the front in buses does not stem from chauvinistic motives,” said Edah spokesman Yoelish Kroiz in an article on Ynet.
It is a new age for Jewish actresses in Hollywood who no longer follow the frizzy-haired nasal-voiced stereotypes, writes Danielle Berrin at the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.
Over at the Family Inequality blog, Phillip N. Cohen looks at the sexism in the recent Smurf revival, and why he is happy his daughter’s didn’t get the Smurfette toy at McDonald’s.
A new study confirms that the portrayal of women in media has become increasingly sexualized over the past few decades.
Dave Zirin at the Nation points out how GQ’s 25 coolest athletes of all time included nary a woman.
In the eyes of many, Emily Amrusi is the Israeli settler movement’s “It Girl.” The fashionable 32-year-old former spokeswoman for the Yesha Council is now working as a journalist and author. Amrusi writes for Israel HaYom a widely circulated free right-wing newspaper, including a regular column for the political supplement of its weekend edition.
Her loosely autobiographical first novel, “Tris,” published in 2009, is about a young settler woman who develops thyroid deficiency after childbirth. When she discovers that the condition also afflicts not only other mothers in the settlement, but also women in the neighboring Palestinian village, she befriends one of those Arab women and forms an alliance to change the environmental conditions causing the medical problem. “It’s a book that allows a peek into a small settlement in Samaria,” Amrusi said. “I presented a very authentic picture…I wanted to sketch a truthful portrait of our lives – the good things and the less good things. Some people didn’t like how they came out looking. It was like having a hidden camera filming us.”
Amrusi was born and raised in Jerusalem in a Sephardic family which has lived there for twelve generations. Her entire family became religious when she was in 6th grade. Amrusi now lives in Talmon, a 200-family settlement on a hilltop in Samaria, with her husband and three young children.
Lo and behold, New York City has decided that sex education should be mandatory in public middle and high schools, and include instruction on condom use and guidance on the appropriate age for sexual activity.
According to The New York Times story about the change:
New York City’s new mandate goes beyond the state’s requirement that middle and high school students take one semester of health education classes. The city’s mandate calls for schools to teach a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade.
Technically speaking it’s only formal sex education that is new in the public school system. Some schools already include some sex education in their health classes, though not all discuss how to prevent pregnancy and disease beyond HIV/AIDS, on which New York State began requiring classes in 1987. And informal sex education (that is, the sex education that happens between teens and in bathrooms) has been part of school life for years, as most parents in the know would confirm. You just can’t be a teenager who is let out of the confines of their home and not bump up against sex education of some kind, whether it is in the form of friends bragging, misinformation on bathroom walls or actually helpful information from your best friend.
“She is not worried for her household because of the snow, for her whole household is dressed in scarlet. ” (from ‘Eshet Chayil’ - Proverbs 31:21)
This kittel explores the mother as dressmaker. When she clothes her children she is providing not just physical protection, but also nurturing and caring for them, even when she is absent.
Mothers have always done this. In the Bible’s Book of Samuel 1, Chapter 2, Hannah says goodbye to Shmuel and leaves him at the Mishkan with an ‘ephod’ a white linen garment. According to the midrash this garment grew as the boy grew older, keeping him constantly connected to his mother, who had prayed so desperately for a child. In Genesis, Rivka dresses her favorite son, Ya’acov, in his older brother’s clothing so they can fool his father into giving him the first-born son’s blessing. He then left and never saw his mother again. When Adam and Chava leave Gan Eden, God acts as their mother when clothing them to face the world.
Reproductive rights have never come easy. This has been the case for every single advancement in a woman’s ability to control reproduction, all of which were initially painted as immoral and unnatural. And this is the case now, with the debate surrounding the abortion of one twin, often referred to as pregnancy reduction.
As explained in a recent article by Ruth Padawer in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the aborting of one fetus while carrying twins is becoming a growing source of controversy in the medical community, while it can also be a lifesaver for the young mothers who elect to do it. Still though, many doctors refuse to perform the procedure, and many women who go through it are ashamed to discuss it even with close friends.
Areleh Harel is not your average matchmaker. The Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem sets up marriages between Orthodox gay men and Orthodox lesbians. The goal is to allow Orthodox Jews to fulfill their desires to marry and have children with partners who understand what it’s like to be gay, and who can keep the secret.
Harel started the offbeat (some would use other words) service six years ago, and pretty soon he’ll have a website and a staff that does the work for him. For not many shekels (roughly $42) hopeful singles can post profiles.
On Postsecret, someone recently sent in a postcard (pictured right) about mothers, daughters and body image. I think most can relate to the anonymous author of the Postsecret card. When mothers struggle with their own body image, their insecurities are often passed down to their daughters. In 2010, Peggy Orenstein tackled the difficult issue of food, weight and motherhood in The New York Times magazine. This is a universal issue, affecting a variety of ethnic groups and socio-economic classes.
But there is a distinctly Jewish element to the mother-daughter-body image issue. Jewish mothers, traditionally, (and stereotypically) aren’t shy about their own issues, or the issues they see for their daughters. Anonymous wondered what her mother would change about her body; a Jewish daughter would know.
Melanie Stark was forced from her job in sales at Harrod’s in for refusing to wear make-up. After five years of employment at the British department store, the company confronted Stark with a “Ladies’ dress code” which included the following strict instructions: “Full makeup at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all times and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a ‘washing out’ effect).”
Stark refused to comply. The 24-year-old told The Guardian, “I was appalled. It was insulting… It’s not like wearing black trousers, or a black shirt. This is my face. Make up can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that.”
While Stark is considering her legal options, the blogosphere erupted with some surprising reactions. Liz Jones at The Mail wrote a scathing attack against Stark: “An unmade-up face tells me you find it hard to get up early enough to attend to your maquillage…Women who feel no compunction to improve what nature bestowed upon them are, in my experience, arrogant, lazy or deluded, and frequently all three.”
The Huffington Post is out with its list of the top 10 women religious leaders, and one is a rabbi, another a Jewish activist and a third is a spiritual guru with Jewish roots.
Coming in at No. 9 is Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum who leads the only LGBT synagogue in Manhattan, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah which was extremely outspoken about passing gay marriage in New York. She was a Sisterhood 50 pick, one of Newsweek’s most influential rabbis and was ordained by the Reconstructionist rabbinical college.
Time was, a Jewish woman’s legacy could be counted on to include, outside of family, two things: her recipe for sponge cake and membership in a synagogue sisterhood, or one of numerous women’s organizations dedicated to raising money and hope for Jewish children, the State of Israel, indigent elderly or anyone else life had been unkind to.
These groups satisfied Jewish women’s needs to keep everyone healthy, well fed and well read. Because nothing less than future generations of doctors and nurses, lawyers and teachers was at stake.
But these groups also played to another side: a need for friendship and, in what used to be “a man’s world,” an influential outlet for decision-making.
Until recently, my relationship with waxing was unemotional. And then I went to a makeup boutique to buy some new foundation.
That’s when - during the application of a tint called “Blush Stone,” an incongruous elicitation if ever there was one - that the makeup artist said to me, “We gotta take care of those.”
The recent ballot initiative to ban circumcision in San Francisco, which was recently dropped, ignited a hair-raising and soul-searching debate on the topic between Jews and non-Jews, and Jews and Jews alike. For some of us at the Sisterhood, one of the more confounding elements of brit milah conversation was whether we should endorse a procedure that is limited to men.
The Sisterhood spoke with Emily Blake, an M.D., certified mohel and a feminist, about the ballot initiative and what it means to perform a brit milah from a women’s perspective.
Elissa Strauss: How did you decide to become a mohel?
Emily Blake: First, learning to do a circumcision was part of my training to become an OB/GYN. The next crucial factor was hearing from a friend, a gay black man, in a time before AIDS, his observation that black men’s’ circumcisions were more often more poorly done than white men’s. In the hospital I was at clinic babies were predominantly African American and the interns, who are just learning the procedure, were responsible for doing all of their circumcisions. So I took it upon myself to do as many of the hospital circumcisions as possible, giving each one the attention and respect it deserved. It was a social justice issue for me.
Are even the most physically accomplished young women vulnerable to eating disorders? And does not listing their weights on sports trading cards prevent it? Or contribute to the problem?
My 10-year-old daughter, Tae Kwon Do high purple belt and baseball fan, gets Sports Illustrated Kids. Before dispatching her new copy to camp, I took a look at the trading cards bound into the issue. Two of the nine cards, which feature young athletes, are about women: Eleven-time Olympic medal-winning swimmer Natalie Coughlin and college lacrosse player Shannon Smith.
The backs of the other cards, of male baseball, soccer, football and hockey players, listed their heights and weights, along with their athletic accomplishments. But on the young women’s cards? Just their heights. Not their weights.
Nurit Engelmeyer is a champion bicyclist. Only 15 years old, she has already taken home a slew of medals and won this year’s National Road Bicycling championship and the Time Trial National championship, though with her shy modesty and gentle demeanor, she is the last person to let anyone know. She trains six days a week, can often be seen on the Modi’in roads with her gear, and she gives many of us – by us, I mean her Mom’s friends – a huge, vicarious thrill.
Yet it is hard for her to get the attention of the cycling establishment in Israel. Some of her teammates have received sponsorships to race in Europe this summer, but not Nurit. Why? Because she is a girl. There is no funding and no real support for girls’ cycling in Israel. So even though the boys who were are sponsored have less of a chance than she does of winning races, she is staying home while they advance in their cycling careers.
There is no attention, no understanding that ‘women’s cycling’ is even a field of its own. There is nothing for girls, not on the national level, not on the adult level, not on the girls’ level. No funding, no awareness, no statistics. Few other sports have organizations focused on competitive women, either, though there is a group for female triatheletes and a women’s basketball league.
Times Square: I walk up to the 2/3 subway stop at 42nd, and on a corner is a group of men in suits, smoking cigarettes. One asks if I have a light, and I shake my head no. The blond guy looks at me and jerks his pelvis up and down, licking his lips.
Upper West Side: Two people, a man and woman, are standing outside a club, presumably trying to get people to come in to see a show. “Hey, Slim Fast,” the man says as I walk past, “you want a ticket?”
Lincoln Center: I’m going back uptown from a doctor’s appointment, listening to music, when a man sidles up next to me. All I hear is “tits” before he continues walking. I turn around to see him watching me.
I think about street harassment for days after it happens, and lately, it feels like it happens every day. There’s a lot to process on a lot of levels. At first I’m shocked and not even sure it happened. Then I’m angry, and I want to do something like scream or punch the harasser. I think about what I’m wearing, evaluate whether or not I look particularly attractive that day. (Let the victim blaming begin.)