Today is Boss’s Day. What, you say, isn’t every day Boss’s Day? Well, sort of. In this Q&A, Lilit Marcus, an editor at the women’s site The Gloss and the author of the “Save the Assistants: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace,” explains how ambitious working women should (and shouldn’t) mark the day, and how to turn a difficult boss into a mentor.
Gabrielle Birkner: What are some appropriate ways to celebrate?
Lilit Marcus: There are two schools of thought about Boss’s Day presents. One is that you should get your boss a little something in order to be professional and thank them for the opportunity of working for them. The other school, which I belong to, thinks it is absurd to buy a present for someone who earns 10 times as much as you do and has the ability to fire you. So if you want to compromise, get them a card and say something and honest and meaningful about how you’ve learned from them or gained insight from working at the company. Keep it brief — you don’t want to go overboard. Save the gushing for when you get promoted.
What’s the worst thing you could do on Boss’ Day?
The National Book Award finalists were announced yesterday. And for the first time ever, 13 of the 20 finalists were female. They included Lionel Shriver, (acclaimed Jewish novelist) Nicole Krauss, and most wonderfully, alternative punk rocker Patti Smith for her recently published memoir. Jonathan Franzen, subject of so much acclaim and backlash in recent weeks, was notably not on the list.
It’s wonderful to see the numbers looking so good. When the New Yorker announced its “20 Under 40” several months ago, half of that list was made up of women as well. Other year-end lists have been inching towards parity, too.
These changes can’t just be random. It’s my guess that some decision makers in the literary world have been listening to the stream of criticism coming from women for years. Let’s be clear; “Franzenfreude” was not the first outcry of its kind. Female authors have been up in arms time and time again reacting to one egregious slight or another, forced to explain why yet another lopsided list or impolitic remark is offensive and biased. But their voices are loud.
It never ceases to surprise me when I meet other women, most of them women who have or have had professional careers, who let their husbands take care of every detail of their family’s financial life.
I guess feeling compelled to have control (and share decision-making with my husband) over my and my family’s financial life is rooted in my mother’s experience. When she and my father split up after more than 20 years of marriage, I saw that she had to unlearn a lifetime of messages about what it meant to be a woman in order to feel empowered to take care of herself, financially speaking.
It turns out that that model of what it means to be a “wife” hasn’t changed, or perhaps hasn’t changed enough. Because when they leave college and set out on their own, young Jewish women are often not able to manage their own financial lives, according to Deborah Rosenbloom, director of programs at Jewish Women International.
It’s no secret that Israel is a fabulous country to live in if you happen to be struggling with infertility. Not only is health care considered a right, not a privilege, but so is childbearing. The universal government-funded health care, package covers fertility treatments for women until they produce two children.
Israeli women take full and enthusiastic advantage of the privilege. Unlike their American counterparts, who must make tremendous financial sacrifices to finance in vitro fertilization treatments, the number of attempts are not limited by their means. Even the poorest of women make attempt after attempt. They can use their own eggs, or donor eggs, and they have the right to keep trying at state expense. (Unofficially, I have seen anecdotal evidence of “infertility aliya” — American Jewish couples who have become citizens and settled in Israel primarily so that they can qualify for state-funded IVF. In the US, they simply can’t afford children.)
Now, the state has even better news for women who aren’t dealing with infertility yet — but worry that they might someday. Beginning this month, the freezing of eggs by healthy women for future use is available in Israel for the first time covered by state health insurance.
Sarah Seltzer came away from watching “The Social Network,” the movie about the founding of Facebook, peeved about its (non)portrayal of women. In her post, “The (Male-Only) Social Network,” she quoted Maya Dusenbery about “the wall of giggle and boobs that composes the film’s background.” I, too, came away miffed about this, but also thinking about the fact that those giggles and boobs belonged to a large (excuse the pun) number of young Asian women.
In a scene in the film, in which the Mark Zuckerberg character pulls his friend Eduardo Saverin out of an AEΠ (a Jewish fraternity) party to talk to him, Zuckerberg glances over at a group of Asian female Harvard students and asks what they are doing there. Saverin answers with something about how Asian girls like “us,” meaning Jewish guys. A bit later, two such students come on to Zuckerberg and Saverin and one ends up going out with the latter.
As someone who has observed the growth in the number of couples made up of Jewish men and Asian women (especially so in Northern California, where I live and where there is a relatively high rate of interracial relationships in general), I took note of Saverin’s offhand line and wondered whether he was referencing a false stereotype or a legitimate trend.
Does Orthodoxy make women girly?
That is the essence, I believe, of Israeli religious feminist Chana Pinchasi’s argument in an opinion piece in Ynet. In lamenting the absence of religious women in positions of public leadership in Israel, Pinchasi asked, “Why don’t we have a Keren Neubach, Shelly Yachimovitch, or Ilana Dayan? Why isn’t there a religious woman with a clear, polished, elaborate and committed ideological voice at the center of the public discourse? I mean the voice of a woman who does not deny her femininity but also does not play with it, and for whom it is not obsequious. The type who is both a mother and professional and has a critical public voice that you may not agree with but you cannot help but respect.”
I have been wondering the same thing. Although, to be fair, judging by Ynet alone, Pinchasi herself has a strong voice, as do Rivka Lubitch and Chana Kehat and a few others. But it seems to me that religious women are socialized into putting ourselves last, into fitting into social expectations, into not being too loud or too disagreeable, and into not really breaking out of the rules too much.
Leah Berkenwald discussed how the reality show “Sister Wives” has joined HBO’s fictional “Big Love” in shining the spotlight on polygamous lifestyles, and in raising interesting questions about our ideas about marriage, monogamy and religion.
Her conclusion? “I came to realize that my problem with “Sister Wives” is not a problem with the family itself (they are actually quite likeable people), nor is it a problem with alternate polyamorous lifestyles. What I do have a problem with is religious fundamentalism and its adherence to biblical notions of marriage and paternalism. And that applies to Jewish fundamentalists as well.”
Probably because because I’m the harried mother of three, but when I watch portrayals of these strictly religious, patriarchal, and fundamentalist Mormons I’m thinking less about the sex and more about the kids. And, of course, I’m thinking about the Jews.
In addition to hard-core religion and patriarchy, when it comes to having children, ultra-Orthodox Jews and the polygamist Mormon fringe have an identical philosophy — they believe that more is more. The difference is that, unlike their Biblical forefathers, even the most Orthodox Jews believe in one wife at a time. Being fruitful and multiplying to one womb per family.
You expect to see naked (or near naked) women on the cover of Playboy. On the cover of ESPN magazine? Not so much.
When our family’s copy of Outside magazine arrived recently, the cover made me look twice, and not in a good way. The cover photo of female climber Alex Puccio shows off her impressive abs between the parts of her bikini, and also a tousled head of hair and come-hither expression.
Inside the feature story, headlined “Exposure Special: XX Factor,” is a big picture of a Torah. Not the Jewish holy scroll, but rather an Olympic snowboarder named Torah Bright, who wears only a sweater and manages to look as inviting as a Playboy bunny.
ESPN magazine arrived a day later, with a dozen naked women on the cover. The women are members of the USA water polo team, and in the centerfold — yes, an actual centerfold — is the team frolicking to and fro underwater, totally and utterly naked.
Yesterday, The Sisterhood — inspired by the new television show “$#*! My Dad Says” — asked our readers and Facecbook fans to send in their mother’s (or grandmother’s, step-mother’s or mother-in-law’s) favorite sayings. They chimed in with these gems. Some are attributed; others were sent in anonymously.
• “With every generation an improvement.”
– Rose Magder
• “Even a fish wouldn’t get caught if he didn’t open his mouth.”
• “You don’t marry the man you can live with — you marry the man you can’t live without.”
–Hattie Seligman, z”l
• “If he had two brains he’d be a half-wit.”
Fall fashion may be drawing inspiration from an unlikely source: yeshiva girls.
Forbes has released its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world — and a Jewish woman has the No. 2 slot. That would be Irene Rosenberg, the CEO of Kraft Foods — makers of Cheez Whiz, Kool-Aid, Velveeta, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers, among many other food products. Check out the Forbes list in its entirety here.
Miri Cohen, a professor who researches the different ways that Jewish and Arab Israeli women deal with breast cancer, said that many Arab women still feel the need to hide their illness, which is often perceived as a death sentence in their communities. Haaretz has this Q&A with Professor Cohen.
Dumped by his girlfriend, 28-year-old struggling comedy writer Justin Halpern packed up his life in Los Angeles and returned back to San Diego to live with his parents. And it was there at home that he discovered comedy gold: his Jewish septuagenarian father. Justin began transcribing the daily musings of his father, Sam, whose sayings Justin describes as a mixture between Socrates and Lenny Bruce, for a Twitter feed. The Twitter feed, full of profanity-laden gems, quickly became a viral success. ”Before long, the Twitter account turned into a bestselling book, and now it is the basis for a new TV show”$#*! My Dad Says,” starring William Shatner as Sam.
But we think Jewish mothers are pretty funny, too. And so we at The Sisterhood are asking our readers to send in “$#*! Their Moms Say.” Send us some of the words of wisdom — precious or silly — bestowed upon you by your mothers. The subject matter can be anything, as long as the voice is theirs. You can email them to us at email@example.com, or post them in the comments section below.
To get started here are a few from the Sisterhood friends and family:
I returned home from my cousin’s wedding Sunday night, happy and exhausted with barely enough energy to flop onto the couch and turn on the TV. That is how I found myself watching the two new episodes of TLC’s “Sister Wives,” a reality TV show about a modern polygamous family. I think the expected feminist response to a show about polygamy is a negative one, summed in this post on Jezebel: “Sister Wives Talk Like Soul-Sucking Stepford Zombies.” It’s easy to condemn the show, and “the lifestyle” (as they call it) but after watching the first few episodes, I found myself pondering polygamy and its presence in our history as Jews. After all, my biblical namesake was a sister wife.
When it comes to bible study, I am only familiar with the basics. But even I know that polygamy features prominently in the stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs. The story I know best is that of Jacob, who married both Leah and Rachel. (This story is expanded in the midrash told by Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent.”) Rachel, the woman Jacob married for love, gave birth to Joseph and eventually died in childbirth with her second child, Benjamin. Thanks to polygamy, Jacob was able to father the 12 sons (and one daughter). The sons would then go on to father the 12 Tribes of Israel with his wife Leah and their hand servants, Bilhah and Zilpah. It’s hard to ignore the centrality of polygamy, or “plural marriage,” in our own cultural heritage.
The paperback version of Deborah Tannen’s latest book “You Were Always Mom’s Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives”, is just out from Ballantine Books. In this interview, conducted over email, Tannen — a Georgetown linguistics professor, who has studied the quirks and patterns of the “New York Jewish conversational style”— explains why women feel competitive with their female siblings, and what they can do about it.
Hinda Mandell: It seems like Jewish mothers represent such an iconic symbol in both Jewish and broader American culture. Yet when I think of sisters in Jewish culture, the only thing that comes to mind is the biblical story of Rachel and Leah, and Jacob’s love for the younger sister. I know that the Ten Commandments instruct us to “Honor thy mother and thy father,” but why is it sometimes hard for two sisters to treat each other with respect?
Everyone’s talking about “The Social Network”, the movie chronicling the founding of Facebook. It was the weekend’s #1 movie and is an Oscar favorite It’s also attracted notice for its (non) portrayal of women. Feminist writers have weighed in thoughtfully, explaining that the movie’s women are mere props, that the creators of the film loaded the story with more misogyny than actually existed in reality, that female programmers and businesswomen were ignored, and mostly that the shallow images of women as mindless groupies undercuts the otherwise subtle, well-drawn aspects of the film.
I have to agree. Like most viewers, I loved “The Social Network.” First of all, as someone who was at Harvard when the movie took place, I thought it captured certain aspects of our bizarre, anachronistic undergraduate life and, by extension, the larger Northeastern privileged “striver” academic milieu, with an uncanny accuracy. I particularly liked the way the brilliant, eccentric (Jewish) Facebook founder — Mark Zuckerberg, a character who bears little resemblance to his real-life avatar — simmered with resentment towards the remaining WASPy scions who walked to same halls that he did with an easy, jovial entitlement he couldn’t possess.
A dear, and shockingly young, friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer last year. She has undergone chemotherapy and surgery, and is now dealing with radiation and a second round of chemo in advance of more surgery.
I’d do anything I could to support her and the scientific work that might one day make breast cancer less common.
But I’m not much of a ribbon-wearer, so still won’t be adding a pink ribbon to the lapel of my jacket this month, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And when I saw the headline of Chanel Dubofsky’s Sisterhood post, “Why I Hate Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” it grabbed me like a mammogram grabs, well, you know what it grabs.
Despite what you think you know about the 2008 presidential election, the recently released book “Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women” (Free Press) by Salon.com senior writer Rebecca Traister, proves there is still much to learn. Allison Gaudet Yarrow asked Traister about her thoughts on the bitterness toward women during the election and about Jewish women’s duty to feminism.
Allison Gaudet Yarrow: Your book chronicles how the 2008 election reinvented women and power. What changed?
Rebecca Traister: Our sense of how women could behave in public and political life. Suddenly so many more models for public femininity are possible.
Why do American women want our female leaders to be better versions of ourselves, but when they’re not, we’re their harshest critics?
Dear Breast Cancer:
I am aware. It’s not because of the extremely effective marketing, with the pink ribbon campaigns. It’s because I lived in your house, and you lived in mine.
It seems that my mother’s breast cancer was just bad luck, and not genetic. Even if my mother didn’t have one of the genetic mutations for breast cancer most common in Ashkenazic Jewish women — and didn’t pass that gene onto me — I’m a woman, and one in eight of us will be diagnosed with the disease in our lifetime. That means that I should feel moved to light a candle and walk around a track with a lot of other people. I should love October, I should welcome a chance to spread more “awareness” of breast cancer.
One of the great sporting events in Orthodox synagogues is correcting the layners — i.e., the Torah readers. The cantillations on the Torah are an intricate, lovely cultural heritage, one of our most treasured. But they are also difficult to master, require practice and are performed in front of an unmarked scroll — that is, no vowels, punctuation or cantillations marks. It is very hard to layn well, and understandably, mistakes happen. But forgiveness does not. In most Orthodox synagogues, although there are generally two people standing at the podium for the purpose of correcting the layners, more often than not, corrections are barked from all across the sanctuary, like a real spectator sport.
Orthodox boys are inducted into this practice at the tender age of 13, when the message of “Now you are a man” conflates with the experience of being barked at and then being expected to just, well, keep going. As one man told me in the context of research I conducted on Orthodox men, boys learn that to be a man means not to cry, not to get upset, and not to even feel the experience of an entire congregation barking at you. You just keep performing. Orthodox girls, however, are not inducted into this emotionless performance, and that has some interesting repercussions.
Water has no color, and yet it contains the rainbow. Transparent and reflective, water reveals the myriad shades of cloud, sky, and light; the rosy glow of dawn, the orange burst of sunset. The soul has no color, and yet it imbibes the flavors, melodies, and histories of humanity. Intangible and sacred, the soul is never generic; each one tells its own story and sings its own song.
Yavilah McCoy’s African-American family has, four generations and counting, been on a journey into Jewish living. Along the way, she and her ancestors transformed and enriched the Jewish community in ways that are only starting to be felt on a broader stage. In “The Colors of Water,” a theater piece with music, Yavilah recounts her family saga — and sings its beautiful songs — in her own powerful voice
Anita Diamant, a best-selling author, is the founder and president of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center. This was originally published on Jewish Women’s Archive’s Jewesses With Attitude, blog, which crossposts regularly with The Sisterhood
Israel is mulling a ban on face veils.
The editor of the online Jewish women’s magazine 614 is out with a new book about how single women can stay sane in our wedding-obsessed culture — not to mention our reproduction-obsessed faith.