Sisterhood Blog

There's No Such Thing as 'Acting Like a Man'

By Elissa Strauss

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Much of the conversation surrounding the dismissal of Jill Abramson from her post as editor of the New York Times is about how she was punished for “acting like a man.” We really need to stop saying that.

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Was Jill Abramson Pushed Off 'Glass Cliff'?

By Sarah Seltzer

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The media world, and particularly its women, were scandalized by the abrupt ouster of former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, the first female to hold the position, and her replacement by Dean Baquet, who as of yesterday is the first African-American in the spot.

It was a sudden and rather undignified announcement for Abramson, and immediately suspicions arose on Twitter that the story was an example of the Glass Cliff, in which women get promoted to top leadership positions when companies are already in dire straits — which leads them to take the fall right off the cliff if things don’t improve, or even if they try to shake things up. The question immediately surfaced: would Abramson’s “leadership in the newsroom,” her alleged fatal flaw, have been tolerated if it was Jay Abramson instead?

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Enough With the Stay-at-Home Dads

By Elissa Strauss

Can we please stop pretending that stay-at-home-dads are a viable, large-scale solution for gender equality? Fifty years after Betty Friedan encouraged women to get out of the house, men have not, in any statistically significant way, come to take their place. And yet, the stay-at-home dad continues to live on in our cultural imagination as a feminist success story when really it’s hardly anything resembling a trend.

The New York Times ran a story yesterday about the stay-at-home husbands of Wall Street in which we got a glimpse into the lives of the men who make their banker wives’ lives possible. Writers Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg looked at the domestic arrangements, and masculine malaise, of the men who tend to the kids and home while their wives work 14 hour days reeling in serious dough.

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Amy Klein's Fertility Struggle

By Elissa Strauss

Michal Solomon
Amy Klein

This summer journalist Amy Klein, a former Forward reporter, began chronicling her fertility journey in weekly posts for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog. Klein spoke to the Sisterhood on why she decided to write about what was long a private struggle, the negative feedback she has received and the support she is, and isn’t, getting from the Jewish community.

THE SISTERHOOD: Why did you decide to write about your journey to conceive?

AMY KLEIN: Since I was young, I’ve been journaling my life privately to help work through what I’m going through as well as to catalog what’s happening in my life.

I’m a memoirist as well as a journalist, so I often publish stories about my life — I had a singles column about my dating life, I wrote about having a stem-cell facelift, and had a Modern Love story chronicling my visit to a Jerusalem rabbi who predicted exactly when I’d eventually meet my husband.

Regarding our journey to have a baby, the Times actually approached me about writing a weekly IVF column after I submitted “Baby Envy” to the “Motherlode” blog.

I think there’s so much that people don’t know about fertility — that I didn’t know about before I started this. Things like freezing your eggs to having trouble conceiving, to ovulation to IVF and miscarriage. It all seems so shrouded in mystery.

I hope that by sharing my story it will shed light for others who are contemplating having children later in life, or help people of all ages going through what I am, showing them that they’re not alone.

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A 'Vows' Column Acknowledges Abortion

By Sarah Seltzer

There was something a little bit different about a “Vows” column that showed up in last weekend’s New York Times.

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Udonis Haslem and Faith Rein

One chapter in a long, hurdle-filled, but ultimately fruitful story of love between athletes Faith Rein and Udonis Haslem was the termination of a pregnancy — an abortion that led to the blossoming of a deeper love.

Their first challenge took place the following spring when she became pregnant. It was her junior and his senior year, and he had begun training for the N.B.A. draft. Despite the pregnancy, she was busy with track meets and helping him complete homework. The timing was bad.

“I am not a huge fan of abortion, but we both had sports careers, plus we could not financially handle a baby,” said Mr. Haslem, noting how he struggled with supporting Kedonis, the son he had in high school, who is now 14 and who lives with his mother.

“Udonis appreciated that I was willing to have an abortion,” Ms. Rein said. “I found him caring, supportive, nurturing and all over me to be sure I was O.K. I saw another side of him during that difficult time and fell deeply in love. He had a big heart and was the whole package.”

Rein was raised by a Jewish father and black Baptist mother in the suburbs of Virginia. Haslem grew up in a gritty Miami neighborhood.

Statistics tell us that other happy marriages have an abortion as part of their trajectory into happily ever after — including many marriages that have been listed and feted in the New York Times and other similar society pages.

And that makes sense. Each choice we make in life closes some doors but opens others. And abortion is a choice no different from the rest.

For this particularly committed couple, it was the choice that gave them a chance at love. Ending a pregnancy can strengthen bonds that already exist–between mother and child she already has, between a young couple, between a woman and her family. It probably harms some relationships too, because it is a part of the human journey and always has been.

But acknowledging the truth of the procedure’s positive role in many lives can only help as we struggle to keep it legal. We can credit Americans’ growing acceptance of the LGBT community in part to the phenomenon of individuals “coming out” and forcing their loved ones to confront stigma and bias. I hope that more couples and individuals who have experienced abortion are willing to “come out of the closet” and point publicly to abortion as just one part of a long life story, and in some cases maybe even a love story.

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Jill Abramson’s Jewish Moment

By Rossella Tercatin

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New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.

Let me be clear. I am well aware of the fact that, for Americans and especially for people from New York, having a famous whatever with Jewish connections is not such a big deal, considering the impact of Jewish population in the cultural, political and intellectual life of the country. In Italy we are not completely unfamiliar with this situation, despite the enormous difference in numbers (in Italy there are only 25,000 Jews).

However, as a member of the staff of Pagine Ebraiche, the national Italian Jewish magazine published by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, I got pretty elated when I found out that Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times, was about to be one of the guests of honor of Crescere tra le righe. It’s a prestigious conference focused on the relationship between journalism, publishing and new generations, held every year on the suggestive Tuscany hills.

Being a young female journalist, I guess that excitement was inevitable. But being a Jewish journalist, I was determined to find out more about what has represented an intriguing issue to me since the announcement of her appointment in 2011: Jill Abramson’s Jewishness.

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Memorializing a Friend in 'The Lives They Lived'

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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I’ve always loved “The Lives They Lived,” the year-end issue of The New York Times Magazine profiling famous and not-so-famous people who made an impact on the world and died during the previous 12 months.

No, let me correct that. I should say that I’ve loved the issue until now.

This difference is not attributable to the design of this year’s issue (though I can undoubtedly say that it is not my favorite). Rather, it’s because reading “The Lives They Lived” is no longer an edifying coda to my year, a comforting annual tradition allowing me to deepen and broaden my knowledge about the influence of individuals on history.

This year, I knew someone personally in the magazine. And that changed everything.

To be sure, many of those profiled in this year’s issue touched my life in some way. Loops of Whitney Houston songs play in my head when I think of my college and grad school years. Neil Armstrong’s moon landing is my first memory of watching TV. I cannot read the name Vidal Sassoon without recalling the scent of the shampoo I used for years. A worn copy of Maurice Sendak’s “In The Night Kitchen” is one of the only books I made sure to save from my childhood and pass on to my kids.

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NY Times' Jodi Rudoren on Covering War in Gaza

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times

Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times, is currently covering Operation Pillar of Defense from inside Gaza. Rudoren, who was appointed to her post in May of this year and who had previously reported on presidential campaigns, education and the Midwest for the Times, is covering a war for the first time in her career.

Upon the outbreak of hostilities, Rudoren left her husband and five-year-old twins at home in Jerusalem and headed to Gaza, arriving there Thursday late afternoon. Despite “spotty Internet,” as she put it, Rudoren was able to communicate with The Sisterhood by email from Gaza on Friday evening.

Here is what she shared about being a female reporter among other women war correspondents, what she has seen so far, and juggling being a mother and a bureau chief on the front lines.

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NY Times, Mothering is Not a Style Story

By Elissa Strauss

The New York Times blog Motherlode provides a smart and nuanced look into the pressing parenting issues of the day. Led by KJ Dell’Antonia, the blog covers things like work-life balance, breastfeeding, divorce and infertility. What is absent is things like shedding the baby weight, nursery decoration tips, or why moms with $1,000 strollers do or don’t suck.

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The blog is a serious look at parenting, and shows how a smart discussion on the topic will inevitably hit upon matters of politics, economics and science. And yet, the New York Times considers the blog as part of the Style section online and features it in the Home section in the print edition.

The Times’ editors think the blog best fits in among stories about fashion, beauty, and interior design. I don’t.

So, so much has been written about work-life balance in the past year, which is an old conversation re-ignited by Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic cover story. What emerged in the recent discussion about balancing career, money and child rearing is that this isn’t just an issue for moms. Instead, this debate probes deeply into how we, all of us, men and women, work and organize our family life today.

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Tolerating Abuse at Horace Mann

By Sarah Seltzer

Like many graduates of the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, I’ve spent the week in consternation over the New York Times Magazine story exposing a tragic history of sexual abuse at my alma mater (also the alma mater of the story’s writer and editor).

Horace Mann

Most of the abuse, but not necessarily all, took place before my time, before the current administration, before the school as it is now. Yet its revelation is searing. The conditions appear to have been a perfect storm: a top-tier academy protecting itself, a lingering male-only culture, eccentric teachers and students both granted ample independence, a New York student body that likely fancied itself more sophisticated than it was, and a widespread and perhaps internalized homophobia. All these, plus what appears to be gross negligence on the part of the administration, created a dangerous environment for many students. At least one predator seems to have walked the halls for years, and at least two people involved (one perpetrator, one victim) later killed themselves.

At first, I felt shocked and horrified, but with a patina of head-shaking knowingness. After all, hadn’t I, well before the story broke, summed up Horace Mann to a stranger as not only stellar academically, but “the school most likely to end up on the cover of a magazine” due to scandal?

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Midrash Manicures Are Not Good Jewish Education

By Renee Ghert-Zand

I had heard about “Midrash Manicures” before, but it didn’t really catch my attention until it hit the big time with this recent article in The New York Times.

The story was about Rabbi Yael Buechler’s weekly Manicures Midrash club for middle school students at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. Kids can opt to paint their nails instead of taking one of the other electives, like the glee club, a sports writing seminar or the math club. Rabbi Buechler teaches the girls — and they are not surprisingly all girls — the finer techniques of nail polishing, as well as Jewish texts and commentaries to inspire their midrashic designs.

Never have I been so torn about an innovative educational approach. As an experienced Jewish educator, I am always appreciative of new and creative ways to engage students in Torah study. It is clear that the nail painting in Rabbi Buechler’s class is a means to an important educational end. At the same time, I am somewhat uneasy with the manicure piece of this.

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The New York Times and Gendered Editing

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson

I used to roll my eyes when my mother would point to someone on television and say, “He’s Jewish!” or, “She’s Jewish!” Now I’m that person, thrilling to the news of a Jewish woman’s rise to a position of prominence and influence, like when Elena Kagan was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, or when Jill Abramson was named the new executive editor of The New York Times.

So I joined Forward Editor Jane Eisner and countless others in reading with particular interest Abramson’s interview with Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane in last Sunday’s issue of the paper.

Brisbane’s first question in that interview is whether Times readers would notice a difference “because a woman is now in charge.”

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Communal Pressures To Get a Get

By Jenny Merkin

I come from a family where halacha is championed alongside the freedom and power of the individual. It is a hard balance to forge, and it is one that comes with contradictions and hurdles. Recently in the news was the story of a Capitol Hill staffer who would not grant his wife a get, or a Jewish divorce decree. On the one hand, I find there to be something sacred about the untouchable nature of halacha. On the other hand, I cannot support a belief system that allows for women’s freedoms to be taken away without any real repercussions according to the law.

I emailed a New York Times article about the divorce dispute to a friend, who subsequently expressed his dismay that the Orthodox belief system could survive with such an edict intact. I argued that at least the Orthodox community is taking measures against those men who refuse their wife a get. At present, a common communal response against a man who leaves his wife an agunah, or a chained woman, is social pressure and threats of being ostracized, in addition to other halachic creations like prenuptial agreements and inserting minor mistakes in the wedding ceremony that could allow grounds for a halachic divorce without needing a get.

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Women: 'The Cause of Our Time'

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

The New York Times had a fantastic package of stories in its magazine on Sunday focusing on women in the developing world and the impact of their poverty, poor health care and disenfranchisement on overall political and economic progress.

Titled Why Women’s Rights Are the Cause of Our Time, it is an excerpt from a new book, titled Half the Sky by the husband-and-wife journalism team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

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