Abstinence-only education doesn’t achieve its intended goal: preventing pregnancy. The American states with the highest teen pregnancy rates employ abstinence-only education in their schools. And while abstinence-only lessons by definition don’t include the efficacy of various birth control methods, leaving students without basic knowledge, they also often shame young women, too. In particularly heinous examples, sexually active women are compared to chewed-up pieces of gum cups with spit in them, or flowers with the petals torn off.
Fortunately, some young people don’t take the claptrap that the abstinence peddlers, well, peddle. In the midst of the Boston Marathon horror, you may have missed the amazing story of Katelyn Campbell, a young student leader who stood up to the bullies at her West Virginia school.
Have you heard about “senior washed up girls” — or “SWUGs”? They’re the latest acronym for a sexual trend that affects Ivy Leaguers, in this case young women at the end of their college careers discovering that (either due to free will or lack of options) they do not care anymore: about grades, hookups, relationships or anything but having a good time.
Is this cool or pathetic? Or as Raisa Bruner, a student writer at, Yale put it philosophically:
Is SWUG-ness a…fuck-‘em-all, let’s-do-what-matters-to-us kind of attitude that has nothing to do with the images of lackluster sex and desperate partying that it’s grown to encompass?
I wish. Maybe it was that way once. But right now, SWUG’s social meaning at Yale remains about the hooking up that we women are — and aren’t — doing, and how little we’re supposed to let that bother us. It’s become a signifier of not caring. Alas for the golden era of SWUGs. It was over before most of us out in the real world even knew what it meant.
Yes, another long and rambling “trend piece” in an Ivy League newspaper has been picked up and analyzed, complete with a campus visit, by New York Magazine. The next link in the chain? An older Ivy graduate (that would be yours truly) sits at her keyboard trying to make sense of what the youngsters are up to these days. Is this trend ephemeral or eternal?
In February 1997, Ellen Jaffe Gill’ s essay on not wanting to have children, was published in Moment Magazine. In the piece, Jaffe Gill (then McClain) discussed how her decision not to have children did not prevent her from engaging fully in Jewish life. As a writer, she was in fact transmitting the covenant on her own terms.
“I don’t remember a lot of reaction to the piece in Moment,” she recently told The Sisterhood via email. “What was telling was that a few years later, I tried to write a feature story about childlessness by choice for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and couldn’t get it off the ground because very few peoplewould talk to me on or even off the record.”
Jaffe Gill, who entered Jewish professional life at 44 and is now a cantor and rabbinical student in her 50s, had a tubal ligation at the age of 31, “after ten years of being sure I never wanted to have a baby.”
For a very long time, I thought I wanted to be a rabbi. There are a lot of reasons why I changed my mind, but a big one is that I could not find the role model I needed — a child-free female rabbi. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to have kids, but it was so hard to say it out loud, and saying it in front of people who were committing their professional and personal lives to the Jewish community seemed impossible.
I’m super glad that these fraternity boys at the University of Maryland wrote this letter to their brothers about how to talk to Jewish women, because otherwise, I would not have known how! Also, apparently I’ve been talking to myself and other Jewish women the wrong way this entire time.
The guys’ egregious “instructions” are divided into sections, including “hometown,” “major” and “topics of conversation.” Here’s a hint of what they think it takes to talk to a Jewish woman:
If from an allowed hometown you are fine. If not, lie and say you are from an allowed area. Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.
Areas you can be from: New York, New Jersey, PA (only Philadelphia area, sorry redacted), Massachussets, Rockville/Bethesda area, Pikesville
Not Allowed Areas: The rest of Maryland (especially rural counties, looking at you redacted), Baltimore, Atlanta, anywhere in the south, Connecticut are from an allowed area. Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.
On a college major…
You are a business major or an econ major or a communication major
You want to “do something with business, maybe finance” or start your own business
Alternative 1 to that: Some science major, but you are going to med school to be a doctor (why? because both your parents are doctors)
Alternative 2: You are a crim major and plan on going to law school
In summation: No matter what, do whatever you have to do to create and maintain the aura of wealth. Sadly, this letter isn’t a joke.
Princeton University alumna Susan Patton didn’t intend to become a household name, but by Sunday the tsumani of responses to her unwittingly inflammatory letter in the Daily Princetonian, the school’s student-run newspaper, peaked with an op-ed column in The New York Times devoted to her advice to young Princeton women to “find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
Patton, who described herself to me as “a Jewish mother,” has one son who graduated from Princeton and another who is a junior (and acquaintance of my son, also a student there). For more on her point of view, read this Q&A with Patton, from an interview she kindly agreed to with The Sisterhood.
Susan Patton, a human relations consultant and Princeton University alumna, as well as mother to two Princeton students (one former, one current) recently wrote a letter to the editor of the university’s student-run newspaper. In it, she urged female undergraduates at Princeton to find their husbands before they graduate. And in doing so, she sparked a world-wide response. In newspapers, magazines, on websites and other blogs, and on the Op Ed page of The New York Times, people weighed in. Most of them criticized Patton; some for her tone, many for her point. Patton, who lives in Manhattan and is currently the president of her Princeton class, has been inundated by the press. But she graciously agreed to be interviewed by The Sisterhood.
Like virtually everyone else with a connection to Princeton (my son is a student there, and also an acquaintance of her son’s), I had my own feelings about what she wrote in The Daily Princetonian. But that is fodder for a different Sisterhood post, which will run separately. This interview with Patton, which I lightly edited and condensed, was conducted as a journalist and not to convey my own point of view.
Those of us who have made it our business to achieve gender equality by way of parenting, have long pushed for better paternity leave policies. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. But it looks like it’s also the economically prudent thing to do, too.
The New York Times magazine had a story this past weekend on how paying daddy while he stays home to take care of his baby can actually stimulate the economy.
To make her case, writer Catherine Rampell refers to a new study by economists at the University of Chicago and Stanford that estimate that “15 to 20 percent of American productivity growth over the last five decades has come from more efficient allocation of underrepresented groups, like women, into occupations that were largely off-limits, like doctors or lawyers.”
She explains that other rich countries have figured out how to keep women in the labor force, mostly through adopting policies that allow parents to request flexible work arrangements (part-time, home-based), guaranteeing paid leave for both sexes, and, in some cases, affordable childcare. While these policies do increase taxes, they ultimately pay off because they keep women in the workforce — the very same women who help our productivity grow.
Outcry from Jews in Israel and the Diaspora has led the rabbi in charge of policies at the Kotel to back down from his plan to have women arrested for saying Kaddish, says Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall.
At a meeting Thursday with Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch “assured Sharansky that, contrary to the letter [sent by Jerusalem police chief to Women of the Wall], no woman would be arrested for reciting Kaddish at the Western Wall.”
The Jewish Agency made that announcement by posting a note on its Facebook page, which was illustrated with a photo of young women praying at the Kotel.
After The Sisterhood broke the story Wednesday of the police chief’s letter indicating that women would be arrested and charged for saying Kaddish, as well as wearing a tallit, it was covered extensively by the Israeli media, Hoffman said.
Add Kaddish to the list of Jewish prayers and ritual objects women are not allowed to be engaged with at the Western Wall, according to the commander of the Jerusalem police.
In a March 14 letter to Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall, Yossi Pariente wrote that he met with a deputy attorney general for the government of Israel to go over the rules pertaining to Women of the Wall, which include prohibitions on:
…Wrapping yourselves in tallitot [prayer shawls], holding a minyan [prayer quorum] of women including the Kaddish or Kedusha prayers, and reading from the Torah.
Pariente warns that, starting on the next Rosh Chodesh, which falls on April 11, Women of the Wall will be arrested and charged with breaking the law for doing any of these things.
Anyone who’s been pregnant, or knows someone who’s been pregnant, has probably been exposed to the terrifying list of dos and don’ts that accompanies bringing a child into the world. It’s bad enough to be deprived of wine, imported cheeses, wine, smoked salmon, coffee, and did I mention wine? But the most frustrating thing is that these dos and don’ts often contradict each other, which is the whole point of a recent Jezebel post about how to have the best pregnancy ever.
Take fish, for instance. Women are told to eat a lot of it during pregnancy, but they are also told not to eat too much because of dangerous mercury levels. And then there’s the question of alcohol — some doctors say an occasional glass of wine is fine and possibly even beneficial if it decreases stress levels, while others make pregnant women feel as if their babies will be born with an extra limb if they have a single sip. The same goes for drinking coffee. Many doctors and researchers say it’s perfectly fine to have one cup a day, but they also remind us that drinking coffee during pregnancy doubles the risk of miscarriage.
In other words, trying to do the right thing during pregnancy is an exercise in madness, and it will probably result in tremendous anxiety — which, of course, is not good for the baby.
The Sisterhood has covered Haredi exclusion of women from the Israeli public sphere for some time now. When it comes to the removal of women’s images from public view, we’ve seen the disappearance of women from advertisements; the photoshopping of female leaders like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out of news photos; the blurring of women’s and girls’ faces on memorial notices and even the erasing of a pair of women’s shoes from an innocuous photo of a family’s shoe drawer.
But now this practice has reached a high — or, rather low — point with the blurring out of the face of a woman in a Holocaust-era photo. Ynet reported that the Haredi newspaper “Bakehillah” (In the community) censored the face of Matilda Goldfinger, the woman who appears to the left of the little boy wearing a yellow star with his hands raised in the iconic photo documenting the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943, following the Jewish uprising there that began on the first night of Passover that year. Goldfinger’s daughter Henka (Hannah) was killed moments after the photograph was taken.
Once, I went to a job interview on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a fancy office building. On my way out, I noticed a Weight Watchers office on the same floor. I was so provoked by yet another message that people should be skinny — that if you are skinny, you are in control and will get everything you deserve, because skinny equals all things moral, happy and good. But in that moment, I held back. I didn’t even take out the Post It notes and marker I carry around in my purse so that I can place notes on advertisements in the subway that are sexist, racist and homophobic. Instead, I growled, then kept walking.
A recent New York Times article profiled the United States introduction of Slim Peace, a nonprofit organization that brings Israeli and Palestinian women together around the universal theme of weight-loss support. The group has plans to expand around the country, meeting in the context of eating well, losing weight and learning about Israeli, Jewish, Arab and Palestinian cultures.
My reaction to this project is complicated. I don’t want to yell like I did at that Weight Watchers office — or at the weight loss ads that populate the margin of my Facebook page. But there is something deeply wrong here.
Jess Grose, writing at the New Republic, has kickstarted a provocative discussion about partnerships and housework with a piece called “Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier.” She notes that the culture shift that has brought about many men’s newfound willingness to help cook and parent has not been matched by an eagerness to scrub the darker, grimier corners of the home. And she notes that for women, the desire to clean is often driven by social pressure: “Unfortunately, the notion that women will be the first to be judged for a messy home and the first to be commended for an orderly one isn’t much of an incentive for men to pick up a mop.”
Jonathan Chait responds that the problem is overly sparking standards of cleanliness. He argues if women were content to be messier, the work level would slide to 50-50. Case in point: stacking magazines. He doesn’t care about stacking and his wife does, so when she stacks, that’s optional work, not bedrock housecleaning. In other words, “the assumption of much of the feminist commentary [is] there is a correct level of cleanliness in a heterosexual relationship, and that level is determined by the female.”
Yityish Aynaw made history in late February when she became the first Ethiopian-born woman crowned Miss Israel. The momentous occasion made news in Israel and abroad, immediately turning the international spotlight on the 21-year-old former military officer and aspiring model from Netanya.
UPDATE: Miss Israel Titi Aynaw met Barack Obama at state dinner. More photos and full story to come.
The beauty queen, whose first name aptly means “a view to the future” in Amharic, has even caught the attention of America’s President, Barack Obama, who invited her to meet him at a dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres on Obama’s first official state visit to Israel, in March.
The Forward’s Renee Ghert-Zand recently spoke by telephone with Aynaw, who goes by the nickname Titi. Ghert-Zand asked her about her aliyah to Israel at age 12, her views on racism in Israeli society, how she plans on representing her country and what she’s planning on saying to Obama. The interview was conducted in Hebrew and is translated here.
In this week’s cover story in New York magazine, Lisa Miller profiles women whose decision to leave work and become stay at home moms is seen by them as a fulfillment of the grand feminist desire to “have it all.” Jessica Grose over at Slate’s DoubleX does a great job at explaining why the journalism in the piece is a little unsteady. Miller only has one example of a real life feminist housewife and recent Censes Bureau Statistics tell us that these feminist housewives are rare birds after all.
Even if Miller’s claims are untrue, the story still left me thinking about whether the choice to stay at home can really be interpreted as feminist. It might be the best thing for some families, and even necessary for a few. But feminist? Not sure.
This week Yityish Aynaw, the first black Miss Israel will sit down with Barack Obama, the first black U.S. President. The former may be a beauty pageant winner and the latter the leader of the free world, but beyond the different job descriptions they have a lot in common. Their respective victories made them “firsts,” and by making the strides they have, they’ve also been subject to unfair and unwarranted vitriol, much of it downright racist.
Both Aynaw and President Obama have found success in nations that were founded on noble ideals about freedom from persecution, and proven that individuals can overcome discrimination. As Aynaw herself noted, “For me, [President Obama] is a role model who broke down barriers, a source of inspiration that proves that every person really can reach any height, regardless of their religion, race or gender.”
But unfortunately while success for minorities is possible in both countries, it remains far from probable due to entrenched oppression. In fact, both nations have won new measures of freedom for their own people too often and too intrinsically on the backs of the oppressed, whether second-class citizens at home or victims of occupation and foreign wars.
It’s been diverting this past week to join in the Popewatch brouhaha — who doesn’t like secretive meetings, signals and intrigue, not to mention red Prada shoes? But now that it’s over, the white smoke has risen, the habeus papams have been uttered and Francis has been chosen, let’s talk about a less-discussed but no less important story out of the Vatican this week.
That would be the Vatican’s decision to use its status as a sovereign entity to join with Iran, Russia, U.S. conservatives and other retrograde nations to try to quash a UN resolution condemning violence against women.
Yep, the Vatican is the equivalent of those few far-right legislators who tried to stymie the Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. legislative process ‘til the bitter end — except while that effort eventually failed, this might actually be successful.
The 2013 VIDA Count — a survey of the gender breakdown of bylines, book reviewers and authors reviewed at major publications — is out, and the numbers aren’t pretty. The vast majority of book reviewers and authors reviewed at publications like the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and Harper’s are men, as are the bylines.
Perhaps more depressing than this finding is the fact this year’s numbers don’t show much in the way of improvement from three years ago, when the first Count was released. For example, in 2010 the New York Times Book Review reviewed 283 books by women and 524 books by men. In 2012 they looked at 237 books by women and 488 books by men. Meanwhile, the New York Review of Books reviewed 59 female authors and 306 male authors in 2010 and 89 female authors and 316 male authors in 2013.
When VIDA began counting, the thinking was that editors would feel so embarrassed by their obvious preference for male writers, be it conscious or subconscious, that they would be prompted to change. Now we see that shaming them is not a viable solution. Is collective action next?
Last week, the New York Observer published a cover story on Logan, a 30-year-old Orthodox fourth-year medical student with “boyish” good looks. He’s searching for his bashert and describes himself “as a mensch at heart.” Sounds like a catch, right? Well, before you beat a trail to his probably adorable Upper West Side bachelor pad and mentally compose your engagement announcement for OnlySimchas.com, you should know one thing: Logan is a complete and utter chauvinistic fraud.
Of course, Logan is not his real name, but rather a nom de plume he uses on his falsified dating profiles to (for lack of a more tactful expression) bang as many ladies in the New York City area as possible. He doesn’t lie about being a doctor. He doesn’t lie about being Jewish (though he fails to mention he is Orthodox). He just fibs a few years funding start-ups in the Silicon Valley and adds a couple of millions (three to five) to his net worth. He then seduces women through creative truth-telling on secular dating sites like PlentyofFish.com and purports to finance them in a sugar daddy-sugar baby scenario on SeekingArrangement.com.
To be fair, he only resorted to such tactics after too many finicky Jewesses shot him down. Much to Logan’s complete shock and dismay, Jewish girls didn’t immediately drop to their knees with awe and open their mouths upon meeting a doctor. In comparison, the girls he met on the other sites “really appreciated a professional guy” and, not to mention, are “much easier to bang on the first date.”
Jeez, what’s wrong with us snobby Jewish ice queens who don’t know to immediately put out for a doctor of the tribe?
Former IDF officer Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, 21, was crowned Miss Israel 2013 last Wednesday night. Besides from earning the title of a beauty queen, Aynaw also made history by becoming the first Ethiopian-born woman to ever win the beauty pageant. Yet the confetti had barely finished landing on the floor of the fancy stage when social networks started buzzing with comments about whether or Aynaw was, in fact, the most beautiful women in the pageant.
“I think it is really great that an Ethiopian-born woman won our national beauty pageant, I really do. If she were also beautiful it would have been even better,” wrote an Israeli journalist on his Facebook page. Someone left the following comment in reaction to an article about her victory on the Israeli news website Mako: “It may sound racist, but it is really not— I am certain they did not pick her for her beauty. She is not that beautiful. They could have at least choose someone more beautiful than her.”
(It is worth noting that most of the reactions about her beauty had nothing to do with the color of her skin. But racism is a sad phenomenon that represents a minority opinion among ignorant people.)
Some said Aynaw was chosen in advance so that Israel could show to the world its pluralism (the Israeli Apartheid Week is at its peak worldwide). Some said that she was very beautiful, and that it was the photo of her in the newspapers which wasn’t doing justice with her, while still others argued that “beauty” is subjective. I say that beauty is more than meets the eye. After 64 years of national beauty pageants, I would expect everyone to realize that in order to become the most beautiful woman in a given country, especially in a place like Israel, you must have far more than outer beauty.
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