Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Surprising Statement of Purpose

I used to think that NOW (the National Organization for Women) was a flaming-liberal, anti-male establishment. Then I read this:

"We REJECT the current assumptions
that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family,
and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage,
or that marriage, home and family are primarily woman's world and responsibility -
hers, to dominate - his to support."

"We are similarly opposed to all policies and practices --
in church, state, college, factory, or office --
which, in the guise of protectiveness,
not only deny opportunities
but also foster in women
and evasion of responsibility,
undermine their confidence in their own abilities
and foster contempt for women."

Excerpt from National Organization for Women
Statement of Purpose (1966)

If this is flaming-liberal, anti-male rhetoric, then I'm a flaming-liberal, anti-male feminist.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Article

So sorry I haven't updated in a while. I'm in the "home stretch" of the completion of my BA and I'm trying to focus on getting through that, which - along with having a job - leaves me little time to blog. I also know that I haven't answered a bunch of comments and I apologize; I will get to them eventually!

I just wanted to link to an article that I found very interesting. It's not particularly about feminism, but it is about the frum world so I consider it very appropriate.

The article is called "In Search of a Modest Proposal" and discusses many of the intricacies of dating and being single in the frum world. Here's a sample:

"The room was packed, but there’s an unspoken dance that transpires here each week, a kind of subconscious choreography. Men and women aren’t allowed to touch each other, so they must navigate carefully. A woman turned her body just to slide between two men, and they adjusted accordingly."

The only part I didn't like:

"Yet Weissman, while certainly a proponent of women’s education, believes that some women have placed their careers ahead of family life, which makes it harder to find a spouse. “I think feminism is a problem,” he said. “With the opportunity to have a successful career, a woman needs to keep in mind that everything in Judaism centers around the family.”

Yeah. Didn't like that comment.

Anyways, click here to read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Frum & Colonial Women

My feminist opinions have taken control of my education. This term, I'm taking a course called, "U.S. Women's History" because I figured, "If I want to change things, I'd better know how they were changed in the past."

I'm only at the very beginning of the history right now and I'm finding similarities between modern frum societies and early Colonial American societies. The patriarchal system that ruled families, called "Domestic Patriarchy", in particular, has a lot in common with expectations in the frum world.

Let's start with education. Like in the frum world, boys and girls growing up in Colonial times received differing educations based on the roles that were set up for them in society. They all received "moral education," like the Jewish studies classes both boys and girls get in the frum world, but when it came to practical studies boys were taught reading, writing, and math, and girls were taught "French, sewing and knitting". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.98)

Granted today in frum society girls are also taught those basic subjects, but we're taught them so that we can care for our husbands and children, which pretty much equates with why Colonial girls were only taught "French, sewing and knitting". It was, "Parents [instructing] their children to take their proper place in [...] society by training them to perform tasks appropriate to their sex." (Delegard & Hewitt, p.97)

As for the life of those girls when they grew up, they were "encouraged to practice submissiveness to authority. [...] Gentlemen insisted that wives be submissive to their husbands, and women tolerated, and even on occasion supported, a subordinate role within the family". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.86)

I read that sentence and said to myself, "That could have been written about frum society today!"

And how about this: "A woman could expect to give birth every two to three years from marriage to menopause". (Delegard & Hewitt, p.89)

Another similarity.

I'm not necessarily writing this as a criticism, although I do find patriarchy appalling; I'm just noticing the similarities and am looking forward to studying how these women progressed in society, because I think the frum world needs a model to work from.

List of Works Cited:

Delegard, Kirsten and Hewitt, Nancy. "Women, Families, and Communities: Readings in American History." 2nd ed. Pearson Longman: New York.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Harry Potter's not Jewish & Snape's not Lubavitch.

I'm taking a break from the feminism stuff for this post to talk about an article on Time Magazine's website called, "You Didn't Know Harry Potter Was Jewish?"

As a Harry Potter fan and a Jew, I think I'm uniquely qualified to comment on this article.

The author writes about attending a wedding in Israel where he met a man named Adam Melech who said that, "Almost anything you need to know about Jews, you can learn from Harry Potter":

"Jews, he explains, are the wizards. The non-Jews are the muggles. And Israel's wizards are engaged in a kind of invisible spiritual warfare (just like in Rowling's books) that most muggles can't even see, much less understand. Rowling may be a muggle, says Adam, but she knew what she was doing. Why else would a yeshiva like Hogwart's be so central to their lives? Why would the power of naming and names be so important to both Jews and wizards? He offers further corollaries: Harry's spells are talmudic prayers; Hizballah are the Death-eaters; converts to Judaism are muggle-born wizards; and so on."

It's a cute theory, but the parallels clearly do not add up. Allow the fan-girl in me to break it down, piece by piece, and simultaneously showcase how much of a geek I am:

1. In the Harry Potter world, muggles and wizards are completely separate. They live in completely different worlds and muggles have no idea that wizards even exist. The same cannot be said for Jews and non-Jews. We're not only aware of each other, we're often hyper-aware of each other. We make up merely 0.2% of the world's population, yet we're constantly in the news. We're hardly a secret society.

2. Israel's wizards (aka Israeli Jews) engage in an invisible (aka spiritual) war that most muggles (aka non-Jews) can't see or understand? I'm not sure what Israeli wizards Adam is referring to. Do Jews fight spiritual battles? Absolutely. But that is not exclusive to the Jewish people. Non-Jews also fight spiritual battles. So explain to me, Adam, how this battle is invisible to muggles?

3. There is not enough evidence in the Harry Potter books to state, as Adam does, that Hogwarts is central to the lives of wizards. The books are written to follow the lives of three children as they progress through Hogwarts' school system, so obviously Hogwarts is central to their lives. But after they graduate, they move on and there's nothing in the books that
says that Hogwarts remains "central" to their lives.

4. Yes, it's true that names have a power in Judaism and in the Harry Potter books. And in so many other books. Roald Dahl did it with Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honeypot. Tolkein wrote an entire, Guide to the Names in Lord of the Rings, to explain his characters' names. And if you think that Jane Austen named Mr. Knightley coincidentally, you're really missing a lot.

5. Harry Potter's spells are not Talmudic prayers. In fact, what are Talmudic prayers?

6. I have nothing against saying that Hizballah are Death Eaters, though if you're interested in Rowling's original intent, she makes it absolutely clear that the Death Eaters are fashioned after the Nazis.

7. As for converts to Judaism being muggleborn... Well, I can see what he means by that one. There are people who discriminate against converts in Judaism solely because they are converts. It's just as ridiculous as the Malfoys claiming that Draco is smarter than Hermione merely because he's a pureblood.

The author ends the article by comparing a Lubavitcher in a band handing out alcoholic drinks to
the Half Blood Prince, which renders the article completely senseless. Any Harry Potter fan would laugh themselves silly at the imagery of Snape in a band handing out drinks, never mind picturing him as a Lubavitcher! Though maybe... *Runs to Photoshop and creates the following picture*:

Yup. Laughing silly.

Most importantly, even I, a reverent Harry Potter fan, (I speak of the books only! Not the movies!) wouldn't dream of saying that you could find "everything" about Jews in Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a work of fiction. Yes, it is a brilliant work of fiction, (I dare you to challenge that in the comments section!), but it is still just a piece of literature. The complexities and the beauty of being a Jew could never be found in something so mundane.