Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
In this latest dispatch from my brain, I’m thinking about appearance and power. A good friend of mine has been reporting getting harassed on her street a lot lately, and wondering it’s happening to her. In my head, there are two main themes in regard to this. The first is the power men claim and exercise over women’s bodies, in this case manifesting in cat calling, staring and shouting at women as they walk down the street. You are mine to be consumed, this says. Your body is not your own property and I can’t/won’t control myself, even for the three seconds in which you are passing me on the sidewalk, from reminding you of that.
The second piece is more formidable and complicated. Once, I was on the street with a friend of mine who, in my mind, is empirically beautiful. As we passed a group of men, they hollered, sucked their teeth, and leered. My friend ignored them and kept walking, and while I resisted my urge to turn and scream at them. At the same time, I thought, why aren’t they leering at me?
It’s disgusting, I know. Street harassment, or any harassment for that matter, isn’t about finding someone attractive, it’s about power. This trope, this weird, depressing longing, is such a great example of how women evaluate themselves via the gaze and attention of men. I’ve experienced quite a bit of harassment on the street, and every time it’s happened, I’ve wanted to run, sob, throw things, and scream. Once, in college, I got into an elevator in the library that had a group of men in it. They stared at each other, then me, and began to close in so that I would have been pinned against the wall of the elevator had the doors not opened on the next floor. As I ran down the stairs, I was not thinking, I’m so glad they found me attractive enough to possibly rape.
Women’s appearance and sexuality, like it or not, is for consumption, and the experience of being vulnerable to that consumption has been, for me, unnerving. It’s not solely based in the gaze of men, women have absorbed this power as well, although it manifests in a very different way. I’m thinking specifically to the way my sexuality is evaluated, as in, what sexuality people think I am because of what I am or am not wearing (my gender presentation, if you will). People are generally confused by me. I do not shave body hair. I wear lipstick and glasses. I like cardigans and Chuck Taylors and my hair, which is longish (and unwieldy, since I cut it myself) is usually pulled back. I wear the same pants day after day. I’m not skinny, or tall, and I have what my other Jewish female friends and I recognize as stereotypically large Jewish breasts. In other words, I dress so that I feel comfortable, and if I’m comfortable, I feel good, most of the time. I do not dress to impress men, which for most of my life, was not something I even thought was important, until I reached a certain age and consciousness.
Recently, I was at a gathering of Jewish radical feminists, folks who were involved in organizations like SNCC, Red Stockings, the Weathermen, New York Radical Feminists, and the Jane Collective. I thought about the ideas of these women as being dowdy, unkempt, and unattractive, how their work was often derided and minimized because they didn’t wear make up or dress up. Their energy was elsewhere, to be sure, but there was also most certainly a political agenda behind it, one that made the mainstream and patriarchy crazy. If, as a woman, you aren’t devoting at least a portion of your energy to getting and holding the attention of men, your heterosexuality is considered suspect. The question is, what’s at stake? Among many things, the ability to be our authentic selves while moving through the world with our safety and livelihood in tact.
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April 20, 2011 | 12:59 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
I’ve started my first quarter at Cal State LA, and so far I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I really like the energy on campus, the diversity amongst the students and the quality of teaching by my professors. One of my classes is PHI 327, Philosophy, Gender and Culture. We’re currently reading Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate by Jean-Paul Sartre. When I first started reading Sartre’s in depth analysis of the character traits found within the anti-Semite, I was becoming emotionally charged with anger, and felt a heavy pain in my chest. My head was spinning and I was struggling to absorb and process the material. Fortunately I was able to have a moment to step back and witness how powerful anger is. Anger can easily trap your mind and remove you from being aware of your surroundings. I realized that anger is like a drug, and in that moment I had to rip myself away from it. I knew that this was exactly the same drug that fuels Anti-Semites, but their dose is far more potent. In the same way that people escape themselves through drugs and alcohol, the anti-Semite escapes themselves through their hatred for Jews.
There is a line in the book that made me stop and think about how I would interpret it. Sartre says if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him. That line tells me that really, the anti-Semites hatred for Jews has nothing to do with Jews. It tells me that the anti-Semite needs someone outside of himself to use as means of forming an identity because without them they have no sense of self. They also use their hatred for Jews as a way to interpret history, economics, global relations, etc. Sartre also says “The anti-Semite is in the unhappy position of having a vital need for the very enemy he wishes to destroy.”
What stood out to me in my professor’s lecture today, was when he interpreted Sartre’s view of what a coward is, and then how he expanded on it. A coward exits the process of truth, rationality, politics and ethics, because they are running from themselves and what it means to exist. A rational person with an allegiance to the truth, passionately wants to understand the world and recognizes that there are many things they don’t know. They are open to understanding when their interpretations are actually wrong, flawed or could be a lot stronger. Understanding the world is a never-ending process that lasts until the day you die.
I was thinking about how I could apply these lessons to Passover, and I found that the life of the anti-Semite could easily be related towards the theme of the exodus from slavery in Egypt. My best defense against anti-Semitism is by not living like those who are trapped by hatred and a delusional sense of self and the world around them. I must make the obligation everyday to make an exodus from any beliefs I have that may trap me and detach me from my dignity, essence, truth, integrity and G-d. Also, the anti-Semite feeds off of people’s anger towards them, and I do not want to give them that gratification. I must be the rational person with an allegiance to the truth, and interpret the world around me with educated eyes. Confucius said, “Among truly educated persons there is no discrimination.”
I give my gratitude to Cal State University for helping me to make my exodus by providing me with a powerful space where I can continue to grow into the best person I can be.
April 18, 2011 | 9:47 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
The “It Gets Better” campaign has spurred videos from presidents, rock stars, and companies around the world.
Check out this moving video from a group of gay orthodox Jews.
April 17, 2011 | 2:42 pm
Posted by Janelle Eagle
I’m a Jew and I’m a lesbian. Many of the people who read my blogs and connect with me via social media would perhaps feel unsurprised at the idea that I want equal rights and I want them now. The majority of them agree with me or they wouldn’t be in my network in the first place. But twice this past week, I was knocked off my chair with the brave choices that two people made, when they declared themselves allies to the Queer community - those who stand by in support, despite their apparent differences. Those whose networks wouldn’t assume that they want equal rights for me.
As Jews, we are regularly reminded of the tenant, “If I am not for myself, who will be.” And that is no less true when these two individuals spoke out. These two people risked their audience’s devotion and support by choosing to come out as a STRAIGHT and RELIGIOUS ally on the side of the Queer community. I want to use my monthly “Oy Gay” entry as an opportunity to introduce you to them…
The first of the two was a surprise announcement called “I now support full marriage equality” by Louis J. Marinelli. This gem of a media-mogul lead a 2010 nationwide tour of the “National Organization for Marriage (NOM),” a fervent opposer of Marriage Equality and fearfully powerful voice of propaganda that influenced much of the anti-equality votes that took place in the 2008-2010 elections across many states. His sudden and direct change of heart is quite powerful, especially if you once again consider his audience. While I appreciate Mr. Marinelli’s U-turn, I can’t help but worry that the damage he has caused to date has set us far back in our quest for equality. Alas, thank you Marinelli for being brave, now I hope you’ll work to undo all the pain that you caused.
Marinelli’s already gotten too much attention in the media. Instead of focusing on him, I’d like to introduce the Jewish Queer community to a Christian friend of mine (and yours!) whom I deeply respect, named Shannon Jarrell-Ivey. I saw a post come up in my facebook feed recently about Shannon’s upcoming foray into blogging on “A Hollywood Republican,” a site dedicated to “Opinions and commentary from Republicans in the entertainment industry.” She was going to be blogging, as a CONSERVATIVE and RELIGIOUS Christian, about the topic of GAY MARRIAGE. “Uh Oh,” I thought to myself. Was this another one of my indirect connections on facebook that I was swiftly going to have to delete?
And then I realized that she was asking for support from both her gay and Christian friends for talking points, ideas from both sides of the argument, and a frame with which to approach this divisive topic. Shannon was studying. Mind you, she’d already come to her own opinion that the LGBT community deserved equal rights, but was stumbling through how to work an argument in favor of removing the term “marriage” from the conversation. She wanted to bring important historical and biblical references in, voices from both sides, and most importantly, enter into a space that certainly was not guaranteed to welcome her POV. I wondered if she knew what she was getting herself into.
Shannon wrote her article in two parts:
The First Part is called “For the Love of Gay” and gives an in-depth look at how Christianity (loosely defined) judges homosexuality, where the conflicts are in the bible, and an account of Shannon’s own personal journey to come to the conclusion that Gay men and women should have the same rights that she and her husband do.
The commentary on her first piece is fraught with messages and responses that make me cringe. One particular woman named Mary says some of the most close-minded and horrible things that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard quite a few. However, the conversation is also full of Conservative Christians and regular visitors to the site who voice their support of Shannon’s stance. They talk about their own journey to acceptance and a desire to reverse the trend of teen suicide for Queer Youth.
I am incredibly proud of Shannon for choosing to use her platform for such a brave choice. Despite multiple personal attacks and repeated attempts to tell her she “wasn’t Christian enough,” Shannon stayed strong, responded to each comment, and even followed through with writing her Second Blog subtitled “Mawwiage” (a reference to one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride), in which she directly addressed the issue of Marriage as a religious institution vs. a matter of legal declaration.
Many of the same arguments that Shannon made are applicable to the Jewish community. I hope that within our tribe, many more conservative Jews will be brave like Shannon and stand with those of us who long to stay loyal to our faith and our G-d and don’t want to be excluded from the Passover table, if you will.
I say “bravo!” and THANK YOU, Shannon. We won’t win this battle without brave allies like yourself willing to stand up and redefine this issue not as simply a “gay issue” that only the LGBT community is affected by. We are ALL affected by this issue and all have to stand up for one another when we are victims of injustice.