Tag : feminism

September 27, 2018 by

We Dissent in Fonts •

Ten-minute speeches on “What Feminism Means to Me” were promised in a 1914 mass meeting at The Cooper Union. The handbill announcing this event is among engravings, logos, posters, flyers, books, brochures, journals, T-shirts, buttons, and other artifacts created over the last 150 years by a variety of feminist and radical artists and collectives on view in a new exhibition, WE DISSENT.

October 3 to December 2, 2018, at the Cooper Union gallery in New York City. cooper.edu/events

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September 27, 2018 by

Martha Rosler: Irrespective

You may have seen her not-to-be-missed 1975 video “Semiotics of the Kitchen,” a parody of cooking demonstrations which features some ominous knife work and an ice pick. Or her lecture “Principles of Politics and Production,” from 2005. Feminism, poverty, consumerism, war and gentrification, among other issues, have been constant themes over the career of influential artist Martha Rosler, who traces her interests not only to her coming of age during the civil rights and anti-war eras, but also to the ethical background of her yeshiva education. Considered one of the most important voices of her generation, Rosler weds a strong engagement in social and political issues with incisive critiques. “Rosler’s direct, unvarnished take on current social and political circumstances is rooted in her belief in the capacity of art to teach, provoke, and ultimately motivate action in the people it reaches,” says Darsie Alexander, curator of the Rosler retrospective on view at the Jewish Museum in New York from November 2, 2018, through March 3, 2019. The exhibit catalog is published by Yale University Press. TheJewishMuseum.org

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September 26, 2018 by

Bnot Esh

The members of a multi-generational Jewish feminist spirituality collective, gathering annually over Memorial Day Weekend since 1981, say they are committed to creating “an innovative, embodied and soulful place for prayer, ritual, healing and connecting with the Divine.” They work in solidarity with other changemakers to heal our broken world, engage as a group with social justice issues, and foster strong, long-term relationship with each other. Now, for the first time, they are welcoming new applications for their 2019 gathering, May 23–27. bnotesh.org

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September 26, 2018 by

Barbara Dobkin: Invest in Women—with a Full Heart and a Full Wallet

Some philanthropists have told me that if you fund an organization for three years and it hasn’t become sustainable, it wasn’t worth the investment. Really? Those are the same people who provide capital to for-profit ventures and know that sustainability requires long-term investment. Some say that perhaps we no longer need these single-sex ventures. Look around and tell me, with everything we see happening inside and outside of the Jewish community, that these organizations are no longer relevant.

For decades I had faith that funding feminism—investing serious money into important ideas—would create transformative change. Indeed, many of those ideas became institutions that have far-reaching impact. I am not surprised by women’s accomplishments in spite of the woefully inadequate support they receive. Women have always needed to be resourceful. Right now there is an explosion of young, smart women in every sector of the Jewish community taking on leadership of these organizations with their visions and energy. We cannot afford to have these talented women become discouraged and burn out.

For too long, people in our community have relegated the job of funding women’s projects to women alone. The result has been a serious lack of support. Yet institutions like the World Bank and the IMF have proven that projects led by women and girls benefit everyone. Add to this the well-documented evidence which demonstrates that funding women creates positive change for our entire society, and you should be convinced, as I am, that the time has come for everyone to fund women.

Right now many organizational leaders and funders are reeling from discovering what many feminists always knew: that sexism is rooted deeply our communities and institutions. What feminists also know is that there are real solutions to the challenges we face. Let’s invest in them and do it not only with a full heart, but also with a full wallet. BARBARA DOBKIN in “Funding Women Creates Transformative Change,” eJewish Philanthropy, July 3, 2018.

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The Lilith Blog

September 21, 2018 by

A Forgotten Lillian Hellman Play That Deserves Another Chance

Set in a small town in Ohio and revolving around a workers’ strike at a brush factory, Lillian Hellman’s little-known play, “Days to Come,” was a resounding flop when it debuted on Broadway in 1936. Hellman, who had enjoyed great acclaim for her first play, “The Children’s Hour,” went on to even wider success and fame with her next play, “The Little Foxes.” 

But at the opening night of this one, her second-born, as she recalled in her 1973 memoir “Pentimento,” she stood at the back of the theater, sensed that things were going wrong, and vomited. Then she saw William Randolph Hearst and his six guests walk out during the second act. Bad reviews and a quick closing followed.

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September 20, 2018 by

When a flawed male with a lot of power shapes Jewish priorities.

You may be numb to #MeToo news, but bear with me for a few paragraphs, please.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against noted men in Jewish life are nothing new. One among them this past season is sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who appears to have acknowledged the veracity of such charges from women in his field. Cohen has now stepped down (or been asked to resign) from his many prestigious posts in the Jewish world, including as the head of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, which he founded, and the flagship academic institution of Reform Judaism, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he was on the faculty. Why focus on a situation that seems to stretch at least as far back in time as there have been women in academe?

Here’s why. Steve Cohen was not just some random randy professor with a faulty ethical compass. His considerable influence has included being the American Jewish community’s reigning demographic expert, the go-to guy for an opinion on where resources ought best to be deployed. And because reports that have emerged in the past few months suggest that women who did not yield to his advances were closed out of meaningful career advancement, the perspectives of these women social scientists have been lost.

There have been serious concerns that the damage goes beyond what was experienced by the individual women, and that policies built on Cohen’s many survey findings are flawed because their very questions—lines of investigation about the perils of intermarriage, say—don’t take into account the realities of Jewish women’s lives today. If women had been framing the questionnaires used to determine a community’s priorities, the data yielded might have been different. Maybe they would demonstrate that interfaith couples in which the Jewish partner is a woman are flourishing. Maybe they would demonstrate that if a Jew marries a non-Jew and the couple establishes a Jewish household there’s an advantage to the community as a whole. But without the talents of social scientists who are looking at a community through a gender lens, how can we know? Social science, as a locus of study, should be hypothesis-driven. Thus the researcher has to know what important questions to ask of the subject, needs to really understand clearly the human dimensions of a field in order to develop useful hypotheses. And if the hypotheses are based on faulty perceptions about the subject’s reality, the wrong questions are asked and fruitful data will stay beneath the surface.

A few examples from the Lilith annals.

Jewish women staying single.

In the 1990s, the magazine wanted to report on Jewish women’s expectations of becoming mothers. Since Jewish women then were rarely having children outside of marriage, we sought marriage statistics from the national Jewish population surveys then being commissioned. Lilith asked the late demographer Egon Mayer, who had shaped those surveys, to substantiate our hypothesis that Jewish women, for a variety of reasons, were more likely to remain single through their childbearing years than other women were. (The reasons included many years of higher education and a shrinking pool of eligible Jewish mates as more Jewish men were marrying “out.”) The common wisdom was that Jews were all interested in being fruitful and multiplying as part of a family-oriented religious practice. Professor Mayer, initially skeptical, sifted through the data for information that hadn’t yet surfaced because no one had asked the question from this particular perspective. It turned out that Jewish women at the time were exactly twice as likely to remain single through their childbearing years than their white American peers. If you follow a feminist hunch, the results may surprise you.

Women’s philanthropy.

When Lilith first investigated Jewish women’s philanthropic donations, women’s charitable giving to Jewish causes was viewed as “pin money”—unimportant in the general calculus of a community’s budget. No one had yet asked how heterosexual couples made these money decisions. The man usually got credit in public for the family’s “gift,” even when the woman determined the cause and the amount on the check. In fact, when professional fundraisers failed to recognize women’s role in the couple’s process, the donation was likely to shrink.

Male and female addicts.

Researchers have noted that addiction-cessation programs like Alcoholics Anonymous work well when the sufferer concedes that he needs to recognize a “higher power” and put himself into the hands of that power. Jewish men in these programs may find this process “too Jesus-y,” but in publishing one woman’s revised version of the famous twelve steps, Lilith learned that for many women there is a different impediment. For women who have been in the hands of more powerful others their whole lives, this step may be so counterproductive as to thrust them back into their dependencies. The Jewish universe loses out when women worthy of professional respect are driven from their academic positions by a flawed male with a lot of power. The harm done by Jewish leaders who are also sexual predators goes beyond the considerable damage to individual women; it also skews how the Jewish community will shape its present, and the Jewish future.

 

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The Lilith Blog

August 22, 2018 by

When a Queer Feminist Professor is Accused of Harassment

canada-ontario-toronto-front-campusWe defend our friends. It’s natural. It’s powerful. It’s what friendship is all about. Certainly Avital Ronell’s friends— the most powerful philosophers in academe, for what it’s worth—wanted to defend her from the recently revealed allegations that she’d sexually harassed one of her male graduate students. The Title IX complaint by Nimrod Reitman  resulted in her year-long suspension from NYU.

But she had high-profile defenders in the feminist world. Judith Butler. Slavoj Žižek. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Shoshana Felman. These are just a few of the famous progressive scholars who lept to her defense in a widely circulated letter excerpted in the New York Times. Presumably without all the facts, they chose to attack the survivor. That’s certainly not a surprise, human behavior being what it is.

But to be honest, as an academic, I expected more. From the most revered names in the humanities, people who would be expected to make conclusions based on evidence in the name of social justice, I expected more. 

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The Lilith Blog

August 21, 2018 by

The Patriarchy-Free Paradise of “Mamma Mia!”

greece-2824611_960_720This piece contains spoilers for Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. Not a spoiler: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll dance poorly to ABBA.

Ten years ago I wandered into a movie theater on a hot summer weekend and was surprised to fall in love with the bell bottoms and thudding beat of ABBA-musical-turned-Meryl Streep vehicle “Mamma Mia!”. At the time, I was especially charmed to discover the “feminist heart beneath its cheesy 70s kitsch exterior”—given that the movie hinges on woman’s freewheeling sexual past without shaming her for it.

A lot has changed in a decade; whereas the original “Mamma Mia!” passed skeptical critics by, only to become a smash hit with audiences, its long-awaited sequel now flows into the culture with the natural ease of olive oil in a Greek dish. In the era of female-driven shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin” that combine elements of camp, fantasy and genre with sensitive exploration of women’s lives, viewers are primed to enjoy this kind of entertainment unironically, while a more open-minded group of critics are bolstering their pleasure with praise.

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The Lilith Blog

August 10, 2018 by

Five Quotes That Will Increase Your Chutzpah

From the JAP to zaftig to the belle juive, there are no end of Jewish stereotypes. Chutzpadik is probably one of the least painful, and incidentally one of the most gender-neutral. Here are 5 quotes from Jewish women, words that embody chutzpah in its most inspiring and hopeful forms.

“I’ve been described as a tough and noisy woman, a prize fighter, a man-hater, you name it. They call me Battling Bella, Mother Courage, and a Jewish mother with more complaints than Portnoy. There are those who say I’m impatient, impetuous, uppity, rude, profane, brash, and overbearing. Whether I’m any of those things, or all of them, you can decide for yourself. But whatever I am —and this ought to be made very clear—I am a very serious woman.” – Bella Abzug 

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The Lilith Blog

July 18, 2018 by

Ten Inspiring Quotes to Get You Through Dark Days

In today’s world of constant crisis, self-care pays dividends. Here are 10 quotes from Jewish women whom we love that should give you hope, inspire you to action, and spur us all to think differently about compassion.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 3.57.26 PM“The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.” – Emma Goldman

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