hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 7th, 2011 09:33 am)
I've lately been noting with pleasure how Questionable Content frequently passes the Bechdel-Wallace test with flying colours.

So it was somewhat jarring to see the cover art for the latest print version, which features the leading male character flanked by two of the leading female characters. Because most of the characters are women, and a lot of the action is about what they get up to, I think of it as a strip about people who happen to be women; I guess the author thinks of it as a strip about the male character populated by women.

So it's not a cartoon about people who happen to be women...it's the male author's pornulated fantasy world rendered in cartoon form.

This is too bad.
I heard about it through the JTS email update. JTS, being religious and basically egalitarian, is theoretically invested in equal treatment of men and women as human beings, so I was rather surprised by the content of the email.

Fashion: JTS Style, it says.

On November 11, JTS will participate in an evening of fashion and passion presented by the Council of Young Jewish Presidents and Birthright Israel NEXT, NY. Hosted by Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Esti Ginzburg,

Fascinating if you get excited by the idea of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Unfortunately, the effect of this sentence is to imply that the target audience is male and heterosexual. This is a problem when the nominal audience is "Jewish professionals," since it exposes an assumption that Jewish professionals are male and heterosexual.
the event includes an Israeli wine tasting, a fashion show by hot Israeli designers, and an after party. Open to all young professionals,

If you're a woman, you might think twice about going, since it's really not at all clear whether your role is "Jewish professional" or "sexprop." more... )
Study Finds Women Wear Shoes That Cause Pain, says the New York Times.

What's next - Study Finds That Dog Bites Man?

Here's the money quote:
“I think women need to really pay attention to how a shoe fits, and realize that what you’re buying could have potential effects on your feet for the rest of your life,” said the paper’s lead author, Alyssa B. Dufour, a doctoral student in biostatistics at Boston University. “It’s important to pay attention to size and width, and not just buy it because it’s cute.”

This has essentially nothing to do with the study, which was an exercise in data analysis showing significant correlation in women between wearing of stupid shoes and foot pain. There was no corresponding data for men because most men don't wear stupid shoes.

So, Ms Dufour. You really have to be careful how you talk to journalists, because this one just made you sound like a privileged little arse: Stupid wimmins, if they'd just do like I'm telling them - with my study and my biostatistics - they'd feel so much better! Why don't they just do it my way? It's all so simple! Women are obviously really stupid!

Journalists love headlines like "Women Too Dumb To Come In Out Of Rain Wear Comfortable Shoes." So next time a journalist asks you about your work, remember that, eh? I'm deliberately giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you didn't mean to be horrifically patronising (because I'm nice like that) with your little quote there.

Maybe - next time - emphasise that women, by and large, aren't totally masochistic and they aren't totally stupid, so if they're buying shoes which hurt, maybe there's a reason.

Maybe give the journalist some clues, like this: what kinds of shoes are women expected to wear at work? what kinds of shoes are women expected to wear if they want to be "pretty"? what happens if you aren't "pretty"? what kinds of shoes are widely available to people on low budgets? isn't it funny that women are willing to put up with foot pain? why might that be? isn't it interesting that men don't seem to wear the kinds of shoes that hurt them? why might that be?

As is, the journalist and the editor need a good kick in the behind. As do you, if you actually meant to sound like a patronising arse - a kick from something with really pointy toes. An example of when painful shoes are worth it.
Part 1 - the Rambam.

Crikey, that got long )

If you're sailing a boat in the normal way of things, you might have three people on each side, and if they all sat on one side, the boat would tip up and go under. But when the wind blows hard, the boat leans over and you need all six people on one side to compensate and keep the boat upright. So if you're a little community in a big society, it might well be that the winds of social change blow and you have to make a change to compensate, a change which would be silly or threatening in other circumstances.

It is, for instance, no longer the case that men are forbidden to wear trousers. I would suggest that in a society where women do not lead things, for a woman to want to lead prayers is potentially (although not necessarily) rather destabilising. However, in a society where women lead stuff all the time, for a woman to want to lead prayers is not all that destabilising. In the strictly local sense, yes; over time, it might be more destabilising to insist that women may not lead prayer despite leading stuff in other contexts.

This feels like a good place to pause. Tea. Part three soonish.
Rambam is asked, in a congregation where everyone is capable of praying independently, is the reader's repetition of the Amidah necessary? Perhaps, if it is unecessary, it is actually forbidden? (Responsa, 221) Unecessary rituals involve unecessary blessings, which are a major problem in ritual.

The answer, to get it out of the way so you can concentrate, is that strictly speaking it isn't necessary, and he himself would have been okay getting rid of it in those circumstances, but there are lots of reasons the reader's repetition should stay in place regardless.

In particular, one thing he explores is the idea that the reader's repetition is only warranted if some one of those present has not prayed the Amidah, since the original idea was that the reader would repeat the Amidah aloud on behalf of anyone who couldn't do it himself - praying by proxy, essentially. If all present have prayed, there is no reason for the repetition, and in this case, logically it ought to be omitted.

The particular nuance I'm interested in today is where he saysהיו החכמים ז"ל נותנים דבריהם לשיעורין והיו צריכים לבדוק כל אדם בבית הכנסת ולדעת מצבו, ואז יחזור שליח צבור על התפלה או לא יחזור, ולא כך עניין התקנות והגזרות - that if the repetition were to depend on the have-you-prayed status of every person there, you would have to inquire of each and every individual to establish whether or not he had prayed, and only then would you know whether the reader should repeat the Amidah or not. That is not how rabbinic enactments work, says the Rambam.

This interests me because it's my problem with Joel Roth's approach to women and congregational prayer, but I have never hitherto had halakhic language in which to express the problem. The problem Joel Roth faced was that of how to engineer being able to have women lead services and count in the ritual quorum despite their having a lesser level of obligation than the gentlemen present, given that praying by proxy, like voting by proxy, only works if one's proxy has a level of obligation equal to or greater than one's own. His proffered solution was that if women were to assume, voluntarily and permanently, the higher level of obligation, they would be able to function in prayer on an equal basis with men.

The problem, you will have seen, is that only some women will do this. Most of the women in your average congregation simply won't do this, for whatever reason. So if you go into a room of two men and seven women, you have to ask each of the women if she has raised her obligation level before you know whether you can repeat the Amidah, for instance. This is not practical except in very closed communities, and that impracticality was largely why I moved away from being a Roth Jew. Seeing it expressed by the Rambam in the language of halakhic discourse is terrifically gratifying.

The next bit of this thought train is circling round Friday night kiddush in synagogue, and I'm going to put it in another post, following complaints about long posts being hard to follow. (Part 2.)
A few weeks ago, we read parashat Beha'alotekha, which contained the enactment of Second Passover, the repeat festival for those who missed it the first time round. Passover in the Torah involves sacrificing a lamb and eating it, and if you happen to be ritually impure on account of having had contact with a corpse, you can't eat sacrificial meat.

So in Numbers 9:7 we find a group of people who were ritually-unclean-because-of-contact-with-a-corpse at Passover time, and they go to Moses in protest. למה נגרע, they say, לבלתי הקרב את קרבן ה' במעדו בתוך בני ישראל? Why should we be excluded, kept from making the Lord's offering in its season with all the other Israelites? Why should we, through no fault of our own, be barred from participating in possibly the single most important ritual of Jewish identity? And Moses says Hm, hang on a second and I'll see what God has to say.

"Why shouldn't we be allowed to?"

The other scenario beloved of observant feminist circles is the daughters of Zelophehad in parashat Pinhas, in which the intrepid daughters of Zelophehad successfully challenge the law of inheritance. Both are frequently cited as examples of "It's not fair!" protestation in the Torah, but there is a vital difference.

Spotted it? Zelophehad's daughters say "It's not fair! Our father's name will die out!" The ritually unclean men (okay, anashim is arguably non-gendered as an inclusive masculine noun, but at base it is a word meaning men) protest on their own behalf, and the daughers of Zelophehad protest on someone else's behalf.

This is a terrific example of the subtle ways we have different social expectations for men and women, that have their roots in pre-Torah civilisation and continue today, so much part of the wallpaper that most people don't even notice.

It's absolutely acceptable for men to want things for themselves. We raise men to conceive of the world as being basically about them. But it's much less acceptable for women to want things for themselves - we label them as pushy, greedy, bitchy. We raise women to value themselves based on how useful they are to other people, such that acceptable wants are on behalf of others. Men say unashamedly "I want;" women say apologetically "I need." Men get away with being competitive and self-focused; women are expected to be selfless and share even at the cost of their own well-being.

The degree to which this applies depends on the society you move in, but it applies, and for Zelophehad's daughters to say "Why shouldn't we be allowed to participate?" is pretty much as unthinkable now as it was then. Yet we like to think ourselves egalitarian.

Another verse in Beha'alotekha concerns the superlative humility of Moses. The balance between humility and pride led the Kotzker Rebbe to say that a person should have a piece of paper in each pocket; one says "The world was created for me" and the other "I am dust and ashes". The idea is that you balance the two.

This is laudable, and it is one of the areas where egalitarian Judaism fails utterly.

I'll explain.

If you are brought up as a man in our society, you start out with a good-sized "World was created for me" paper, and you have to keep reminding yourself of the dust and ashes bit. However, if you are brought up as a woman, your "World was created for me" paper is very small, and your "dust and ashes" paper, probably along with a "You are bad and worthless unless you are useful to other people and they love you" paper, is very very large.

The mishnah in Sanhedrin (4:5) says נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך שכל המאבד נפש אחד מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו ...לפיכך כל אחד ואחד חייב לומר בשבילי נברא העולם - Adam was created singular to teach you that the loss of one soul is akin to the loss of the entire world, and the saving of one soul is akin to the saving of the entire world...Accordingly, every individual is obliged to say, "The world was created for me."

Except that as a woman, I am continually and acutely aware that the world was not created for me. So who owns this text? I don't.

There is a later emendation to the text that restricts the souls in question to Jewish souls only, and it's a plausible interpretation because the text is speaking to a limited audience. It's not really speaking to all people, it's speaking to people like us, important people, people we want in our world - even taking out the Jewish particularism, this text is still a text with a limited audience, and I am not part of the intended audience.

Consequently, it is all very well to draw beautiful universalist messages from it, but unless you acknowledge the text's fundamental limitations, your own message is likewise going to be fundamentally limited. The text is speaking to the audience it conceives of as default people, normal people, and in our culture that means men. When your universalism is speaking in a men's voice to an audience of default-people, which-means-men, it is a limited universalism, just as a white person lauding racial equality in a roomful of white people rings somewhat hollow.

How to deal with it? I don't know exactly, but it seems to me that one needs to be extremely conscious of one's audience, particularly if one is male, particularly if one is expanding a traditional text into a non-traditional audience. Egalitarianism isn't the same thing as gender-blindedness, or being oblivious of matters gendered.

Egalitarianism means being aware of one's tendency to oblivion, and making efforts to accommodate those in different circumstances to one's own - it doesn't mean assuming that everyone's circumstances are the same. Specifically, gender egalitarianism has to include awareness, because otherwise you are giving male messages to a male audience, and you risk ignoring the women in your audience. למה נגרע? Why should we be excluded?
Today at Hadar we were talking about covenant, and one of the gentlemen in the class, waxing lyrical, said something like "this covenant we inscribe in our flesh..."

Well, only when "we" means "we chaps," and it's yet another of those statements that means very little to most of those present, who have no covenant inscribed in their flesh on account of having ladybits. So I got to wondering.

If you've got the covenant inscribed in your flesh, in the form of a line of scar tissue proclaiming "foreskin woz ere," does it remind you of the covenant every time you see it? Or does it get so's you don't notice it?

I am seriously jolly interested in the answer, but if I know you IRL can you spare my feelings and comment anonymously?
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 3rd, 2009 09:21 pm)
Global Gender Gap report - ranking Economic participation and opportunity; Educational attainment; Political empowerment; Health and survival.

Rankings for 2007 - Sweden wins, which surprises me not one whit; the UK comes in eleventh, and the USA ranks 31 (well ahead of France and Italy, but outranked by Columbia, Namibia, and South Africa). Since arriving in the US five years ago, I've been continually shocked by the lack of gender equality, and depressed to see how little the inhabitants realise it (obviously; they've grown up with it. They think it's normal). It was sort of nice to see that that's not entirely anecdotal.


NY Times article During Pregnancy, Starving for Two - interesting window on micro-managing women's bodies during pregnancy. You must gain weight. But not too much weight. This apparently based on correlation between obesity and complications during pregnancy; one might be excused for thinking there's more to it than that. Officials complain that 70% of women Don't Comply With Guidelines; could there be a reason other than "women are contrary and stupid"? I wonder.

Comment section mildly interesting - loads of MY PREGNANCY STORY gubbins divided into I DID THIS AND IT WAS GREAT and I DIDN'T DO THIS AND IT WAS FINE, some "ugh fatties are gross AND kill babies," a few "interesting that you lecture women about being healthy and still host ads for flat stomachs," and a sprinkling of "women are so irresponsible no wonder everyone's fat and gross EXCEPT ME."


Interested to see The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs - Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women...mostly in poor countries like Tanzania where abortion is illegal, according to the World Health Organization...According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

[A quoted medic] went on, “We as medical personnel think abortion should be legal so a qualified person can do it and you can have safe abortion.”
- yes, NY Times! Well done.

Incidentally, not enough people are calling the Tiller thing terrorism.


And then My Brief Life as a Woman - chap has to take hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

On hot flashes: he thinks it's an under-reported condition. And it’s certainly under-represented in the arts. Where are the great hot flash novels or movies? How come there’s not a Web site or magazine called “Hot Flash Monthly”?

Because it's NOT A MEN THING, dear. Who was it said that if men got periods, tampons would be cool, and flow jokes would go alongside fart jokes as bar talk? IT'S TRUE. Menopause is a Wimmin Thing, so we don't talk about it, because real people don't get menopause.

I had never had to worry about my weight, and I began to understand why media aimed at women and girls obsess over weight so much. It was strange and unsettling not to be able to tell my body, "No..."

Ah, empathy.

But he finishes up with shrugging off being female as hormonal and mysterious...we men don’t have the semblance of a clue, and some tired cliches about how women are so unpredictable, but they're not making it up, chaps! I've been there! which left me with the distinct feeling that this article could have been so much more.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 1st, 2009 12:41 am)
Here's a thought.

Sara Hurwitz, the Not-A-Rabbi-Because-We're-Orthodox clergy member at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, got Not-Ordained-Because-We're-Orthodox a few weeks ago, and they decided that calling her Rabbi Hurwitz would be a bit too much like saying "Have some communal acknowledgement of your rabbinic education and function," so they gave her a pretend title, Mahara"t.

This is short for Manhigah Hilkhatit Ruhanit Toranit. (See if you can remember that tomorrow - read the link, it's a good article.)

Here's an idea for all those Yeshivat Chovevei Torah guys who think that Mahara"t is a perfectly reasonable substitute for "Rabbi." When you get ordained, reject "Rabbi" and "Rav" and insist on Mahara"t, Manhig Hilkhati Ruhani Torani.

Here's an idea for the Hebrew Institute. Instead of calling Steven - junior to Sara, hasn't graduated rabbinical school yet - "Rav Steven" or "Rabbi Exler," call him Mahara"t Steven. (Steven, I honestly think you're a great person, and the politics isn't your fault at all. You're a super guy and you'll be a super rabbi, and I'm sure you feel pretty terrible about the unequal situation.)

Actually I'll give that a paragraph of its own. Steven Exler is a lovely guy and I have a suspish that he isn't altogether easy about being Rav while Sara is Maharat. So he is a pawn in the political game, and that's not his fault. Repeat after me: Steven Is Good.

Anyway, I think I shall start calling YCT boys Marahat myself, regardless. You are cordially invited to join me. At some point, a spade is just a spade.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 30th, 2009 11:55 pm)
That marvellous provider of public service announcements, the Ad Council, has an anti-obesity campaign.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese due to sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. Obesity rates have increased by more than 60% among adults over the last 10 years. As a result, the health of the nation is getting progressively worse with consequences including increased risk for heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

I wrote to them asking for data to back these claims up, because certainly they are the sorts of facts that "everyone knows," just like "everyone knows" all gay people are paedophiles, but it's just possible they are repeating information which is not actually fact.

Accordingly I really, really hope that one day this:

will seem as ridiculous as this:

I think? The lady in the picture looks just fine. Rather good, actually, assuming she's healthy. Sort of like those ads which insisted that one joint would lead inevitably to injecting heroin - if that is obesity I don't see what's wrong with it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 19th, 2009 08:50 pm)
All right all right, I can't not post about Susan Boyle, evidently.

Some of the Tweeting Susan Boyle is happening because it is nice to be reminded that entirely ordinary people are frequently much more talented than we assume. This is well and good. But we do not need to be Tweeting Susan Boyle because zomg look fat lady sings, see the monkey dance, do we? It is a fact of life that you do not have to be 18 and sexy to sing nicely. So I hope none of you are doing that.

I thought the clip was freaking super because Simon Whatsit gets far too much mileage out of being an utter git, and watching his jaw drop, and everyone else's jaws drop, was entirely satisfactory.

I also rather enjoyed it because it's a potted version of Utter Wish-Fulfilment, as in, random ordinary person dearly wants to be a success and it comes true and everyone is wowed to bits, and come on, if you've got any appreciation for soppy at all you've got to appreciate that. Triumphing against all the odds and seeing the pwnage of one's enemies is one of the oldest songs out there, and Susan Boyle sung it, and despite the fact that it's only a good story because everyone's horribly judgemental about people like her, it would still be a sad thing if we weren't tweeting about it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 12th, 2009 08:06 pm)
Amazon.com made of fail: they have done to GLBTQ-friendly books the online-bookstore equivalent of hiding them in a mouldering box in the basement of a condemmed building down the street behind a door with a large sign on it saying BEWARE OF THE TIGER, IT WANTS TO PRONG YOU IN THE ASS.

Google for Amazon Rank and then have a poke around the internets.

Looks like some combination of bad database work and seriously deficient public policy, even if it *is* as innocent as monkeying around with a live database, and I don't think it is; there's also a hefty dose of REALLY DIDN'T THINK THIS THROUGH in there, which is fail when it's this sort of thing. That is, I don't think it is as much malicious let's censor all TEH EEBIL GAYS as some twit in charge of a database failing to realise that there is more to LGBTQ culture than hardcore horse porn, which is a problem of considerable magnitude, don't get me wrong, but not necessarily actively malicious. Anyway Amazon needs to explain why it did what it did, admit that it was wrong, and apologise properly.

Even if it is just saying "We thought that clicking GLBTQ meant hardcore horse porn and didn't realise it also meant children's books and stuff, and oops, and sorry, and we realise our database isn't working very well." Rather than "oh, accident, heheh, byebyes."

Is my take.

Hilarious (read the product reviews)

Breaking news shocker, exercise won't make you thin if you're already at your body's optimal weight

scary - I didn't know heat from candleholders could ignite tables.

Serious effort to combat Artscroll's dominance in the siddur market. Winning quote: It is almost like the ArtScroll siddur is a household word - er, "almost"??

This made me very very happy and is completely non-political.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 5th, 2009 12:03 am)
this wins all the internets in the world

That is, if Racefail 09 were to have produced only one thing, I think I would want it to have been this. I can't choose one bit to post here, because I would end up quoting more or less all of it. Go and read it.

Relatedly, the Onion, and if you can't see how they're related, go away and read about feminism until you do.
"being molested" is so ubiquitous that it is considered a normal part of growing up female

Source thread.

This was my first sexual experience: I was eleven. It was my first year in big school, in a technical drawing class. The teacher was out of the room. The Popular Boy groped me from behind while the rest of the class, girls and boys both, looked on and laughed. Through a fog of terror and utter humiliation, I managed to stab his arm with a pencil. It drew blood. As well as the shame of having been groped and laughed at, I was frightened all day that he would tell on me and I would get into trouble with the school authorities for having stabbed someone with a pencil. I guess I must have known on some level that being groped wouldn't be viewed as sufficient grounds for defending oneself violently.

Like other kids, I grew up being told about Stranger Danger and how if someone touches you in ways you aren't comfortable with, it is okay to tell on them. So, since I had been invaded and humiliated in a sexual, unwelcome, public, shaming manner, and since I was extremely upset, I tried to tell someone I trusted.

I got told to shut up and stop making such a fuss. Being molested is a normal part of growing up female, you know. So I shut up and absorbed that shame and embarrassment and knowledge that if you are molested, other people are going to laugh at you for objecting, and it is your own fault for being insufficiently invisible.

And it's only very very recently that I've realised that something doesn't have to be full-on rape to be Wrong, and it's okay to object to being groped, and if someone tells you to shut up, that's not because you suck, it's because they suck. Hear that? It may be normal to be molested, but that doesn't mean it's okay. It doesn't mean you have to shut up and stop making such a fuss. It's okay to want to be a human being, and to want to be treated as such.

Well, that's today's post. It doesn't have much to do with Torah. On the other hand, it has everything to do with Torah.

PS - Comments are screened and will stay screened unless you indicate specifically that you're okay with them being unscreened.

PPS. Telling women that they should learn self-defence IS NOT the answer. That validates and reinforces the assumption that molestation is the norm, accepts that such is completely inevitable, and plants or strengthens the idea that someone who is attacked is somehow at fault for not having learned to defend herself. A woman shouldn't have to learn self-defence in order to avoid being molested.
I had the best time this evening. You know HaMelekh megillot, right? Esther scrolls which tweak the layout such that each column starts with the word HaMelekh, which means The King.

So R' Katz at CSAIR mentioned that he'd been thinking about a HaMalka (The Queen) megillah and fiddling about with it and only getting partway...

...and I, being a Total Nerd with Mad Leet Computer Tikkun Skillz, decided to give it a shot. And I did it. HaMalka megillah, looking pretty sweet.

Of course, the thing about HaMelekh is that King is allegorical for God, and since there isn't any God in the Megillah, the HaMelekh is a compensatory move. HaMalka obviously takes away from that, so if you are doing HaMalka you have to read it as riffing on the HaMelekh/God theme, rather than as a Stomping Feminist theme.

I suspect most people would assume it was a Stomping Feminist thing ("You changed HaMelekh? Don't you realise that HaMelekh refers to God?! Sheesh, you indulge your ridiculous ignorant feminism and just make yourself look stupid..."). One would get tired of explaining that no, one is very well aware of HaMelekh, and HaMalka retains the concept of sovereignty with its hints of God but adds a feminine aspect, as to say "My relationship with God is informed by my being female, and I can engage with ritual on that basis, and it is kosher and it is joyous."

You see I think people might not understand that. It makes me wonder whether alternating Melekh and Malka on the column heads would be a better move, but on the whole I think the feminine riff is worth it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2009 10:07 pm)
Visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island today since sister is visiting. Beautiful day for it, my goodness; perfect sort of day to be out on the water.

I liked two things especially about the Statue of Liberty. One, the way the statue was made of sheets of copper shaped by hammering into a mould, and then bolted over a framework - that's just very interesting; I knew it was hollow, but not *that* hollow. The other thing I like is that her tummy sticks out further than her bosom. It is so unusual to see representations of women which look like an average woman. I can look at Liberty and think "Hey, I look like that!" and that is more inspiring than you might believe.

Ellis Island was interesting for being modern. My mental immigrant is apparently stuck in 1850; the building has mostly been restored to its 1920s look, tiling and panelling and so forth, with many photographs of people doing things which, if you look carefully, are quite obviously not set in 1850. Intellectually of course I know that immigrants weren't all coming from 1850, but I was continually being surprised by how modern everything was. Telephones and consumerism and Roaring Twenties.

(And even so, there were still a lot of deaths from infectious diseases like measles. Vaccinate your children!)*

I was surprised to learn that most people only spent a few hours there, also. It makes sense in terms of red tape - controlling illegal movement and infectious disease* - but seems awfully cumbersome to ferry thousands of people out there and back again almost right away. The building has these gigantic echoing halls, which reminded me, a first-generation immigrant myself, overwhelmingly of Customs&Immigration at JFK airport, in whose gigantic echoing halls I went through much the same sort of procedure.

What I noticed very strongly, and hadn't been expecting at all, was how white it felt. Liberty Island is covered in stuff about how coming to the USA was an escape from tyranny, oppression etc, and the statue is symbolic of hope, freedom, etc. Ellis Island is covered in stuff about how coming to the USA was a chance at a new life, a better life, free, hopeful, etc. I couldn't help thinking that there are a heck of a lot of people for whom coming to the USA was an *act* of oppression and a deprivation of liberty, hope, freedom etc. Different period, obviously, and historical context and so on; you wouldn't expect Ellis Island to be talking about anything much other than Europeans. I was just suddenly very aware of white privilege and having it, and that awareness flavoured my day.

Especially re Statue of Liberty - she is placed strategcally in the harbour such that she is the first sight of new immigrants, and as such she comes to represent hope and freedom and suchlike as per American Dream. Except that said immigrants were not a) Native American b) South American c) Black d) Asian, and I find myself wondering if Liberty's cultural significance looks different from other perspectives, or whether it's all melting-potted.

So an educational day, but not at all in the ways I had been expecting.

* gratuitous pro-vaccine plug, yes
or, Why I Like Hanukah More Than Purim.

Because parading your wife in public as a sex object isn't funny.
Because getting mad when your wife doesn't want to comply isn't funny.
Because governmental fearmongering with wild speculations about women isn't funny.
Because turfing out your wife in a fit of pique isn't funny.
Because government legitimising intimidation in domestic relationships isn't funny.
Because abduction isn't funny.
Because fetishising virgins isn't funny.
Because rape isn't funny.
Because imprisonment in a harem isn't funny.
Because your husband being allowed to kill you isn't funny.

Don't tell me I'm wrong in reacting to the text in a way that disturbs you.

Don't tell me I'm reading it wrong.
Don't tell me what the Midrash says.
Don't tell me to lighten up.
Don't tell me it's all just a joke.
Don't tell me it's parody.
Don't tell me that if I read it like you read it I wouldn't get upset.

Comments will be screened. Comments failing to understand the above will not be passed.

ETA: For instance, "Did you not notice that none of these things you complain of are supposed to be good or wise?" is telling me I'm reading it wrong. FAIL. Yes, I did notice. Pipe down and think.
Here's part 1. In brief, R' Yosef said that potentially women could read and write Megillah, and there was lots of hoo-ha. Part 1 talks about the hoo-ha.

This part is about the writing. R' Yosef said
ancient megillahs written by women have been found in Yemen
. I would like to know more about this! Anyone got any leads? I am reasonably sure that R' Yosef is much too busy to reply to any query I could send him, and anyway I am not nearly important enough to bother someone like him.

Anyway, he used the Yemen women by way of illustration that women may write megillot.
However, he admitted wryly, it is an open question "whether anyone would buy it."

I've sold eight. Add in the other soferot working today and you must get up to, ooh, coming on for a couple of dozen. News of this bit of creeping feminism obviously hasn't crept very far.

But that's okay, halakhic-egal Judaism has had female rabbis for twenty-some years, but it only just got a Torah scribe (not that it's commissioned any Torahs yet, only the Reform and Recon do that, isn't that silly). Scribes aren't exactly at the forefront of things.

Anyway, I'd be jolly interested to hear about women and megillot, in Yemen or anywhere else really. Ideally actual sources, and not just "X said that Y said that Z said."

On to part 3, not that they're all that sequential really.
Women are allowed to chant the Scroll of Esther on behalf of men if no competent men are available, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel's Sephardi community, ruled in a landmark decision liable to outrage many of his Ashkenazi counterparts.
From Vos Iz Neias, or Haaretz, and loads of people emailing me.

Let's start with how this isn't a landmark decision.

The above is roughly akin to saying "Prisoners should not be detained unlawfully, Democrats ruled today, in a landmark decision liable to outrage many of their Republican counterparts." It's not exactly an innovation. A lot of people have been doing it that way for quite some time, left-wing Orthodox Ashkenazim as well as the liberal movements, so it doesn't really count as "landmark." It also wasn't a "decision," in that he's been saying and teaching that way for some time, in line with quite a lot of rabbinic Judaism over the past couple of millennia. And he didn't "rule," it just came up in a class on the laws of Megillah reading. So, less of the sensationalism.

What is interesting is that suddenly people felt the need to make a big deal out of it. For some reason, the idea that women might read for men has become interesting enough to make headlines. Why should this be?

It's possible that it's part of "Who Owns Judaism?" - it made the news because the ultra-Orthodox said it. Basically all Jewish movements, from centre-right Orthodoxy and leftwards, look to the ultra-Orthodox for authenticity. So it doesn't matter that other flavours of Jew have had women reading Megillah for simply ages; it's only news when the ultra-Orthodox talk about it. Perhaps that's what's going on; if so, it's a great pity.

A tangent: It's a pity for what it shows about how other Jewish movements think about Judaism, perpetually looking over their shoulders measuring themselves against the ultra-Orthodox. Other kinds of Jews don't want to be ultra-Orthodox for a great many reasons, but there is the unfortunate tendency to assume, deep down, that it is basically laziness - that if we were just a bit more prepared to deal with discomfort, we too could be like that. This results in an unspoken but evident assumption that only ultra-Orthodox Judaism is the "real" Judaism, that only the ultra-Orthodox do it "properly," and the necessary corollary that if we're in another movement, there's no point committing to it with our whole heart, if it's just inauthentic toy Judaism.

Moderate Americans don't secretly feel that only hard-line Republicans are the "real Americans," do they? (I really hope they don't, anyway). With notable exceptions, Americans seem to manage the idea that first and foremost you're an American, and you can have political affiliations, and that different political groups are more or less equally valid. Democrats don't go around more or less identifying as Republicans who can't be bothered to do it properly, but an awful lot of liberal Jewish movements have an undertone of being lapsed Orthodox. Either this is a great shame and the liberal movements need a lot more self-confidence, or it is evidence that ultra-Orthodoxy is the only true Judaism. Speaking for the liberal movements (what hutzpah) it's our choice. End tangent.

It's also possible that women-reading-Megillah made the news this particular year because the concept of women participating in things has risen in the public consciousness enough that it's now something people are ready to think about.

Over the past - I don't know, decade? couple of decades? - women's participation in this sort of thing has been increasing. It's now easier for Orthodox women to learn how to read Megillah, and it's a good deal more acceptable these days for women to have women's Megillah readings, for instance. As long as women participating was strictly a non-Orthodox thing, the Orthodox world could comfortably ignore it, writing off the non-Orthodox practices as not really Judaism, but perhaps once it's made its way into the left wing of the Orthodox world it's harder for the right wing to ignore? In other words, perhaps this is creeping feminism crossing a threshold?

So the idea that women might participate in ritual a little more, in the form of a comment about women reading megillah, may have crept into the Sephardi real-world setup. Having crept into the ultra-Sephardi world doesn't mean it's crept into the ultra-Ashkenazi world - doesn't mean it hasn't at all, just evidently less so - which means that the looking-over-their-shoulders-at-the-ultra-Orthodox Jews can't feel authentic about involving women yet. But that's okay, because they ought to be acting on conviction anyway.

In any case, such events are pieces of evidence that even ultra-Orthodoxy is influenced by ideas percolating in the rest of the world, which itself is evidence that exchange of ideas goes both ways, into ultra-Orthodoxy as well as out of it. That is, there is not one true Judaism and a host of lesser Judaisms, but many symbiotic Judaisms.

R' Yosef, being Sephardi, might possibly agree.

But possibly not.

On to part 2