What I don't get, right now, is why we're all being super-sad about the kids who bowed to homophobic bullying and killed themselves, but super-judgemental about the paper who bowed to homophobic bullying and apologised for announcing a gay wedding. I must have seen a dozen posts in the last hour badmouthing that paper.

If they got bullied into doing what they did...why are we blaming them? Aren't they also victims of bullying? Okay, if they actually changed their minds and decided that Teh Gheyz are Ebil, that's one thing. We can be judgemental about that. But why aren't we first asking them just what these mysterious rabbis threatened? Telling them that it doesn't matter what the rabbis said, we'll support them? Pushing to know who these rabbis are?

Why are we blaming the victim?

Can we stop it, please?
"A college bop," said Etienne expansively, "is a pre-fornicatory experience."

And the crowd of listening freshmen giggled and fancied Etienne a little bit more, which was presumably the intended effect.

A minimal amount of social bonding and aesthetic enjoyment occurs at a college bop, aided by coloured lighting, cheesy music, and subsidised alcohol, but overriding all is the naked desperation of all present to conclude the evening in carnal embrace.

That is to say, the degree of sexual awareness is practically palpable (as is a great deal else). Who is checking you out? Whom might you be checking out? At whom might you make a pass? What will be the flirty move here, the suggestive word there, that will get you successfully laid? Where is Etienne?

I mention this not because I think you, dear readers, are unfamiliar with these scenes, but because I have little taste for bops, clubs, and other such pre-fornicatory experiences; having avoided them for some ten years, I recently found myself once again in just such an atmosphere, but in the context of an Orthodox Synagogue, which incongruity bears examining.

Among the women, during davening, I wasn't expecting the immaculate makeup, the artlessly blow-dried hair, the tight, tight skirts (modestly below the knee) or the plunging necklines (over a skin-tight undergarment modestly covering collarbone and elbow, of course). I wasn't expecting the enthusiastic displays of piety in the men's section, or the self-conscious charm exerted during socialising afterwards.

Above all, I wasn't expecting that tense, searching, sexually aware atmosphere, where one is continually groped by other people's questing feelers. Where all members of the opposite sex are potential targets, and all members of one's own sex, competition. I was transported back ten years to the college bop; I found myself looking around for Etienne. Granted the aim isn't to get laid at the end of the night - rather to get married by the end of the year - but it's equally as intense, equally as hungry, equally as naked, and sadly unmitigated by loud music or freely-flowing alcohol.

I should perhaps have expected it. The shul describes itself as the nexus for committed, Torah-observant Jews to meet and develop their Jewish futures together; this is apparently code for kosher meat market. I just wasn't expecting shul to be a pre-fornicatory experience, and I didn't like it much.
Gulf disaster needs divine intervention as man's efforts have been futile. Gulf lawmakers designate today Day of Prayer for solution/miracle

this could be our next president.
There's quite the lightning storm going on out there. I'm at the airport, so I have an unusually large amount of horizon to look at, and the lightning's the kind that plays acriss the sky as far as you can see, back and forth, these gigantic parallel streaks filling the sky and flicking off again.

It's the strange kind of lightning storm that fills the sky but makes no sound. There's no rain, no thunder, just the sky lighting up, like headlights across a ceiling, but it's the biggest ceiling *ever* and the biggest headlights too. Every so often a bigger whopper than usual breaks through and you can see the bolt shaking itself into the ground.

There might be thunder, actually; I'm wearing earplugs because someone's talking about healthcare on the piped television and it makes me mad to listen to white dudes with health insurance pontificating about why the existing system is made of cookies. Cos from where I'm standing it's a question of "how many people have to be permanently crippled from inadequate care before you start feeling sorry enough for them that you want your health money to pay healthcare costs rather than insurance executives," which seems like something of a no-brainer to me; I'd much rather my friends got treatment than that we should pay for some twerps in an office to shuffle claim forms and misfile things. I mean per capita the US could spend what the UK spends, and everyone would have health care, and there'd still be bloody masses left over, and we could use it for unemployment benefits for those recently fired from insurance companies. Anyway, I'm wearing earplugs, so if there is thunder I can't hear it. But I don't think there is.

Talking of health insurance, as part of my divorce paperwork, I and he have to submit a form which says: I [NAME] fully understand that upon the entrance of this divorce agreement, I may no longer be allowed to receive health coverage under my former spouse's health insurance plan. I may be entitled to purchase health insurance on my own through a COBRA option, if available, otherwise I may be required to secure my own health insurance.

That is, before your divorce is admitted for the consideration of the court, you have to turn in a sworn statement to the effect that you understand just how much a divorce can bollocks up your healthcare. I know that benefits and pensions and stuff can play a part when deciding whether to get divorced or not, but healthcare - and sworn statements - sheesh.

For those not used to the US system: there's this magical thing called a pre-existing condition, you see; if you have ever been sick before you are a Bad Risk. If you actually have real chronic problems and need to get your own insurance after your divorce you'd better marry a doctor pronto, and if you once got sick ten years ago and got better and didn't think it worth mentioning you'd better pray you never need expensive treatment because then the insurance company digs that up and says "oo you had a pre-existing condition your insurance is invalidated now we don't have pay your bills NEH NEH NEH and btw you owe the hospital several hundred thousand dollars" and you're screwed again. So getting your own insurance isn't necessarily going to happen, even if you've got a job that offers it. Oh, your insurance premiums pay for the dirt-digging peons as well. It's in their interest to deny you care so they put a lot of effort into it. Ugh.

The downside of watching spectacular electrical storms from the airport is that...they close the airport. Planes are great big Faraday cages so people in planes are okay, but I suppose it's dangerous for the ground crews, and I spose it might fry the tyres as well.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Aug. 13th, 2009 10:14 am)
Comment on the healthcare debate (which you may have noticed I have not been commenting on).

Quote from a random American, on why private health insurance is much better than a publically-funded system:

I just don't think it's right to have to subsidize other people's insurance.

What on earth do you think insurance is? It's a system of shared subsidisation based on an assessment of collective risk, but adding a nice whack for the shareholders. Zounds, but this foolishness wearies me.

This apropos of the US Right's recent effort to prove that publically-funded healthcare is Evil, by claiming that Steven Hawking wouldn't have lived to grace the world had he been born in the UK.

This is obviously stupid; what's additionally interesting is how it's a lovely example of the smouldering tissue of invented truths, lack of fact-checking, wild assumptions, and smoke blown out by stirring same, being presented as reasoned debate in this country.
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. 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.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 29th, 2009 03:05 pm)
Rabbinical school application essay question.*

Faith: How do you experience the Divine? What do you believe about the nature of Torah as revealed in word and deed, and how does this affect your religious action? How do you relate to the concepts of obligation (chiyuv) and choseness ('am segulah)? How do the destruction of European Jewry and the birth of Israel affect your religious landscape? What would a redeemed world look like?

Speaking as an European Jew, and one of the more favoured ones at that, I find this question deeply, deeply offensive. The phrase the destruction of European Jewry reflects accurately the popular notion among US Jews that there are no Jews to speak of, and no Judaism worth mentioning, in Europe - that Jews in Europe are merely the stuff of legend.

Of course the Shoah did ghastly things to the European Jewry which was flourishing in the 1930s. Of course European Jewry was more or less razed to the ground and all but paralysed by trauma. Of course those events are relevant in a question about faith. But the thing is, European Jewry was not destroyed.

So a major US rabbinical school here betrays its working perception of European Jewry as entirely destroyed. This is terrifically problematic: certainly there no longer exist the major centres of learning and whopping great Jewish communities for which pre-Shoah Europe is remembered, but there are still Jews, and they are not dead. All too many Jewish institutions in the USA operate on the basis that they are, and frankly it'd be jolly nice if they didn't.

A redeemed world? Could start with schools like this recognising that European Jews are real live people with real live communities, and not behaving as though we're all phantoms of nostalgia. It would do an awful lot more to foster the growth of such communities, and it would probably be good for the personal development of the American rabbinate to have to stop navel-gazing now and again. Plus of course it's just rude to go around making like we're all dead, and believe me you don't want me making woo-woo noises in your bedroom in the middle of the night.

* No, I'm not applying to rabbinical school.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 25th, 2009 09:57 pm)
Cripes. Obama reversed the media block on military coffins. The media is now allowed to print pictures of "flag-draped caskets of fallen U.S. troops returning home," pictures which were banned because various US presidents, quite a lot of whom were called Bush, thought that such images might make people fed up with wars.

That's pretty amazing, really.
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.
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
We're having a bloody cold winter, you may have noticed, and every so often (or "rather too often," depending) you hear someone banging on about how that proves there is no global warming BECAUSE IT'S COLD NOW.


For instance.

THOUSANDS of Victorians [that's in Australia, yo] were still without power today as the state's unprecedented heatwave dragged on with little relief in sight...

Victorian Premier John Brumby defended the state's power systems, saying the blackout was the result of catastrophic events during a record heatwave, the likes of which only occurred every 100 or 200 years.

“These are unprecedented conditions, it's the hottest week since records began,” Mr Brumby said in the bushfire-affected Latrobe Valley.

And more here.

Global warming means extreme climate conditions.

Just sayin'.

ETA: On reflection, I'm closing comments on this, because I am not especially interested in providing a forum for wank.
I've spent most of my life thus far internalising the message that the more invisible I am, the better. The less I exist, the more I'll be loved. I'm a Girl; my place is to fit quietly into the blanks, take up no space, and wait to be loved, and the less space I take up, the more lovable I am.

What's not okay, ever, is demanding attention. Even to the degree of saying "I would like" or "I need," and certainly not to the extent of expressing anger or boundaries. Nice girls don't go around asserting themselves at people. Taking up space isn't feminine. When you take up space, you're putting yourself forward and Not Being A Good Girl.

Taking up space is what Unwomanly Women do. Nice Girls squash themselves into the smallest volume possible.

Similarly: feminine, attractive, desirable women are thin. Fat is bad. Nice Girls reduce themselves as much as possible, emotionally and physically. The less you impose yourself on people, the more you'll be loved. The more you lessen yourself, the more feminine you are. If you're thinner than thin, you'll be super-feminine and super-lovable.

Since of course the ideal is the woman who exists only to tend her men's egos, who has no needs or desires to get in the way of that, who does not do inconvenient things like assert herself, it follows that you can never be too thin.

If you are happy with your body, that's basically the same thing as saying it's okay to exist. It's okay to have boundaries. It's okay to assert yourself. It's okay to want things, to get angry about things, to have opinions about things.

And, good grief, if you're fat and actually okay with that, that's almost like saying it's okay to take up more space than other people! It might even mean that you're one of those women who puts herself forward, heaven forbid. Who puts herself first. Can you imagine anything more unfeminine? Ugh.

You see, even though we're nominally a more-or-less egalitarian society, really we still find assertive women pretty scary. Men are allowed to get angry. Women aren't. Men are allowed to have desires (particularly for food). Women aren't. Men are allowed to be sexually forward. Women aren't.

Except that, unaccountably, women keep getting the wrong idea and taking up space. But it's okay, because even though it's not politically correct any more to ridicule assertive women, it's okay to ridicule fat women. Women who enjoy premarital sex don't get locked up in asylums any more, but doctors are still allowed to tell shapely women they're the wrong shape. And so is everyone else.

It's still okay to tell women they need to reduce themselves. It's okay to tell women they should exist less. Just make like you're talking about their bodies and not about their beings. They'll get the message.