The Rising Voices Fellowship is a collaborative program created by the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) and Prozdor of Hebrew College. The fellowship is open to female-identified teens with a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism—particularly as it relates to issues of gender and equality. Learn more here!
Ancient Egypt, Nazi Germany, and High School Classrooms: Is There Such a Thing as an Innocent Bystander?
There is little more frustrating than being punished for something that you did not do. The extra homework assignments because a few classmates were talking, no sandals to work because one girl stubbed her toe, no more school-wide pancake breakfasts because one group of students did not clean up their lunch, the trampoline is off-limits because one person couldn’t follow the rules. So many instances when one person, or one small group of people, ruined it for everybody.
Boxes of slide reels still cover my repurposed kitchen table. To help with storage, a nearby closet offers enough space for a whopping twelve boxes for a total of sixteen, all compiled by my paternal Grandfather. I’m no mathematician but I can easily calculate that, with sixteen boxes of eighty slides, there must be over twelve hundred squares of film.
Recently I have become aware of Meninist Twitter, an account with thousands of followers. An account whose purposes, as far as I can tell, are to argue that true gender equality means fighting for men's rights, to claim that women have an agenda that involves disadvantaging men, and, of course, to ridicule feminism.
Anger is powerful. Anger is useful. If you insult me at the bowling alley, I am bound to bowl a strike right after. I tend to utilize anger in three areas: passive aggressive, the rare occasions where I engage in competitions, and talking about feminist issues. Not to sound like an angry feminist, but there is a lot to be angry about on that front.
Jewish women are having a moment. At the end of 2014, Flavorwire published an article entitled “2014 Was—Secretly—The Year of the Jewish Woman.” It profiled Jewish women who made news in culture in the past year: Abbi Glazer and Ilana Jacobson of the Comedy Central show Broad City, Jill Soloway, the writer of the groundbreaking show Transparent, and Jenny Slate, the comedian who starred in the romantic comedy Obvious Child, among others.
I have an immense amount of respect for more traditional Jewish communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardi alike. Judaism cannot and should not be only one thing; and our culture’s ability to be both united and extraordinarily multi-faceted is part of what makes it so beautiful.
We’ve all seen—and heard of—the impossible standards to which women are held: be skinny, beautiful, athletic, and put together, but also be “natural” and be “yourself.” Don’t change yourself for a man, but don’t scare him off by being too honest or “real” from the get-go either. Be smart and informed, but don’t let your intelligence outshine his, or else his masculinity might be threatened. Be a perfect mother and wife, but make sure you’re also highly accomplished at work.
So, when prompted with the question, “Which piece of culture would you like history to forget?” I truly couldn’t think of anything. To willingly want to erase a historical cultural record really shows no regard for history at all. The culture we create is a reflection of our values during that period. Books, movies, TV, music, are the most compelling historical records we have of the mood of a society, and this includes the ugly parts.
Sometimes, my shame overwhelms me mid-phrase, and I am only able to get half-way through the final word: “What a bi…” before I chastise myself thoroughly. “Stop it. You are a feminist now, Eliza. You are supposed to be better than this.”
We need to pay strict attention to what messages we get from the media and how those messages perpetuate violence and misogyny. Violent and offensive lyrics, such as those in “Animals,” glorify and romanticize sexualized violence, causing distorted views on healthy relationships. Objectification and violence toward women can too easily become mainstream when popular celebrities endorse this behavior.
In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes argues that the main foundation of knowledge is one’s own mind: we think; therefore, we are. We can trust our subjective reality more than the objective one. It should follow from such a philosophical notion that people should not judge each other’s perceptions because no one can know what is really true. For a short time this winter, such a judgment was suspended, and everyone freely judged others.
When I was younger, I used to love watching Hannah Montana on television. The lead character, played by Miley Cyrus, lived a double life as pop sensation Hannah Montana. Cyrus had so many fans, so many young not-yet-teenagers who looked up to her. I remember going to see her in concert when I was in fourth grade. It was one of the highlights of my year.
The people of a certain culture devote an entire week of each year to commemorating one of the worst parts of their history. They taste bitter things to appreciate the suffering of their ancestors. They consciously abstain from consuming bread to remind themselves what was eaten—or rather, what was not eaten. They mourn the deaths of their ancient oppressors. They drink the metaphorical tears of their forefathers and foremothers. And year after year after year, they gather around tables to recount the suffering and the humiliation and the turmoil of their own people.
I am not opposed to documenting experiences through photographs—often looking at one picture is enough for me to remember an entire sequence of events that I would otherwise have forgotten. However, in an age of social media, the obsession with producing a photo that makes an event look fun, that makes the people involved look glamorous, can be a misrepresentation of the event.
In the film industry, 2011 was the year of casual sex. In January, Paramount Pictures released No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. The movie documents two best friends who think that introducing physical intimacy into their relationship won’t complicate things and that feelings will not be involved, resulting in a “no strings attached” relationship.
Through her blues music, Holmes inspired people all over America to take a stand for black equality. She performed at numerous rallies, advocating for civil rights for all; in fact, her music is often called the “soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement.”
2014 was a year when police brutality against black men was brought to the forefront of the American consciousness. The police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, along with no legal sentences for the perpetrators, arranged themselves into a pattern that was difficult for the public to miss. Among the responses were protests, riots, classroom discussions, and the swift rise of the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter.”
Of all the things I take for granted, the value I most often overlook is democracy. To reside in a thriving democratic country that gives a voice to its people and places checks and balances on its government is more than I can ever fully appreciate, and even though I have doubts about certain policies, at least I have the opportunity to voice these questions. As a young writer, I am especially grateful for my ability to articulate my opinions without fear of harm.
It’s hard to rise above the fray. To disregard all of the weight attached to us, to be free. There are many aspects of life that will try to ground us, to clip our wings and to take away our voices, but it is the voices that demand to be heard that guide us. Maya Angelou had one of those voices. In all aspects, she was a whirlwind force to be reckoned with. She excelled as a poet, author, singer, dancer, professor, screenwriter, actress, advocate, and avid feminist.
In a country where some consider being born a woman a capital offense, Malalai Joya is the epitome of bravery. An Afghani woman, Joya has overcome hardship, loss and great obstacles and yet has never given up on her quest to make the world a better place.
Often, when I see an article about Israel in a magazine or a newspaper, a gnawing sense of despair wells up in my chest. As the country’s political and class conflicts seems to stagnate and worsen, I have found it easier to avoid such news altogether. I don’t like feeling that way. I hate feeling that way. Though I may not always agree with the actions of the state, I am invested in Israel and want her to succeed and thrive. But as I grow older and more aware, my cynicism often diminishes my capacity for hope.
Andrew Sullivan came into my life when I entered high school. At that time, he was writing a blog for the Daily Beast called “The Dish” and I read it Every. Single. Day. He wrote about politics in Washington, the Iraq War, different facets of American culture, conservatism, Christianity. But what he is best known for his role in the fight for same sex marriage.
Western feminists have a habit of writing about and advocating for “first world” issues: body image, television and gaming tropes, the wage gap, you name it. It’s logical to be most concerned with the society in which you live and on which you have the most influence, and there’s nothing wrong with this reality.
With the newly popular theme of including feminist ideals in advertising—such as Pantene’s campaign against apologizing—I can’t help but express my gratitude. It’s nice of these companies to give a brief hint at achieving societal equality.
This Girl Can is a nonprofit based in the UK that “is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgment is a barrier that can be overcome.” In their main video campaign, women of all races, shapes, and ability levels are featured exercising and enjoying themselves. They are proud of who they are and are proud of their active lifestyles.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on May 29, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.