The Rising Voices 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 social justice. Learn more and meet the Rising Voices Fellows of 2016-2017!
The Rising Voices Fellowship is funded in part by a grant from the Hadassah Foundation.
I live in a town where Bernie Sanders merchandise adorns front yards and backpacks, school clubs like the GTSA (Gay-Trans-Straight Alliance) and Students Against Human Trafficking have the largest followings, introducing yourself with pronouns is required, and discussions on issues like the refugee crisis and racial inequality are held in both the classroom and the cafeteria. It’s a liberal bubble in a world with increasingly pervasive conservatism, and while many members of my town are wonderfully open about acceptance of liberal issues, kids at school are ostracized for identifying as Republican.
I grew up bilingual. From a young age, my parents, who are not Israeli, spoke to me in Hebrew because they felt it was an important skill to have. My ability to communicate with people outside of the English-speaking world has always felt like an incredible privilege. Although I love being able to find deeper meaning in the things I say through my dual-vocabulary, it’s the ability to share stories with people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand them, and the ability to hear theirs, that I find most important.
This lady is my German RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and let’s not even discuss what would happen if I were to bump into RBG at a coffee shop. For anyone who might not know, Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany (2005-present), and is the first woman to hold the position.
Donald Trump isn’t a name thrown around fondly in my social circles. I’d say I live comfortably in a liberal bubble, one which sees Donald Trump as an overblown joke. With the upcoming election, his name has become a household one, and is uttered with callousness and a little bit of fear. As primaries are approaching and poll results are flying in, I’m becoming uneasy about Donald Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate.
Recently, American women came under attack. And I’m not talking about a dozen women, or even a hundred women. Earlier this year, each and every one of the estimated 160 million women living in the United States of America was threatened by an attack which, had it succeeded, would have set women’s rights back to the early 1900s.
Marwa Sayed was the first Hijabi I ever met. I was a freshman in high school and she was a junior. A force to be reckoned with, she terrified me. She had strong convictions for equality and justice from which she did not back down. I served on student council with her at Boston University Academy (the high school we both attended) for two years, and during that time she led the charge to abolish the dress code and to establish gender neutral bathrooms.
As a teenage girl who has had a consistent, though definitively low key, internet presence since I was 12, I have witnessed the rise and fall of many-a carefully tailored persona. Online venues (Tumblr being the most recent and preeminent, but MySpace before this) provide a space for young people to pick the best bits and pieces of themselves, and to cut and paste them together into some straw man fallacy of a person.
I am a member of the Marching Band and Color Guard at my high school. One challenge that we face as a group year after year is designing our costumes. The easy part is making the design fit with the show’s theme. The harder part is designing something to wear that everyone is happy with.
For the young woman, a thrift store serves as the proverbial laboratory of feminism. The reactants: bits and pieces of people left behind in coat pockets and skirt pleats (the people, hopefully, being solely metaphorical). The product: a newly formed sense of self, or the ability to form said sense of self.
Brandy’s clothes are appealing to girls like me who prefer a simple look. However, there’s one important thing that separates Brandy from the other clothing chains for teenage girls—their one-size policy. Yes, all of Brandy Melville’s clothes are only available in one, miniature, singular size. One size fits most is the company’s complacent statement regarding their sizing.
There is not a single part of American culture that infuriates me more then the over-editing of the female body. It’s untrue, unfair, and unjust. You and I should not have to feel badly about what we see in the mirror. It’s not fair, but it’s not going away unless people try to do something about it.
I have always been what some may call a “fashionista.” I have loved fashion since I was a very little girl. Whether it be my all-pink clothing phase, my mortifying obsession with layering neon Sugar Lips tank tops, my love for high side ponytails, or my obnoxiously bright and sparkly Limited-Too wardrobe, I have always used fashion to mirror my inner self.
Every single morning, I wake up, shake the fog out of my head, and consider what I am going to wear. Almost every day, my outfit is some version of Doc Martens (or, “Docs”) boots, a white button up shirt, and jeans. I somewhat intentionally do not dress like most of the other girls in my grade. I don’t care about looking similar to them, but I do care about my appearance.
Recently I found myself bombarded by a series of conflicting articles, all telling women how they should dress. Strangely, for articles that seek to police women’s behavior, each one claims that its dress prescription is the only way women can be respected from a feminist perspective.
I used to wear tie-dye. A lot of it. I also used to wear awkward length skirts, brightly colored shirts, and sparkly jewelry. It was a middle school phase; everyone is entitled to one. But it was also more than a phase. It was the time before I cared what people thought of me.
Around the time of my bat mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I started to straighten my hair every Shabbat. Each Friday afternoon, I would rush home from school to make it into the shower with enough time to do my hair before the sun set. Although it was stressful at times, it became something I really enjoyed doing.
It is a general truism that in a society which prioritizes one’s physical appearance over one’s personality, dressing outside of the established norm is often a form of social self-ruin. It is also a general truism that the delicate ecosystem of Jewish private school isn’t the place most conducive to experimentation with gender expression through clothing.
You know the saying: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Were we to meet, we wouldn’t be enemies exactly, but I doubt that we’d be friends either. While you and I are both female Jewish writers, the similarity stops there.
Nehama Leibowitz, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the twentieth century, was often described as a paradoxical woman. She was a pious Jew, and a liberal. She was fiercely intelligent, and nonetheless humble. She was a Torah scholar and teacher of thousands, and she was a woman.
There is a certain type of girl our parents always told us to stay away from when we were younger; she was often described as bad news, or as bound to corrupt our innocent souls. Always getting herself into trouble, she's the type of girl who the adults detest and the kids idolize.
I have an insane amount of respect for Susan Brownmiller. Trailblazer is truly the word to describe this journalist who became a civil rights and feminist activist. Her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, legitimately changed the public outlook on rape.
Andrea Dworkin was one of the greatest feminist minds of the 20th century, and a huge influence on second wave feminism, the dominant feminist ideology of the 1960s and 70s. Second wave feminism held that sex work and sexual entertainment were harmful and degrading to women, and should be abolished.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rising Voices." (Viewed on October 28, 2016) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices>.