In classroom H135b, Ingrid, Filippa, Linnea, and Fanny are sitting at wooden desks that are pushed together to shape a large table that faces the white board and the lecturing Professor Schwarz. These women, most retired, all Swedish, and all non-Jews, are learning Yiddish.
I have a vague recollection of the first time I learned about Vashti. I was sitting at circle time on a primary-colored rug in my pre-K class at Sunday school and was told, “Vashti was not nice to the King. She would not dance for the King.” And we all just nodded our heads in sympathy for King Ahashuarus. “Poor King.” We all thought, “Vashti is evil.”
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.
Exclamations of pride and wonder filled the room when we filed into the kitchen and found that the dough we had carefully mixed and kneaded had successfully grown into two pillowy, pungent loaves. Pulling off an olive-sized piece of dough, I recited the blessing “Blessed are you, God, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” Laughing and singing, we split the dough and began forming it into loaves.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: despite devoting my life to women’s history, I’m not the biggest fan of Women’s History Month. While I love the public attention that turns to women’s stories in March, I hate the assumption that the stories of half the population deserve this attention just 1/12 of the year.
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.
Yelena Akhtiorskaya's debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase, has brought her a whirlwind of accolades, including a spot on the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" list. As JWA features her as part of a Power Couple for her unique take on the immigrant experience, our Web Content Editor, Lisa Feld, asked her about her writing, her new-found fame, and returning to Odessa decades after her family's exodus.
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen sat down with JWA's Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum to discuss his latest book, The Girl from Human Street, a memoir of his mother. In their conversation, Cohen shares an intimate portrait of his mother, her debilitating depression, and what her story teaches us about Jewish history.
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.
The story of The Feminine Mystique is of course the story of Betty Friedan, but it is also the story of every woman, young and old, who read the book and came away from it a changed person. This week, we celebrate the anniversary of its landmark publication in 1963, and its profound impact on the budding feminist movement of the time, as well as on subsequent generations of readers.
Rose Rosenberg represents so many women whose names are lost to history because they worked in supportive and administrative roles rather than in the limelight, but who, in pursing work in male-dominated environments, paved the way for women to have leadership roles today. Her story gives us a richer sense of what women have done in behind-the-scenes roles and how that fits into the narratives of history’s “great men.”
You would have to live under a rock to avoid advertising in our 21st century capitalist society. Whether it's billboards as we cruise down the highway, pop-ups on our laptops, or commercials crammed between the cliffhangers of our favorite shows, ads pervade nearly every facet of our lives. Naturally, businesses and nonprofits are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to grab our attention and our money. It should come as no surprise, then, that more and more ad campaigns have begun to cater to a target demographic's ideals and values.
If you still haven't watched Hindsight on VH1, it's time to get with the program. Built on the premise that forty-something Becca—about to marry her second husband—suddenly travels back in time to 1995, the show is at once a rolicking journey through 90s nostalgia and and a thoughtful meditation on female friendship. I talked to Hindsight's creator and executive producer, Emily Fox, about developing the show, what it's like to be a woman writer in Hollywood, and the travails of finding Gillette Green Razors.
Dove tells me I am beautiful as I am. Pantene exposes the double standard between men and women. Always reminds me that “like a girl” should never be an insult.
And suddenly I am transported into a golden era of feminism wherein I feel completely comfortable with my appearance, my life goals, and my femininity.
Or maybe not.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a woman with a pimple on the cover of a magazine. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a woman with small breasts or a big stomach in an advertisement. The only time I’ve ever seen a woman in an ad with even slightly dry skin is in a “before” image.
I Carry My Mother is not only a tribute to the works of famous poets but, more importantly, to Newman’s mother, who passed away three years ago. The poems show her mother both as Newman wants her to be remembered as well as how Newman saw her as she was dying in her hospital bed.
“The greatest skin care discovery of all time!” boasts the 1957 black and white commercial, showing a still of the New York skyline. The camera then pans up to show a flock of white doves flying away, leaving a giant white Dove soap bar to fill the screen. The crackling voice explains the benefits of using a Dove bar instead of another soap product, demonstrating this by having a beautiful blonde young woman wash each side of her face with a different product.
Frequent readers of novels know to expect certain tropes and themes in any coming of age tale: family, school, work, some combination of love, sex, and marriage. If the protagonist is female, then gender discrimination is sure to follow, and if the protagonist is from an immigrant family in America, then conflict over Americanization is equally inevitable. Anita Diamant’s new novel, The Boston Girl, hits every one of these story beats, yet the book is nonetheless an entertaining read enriched by historical research.
Advertising is advertising is advertising. I will preach this from the mountaintops. When people talk about the cultural ramifications of “feminist” advertising, I have to roll my eyes a little bit. Advertising has one main goal: to sell people things. The methods employed to make people buy these things might change but advertising is not deep, it’s not intellectual, and frankly, I don’t think it’s all that important.
On Sunday February 8, New York City's B’nai Jeshurun will host Meet Me at Sinai, an all-day event to celebrate and discuss the 25th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Judith Plaskow’s Standing Again at Sinai, a book that shook the foundations of Jewish expression with its candid discussion of Jewish feminist theology. The event will include more than thirty Jewish leaders speaking on Judaism and gender, as well as film, music, text study, movement, and prayer.
These advertisements, written roughly forty to fifty years ago, speak for themselves. (I found them in a blog post called “Vintage Politically-Incorrect Advertising”—never have I been more grateful for political correctness.) Interestingly, all of them seemed to be aimed at men. I suspect the reason for that is a simple one: the men, at the least in the eyes of the ad men, were the ones with the money in their pockets.
I have never prioritized shaving my legs. I’ve always found it a nuisance and a burden and have therefore generally avoided it all together. When questioned why, I would always come up with answers such as “bending over in the shower is too much work” or “I was in a rush,” but recently, after seeing a very thought provoking photo in which a women is depicted shaving flowers off her body, I began to further question my reasons for not shaving my legs.
“I can’t die before July 28th,” my mother said as soon as her doctor strolled into her room at Long Island Jewish Hospital. “I have theatre tickets.” Then, exhausted from the effort of uttering those two short sentences, she lay back on the pillow and shut her eyes.
Dr. Nadroo put a calming hand on my mother’s arm and looked at me, her large liquidy eyes filled with concern. Had the cancer that had begun in my mother’s bladder and migrated to her liver and kidneys finally reached the outpost of her brain?
My grandfather starts every Pesach Seder with the same opening lines. He talks about how he can remember being at the Seder table with his grandfather, who was once at a Seder table with his grandfather, and if you follow the generations back only a few more times you are right back at the original Pesach celebration, the escape from Egypt. These few words add so much meaning to my Pesach experience; I feel a direct relation to the Jews who escaped slavery so long ago. But while I love being able to draw this connection to the ancient past, something has always struck me about this tale: how come women are not part of this story of family linkage?
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on April 25, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.