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I Carry My Mother by Leslea Newman Book Cover

Book Review: I Carry My Mother

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.

Topics: Poetry
"The Boston Girl" book cover

Book Club Meeting: "The Boston Girl"

Welcome to the JWA Book Club! We are excited to gather today to discuss Anita Diamant's new novel, The Boston Girl.

Topics: Fiction
Bars of Soap

Soap: The Slippery Slope

“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.

The Boston Girl cropped

Book Review: The Boston Girl

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.

Bored Girl

Advertising Is Advertising Is Advertising

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.

Topics: Feminism
Judith Plaskow

Meet Me at Sinai: An Interview with Judith Plaskow

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.  

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Old Lysol Ad

Seeing is Believing

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.

Women's razor ad cropped

The Gender Politics of Shaving

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.

Topics: Feminism
Lesléa Newman cropped

Parting Gifts

“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?

Topics: Mothers
Eliana Melmed with her two great-grandmothers

The Rebel Women of Passover

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?

Topics: Feminism, Judaism
Students writing at the library

The Seditious Student: Small Steps to Rebellion

I do not break rules. I color inside the lines, a textbook example of a goody two-­shoes. This is mainly because I am afraid of what will happen if I am caught breaking the rules. More specifically, I am afraid of the question of “why.” I like to have reasons for everything that I do, and so a question like, “Why did you hop that fence?” or “Why did you eat ice cream for breakfast?” leave me feeling like a complete deer in the headlights. 

Topics: Schools
The Girl From Human Street

Book Review: The Girl From Human Street

In November, 2009, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen titled his column “A Jew in England.” It describes his time as a student during the late 1960’s at Westminster, a leading British private school. Cohen related being “occasionally taunted as a ‘Yid’—not a bad way to forge a proud Jewish identity as a nonreligious Jew.” Five years later, he devoted an essay to his mother’s treatment for depression in an English sanatorium: “My mother was a woman hollowed out like a tree struck by lightning. I wanted to know why.” 

Topics: Memoirs
Abzug at Women Strike for Peace Protest

Speaking Out and Standing Up

If you had asked me two years ago if I thought of myself as a rebel, I would have been completely taken aback. I also would have said “no!” in a shocked tone, and ask you what on earth had led to that conclusion. I’ve always thought of rebels as people who resist authority or control and honestly, I don’t resist.

Topics: Feminism
Rachel Landau's classmate fighting an attacker at her Power Up graduation

Fighting Back

Can someone please tell me when taking advantage of women became an acceptable thing to do? Stories of assault on college campuses and towards so many people—as well as the overwhelming lack of prevention—give quite the impression that violence is an untouchable part of society. I’ve learned recently, though, that it doesn’t have to be.

Topics: Activism
Edmund Pettus Bridge

Go See "Selma"

I cried six times during the movie Selma. Each time for a different reason, and with varying durations/intensities. Within the first few minutes I had tears of mourning and shock running down my face. At one point I broke into sobs of sorrow.

Text Books

The Right Rebellion

I am not your classic rebel. I have never been overcome by the desire to dye my hair a shocking color or pierce a part of my body that would make strangers gag, nor is there any sort of intrinsic teenage longing to break mailboxes, have sex, and drive drunk hidden within my unstable and developing adolescent brain. It’s hard to believe that the majority of my peers could be particularly rebellious either. 

Emma Goldman

Trying To Be The Iconoclast

It is telling that the when you Google “anarchy”, two definitions come up: one that calls it a “state of disorder” and the other, “a political ideal.” But in my mind, to paraphrase Ellen Willis, anarchy is not a violent rebellion but an overhaul of societal consciousness. I find it more compelling now to be a critic, of everything, because to live critically is to live truthfully.

Tara reading "The Boston Girl"

Announcing the JWA Book Club

Chances are, no two people reading this post have the same favorite book. From month to month, I don’t even have the same favorite book—my tastes range from nonfiction crime thrillers to mid-century poetry, and hit quite a few unusual notes in between. I seek out novels I can get lost in. I like all kinds of mythology and the occasional graphic novel. Choosing what to read next can be overwhelming and generally, I need a little guidance.

Rachel painting by Joseph von Führich

Hannah's Ghost

I love Hanukkah. Always have. Eight crazy nights of games, presents, impromptu dance parties to the songs of Jewish musical maestro Paul Zim, and examinations of a stack of illustrated children’s books about the holiday, among them one very special giant-sized coloring book. (When I tell you giant-sized, I mean the length and width of an average toddler.)

Topics: Feminism, History
2014 Fireworks

Top Ten Moments For Jewish Women In 2014

I’ve already expressed my feelings on the whole “year of the Jewish woman” thing, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t celebrate the many great moments for Jewish women in 2014. Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorites at JWA.

latte

"You Are So Basic"

To many other girls, I am “basic.” I shop at J. Crew and I love Starbucks. I Instagram pictures of food and take selfies on Snapchat. Sometimes, I say things like “OMG I cant even,” and I eat at Chipotle. Despite this, whenever someone calls me “basic” and I ask why, they always point to the clothes I wear.

Yana putting on mascara

Dress to Impress Yourself

I set the water on my stove to boil and flicked on the kitchen radio, which was, as usual, set to NPR. The announcer was giving an update on the ebola crisis, now listing fatalities from a recent accident, now discussing the stock market—I changed the channel. I’d had a long enough day already and had no desire to sit and listen to the ongoing string of bad news. I flipped through channels until I hit a pop station that wasn’t in the middle of a commercial break. As I pulled out plates and pasta sauce, a new song played in the background.

Cotillion

Fashion, Feminism, and A Winter Formal

In my hometown, December means more than just early evenings and the optimism  of an impending winter break. It takes on significance beyond any of the holidays, concerts or changes in the weather. Instead, December means Cotillion, the prom-like event that has groups of high school students talking endlessly of dresses and limousines, pre-parties and after-parties, and definitely not the etiquette that the dance is supposed to teach. 

Corset illustration

Corset On, Corset Off

For most of my life, my fashion sense has been dictated more by what I don’t want to wear than what I do want to wear. Socks with seams? Nope. Tight jeans? No way. Itchy sweaters? Out of the question! I feel almost nothing towards clothes, and when I do feel anything, it is usually frustration at tedious trips to the mall and or the seamstress shop. Sure, I enjoy looking “good.” But I have never really had any idea what “good” actually means.

Old fashion plate

Fashionably Frustrated: Confessions of a Shop-o-Phobic

I was leading the feminist crusade toward an era where women would be judged not by the cuteness of their clothing but the content of their character. I, clad in ill-fitting yet fully functional attire, was the ascetic monk of the religion of Not Caring What Other People Think.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on July 7, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.

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