My favorite movie [The Princess Bride], though strikingly Jewish, is not particularly feminist. It’s not just that it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (because let’s be real how many movies do?), it’s because the female protagonist, Buttercup, is seemingly incapable of doing anything on her own.
Tyra Banks. What comes to mind when you hear that name? For you, maybe a middle-aged woman who has been riding a franchise for too long. However, what comes to mind for me is a strong, African American woman who has had a wildly successful career, first as a model, and more recently as one of the creators and judges on the TV show, America’s Next Top Model. ANTM originally was intended to humanize the modeling career, however, as of recent, it has done nothing but the polar opposite.
This winter, Ben Higgins graced our TV screens once again in his search for love on ABC’s hit reality show, The Bachelor. As an avid (yet ashamed) Bachelor viewer, I’ve been thinking about everything wrong with this show. From the degrading one-sided relationships, to what is expected of the women on the painfully cheesy dates, there are so many things wrong with this show; and don’t even get me started with the lack of diversity!
Woody Allen’s name is synonymous with New York City Jewry and avant-garde art; he is the poster boy for the guilt ridden, philosophically burdened, emotionally stunted kvetcher that we are all familiar with. Allen’s characters are recognizable—carrying pieces of our relatives, our community members, and ourselves. Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan, and Fading Gigolo, to name a few, place a strong emphasis on Jewish culture and idiosyncrasies, connecting to both a broad, general audience, that responds to the novelty, and to the specific tastes of Jews.
Joy is a cute movie, to say the most. Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Joy Mangano, is a housewife who strives to become a businesswoman despite the men in her life advising her against it. On the surface, this is a powerful story about a woman coming into her own; a working class woman in the late 80s who moves beyond her meager station in life to make a name for herself.
In 1972, founding second-wave feminist Alix Kates Shulman published her bestselling debut novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen. Following a young midwestern Jewish woman named Sasha Davis, Prom Queen bears witness to the exhausting, invasive, and often violent experience of becoming a woman, and is widely identified as the first important novel to emerge from the Women's Liberation Movement.
I wrote my most important college admissions essay about The Big Lebowski. This is probably less indicative of my commitment to higher education, and more indicative of my unabashed love of the unstoppable film duo that is The Coen Brothers.
For all that I am the outspoken, proud nerd in my school life, for all that I try to speak up for my views and ask questions in academic settings, for all that I am confidently liberal in conservative settings— I am distinctly self-conscious about all of it.
On December 17, I joined millions of people around the world in a line. Now this was no ordinary line. In front of me stood Chewbacca, and behind me several Stormtroopers waited patiently. This was the line to see the latest and possibly greatest movie in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens. That evening, I joined fans both young and old in delighting in the marvels of another world. I lost myself in the journey of Rey and Finn, cheering for their victories and crying at their defeats.
The West Wing is, in my opinion, one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It’s the perfect balance of seriousness and comedy, with enough storylines to keep you interested but not too many to get confused. It’s intellectual, but totally engaging. The characters are witty and lovable. I could go on about my love of The West Wing for hours. And I wouldn’t be done.
Elle Woods was one of my favorite heroines growing up, and I was not only in love with her sparkly outfits, but also with her fiery personality. It had been a couple years since I had watched the movie, but I caught myself thinking about Elle’s story as I walked around Harvard Square with my friend a few weeks ago. So, I decided to watch Legally Blonde again.
I first heard the lyrics of Zemer Nugeh, a poem by seminal pre-state Israeli poet Rahel, as a 14-year-old at summer camp in the early 90’s. I had no experience with heartbreak or loss, and yet the haunting words affected me. I’d spend the evenings walking through open green fields, kicking up dust at sweaty folk dancing sessions, feeling inspired by nature and Hebrew culture and pining for the summer when I’d get to spend six weeks in Israel.
I am one of the biggest grammar freaks that I know. I proudly count myself as a “soldier of the subjunctive,” and I find cartoons about comma placement to be hilarious-- so it may come as a surprise that I was excited when The American Dialect Society voted an ”incorrect” use of English to be the defining word of 2015. The word in question? The singular “they.”
I am the funniest person I know. Out of all of the aspects of my identity, my sense of humor is probably my favorite. I say my jokes loudly; I laugh at the things I say even if nobody else does. Shari Short asserts in her article, "Jewish Funny", that humor is a common ground for Jews. Self-deprecation and sprinklings of Yiddish go a long way when identifying fellow members of the Tribe by jokes alone.
That’s right. The much anticipated third season of Broad City is finally here! YAS KWEEN! After a hiatus which ardent fans like myself would classify as an eternity, Abbi and Ilana have at long last returned with their shenanigans, their pot, their feminism, and, as we learn from season three’s opening sequence, their multi-faceted bathroom use.
Bess Myerson, the one and only Jewish Miss America, was crowned winner in 1945. Jordyn Rozensky’s 2013 JWA blog post, Here She Comes….Miss America, discusses the influence Myerson had on America and on the Jewish community following her big win. Myerson was the first Jewish woman to win the pageant, and she experienced significant antisemitism as a result. Despite these challenges, Myerson channeled her fame into doing good—she became active with the Anti-Defamation League and launched a successful political career.
A scholar, writer, and comedian, Judy Batalion has a knack for finding the humor in family. As the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Batalion grew up in Montreal with her parents, a younger brother, and a house that was overflowing and chaotic with the results of her mother’s aggressive collecting. With insight and kindness, Batalion's book traces her messy origins, the complicated relationship between being a daughter and mother, and how to live with humor and authenticity in the world, and within our families.
As soon as anyone tries to say that feminism is about women’s rights alone, someone pops up and points out that it’s a movement about equality. But if that person then turns around and says that men are inherently sexist or that men cannot be victims of sexism, they contradict themselves. Sexism towards men is real. It’s a parent telling their son, “big boys don’t cry.” It’s a boy feeling unable to ask for help because he’s afraid of being perceived as weak.
I remember my excitement upon hearing about Yeshivat Maharat’s ordination of women. As a supporter of female Jewish leadership in all of its forms, I was thrilled at the idea. Evidently, Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado, a contributor to JWA’s blog, felt the same way. In June 2013, she wrote a piece entitled, We Begin to Become a Multitude. In the piece, she describes her experience attending the first ever ordination of women as open Orthodox female spiritual leaders.
The world of Jewish women seems to be divided on the J.A.P. issue. Is it a positive term? Or is it a harmful one that reinforces negative stereotypes? In her article, Reclaim the J.A.P. ,for JWA’s blog, Alana Kayfetz argues that while most connotations of J.A.P. are harmful, we as Jewish women should work to redefine the term as follows: a J.A.P. is a powerful woman who is confident and willing to work hard to get what she wants.
In my job as staff writer for the Jewish Women’s Archive, I write short profiles about historical and living women. Each one is fascinating—and each presents its own challenges. Are there reliable sources I can use, or do I have to sift through puff pieces? If the only information I can find about someone is a résumé, how do I create some sort of throughline that turns those bullet points into a human story? And hardest of all, if each profile is just 200 words, how do I decide what to include and what to cut?
In her November 2013 post for JWA’s blog, Marissa Harrington-Verb wrote about the challenges and critiques her mother faced with regard to her attachment parenting. Many people, including women, would critique Marissa’s mother for her very involved approach to parenting. Ultimately, Marissa argued that feminism is the freedom to make a choice. I could not agree more with Marissa’s point.
A lot of people leave Orthodoxy because of the sexism. Honestly, it’s really hard to stay. Being a teenager with friends who are all forming their identities, I struggle with this a lot. Many of my friends are leaving the movement because they are tired of tirelessly fighting, enduring, and never being equal.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on March 27, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog>.