Friday, December 28, 2012

The Palin dynasty שלשלת הפלין

As some of you know, one of my “secret” vices is Palin-watching, to the point where I stumbled onto a blog devoted entirely to debunking the Palins. When thinking of the Palins (as some of us do), it’s hard not to associate them immediately with the failure of the very Abstinence Only “education” (hereinafter: "AOE’) that they espouse. Except wait a minute: It’s possible to view it from another angle, i.e., as far as they and the rest of the AOE-espousers are concerned, it doesn’t fail. In other words, no one promised that an AOE-based society would be inhabited by educated, prosperous, forward-thinking people; it guarantees only that no fetuses will be aborted. Well there you are: Sarah Palin was most likely pregnant when she married Todd, resulting in unaborted Track; and she already has two unintended grandchildren. So we have a bunch of babies being raised by teenagers (I’m stretching the definition of “teenager” here to include early 20s, not without reason).
The only mom in this picture to have a college degree is Sarah Palin. I’d love to ask her: Do you not want at least the same for your children? I can only conclude that in their heart of hearts, Palin and her ilk actually like the idea of perpetuating and entrenching patriarchy, or male hegemony over women. How else can we justify a world wherein women do not have control over their own reproduction? The very core of patriarchy, the very engine and foundation of keeping women down, is to prohibit them from choosing when and how many offspring to bear. Do the Palins find the idea of a passel of kids being raised by kids cute? Pregnant teens titillating?
I don’t doubt that a teenager has the ability to nurture another human being; it’s been shown that s/he can. But how many sub-educated, untrained teens have the wherewithal to provide what should be the legacy of all kids: enrichment of the mind, or what we call “the extras”: the extracurriculars, the lessons, the summer camp, post-secondary education? These should not be denigrated as frills, nor are they the exclusive purview of the elite. They are what those of us who can do so give our kids over and above a stocked pantry, a clean bed, and warm clothing. They’re what moves society forward as opposed to merely keeping our heads above water.

Besides, who ultimately shoulders the economic burden of AOE? Bingo — those of us who opted to plan our reproduction. It appears that the Palins are fortunate enough (read: wealthy enough) to provide for their multi-generational product of AOE, but most of the AOE-espousing demographic is not, and that’s where my problem lies: AOE has a cost, and that cost falls precisely upon the shoulders of those of us who oppose it. Palins, how fair is that?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Don't Protect Me This Way by Michal Wasser, Gaza envelope resident

As promised, here’s my translation of the Michál Wasser piece אל תגנו עלינו, לא ככה that appeared in Haaretz on November 15, 2012, during Pillar of Smoke. Wasser, a resident of Kfar Aza, teaches at Sha’ár haNègev School.
Don’t do us Gaza envelope residents any favors
First things first: Don’t protect me like this, please. Not this way.
Here I sit in my security room in Kfar Aza, listening to the explosions from the war-to-end-all-wars going on outside. I still can’t distinguish between “our” explosions and “theirs”; the kids are better at it than I. After all, their “musical ear” has been honed from an early age, so that they can tell the difference between artillery fire and a missile fired from a helicopter; between mortar fire and a Qassam. Blessed are they.
Is this what “defending the home front” looks like? I don’t get it: Did our leaders sleep through history class? Or perhaps they were fed the MaPa’i [party-line Labor] curriculum, or the [hawkish Minister of Education] Gid’on Sa’ar curriculum — unfortunately there’s hardly a difference between the two — and therefore misinterpret the word “defense”. Does protecting the citizenry mean Armageddon every few years? Has no politician ever heard of long-term planning?
Those who wish to defend me, listen up: Don’t send us the IDF in order to “win”. Start thinking long term, and not just ‘til the next election. Negotiate until we see white smoke. Extend a hand to Mahmoud Abbas. Stop the targeted assassinations. Look the other side’s civilians in the eye.
I know that most of the public will accuse me of being a bleeding heart. But I’m the one sitting here while mortars fall outside my window — not Sa’ar, not Benyamin Netanyahu, and not even Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapìd. I’m the one who chose to raise her children here, even though I have other options.
Go ahead and accuse me of not being patriotic, of being namby-pamby, but I can’t be accused of hypocrisy: My children served in combat units in addition to a voluntary pre-army year of community service. We live here and love our country. Our war is a war for its integrity, not its borders. It’s a war for our country’s democratic character and for the dignity of its citizens. It’s a war for sanity. So please: Stop killing civilians on the other side of that fence “in order to defend my life”.
If you really want to halt the hostility from the other side, open your ears and start listening: If we’re important to you, stop defending us with missiles and “preemptive killings” and “aerial softening”. Instead of Operation Pillar of Smoke, conduct Operation Hope for the Future. Sure: It’s more complex, requires more patience, and is less popular. But it’s the only way out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Turn off the teat סגרו את הברז

After a hiatus, I’m back with three quickie news items, all related to — what else? — religious coercion. We’ll take it in chronological order:
First off is convoluted. Ready? So a court ruled that [the bus company] Egged may not comply with advertising agency Cnaans complying with the ultra-Orthodox demand not to feature humans of any gender on bus ads. There. Did I get that right? Well, I have to correct myself: The ultra-Orthodox didn’t actually demand it, but they demanded that no images of women be used, so Cnaan came up with the solution of no humans of either gender being used.
Now, while I certainly don’t have a problem with humans of either gender being shown in ads (barring the ones that use sex to sell, of course), I do believe that Cnaan’s solution is fine, and fair, and violates no one’s rights. So we’ll be like the Muslims, i.e., no human forms, no one to offend, or as a great prophet of our generation sang, "No woman, no cry".
But no: Enter Yerushalmim [Jerusalemites], an organization that opposes women being excluded from the public sphere, who insist that they’ll fight this thing until ads featuring women are back. But why? I believe they’re barking up the wrong tree, which I’ll get back to later. Meanwhile, let’s move along:
Now, finally, after only six-plus decades of rabbinic tyranny, restaurant owners are opting out of kashrut licenses, while adhering to the laws of kashrut voluntarily. It’s called “kosher by conscience”. Just one little problem: The kashrut inspectors are threatening to haul such establishments into court for false advertising.
Five Jerusalem eateries are fighting back by taking the city’s rabbinate to court after being fined for daring to call themselves kosher without having paid the kashrut inspection fee, which is really nothing but blackmail. So along with Avigayil Aharon in Tiberias, make a point of patronizing these brave businesses: Adón Cohen in Talpiót; Café Carousela in Rehávia; Salón Shabazi in Nachlaót; Ichikidana in Machanè Yehuda, and Topolino in Óhel Moshè.
Now that we have that taken care of, here’s the icing on the cake: Top ultra-Orthodox rabbis urge followers to dodge draft. OK, now I’m mad. These guys are blatantly thumbing their noses at the state while taking the state’s money (i.e., our taxes) in the form of child allowances that allow them to remain in a permanent state of unemployment, otherwise known as Our Lady of the Perpetual Torah "Scholar".

As I told my brave friend, Rabbi Susan Silverman, who while arguing with an ultra-Orthodox woman asked her, "Do your children serve in the IDF? Because mine do", that's just a smokescreen for the real issue. In fact, the IDF should be removed from the equation, as Israel is already way too military-oriented, the army being the yardstick by which we measure everything.

Rather, the question should be: What are your children being trained to do? Because mine and my friends' will be training to heal your loved ones when they're ill, design and build your homes, distribute your consumer goods, extinguish your fires, run your government agencies (the ones that give you your stipends)...and so forth. I don't care how you run your life, but don't do it on my dime. For God's sake, get off the public teat! Can we Jews [and others] who grew up in the US imagine our taxes going to fund some evangelical perpetual prayer ministry?
And it is there, my friends, where Yerushalmim’s energies should be aimed, along with those of The Rest Of Us, as it’s only owing to the fact that the ultra-Orthodox are attached to the state teat that they feel so comfortable vandalizing bus stops bearing advertising featuring women. This situation is beyond warped; it’s deranged. We have got to elect legislators that will TURN OFF THE FAUCET. And you know I don’t go into all caps lightly. A Happy Hanuka to all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurray for Harìsh יחי חריש

Don’t know whether it’s my Kansas City upbringing, but residential real estate fascinates me. Thus was I pleasantly surprised to read of two non-Orthodox Harìsh residents recruiting more of their ilk to buy homes there. Hemi Bar-Or and Noam Hillel are to be applauded, not just for their tireless efforts in the business sphere, but for doing what Ive been advocating for years: Instead of whiny, lame demonstrations and hand-wringing meetings in homes, Bar-Or and Hillel took their lemons and made lemonade. They grabbed the reins, jumped through a narrow window of opportunity and turned the tables (enough metaphors for you?) to their advantage.
In 2008, they perused Harish’s town plans, which suddenly showed separate boys’ and girls’ schools and mikves [ritual baths]. Uh-oh. They said, “We knew that telling planning committees that we opposed the plans wouldn't do anything…” Instead, they exploited the terms aimed at attracting ultra-Orthodox for their own aims: “Harish has been declared a priority zone. There's no minimum land price, and the development cost is being subsidized - 70,000 per housing unit. There's an exemption from local authority fees, and those eligible can get a 50,000 grant."
In 2011, Bar-Or and Hillel went to court on behalf of the residents, claiming discrimination on the part of the Housing Ministry in favor of ultra-Orthodox buyers. In the end the Housing Ministry committed to open sales to all, and in the ensuing year, Bar-Or and Hillel have dedicated themselves to recruiting non-Orthodox buyers. Their strategy has paid off in the form of hundreds lining up to sign on.
Harish’s story will be an interesting one to follow. Bar-Or’s and Hillel’s work isn’t done, and it’s possible it never will be: The ultra-Orthodox population is outpacing everyone, so that non-Orthodox activists can’t rest on their laurels. However, while the numbers are in the ultra-Orthodox favor, if the non-Orthodox follow Bar-Or and Hillel’s example and use our yiddische kups the way God meant us to, we just might be able give our children a country of the type Herzl dreamed of.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

!Don't Change That Name אל תשני את שמך!

מפני שחשוב לי מאוד שכמה שיותר דוברות עברית (ובנותיהן) יקראו את הפרסום הנוכחי, הוא תורגם לעברית, שמופיעה מיד לאחר האנגלית:
When Carolyn Hax published this September 26th column on married surnames, I could’ve told her not to be surprised at the 1,362 comments, even though the query was actually whether it would be OK to ask a friend why she’s taking her husband’s surname. While the ‘nuts (as we Hax groupies refer to ourselves) were overwhelmingly of the MYOB school as far as the specific query, anyone who naively believed that things would end there was, well, naïve. How could this not spark a discussion / debate on the taking or not taking one’s (invariably male) partner’s name, and corrolarily, on how to surname one’s offspring? It was inevitable. After submitting about 35 comments, to the eyerolling of most of the Hax commenting community, I realized that the column was actually ripe fodder for a blog post. The format will be various arguments in red, and a rebuttal — either my own or one of the nuts’ — in black. Here goes:
"Feminism is all about choices. It’s no one’s business but the individual woman concerned. Women should be supporting each others’ choices, not judging.”
I just cannot support anyone, man or woman, choosing patriarchy. And to choose patriarchy and call it feminist, while I certainly can’t stop you from doing so, and I’m no logician or philosopher, there’s got to be a tautology or some sort of fallacy there. While one result of feminism is that women now have options that we didn’t have previously, using those options in order to perpetuate patriarchy, or patriarchal practices, would certainly seem inconsistent with feminism.
As for women supporting each others’ choices, I can’t get behind it. To the disappointment of many, I do not consider myself a sister of every woman simply because we have body parts in common. Just as I do not support the acts of Sholom Rubashkin simply because he’s a fellow Jew (not only did he violate the law but he did so engaging in acts that oppose the spirit of Jewish law, if not the letter), I don’t support choices made by women that ultimately stymie womankind just because those choices were made by a woman.
How does a woman taking her husband’s surname stymie the effort of gender parity? Or conversely, how does a woman retaining her surname further gender parity (which is feminism in a nutshell)? In two ways: Firstly, every time a woman retains her birth surname, she erodes the societal convention, thereby smoothing the path for successive women to do so, until ultimately neither men nor women, will be inhibited about women retaining their names. Secondly, you’re making a statement to the next generation, commensurately breaking down barriers and assumptions for them. Looked at this way, it’s not “just” a personal decision, but rather an inherently political one.
"I have brothers / cousins that will carry on my family name."
Not necessarily. You're assuming that 1) they’ll have kids, and 2) any kids they have will bear their surnames. No longer always the case.
"I’m not that attached to my surname.”
Do men ever think about how attached or unattached they are to their surnames? That's another clue that this is a bigger issue than just what you choose and what I choose.
“I took my husband’s name because my birth name is cumbersome / constantly mispronouced / misspelled and my husband’s is short and easy to pronounce.”
Supposing the opposite had been true, i.e., your husband’s surname was cumbersome or annoying. The “my last name is a pain” excuse is just that: an excuse. If your name’s a pain, change it on your own, unrelated to marriage. Why should it take a man to motivate you to change your name?
“It’ll be a pain to have to correct people the rest of my life when they call me Mrs. [Husband'sName]."
The more women retain their names, the more used to it everyone one gets, and the less correcting we have to do. Think of women physicians back when they were outliers: They probably had everyone assuming that "Dr. Plony" was going to be male, and patients were taken aback when Dr. Plony entered the examining room or ER and…wasn’t male. Nowadays? All gone.
“[Some authority, i.e., school, airline] won’t believe I’m married / I’m my kid’s mom.”
This was responded to by AquaGirl, a Hax ‘nut who presumably retained her name: “Time I have spent having to prove I am (was) married: 0 minutes. Extra time I have spent ‘proving’ I am my son's mom: zero minutes. Time I have spent dismantling this straw man: 20 seconds.”
"All members of an immediate family (husband, wife, children) having the same last name identify to society that they are a family; so that when you know one party's last name, you can deduce the names of the other parties."
Please. Even if a household starts off this way (along with the white picket fence), how many end up that way? Stuff happens: People die, divorce, remarry… like the white picket fence, the traditional nuclear family is not only a societal construct, it’s not even the case statistically (and never was). What about non-custodial children sharing an address with one now-remarried parent? Trying for that uniform surname for all members of a household gets to be like herding cats; or to go with another metaphor, it’s a Holy Grail: Questionable whether it ever existed, yet it’s held up as the ultimate attainment.
As for deducing the other parties' names from that of one party? Here’s a more realistic idea: Just assume that you can't assume, or that we'll all make a few mistakes. And the earth will continue spinning on its axis...
Lastly, kJanes, another ‘nut tells it like it is: ”You know why people think that women change their last name out of submission? Because we never hear about men changing theirs. How is it possible that only women have names that are hard to pronounce, hard to spell, a pain to write? That's always the story we hear, isn't it? So men never have last names they don't like? Really?
Take for example [how we] dress: While it's acceptable for women to wear men's clothing (because men occupy a higher status in society, so it's a step up for women to dress as men), it's not OK for men to wear women's clothing because it's derogatory to dress/act ‘as a woman’. Why is calling a man ‘feminine’ the worst insult one man can bestow upon another?
Think about language: How many derogatory words can you think of for a strong-willed or powerful woman (words that Hillary Clinton is routinely called)? Are there an equal number of derogatory words for a strong man? What about words used to call women promiscuous? Are there equal numbers of derogatory words used to call men promiscuous?
Many cues in our society are subtle indications of women's lesser status. If we really want equality, these subtle differences between the genders need to be eliminated. I don't think anyone is denying that many double standards live on. What I'm saying is that some of the double standards are blatant or explicit, and some subtle, or implicit. Language has an impact on how we think, even if subconsciously. So, in the larger scheme of things, the language we use is one of the most important hills we need to conquer.”
Back to me: And as names are part of our language — our communication with one another — we need to eliminate women taking men’s names, thereby communicating gender parity. So, sisters, I’ll see you on the other side of that broom / chuppah / altar — rarin’ to go into coupled life — with your present names!
משפרסמה קרולין האקס ב-26 בספטמבר את הטור שלה על שמות המשפחה של זוגות נשואים, יכולתי להזהיר אותה שלא תופתע מ-1,362 התגוביות, למרות שהשאילתא היתה בעצם אם מותר לשאול חברה מדוע היא מקבלת על עצמה את שם המשפחה של בעלה. בעוד ש"המטורללות" (כפי שאנו, חסידותיה של האקס, מכנות את עצמנו) היינו, רובנו ככולנו, מאסכולת ה"זה לא עסקך" בנוגע לשאילתא הפרטנית, מי שהאמין בתמימותו שהעניין יסתיים בכך היה, נו?...תמים. איך אפשר היה להימנע מדיון / ויכוח לגבי קבלת או אי-קבלת שם המשפחה של השותף (הגבר, מן הסתם), וכתוצאה מכך, מה יהיה שם המשפחה של הצאצאים? זה היה בלתי-נמנע. אחרי שהעליתי כ-35 תגוביות, מול העיניים המתגלגלות-בחוריהן של קהיליית הטוקבקיסטים של האקס, נפל לי האסימון שהטור הנ"ל הוא חומר בשל לפרסום בבלוג שלי. המתכונת תהיה מורכבת מטיעונים שונים באדום, וסתירתם – אם במילותיי שלי או של אחת "המטורללות" – באותיות שחורות. אז קדימה:

"פמיניזם נועד לאפשר בחירה. זה לא העסק של אף אחד מלבד האשה האמורה. נשים צריכות לתמוך בבחירות של עמיתותיהן ולא לשפוט אותן."

אני פשוט לא יכולה לתמוך בשום אדם, גבר או אישה, הבוחר בפטריארכיה. וכשמישהי בוחרת בפטריארכיה וקוראת לעצמה פמיניסטית, כמובן שאני לא יכולה לעצור בעדה, וגם איני מומחית בלוגיקה או פסיכולוגית, אולם יש פה איזושהי טאוטולוגיה או סברת-טעות. אמנם אחת התוצאות של הפמיניזם היא שיש עכשיו לנשים אופציות שלא היו לנו בעבר, אך לנצל את האופציות הללו להנצחת הפטריארכיה או המנהגים הפטריארכיים, ממש לא יכול להיחשב לתואם-פמיניזם.

אשר לטיעון שנשים צריכות לתמוך בבחירות של עמיתותיהן, גם עליו אני לא יכולה לסמוך את ידיי. לאכזבתן של רבות, אני לא רואה את עצמי כאחות של כל אישה פשוט משום שיש לנו אברי גוף זהים. ממש כפי שאינני יכולה לתמוך במעשיו של שלום רובשקין רק משום שהוא יהודי כמוני (הוא לא רק הפר את החוק, אלא שמעשיו היו גם מנוגדים לרוחה של ההלכה היהודית, אם לא ללשונה), אני לא תומכת בבחירות של נשים שבסופו של דבר יעמידו מכשולים בדרכו של המין הנשי רק משום שאישה בחרה בהן.

כיצד מעמידה אישה המקבלת על עצמה את שם המשפחה של בן-זוגה מכשולים בפני המאמצים להשגת שוויון מגדרי? או להיפך, כיצד מקדמת אישה המשמרת את שם נעוריה את השוויון המגדרי (שהוא מהות הפמיניזם)? בשני אופנים: ראשית, בכל פעם שאישה משמרת את שם המשפחה שעימו נולדה, היא שוחקת את המוסכמה החברתית ובכך מפלסת את דרכן של נשים נוספות לעשות כך, עד שגם לגברים וגם לנשים לא יפריע שנשים משמרות את שמן. שנית, זו בעצם הצהרה המיועדת לדורות הבאים ומסייעת להסרת חסמים והנחות-יסוד עבורם. יש לראות את ההחלטה הזו לא "רק" כאישית, אלא גם כבעלת משמעות פוליטית.

"יש לי אח / בן דוד שיישא את שם המשפחה שלי."

לא בהכרח. את יוצאת מתוך הנחה ש1) יהיו לו ילדים; ו2) אם יהיו לו ילדים, הם יישאו את שמות המשפחה שלהם. כיום זה כבר לא מובן מאליו.

"אני לא כ"כ מחוברת לשם המשפחה שלי".

האם גברים אי-פעם חושבים בכלל עד כמה הם מחוברים או לא מחוברים לשם המשפחה שלהם? זהו עוד סימן לכך שמדובר פה בסוגיה עמוקה יותר מסתם שאלה של מה אני בוחרת או לא בוחרת.

"קבלתי על עצמי את שם המשפחה של בעלי כי שם נעוריי הוא מגושם / אנשים תמיד שוגים בהיגויו או באיותו, ואילו שמו של בעלי קצר וקל להיגוי.”

נניח שהמצב היה הפוך, כלומר ששם המשפחה של בן-זוגך היה מגושם או לא נוח לשימוש. התירוץ של "השם שלי מעצבן" כשמו כן הוא: תירוץ ותו-לא. אם השם שלך מעצבן, שני אותו בעצמך, ללא קשר לנישואים. למה יש צורך בגבר כדי להניע אותך לשנות את שמך?

"זה יהיה מעצבן לתקן אנשים עד אחרית ימיי כל פעם שהם יקראו לי גברת [שם הבעל]".

ככל שירבה מספר הנשים המשמרות את שמן, הצבור יתרגל לכך יותר ויותר, ויהיה פחות צורך בתיקונים. חשבי על הרופאות שפעם היו תופעה יוצאת מן הכלל: מן הסתם כולם הניחו ש"ד"ר פלוני" היה רופא, והמטופלים השתנקו כשד"ר פלוני נכנסה במלוא הדרה לחדר הבדיקות או לחדר המיון. ואילו כיום? היא מתקבלת כמובנת מאליה.

"[בגוף מסויים, למשל בבי"ס או בחברת תעופה] לא יאמינו שאני נשואה / שאני האמא של ילדיי".

AquaGirl, "מטורללת של האקס" שמן הסתם שימרה את שמה, הגיבה לכך: "הזמן שבזבזתי כי הייתי חייבת להוכיח שאני (הייתי) נשואה: 0 דקות. הזמן הנוסף שהקדשתי "להוכיח" שאני האמא של בני: אפס דקות. הזמן שלקח לי לפרק את איש-הקש הזה: 20 שניות."

"כשלכל בני המשפחה הגרעינית (בעל, אישה, ילדים) יש אותו שם משפחה, החברה מזהה אותם כמשפחה; וכך כשיודעים מה שם המשפחה של אחד מהם, אפשר לדעת גם את שם המשפחה של כולם".

נו, באמת. אפילו אם בית-משפחה מתחיל כך (כולל גדר הכלונסאות הלבנה המיתולוגית), כמה מהם ממשיכים כך לעד? דברים מתרחשים: אנשים מתים, מתגרשים, נישאים מחדש... כמו גדר הכלונסאות הלבנה, כך גם המשפחה הגרעינית אינה רק המצאה מבנית של החברה, אלא שגם מבחינה סטטיסטית זו אינה המציאות (ומעולם לא היתה). מה לגבי ילדים שאינם תחת משמורת והחולקים עתה כתובת אחת עם אחד מההורים שנישא מחדש? הנסיון להשיג שם משפחה אחיד לכל בני בית-משפחה הופך בהדרגה למשימה בלתי-אפשרית; או, אם לעשות שימוש במטאפורה: כמוהו כ"גביע הקדוש" – ספק אם בכלל היה קיים מלכתחילה, ובכל זאת הוא מהווה מטרה נעלה להשגה.

ואשר ליכולת לדעת את שם המשפחה של כל בני בית-המשפחה באמצעות שמו של אחד מהם? הנה רעיון יותר ריאלי: פשוט יש להניח שאי אפשר להניח, או שכולנו נעשה כמה טעויות, ובכל זאת נוע תנוע הארץ סביב צירה...

ולסיכום נביא את טיעוניה של kJanes, אחת "המטורללות", האומרת דברים כהווייתם: "אתם יודעים למה אנשים חושבים שנשים משנות את שמן מתוך הכנעה? כי אנחנו אף פעם לא שומעים על גברים המשנים את שמם. כיצד יתכן שרק לנשים יש שמות שקשה להגות, קשה לאיית, מעצבן לכתוב? זה תמיד הסיפור שאנחנו שומעים, לא? אז לגברים אף פעם אין שמות שהם לא אוהבים? באמת?

"קחו לדוגמא את נושא הלבוש: בעוד שמקובל שנשים תלבשנה בגדי גברים (שהרי לגברים מעמד גבוה יותר בחברה, ולפיכך להתלבש כמוהם מהווה קידום מבחינת הנשים), זה לא הדדי, כי מבחינת הגברים, להתלבש / להתנהג כנשים זו השפלה. מדוע להגיד על גבר שהוא "נשי" זה העלבון החמור ביותר שניתן להטיח בו?

חישבו על המילים בשפה: על כמה כינויים מזלזלים המתייחסים לנשים בעלות עוצמה או רצון חזק (מסוג המילים המוטחות דרך שגרה בהילארי קלינטון) תוכלו לחשוב? האם ישנו מספר דומה של כינויים מזלזלים המתייחסים לגבר חזק? ומה לגבי כינויים המתייחסים לנשים מתירניות? האם ישנו מספר דומה של כינויים מזלזלים המתייחסים לגבר מתירני?

"קיימות דקויות רבות בחברה שלנו המרמזות על מעמדן הפחות של הנשים. אם אנו באמת שואפות לשוויון, יש לחסל את ההבדלים הדקים הנ"ל. אני לא חושבת שמישהו מתכחש לכך שהרבה סטנדרטים כפולים ממשיכים להתקיים. מה שאני אומרת הוא שכמה מאותם סטנדרטים כפולים הם בולטים בגסותם ומפורשים, ואילו אחרים הם דקים ומשתמעים. לשפה יש השפעה, אפילו אם רק בתת-מודע, על האופן בו אנו חושבים. ולכן, בגדול, השפה שבה אנו משתמשות היא אחד המבצרים החשובים ביותר שעלינו לכבוש."

ובחזרה אלי: ומכיוון ששמות הם חלק מהשפה – דהיינו, התקשורת ביננו – חובה עלינו לחסל את התופעה של נשים המקבלות עליהן את שמו של בן-זוגן, ובכך משדרות אי-שוויון מגדרי. אם כך, אחיותיי, להתראות בצד השני של המטאטא / החופה / שולחן לחם הקודש – כשאתן מוכנות ומזומנות לקפוץ אל חיי הזוגיות – עם שמותיכן העכשוויים!

תרגם באדיבות: עמי ארגמן

Sunday, September 16, 2012

PC language and taking offense שפה תקנית ופגיעה

When I see an article criticizing political correctness, I anticipate reading defensive bunk claiming that words are just words, so why can’t everyone just calm down? worthy of Archie Bunker. This piece by Amaliah Rosenblum is an exception.

While Rosenblum concedes that language does shape our realities, she initially argues, “If I choose to refer to my husband as ‘my partner,’ in so doing, I am not improving my status in the eyes of the law and the Rabbinate.” Um, yes you are. Not in each individual instance of uttering the words “my partner” when referring to your spouse, but in the “critical mass” that slowly forms, which is comprised of each instance of its use by each one of us. Every time you useבן זוגי ben zugì [“my partner” in Hebrew] or ishì [“my man”], it validates my using it. Every time I use it, it lowers the inhibitions of some other woman who chokes on it. I assert that the more it’s used, heard, uttered, written, and read, the less we’ll all choke and the more ordinary it will become, until hopefully it ultimately replaces ba’alì [literally “my master”]. This is the trajectory of all PC language.

Rosenblum states, “Sticking to the embellished term ‘my partner’ is likely to serve my desire to repress the major problems with the institution of marriage in Israel while weakening my ability to oppose it.” Huh? How so? And why is the term embellished? Did she mean “pretentious”, perhaps? What could be more down-to-earth than the simple and direct “my partner”? As opposed to, say referring to handicapped individuals as “differently abled” [ducking]?

Yet it is in Rosenblum’s final paragraph that we reach her quite intelligent distillation of democracy: “The price of living in a democracy is that all kinds of idiots with poor taste have the right to say repulsive things about us. That's part of the deal.” This was exactly the argument put forward by Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose when criticized for commissioning a series of cartoons of Muhammad that “offended” Muslims. How much weight are we required to give to that “offense”, as opposed to that caused by downright incitement, a la Beitar fans’ chants of “Death to the Arabs”? Or to the “offense” “felt by” the ultra-Orthodox at the sight of Naama Margolese walking to school, all her proto-sexual parts (and more) duly covered? I believe the answer lies in something my friend Rabbi Susan Silverman once said to me, which she lives by: “You can choose to be offended. Or not to be.”

I beg to expand thereupon: We can react to offense in one of three ways: 1) Let it go; 2) Protest vigorously, yet non-violently; 3) Blow up the embassies of the countries from whence the offense emanated. Which response will garner more sympathy? Which will move humankind forward? This excellent piece by Fouad Ajami addresses precisely these issues.

Do I believe the offense taken by the African-American community over the slaying of Trayvon Martin is a mis-reaction? I do. But to their credit, they organized Hundred Hoodie Marches in protest; they didn’t blow up buses. Ditto for the members of the CHaBaD community who protested the guilty verdict in the Aharon Rubashkin case: While I vehemently disagree with their offense thereat and their claims of anti-Semitism, at least they didn’t rampage through Brooklyn overturning dumpsters or spitting on “immodestly dressed” women.

So I suppose you could say that my New Year’s wish is to see more Hundred Hoodie Marches and fewer (ideally no) bombings. Doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can we believe what we hear about the ultra-Orthodox? האם נוכל להאמין את המחזים על החרדים

I’m reacting strongly to the powerful film My Father, My Lord [Hebrew: חופשת קיץ Hofshát Káits] for which I wrote the plot synopsis. In the film, just as the family is about to board the vehicle to go on the vacation to which the Hebrew title refers, one of Rabbi Eidelman’s followers comes running, enjoining him to come quickly to the site of a pigeon nesting on the windowsill of his son’s school. The reference is to Deuteronomy 22:6-7, which states that if you should happen upon a (kosher) bird’s nest while out and about, and you decide that you must have the eggs or the hatchlings for your own consumption, you may take these after shooing the mother bird away, far enough to where she cannot see you collecting her young. According to the Mishna, one who performs this commandment is assured longevity. As we might imagine, the “opportunity” to perform this commandment is unlikely to ever arise even once in a lifetime in the urban milieu that most Jews inhabit.

In the above-named film, the rabbi responds immediately: His follower leads him to the site of the nest, and presumably excited at the rare opportunity to perform this arcane commandment, he duly shoos the mother bird therefrom, leaving behind two hatchlings, which he does not take with him, but rather leaves there, presumably to starve. He then chants a prayer of praise, not unlike a kid who gleefully squashes a bug because someone in authority says it’s OK. When his young son, who has been observing the nest from his classroom for days, asks him disturbing questions about the fate of the hatchlings, he brushes off the boy’s feelings and grandstands about the privilege of having merited performance of this commandment.

Now, every time someone critiques the ultra-Orthodox based on a movie or book, the critic is immediately attacked for “judging an entire community / lifestyle based on a movie / book / play". But let’s deconstruct this argument: First of all, the definition of a story is that the plot must contain a conflict. This I learned in junior high. The oldest plot conflicts center around forced marriage a la A Fiddler on the Roof, or forbidden love a la Romeo and Juliet. Necessarily, any plotline in a story about a closed, traditional community is bound to be about individual desires versus compliance with community norms. So it shouldn’t surprise us that literature about the ultra-Orthodox community invariably contains this element.

I also believe that it’s legitimate to get my information about the ultra-Orthodox community from books, movies, films, and plays, many of whose authors and screenwriters come from within the community, including authors Shalom Auslander, Yochi Brandt, Naomi Ragen; film directors David Volach, Rama Burshtein, Haim Tabakman, and Amós Gitái; and playwright Amnon Levy, whether having left the community or still a part of it. Can I not assume that they have an interest in depicting the community accurately to outsiders?

As an analogy, take the example of cop shows. Even having never been present at an arrest or in a courtroom, I know about the reading of Miranda rights and courtroom protocol. While the thrilling car chases and unlikely plot twists are obviously the products of some screenwriter’s imagination, as are the personalities of the characters, the “frame” with all its details reflects reality — even the unseemly parts such as organized crime, drug dealing, and human trafficking. In the same way, I believe that we can believe the “frames” of plots concerning the ultra-Orthodox, as it is these very strictures and taboos that set the plots in motion.

Look, as I’ve written before, as increasingly turned off as I am by this community, it’s really their business. Even if all the mother pigeons in Israel were simultaneously shooed off their nests tomorrow, it likely would not upset any balance, either ecological or cosmic. So no, they’re not hurting anyone…as long as they fund their lifestyle on their own steam. Once my tax money is involved, then yes, I do have right of critique.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why the Duggars give me the willies משפחת דאגר: למה היא מפחידה אותי

Five Things That Bother Me About the Duggars:

[For those readers unfamiliar with them, hover your mouse over Michelle Duggar's name in the box to the left of this post]

1. The parents don't own up to setting rules or forbidding things. They couch their rules in language that calls them "personal commitments / beliefs [of ours]". I believe that this is a deliberate attempt to make their lifestyle palatable to The Rest Of Us: We recoil at rules forbidding what for us is acceptable; but we can't argue against personal beliefs or commitments.

2. The bumper sticker allegedly on their car: "Evolution is a lie / Save America please" [By the way, I looked for these online and couldn’t find a single one, not even in the nuttiest of wing-nut merch sites]. Why just America? Evolution is (or is not, in their belief system) a global concept. Ergo, why should rebutting it save only America? What's holy about America, that only it deserves saving from heathen beliefs? What about the rest of the world?

3. Christian mail - It’s hard for me to willingly find links for this post, because in my naivete, I actually wrote the Duggars a letter and ever since have been deluged with Christian spam. After months of spam cleanup efforts, and getting it down to just a few mails a week, I visited the Duggar blog and when I checked my mail afterwards, there they were, smiling out at me from my Inbox: mails from half a dozen “different” fundy Christian groups that all come from the same source. Here I go again…Help! I’m drowning in Jesus!

4. The children’s education - Firstly, I want to say that I’m not anti-homeschooling, and there are definite advantages thereto, a big one being that the family is not tied to the schoolday or school calendar. Kid wakes up with an earache or tummyache? No missed work or attendance to worry about, just take care of your kid. Out-of-town mid-week event you want to attend? No problem. Feel like visiting a destination when it’s cheapest? Go right ahead and make your reservation. It must actually be quite liberating. Looked at from this angle, it’s not hard for me to believe that a homeschooling parent of 19 could indeed spend individual time with each kid daily, a fact that I couldn’t even take for granted when my “mere” three were living at home.

But the older children study law? And medicine? Huh? Wouldn’t studying medicine ultimately lead to discussions of, uh, human biology and cells and, uh…evolution? Unless what’s being referred to is folk medicine…? Or folk law? Is there such a thing as folk law?

5. The graduates are “studying under professionals”? What professionals? What licensed nurse or nurse midwife would or could ethically give them instruction? Just because one is a practitioner of the healing arts does not authorize them to teach them, and certainly not to non-enrollees of an accredited program. What’s going on here? Well Michelle explains [why cannot Jana speak for herself?] that Jana’s been assisting a doula, who by definition is herself an assistant. So the way I read it, Jana is apprenticing-to-an-assistant-to-a-midwife. That’s one crowded delivery room, at least three of the occupants of which are non-medical practitioners. What birthing mom would agree to that?

OK, five’s all I’ve got; I’ll gladly add more if anyone has contributions, but this is enough to give me the creeps for now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Men, do the right thing already גברים, עשו את הדבר הצודק כבר

Yesterday while reading this article about gender studies programs in the schools, I was struck once again by the phenomenon of women feeling they have to soft-pedal feminism to men by reassuring them that it will benefit them too. Some quotes from the article: “It [sexism] is no less complicated for men: Men are expected to be strong…it [feminism] is about making a change, not just for ourselves, but for society as a whole.”

There we go again, arguing feminism by asserting that “Sexism hurts men too”, as if women’s rights are only legitimate if there’s something in it for the men too, as if feminism’s not enough on its own merit.

News flash: No group in power cedes its power simply to be nice to those lower in status. Believe me: If sexism truly hurt men, they would’ve eradicated it themselves long ago! Like all liberation movements, feminism is legitimate in its own right; it’s not obligated to offer men the Crackerjack prize of “It will benefit you too.”

While gender stereotypes certainly oppress some men, mankind as a whole benefits from the patriarchal structure. And make no mistake about it: Patriarchy is alive and well. Just yesterday a neighbor told me that one recent night she came across two young women swinging on a park swingset. Three teenage boys stood watching them, arms crossed in an intimidating pose. My neighbor took in the scene immediately, approached the boys, and told them unceremoniously to knock it off. Most likely the young women sensed that the boys were out of line, but also likely couldn’t put their finger on why, not yet having a name for it.

Note that the incident took place at night. That’s because — again, it’s implicit — the boys somehow knew that their behavior would be unacceptable in broad daylight, that intimidating females must be done under cover of darkness. And they knew good and well that’s what they were doing: intimidating. Yet the girls, not having the language for it, couldn’t call them on it. After all, the boys weren’t doing anything: They were neither touching the girls nor disrupting their play. But the boys didn’t have to do anything explicit: Both sides know the “rules”.

So no, these girls weren’t suffering wage discrimination or being deprived of Title IX funding or Goddess forbid, being harrassed (although only a thin line separates intimidation and harassment — kudos to my neighbor for intervening); but they were experiencing patriarchy nonetheless.

Where did these girls and these boys learn the “rules”? Who taught the girls that the boys’ behavior made them uncomfortable, yet there was no outward cause therefor? Who taught the boys that girls are objects to stare at, ogle, intimidate, see how far they could push the boundaries before an adult intervenes, an adult who has the words, the language to name these phenomena? No problem: They’ve been learning it since they emerged into this world, this society — this patriarchy.

I’m not afraid of that word, patriarchy. If you thought it refers only to the Taliban, you’d be wrong. It’s easy to get smug when we read about Taliban-style patriarchy; after all, we’re civilized: We’re not like them. But the Taliban simply lies at the extreme end of the gender non-/parity spectrum. Our goal should be to eradicate all manifestations of patriarchy, including those such as the boys’ behavior in the park that can’t be legislated. And we need men to be our partners therein, but not because they’re going to get something out of it “too”, but rather because gender parity is The Right Thing To Do.

This post powered by the book that now heads my daughters’ Compulsory Reading Booklist: How To Be a Woman by Caitlan Moran

Monday, August 27, 2012

Roommates w/Benefits? שותפים עם "הטבות"

While this editorial by Shahar Ilan isn’t breaking news, what it does do is break the ultra-Orthodox curriculum down for us Dummies. In it, we learn that the phenomenon of the ultra-Orthodox thumbing their noses at the core curriculum largely occurs in the boys’ schools; while the girls learn a certain level of English, math, and geography.

After they are married, the men are sequestered in yeshivas while the women get paying jobs where they use their skills, however paltry. So not only are the wives more educated than their husbands (in the Western sense of the word), but they are necessarily wordlier, being exposed to and in daily contact with the broader society.

What’s interesting to me is the effect this has on the marital relationship. I would guess that this arrangement actually infantilizes the men, relegating them to something akin to Eldest Child instead of Equal Partner. After all, plenty of ultra-Orthodox as young as ages seven or eight (the girls in particular) are already taking responsibility for the running of the household, including of course caring for younger siblings.

So what must it be like to have no substantial role in the family? You come home to a wife who earns the income and pays the bills, and a household run by increasingly competent offspring. Talk about emasculating: The only thing you’ve contributed to this enterprise is your sperm.

And we haven’t even talked about what the husband and wife talk about to each other: They might as well live on separate planets. On the other hand, in a setup like this, who needs to talk? Seems to me the above-described arrangement is pretty much Roommates With Benefits, no?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Eurocentrism in the flesh ?צבע גוף" -- גוף של מי"

Following my previous post about skin, this post talks about another aspect thereof: skin tone. Having renamed its "Flesh" hue "Peach" in 1962, Crayola crayons (the final authority on hues for those of us who grew up using them. Who can forget Burnt Sienna?) inspired me to set an example for my children. Whenever my kids would refer to *tzeva guf* [Hebrew for "flesh tone" - see ad on left, received by mail just this week, a mere 50 years after Crayola's landmark move], I'd shoot back, "Whose skin? Plony's? Almony's? [ficticious names of real kids they know of African ancestry]".

My receipt of the infamous ad pictured here was conincidentally preceded by a letter forwarded to me, the original of which עברית follows my English translation below:

Morán Siáness wonders: When a pharma company manufactures a product for women in “flesh tone”, whose flesh do they mean?

"On my way to the pharmacy, I pondered whether I’d sought freedom, or if it was just an illusion. For years I’ve had a complicated relationship with It, and now we were parting ways. My side of the deal was to take It every day at the same time. For years I’ve disappointed It, and for Its part, It’s taken revenge on me in various ways. I’ve promised to change: This time’ll be different, I's vow. And again I disappoint It, and so on and so forth.

After many long years, I decided to say goodbye to my birth control pill. On my path to freedom, it was impossible not to think of a dear woman, Margaret Sanger, founder of the birth control movement. Sanger was active at the end of the 19th century in raising funds for researching the first birth control pill. While I owe her a debt of gratitude for enabling me total authority over my body now I mumbled to myself: It’s time to move on to the Last Word in Ovulation Suppression.

The pharmacist smiled at me, revealing a row of white teeth that sparkled against his chocolate skin, and I, out of politeness, smiled back while handing him my prescription. With skilled confidence, he handed me with a small package and began typing on his keyboard. Suddenly, I began pondering where I’d adhere the patch on my body. My choices are: rear end, belly, limbs, and upper back. The last two are visible; my belly’s not an option, and so I’m left with the only option left.

While waiting, I review the patch’s advantages that my gynecologist had named. One of them, she said, is that it comes in “flesh tone”, so that it’s “invisible”. “Tell me,” I turned to the pharmacist. “Does the patch come in a range of skin tones?” His teeth, which had previously sparkled against his chocolate skin, no longer sparkled against his now-pale face. “That’s right,” I continued talking in order to dissipate the embarrassing silence. “I mean it.”

“No,” he replied. “It comes in one tone: regular.”

Regular? I thought. Whose “regular”? Mine -- the dark Middle Eastern Jewish “regular”? Or perhaps yours, the Arab “regular’”?

But his answer had already made things crystal clear: 70% — that’s over two thirds — of the world’s footwear is manufactured in China. Yet no Chinese has ever been heard to say to an American, “Sorry, Sir, but our local standard size is 8. So sorry: No shoes for you, Bigfoot. Good day!”

My birth control patch is manufactured in Belgium, where most people are fair-skinned. But so what? All of the cosmetic manufacturers have figured out that there is no single skin tone; no such thing exists. Therefore, since they want to sell makeup, they manufacture it in a wide range of skin tones. So how is it a manufacturer of a medical product presumably aimed at the entire spectrum of the world’s women, hasn’t figured out the same thing?

All of you who are still skeptical and are suggesting that perhaps the hue of the patch reflects the “average global skin tone” are hereby invited to peruse this map, or simply accept the answer: No! “Standard skin tone” as reflected by the map bears no similarity to the little square that I purchased at the pharmacy!

Now let’s talk economics: If it’s not economical to manufacture the patch in several tones, then why doesn’t it come in the actual “global average tone”? I have yet to find the answer. Does Janssen, the Ortho Evra patch’s manufacturer, not see fit to take into consideration the countries that lie east and south of Belgium? Do Middle Eastern and Asian woman not seek the latest in birth control?

It’s easy for me to raise these questions when I’m not directly in the gaze of those who believe that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s intimidating to encounter head-on an environment where on the one hand such thoughts can’t be expressed aloud, as it immediately brands me as an angry minority member or even worse, a feminist; and on the other hand negates my right to express my femaleness, which I’m unwilling to have taken from me — a femaleness of power, tenderness, love, and longing to be seen as I am: a woman, a Jew, a feminist, a Mizrachit [Jew of Middle Eastern ancestry], a non-owner of fair skin the tone of my patch.

I sought freedom, and en route thereto I found myself in a fixed reality wherein there is no black and white, but white only. I’m reminded of the character Layla in Radu Mihaileanu’s “The Source”, a film dealing with the many layers of humanity in general and of femaleness in particular. Layla decides to organize the women of her North African village to struggle against the tradition of paying the “price” in [miscarried] fetuses to fetch water from up the mountain. I wonder how Layla would have reacted to what I’ve written here. I wonder what counsel she’d give me; and my heart yearns for a man like her partner Sami, who would tell me, as he told Layla, “You’re my princess. It’s your right to fight.”

מורן סיאנס תוהה: כשחברת תרופות מייצרת מוצר לנשים בצבע ״סטנדרטי״, לאיזה צבע היא מתכוונת?
בדרכי לבית המרקחת, הרהרתי לי אם חופש ביקשתי לעצמי, או שזו רק עוד אשליה. שנים שאני מנהלת איתה מערכת יחסי מורכבת, ועכשיו אנחנו הולכות להיפרד. המחויבות שלי הייתה לקחת אותה כל יום באותה השעה. שנים שאני מאכזבת אותה, היא מצדה מתנקמת בי בצורות שונות, אני מבטיחה לה להשתנות: שהפעם יהיה זה אחרת; ושוב אני מאכזבת אותה וחוזר חלילה.

אחרי שנים ארוכות, החלטתי להיפרד מהגלולה שלי. בדרכי אל החופש, לא יכולתי שלא לחשוב על אישה יקרה, מרגרט סנגר, מייסדת התנועה לפיקוח הילודה. סנגר פעלה בסוף המאה ה19 למציאת מקורות מימון ע”מ לאפשר את פיתוח הגלולה הראשונה למניעת הריון. הודיתי לה בלבי על שאפשרה לי את הריבונות המוחלטת על גופי, אבל עכשיו, מלמלתי לעצמי, הגיע הזמן להתקדם ולעבור למילה האחרונה בשוק קוטלי הביוץ שלי.

הרוקח חייך אליי, חיוך רחב שחושף את לובן השיניים, שמנצנץ לנגד העור השוקולדי שלו, ואני מתוך נימוס, חייכתי חזרה, תוך שאני מגישה לו את המרשם החדש. במיומנות מדויקת, הוא נגש אליי עם קופסה קטנה והחל מתקתק על המקלדת. לפתע, התחלתי להרהר בשאלה, היכן אניח את המדבקה על גופי? האזורים היחידים בהם ניתן להניח אותה הם הישבן, הבטן, הזרוע, או הגב העליון. השניים האחרונים חשופים למראית עין, הבטן לא אופציה עבורי, ומהפח אל הפחת, נשארתי רק עם האופציה של ה...בעודי ממתינה, ניסיתי להיזכר ביתרונותיה של המדבקה, כפי שמנתה אותם בפניי רופאת הנשים. אחד מהם, אמרה כמי שנפעמת מפלאי הטכנולוגיה, הוא שהיא מגיעה בצבע של הגוף, כך שלא רואים אותה. תגיד, חזרתי אל הרוקח, המדבקה מגיעה במגוון צבעי העור?

לובן השיניים, שהפעם נחשף מחיוך נבוך, כבר לא נצנץ אל מול חיוורון פניו. "כן," המשכתי לדבר כדי להפיג את השתיקה המביכה. "אני שואלת ברצינות."

לא," הוא ענה לי. "זה מגיע בצבע אחד רגיל."

רגיל? תהיתי לעצמי. רגיל של מי? שלי, המזרחית השזופה, או שלך, הערבי השחום? אבל התשובה כבר הייתה לי ברורה.למעלה משני שלישים — 70% — משוק הנעליים העולמי מיוצר בסין. אולם, לעולם לא נשמע אף סיני אומר לאמריקאי, "סליחה, אדוני, אבל פה הסטנדרט במידות הנעליים הוא 38, ולכן עבורך, שכמוך, אין לנו נעליים. תודה ושלום."


המדבקה מיוצרת בבלגיה, מדינה אירופאית, זה נכון. בלגיה היא מדינה שמרבית תושביה בעלי גוון עור בהיר, גם זה נכון. אבל מה? אפילו כל חברות הקוסמטיקה למיניהן השכילו להבין שאין, פשוט אין, גוון עור אחד. לכן, כשהן רוצות לשווק איפור, הן תייצרנה אותו במגוון רחב של צבעי עור. אז איך יתכן שחברה שמשווקת תכשיר רפואי, שמיועד לקשת רחבה של נשים, לא השכילה להבין שאין גוון עור אחד?לכל אותם אנשים שגבתם עדיין מורמת גבוה, והשאלה, אולי צבע המדבקה משקף את ממוצע צבע העור בעולם, שוכנת בליבם, אתם מוזמנים לעיין במפה המצורפת או פשוט לקבל את התשובה: לא! "הצבע הסטנדרטי" אינו דומה לריבוע החיוור שקיבלתי!

והנה נפטרה לה גם השאלה הכלכלית: הרי שאם זה לא כלכלי לייצר מספר גוונים, אזי מתבקש היה לייצר את המדבקה ע”פ צבע העור הממוצע בעולם. אולם, לשאלותיי טרם מצאתי תשובה. האם חברת התרופות הזו, בייצרה את המדבקה, לא מצאה לנכון להחשיב גם את המדינות ששוכנות מזרחית ו דרומית לה? שמא הנשים במזרח לא זקוקות לאמצעי מניעה חדישים?כמה קל לי להעלות את מחשבותיי מבלי להיתקל במבטיהם המאיימים של מי שחושבים שאני מגזימה או משוגעת. מפחיד כל כך להיפגש עם סביבה שכל מחשבה כזו שנאמרת בקול רם, מייד מתייגת אותי כמזרחית שסובלת מרגשי קיפוח או כפמיניסטית רדיקאלית [מהי הבעיה בפמיניזם רדיקאלי? - י.א.] ושוללת ממני במקביל את הזכות לבטא נשיות שאיני מוכנה שתילקח ממני: נשיות שיש בה עוצמה, רכות, אהבה, וכמיהה שיראו אותי כפי שאני; אישה, יהודייה, פמיניסטית, מזרחית, בעלת עור אחר מהסטנדרט הבהיר של המדבקה הזו.

חופש ביקשתי לי, ומצאתי עצמי במציאות מקובעת, שאין בה, גם לא שחור או לבן, אלא רק לבן. אני חושבת על דמותה של ליילה, בסרטו של ראדו מיכאלינו "מים ואהבה". סרט על רבדים שונים באנושיות בכלל ובנשיות בפרט. ליילה החליטה לעורר את נשות הכפר שבצפון אפריקה ולקרוא להן לפעול ע”מ לשנות מסורת רבת שנים שבה הן משלמות במחיר עוּבּריהן כדי לשאוב מים ממעלה ההר. מעניין איך היא הייתה מגיבה אילו הייתה קוראת את מילותיי עכשיו. בראשי, תוהה מה היה לה לייעץ לי, ובלבי, כמהה לבחור, כמו זה שהיה לצידה, סאמי, שיגיד גם לי "את הנסיכה שלי. יש לך הזכות להלחם".

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hijab: Repressive, or liberating? רעלה: מדכאה, או משחררת

I found this piece on wearing a hijab interesting. In short, while I respect Nusrat's decision and wouldn't attempt to dispute it, it seems to me that countering provocative / revealing dress disguised as feminism or liberation with uncomfortable, over-covering garb doesn't really solve the problem of objectification or of promiscuity, does it?

Where I completely agree with Nusrat is where she says that her hijab conveys, “I control what you see”. I contend that the young woman who lets it all hang out, while claiming that she’s in control, is actually a victim of Western culture (mostly via advertising, which is mainly devised by men) telling her what she should allow us to see. How is that empowering? Yet for me, the antidote to promiscuity is not repression, or throwing on a burlap bag and “disappearing” the whole fashion question, but rather feminism, which I see as encompassing educating girls and young women to recognize objectification and exploitation while citing strategies they can use to achieve balance between asserting themselves and loving their bodies and ending up puppets of the corporate world.

As I wrote in an earlier post, while women and girls who dress revealingly get attention alright, they don’t get taken seriously. There’s a reason your attorney doesn’t show up in court showing cleavage, or your physician doesn’t make her rounds in Daisy Dukes. Our sexual parts are there, naturally; but just as we don’t use them in public, we don’t have to advertise them to the world. Does the physician walk around wearing her stethoscope outside the work setting? Does the attorney bring her briefcase to a party? I also question the claim that dressing revealingly is comfortable: I used to wear tube tops, and recall the relief at removing them at the end of the day: No more tugging and itching. And thongs? How comfortable is it walking around with fabric up your crack?

However, I’m not convinced the antidote to fashion slavery is to cover up a la hijab or burka, or long sleeves and stockings in 40 c. heat, a la Orthodox Jewish women, which to me are as uncomfortable as tube tops, if not more. Instead, what I tried to do with my own daughters was to introduce to them the shocking concept that “appealing” need not be synonymous with “sexy”. The obvious place to start was synagogue wear: “No, you may not bare your stomach / wear spaghetti straps / a miniskirt to shul”. Eventually they would put on an outfit and ask me, “Ima, is this OK for shul?” I’d point out any “transgressions”, and back they went to the closet to correct them. Of their own volition, they wear boxers over their (two-piece) swimsuit bottoms, because they feel more comfortable that way. I’d rather they wear one-piece swimsuits, but I accept their solution because I believe that giving them choices within reason is as important as their not looking like streetwalkers. And what do you know? They dress appealingly, yet not provocatively. They internalized the difference.

It’s all relative, of course I realize. My daughters’ elbows and knees are exposed, which is considered revealing in fundy circles. But their sexual parts are covered up, and they are therefore more likely to be taken seriously and less likely to be ogled than are young women whose same parts are hanging out there for all to see. And so I feel I’ve succeeded in transmitting to them the concept of dressing appropriately. In fact, I can’t recall a single battle over an item of clothing, either while clothes shopping or post-purchase. Of course, I began “rolling the tapes” early on about our bodies, objectification and exploitation, women’s images in advertising, and so forth. So my restrictions in dress — which don’t even look like restrictions to them — didn’t take place in a vacuum. This is what has worked for me, and what I recommend parents try.

The lines from Nusrat’s piece that struck a chord in me read: “I am … absolutely certain that the skewed perception of women’s equality as the right to bare our breasts [or other parts, as much as we can get away with - Y.E.] in public only contributes to our own objectification. I look forward to a whole new day when true equality will be had with women not needing to display themselves to get attention.” I wish Nusrat a pleasant journey in her new identity as a hijabi [shouldn’t there be a feminine form of that word?]. When all’s said and done, our society already shows plenty of collective skin. If it’s possible to err, let it be on the side of less skin being revealed, not more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My response to Dr. Denis MacEoin's plea to Alice Walker to reconsider her embargo of Israeli readers

Dear Dr. MacEoin,

I read your letter to Alice Walker, to which my specific responses are interspersed in red. I'm an American immigrant to Israel, having moved here in 1981. I love my country fiercely. I raised three children here, the second of whom is now serving in the IDF. The first finished her IDF service (both did a year of volunteer work with under-served populations before their IDF service) and next month is going abroad to work with Jewish youth and get them excited about Israel. And there's lots to be excited about! I love it here, and have zero regrets about coming. Yet I regret what we've become.

I won't go into all of Israel's ills here; instead, I'll take a different tack: Walker's refusal to publish TCP in Hebrew is a huge, shortsighted pity, yet not for the reasons you set forth below. It's indefensible for the simple reason that she's an acclaimed writer who writes about victimhood and bigotry. She has opened readers' eyes and brought light into the world. How then, can she "in the same breath" refuse to bring that same light and enlightenment to Israeli readers, whom she accuses of darkness? How can a writer, who's raison d'etre is to disseminate ideas, act to block the dissemination of ideas -- her own ideas? She's erecting a checkpoint more disgraceful than any checkpoint in the West Bank. And that's the beginning and the end of it.

Before you read my interspersed comments below, I want to say that I made a point of visiting not only Ireland, but Northern Ireland, six years ago, where I was nothing less than humbled at the progress that's been made peace-wise, not to mention the prosperity. I came back "preaching" to everyone I know that Israelis, especially, should visit your incredible land and see with their own eyes the fruits of peace. You are an example to us. Bless you for your support. Please read below (scroll all the way down). Best, Yám Erez

Dr. Denis MacEoin writes:

["You may know that the American writer Alice Walker [The Colour Purple] has refused to allow a Hebrew translation of her best-known work, has expressed ugly feelings about Israel, previously wanted to go on the Gaza flotilla, and sides with the Palestinian position. Given that she has a reputation for open-mindedness and courage when confronting prejudice, her attitude is shocking. I have just sent her a letter in the hope of shaking her complacency a little. It’s reproduced below."]

"Dear Ms Walker,

This is not a fan mail, though I wish it were. It is, equally, not a criticism of any of your books, which have said so much to so many. It is that very simple thing: a request to reconsider. I am, like yourself, a writer, having published (mainly with Harper Collins UK and US) over 25 novels under two different names. I am also a former academic in Arabic and Islamic Studies and a former editor of the Middle East Quarterly. I know the Middle East well, having lived in Iran and Morocco.I was, not to put too fine a point on it, shocked to the core to find that the sensitive author of The Color Purple and so many other books that speak to the heart has refused to allow a Hebrew translation of that first, classic story to be published. Nor was I less shocked to discover that an individual of your merit and generally sound political judgement had joined forces with groups and individuals who campaign against the state of Israel and treat it with the sort of contempt that would be better reserved for the countries that surround it.

You have spoken out against racism, yet you accuse a country that is visibly anti-racist [to me it appears visibly racist] to be the opposite of what it is. Please don’t dismiss what I say without further thought. It appears that you condemn Israel because it practices apartheid. Have you ever been to Israel? Have you ever walked Israeli streets, how about Hebron streets? spoken to Jewish and Arab Israelis, sought out clear signs of the apartheid you’ve been told you will find there? I do not think you have, for had you done so you would have been surprised by the absolute absence - do you mean Beitar Jerusalem fans' chants of "Death to the Arabs" and attacking Arabs in a mall? of any of the features of apartheid as it was applied by the South African government. That apartheid had as its principal aim the separation of blacks and whites and was hell for black people for decades. Though it pains me to say so, I find it offensive that you and other anti-Israel activists feel it necessary to indulge in an outright falsehood.

Think of South African apartheid and all its ramifications. Did blacks have the vote outside their ‘homelands’? Did they serve in parliament or as government ministers [who are regularly the objects of public mocking and bigotry]? Were they sent abroad as diplomats? Did they serve as judges?In Israel today, every Arab citizen has exactly the same right to vote and be elected as any Jewish citizen. There are Arab members of parliament. Arab members of the Cabinet. Arabs serving on the Supreme Court. Arab diplomats.

Beyond that, not one place is forbidden to Arab Israelis. They can sit in the same cinemas as Jews, swim in the same pools, run on the same beaches Except they face regular threats and harassment if they visit certain beaches, for just one example, eat in the same restaurants, attend the same universities where certain events are barred, such as Nakba Day memorials, lecture at those universities, lie on adjacent beds in the same wards in the same hospitals about the only place where there's pure equality. Palestinian children attend special educational courses alongside their Jewish peers and are taught the virtues of co-existence.

And speaking of Palestinian children, an Israeli charity called Save a Child’s Heart brings well over 200 pediatric cardiac cases and operates on them to save their lives. 40% of the SACH's beneficiaries are from Africa, 49% are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco, 4% are from Eastern Europe and the Americas, and 7% are from Asia. And you call this an apartheid state well apparently doing good and apartheid can coexist. After all, where was the first heart transplant? The PA, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco are all sworn enemies of Israel who regularly call for its destruction and for the genocide of all Jews living there. Would an apartheid state save the lives of its enemies’ children or allow Palestinian women to give birth in its hospitals the lucky ones who manage to get through the checkpoints, side by side with Jewish women? Am I completely insane for thinking you have it all back to front?

You may well say to me, "What about Gaza? What about the West Bank?" Those are the places where apartheid takes place. But does it? Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and in doing so exposed itself to year after year of rocket and mortar fire from Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The territory is currently under the control of Hamas, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist entities. Israel has two functions there: to exercise a wholly legal legal does not equal moral sea and land blockade in order to prevent Hamas acquiring (mainly through tunneling) advanced weaponry, most of it supplied by Iran, another country that openly calls for genocide in Israel. To mitigate the impact of the blockade, Israel has set up a border control station, through which tons of goods pass into Gaza every week and through which Gazans are not allowed to go abroad to study or visit spouses in the West Bank. While life is not easy in Gaza, it is controlled by an armed group whose charter calls for the killing of Jews and rejects peace-making of any kind. This is many things, but it’s not apartheid.

The West Bank has nothing I would call apartheid. nothing? Taking over springs, roads, water sources, land for Jewish-only use? 96% of Palestinians live under the Palestinian Authority administration. Overall, Israel is responsible for security. For a period of many years, wave after wave of terror attacks have come out of the West Bank, most in the form of suicide bombings. To this day, Palestinian streets bear posters bearing the faces of suicide bombers; schools, streets, and squares are named after them, schoolchildren are taught to admire them, to write poems for them, and to aspire to martyrdom themselves. Are Palestinians on the West Bank treated badly? Probably. But how badly is badly? There is a war going on, a quiet war that nonetheless exposes civilians on both sides to constant danger. But the Palestinians have for over 60 years refused to take up the very fair deal offered them by the United Nations in 1947, and until they do so and establish a state that does not dream of the destruction of its neighbour simply because it is a Jewish state, there cannot be peace, there cannot be honest dialogue, and there cannot be a full programme of mutual assistance. So easy to shut the door, isn't it? *trach*! We're done!

Terrorism and war are the twin contexts within which all today’s problems lie. I'd add greed. It has been said, "If the Palestinians laid down their weapons, there would be peace tomorrow. If the Israelis laid down their weapons, there would be no Israel." I am writing to you because I believe you have shown yourself to be open-minded and attuned to context. You have taken a stand for gays, yet seem unaware that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where homosexuals enjoy full rights except to marry. And where venues are threatened with loss of kashrut certification if they host gays' events. and can celebrate their status in public in Tel Aviv and sometimes Eilat. Tel Aviv is rightly considered a "gay capital". Surely this is important to you. It's all important. Does it not go a long way toward refining your image of the Jewish state?I am a liberal (in the British sense at least), and Israel is the only country in the Middle East that pays more than lip service to the human rights in which we both believe. That's not hard. Are our neighbors the standard by which we want to measure ourselves? It bewilders me that someone as open-minded and open-hearted as yourself should choose to support the side of violence, of prejudice, of outright hatred. I don't see her as supporting violence and hatred. But withholding knowledge...that's bad. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that you must be – as are so many of those who hate Israel – simply ignorant of the realities of life there. I do not say that to blame you; ignorance of the Middle East runs right through Western societies, from media pundits to presidents and prime ministers.

I could write pages more in an attempt to help you see reason, but I don’t think that would, in itself, achieve very much. You don’t want to be preached to, I’m certain of that – and I’ve already preached more than I intended at the outset of this letter. But we do share one thing and that is the power of imagination. It takes imagination to see beyond the dogmas on either side of an argument like this. Yes, exactly. Nuance. Shades of gray. And that is what I want you to do: use your imagination to see past the lies and obfuscations that have blinded many to what has really been going on between the Jews and the Arabs.

It is still not uncommon – particularly in Arabic writing and speech-making – for Israel’s enemies to refer to it as a Nazi state. This is commonplace. It occurs as often as not along with a deep ignorance of the genuinely unfathomable evil the Nazis wrought, with denial of the Holocaust, with street banners reading "Why didn’t Hitler finish the job?" and "God Bless Hitler". You will not need prompting from me to agree that this modern attempt to turn the tables on a people who suffered the Holocaust and now carry it in their genes is worthy of the strongest condemnation. But it is the Palestinians and their allies who voice these gruesome sentiments, and it is the Israelis who run charities to save children’s hearts, who send out aid missions to Haiti and Japan and Mali and throughout the world because they believe in humanity, who have helped feed most of Africa, who have produced one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, who save lives everywhere with their medicines and medical devices. And don't forget drip irrigation. And Bamba. But good and evil are not mutually exclusive -- obviously. Ditto barbarism and civility. Read the Torah.

Please take this opportunity to revise your thoughts about Israel. If it should ever be destroyed – as its enemies fantasize it will be – it will be a disaster for us all. Find books, watch videos, cast your mind about to discover what Israel really is. Talk to some Jews, and not just those who are opposed to Israeli policy. Israel is not what you think it is, of that you can be sure. And if you would like to visit Israel and probe into things yourself, just let me know and I will help arrange it.Thank you for reading this far. If you take what I say seriously, you will be surprised by what you find, bright against what you thought you knew but did not.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What's it got to do with the price of peanut butter? מה הקשר עם מחיר חמאת בוטנים

In the wake of last summer’s cost-of-living protests, Haaretz ran a weekly feature on its business page wherein the reporter would pick a consumer product — I recall chewing gum, mouthwash, and ketchup — and calculate how many hours an Israeli, a Brit, and an American have to work to earn enough to pay for said item. The highest number of hours was always worked by Israelis.

The reasons therefore were always the same, regardless of the product: shipping costs, the fact that Israel is a relatively small market, occasionally extra labeling or kashrut requirements. What’s the takeaway? Get ready: Israel is more costly to live in than the US or Europe. Get outta town! As if I hadn’t noticed, and it took an intrepid reporter to give me the wakeup call.

Am I incensed at this disparity? Indignant at having to pay more for chewing gum? Not at all. I actually have no grievance with the reasons given for the extra expense. I came here with my eyes wide open. I knew that my standard of living would go down, and I didn’t mind the sacrifice; I didn’t come here to get rich.

What’s galling isn’t the price of mouthwash; it’s when I read about the shortage of facilities for at-risk youth due to lack of funds; or the 1,000-bed shortage in neonatal care units; yet strangely, $17 billion is somehow available for the settlements.

Do the social protest activists not see the direct line that leads from Judaea and Samaria to Rothschild Avenue? It’s a zero-sum game, folks. There’s a finite level of resources, and as bad as I am at arithmetic, somehow I connect the dots.

Why do they believe that they can keep the protest apolitical? And why should we want to? Because the minute we point an accusing finger at the settlements, we lose momentum, or support, or whatever vagaries they think they can’t do without?

The non-settling public needs to hear the truth: Their anger at the manufacturers and retailers, while legitimate, is misplaced. I want the faucet that irrigates the settlements turned off, not so the price of peanut butter will go down (it won’t), but so that at-risk teens won’t have to be held in police lockups and preemies won’t be released from the hospital appallingly early. That’s social justice, not some wrong-headed goal of “including everyone inside the tent”.

Why are these victims different from all others? מה נשתה הנפגע הזה

As I wrote nearly a year ago, while Israelis won’t touch the word “political” with a ten-foot pole, curiously they have no problem politicizing issues that should remain outside the political arena. Or perhaps I should say “co-opting” or “exploiting for cynical purposes”. I’m referring to the myriad non-profits (seven are listed here not including One Family; another five here) whose stated purpose is serving the surviving family members of Israelis who have been killed in terror attacks. I have two problems — or shall I say discomforts — with these organizations:

The first is that I notice that the vast majority of the children they serve (you see them on organized outings and weekends) appear to be Orthodox, which prompts me to ask: What? Non-Orthodox aren’t killed in terror attacks? Or is there something else going on?

The second is that, while my experience with loss and bereavement is fortunately and admittedly scant, I don’t understand why children who lose parents in a terror attack are in a category separate from those who, say, lose parents in a traffic collision, God forbid, or to the Versailles [wedding hall] collapse. Do the former’s needs differ from the latter’s? Or is it possible that the former is “sexier” in terms of keeping the fans of bigotry flamed and / or eliciting sympathy for what is termed the “pro-Israel cause”?

Out of curiosity, I wrote to two such organizations: One Family, and another whose name I can’t recall, as they never replied. I wrote: Do your services extend to Arab victims of terror, such as the victims of Eden Natan Zada in 2005? Or the families of those gunned down in the Cave of the Patriarchs mosque in 1994?

Yehuda Poch of One Family was kind enough to reply courteously: “Shalom Yam:
Our services extend to all victims of anti-Israel terror since September 2000.
That includes Druze, Beduin, Israeli Arabs, and foreign residents/citizens.
Eden Natan-Zada's attack, while horrible, was not an attack against Israel.”

To which I replied: "Interesting. So if one of Zada's victims happened to have been Jewish? And who determines who's Jewish? My friend is the child of an Arab father and Jewish mother. She could easily have been riding a bus in Shfar'am. How do you determine an individual's eligibility for your services?"

Poch’s reply: “Hi, Miriam: Eligibility for our services has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the victim – or of the attacker. It has to do with the nature of the attack. If the attack is an anti-Israel terror attack, then the victims are eligible for assistance.

For instance, an Arab bus driver driving a bus that was bombed would be classified as a victim of an anti-Israel terror attack, and would be eligible for our assistance (as in fact has happened in more than one instance).

If one of Zada's victims happened to have been Jewish, such as your friend's child, s/he would have been eligible for the same government assistance provided to all the Arab victims, if there was any. But they would not have been classified as victims of anti-Israel terror, either by the government or by us.”

Me: “How is ‘a terror act against Israel’ determined? If an Arab enters a mall and starts randomly shooting people, is it assumed to have a nationalistic motive? Who / which agency(s) determine whether a random act of violence is terror?”

Poch: “That decision is left up to the police and/or military authorities. In general, while a case such as you describe would almost automatically be ruled a terror attack, there are cases that are far less cut-and-dried.

For instance, a few years ago an eight-year-old was raped and murdered in Beit Shemesh, by an Arab. That case was never ruled a terror attack. There have been others.

There was even a case about four years ago of a Kassam attack in Sderot wherein a boy was killed in the explosion, and he was never ruled a victim of terror because he was ill and the authorities ruled that he died of a reaction of his illness.

There are cases that are contested, and cases that are not. We, as an organization, are limited to helping only those recognized as terror victims by the State authorities.”

Fair enough, and while Poch deserves credit for taking my queries seriously and responding to them thoughtfully, the two discomforts I have with these organizations remain*. If anyone has any insight thereto, I’d be pleased to hear it.

* No critique of Poch here; I did not address my discomforts with him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who is a Jew Goes Diaspora מיהו יהודי לא רק שואלים פה

Two recent articles, both from the Forward, bolster my claim that it is impossible to prove an individual’s Jewishness. The first, by David A.M. Wilensky, tells of his rabbi’s reaction when Wilensky, a patrilineal Jew (now converted) stopped accepting aliyot at the congregation he attended in his pre-conversion incarnation: “She asked why I was telling her about my situation: She never would have known, she said.” Precisely. Since anyone can slip in under the radar, ergo, anyone who identifies as a Jew is in practice if not in “fact”, Jewish.

The second article, by Naomi Zeveloff*, tells about non-Jewish inmates requesting kosher food. Now we have a situation wherein Corrections Department officials in 35 US states are “rightly hesitant to set themselves up to say who is Jewish and who is not, … often leav[ing] the decision in the hands of chaplains, Jewish or otherwise.”

When my dad was explaining to me that the local Jewish assisted living facility and JCC “provide for all Jewish cases", I kept asking him, “But how does the institution decide whether the applicant is Jewish?” After all, gone are the days when all the Jews knew each other. He finally had to concede that it’s based on the honor system, i.e., no individual Jew or admissions committee really has a way to prove or disprove a given individual’s claim to Jewish identity.

What it all comes down to is that where for centuries there was no advantage to being Jewish, we now have non-Jewish inmates looking at Jews’ plates and wanting to have what appears to be superior food; and non-Jews from countries as disparate as the former USSR and Eritrea, Sudan, and Nigeria looking to Israel as the nearest place of refuge from hunger and strife, i.e., being Jewish has become not simply fashionable (as in the 1970s) but downright appealing.

Of course our grandparents could not in their wildest dreams have imagined such a scenario, but here it is, our new reality, and it is incumbent upon us not to resist it, but rather to embrace it and let the chips fall where they may.

*Let’s hope she changes her surname if she ever moves to Israel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

3 things whose time has passed & more 3 דברים שעליהם העולם כבר לא עומד

1. Will someone please tell the airlines to just print luggage tags like this?



Mobile ____________________________________

Landline ___________________________________

In other words, the first line is self-explanatory; we no longer need to be instructed that our luggage is supposed to bear our names, addresses, cities, states, and ZIPs. Removal of these superfluous “field labels” would then leave us plenty of room to actually print our entire names, addresses, and cities without having to squeeze them in between the words “Name”, “Address”, and “City”. So that those of us with mile-long names, addresses, and / or cities can actually write them comfortably. Whereas the last two lines are not only necessary nowadays, but they actually do need distinguishing, hence labels. Does anyone reading this have an in with the airlines?

2. Request to all humanity: Please record short voice greetings. The time has long passed when you need to explain: "You have reached the home / voice mailbox of the Almoni family: Ploni, Roni, Bubu, Poopsy, and Snookers. We can't come to the phone right now [really?], but be assured your call is important to us. Please leave your name and phone number [what other number would I leave? Social Security?] after the tone [really? is that what I'm supposed to do when I hear that beep?], and we'll return your call just as soon as we can!"

By which time I'm exasperated. News flash: We all know what to do when we hear a voice recording. A simple "You have reached the Almonys. Please leave a message [beep]" will do it, and we'll all use our time for better pursuits than listening for a [bleeping] beep.

3. Does anyone really enjoy those Rock Stars Sing Children’s Songs albums? Seems to me they go right over the kids’ heads. Do your kids really groove to Ziggy Marley singing Itsy Bitsy Spider? Do you? Wouldn’t you just as soon listen to him sing actual Ziggy Marley music? This hybrid just seems to me like the worst of both worlds. I’ll take Rafi any day.

And we now return to our regular programming:

· I find it interesting how many women feel the need to explain why they retain their birth names. And the most common explanation is "professional reasons". So, we don't question a woman retaining her name if she's a published author, or physician, or attorney, or famous; but supposing a cleaning woman wants to retain her name “for professional reasons”? Memo: It’s 2012: Anyone who 1) earns a living and 2) has a business card -- which includes just about everyone over the age of 21 -- is a professional. But furthermore, why do we women feel we need to explain this decision at all? Does anyone expect a man to explain his decision to retain his birth name? What's wrong with "Why should I do otherwise?"

· It's not that it’s wrong for Jack to like football or for Jill to cook and sew. What's wrong is to fall asleep at the wheel as a parent and just say, "Gender will take care of itself." It is up to us parents to fight gender stereotypes actively. No one will do it for us. The corporate and social forces are out there, and make no mistake about it, they are powerful: McDonald's, Disney, and Toys R Us are all counting on you to fall asleep at the parenting wheel. The only entity that's going to challenge them is you and I. Otherwise -- they win: Pink aisles and blue aisles in the store (would we tolerate White aisles and Colored aisles?). Boxing our children in. With nowhere to go if they're outside the box. So whose side are you on? The corporations'? Or your child's?

· Employers should be obligated to subsidize their employees’ birth control…only upon the employee’s signing a pledge to use it consistently and correctly!