Profiles In Terrible Sex Education Part 3: In Which An 8th Grader is Awesome

January 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

If I had a hat, I would tip it to Ms. Ellie Grossman, who after sitting through “Willing to Wait’s” program, spoke to the Wyoming Public Schools Reproductive Health Committee, and succeeded in changing the schools programming. WPS now uses the “Safer Choices” program, which was developed by the Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan.

I would also tip my (imaginary) hat to the Wyoming Public Schools, and the Plymouth UCC for recognizing the value of students’ opinions and input. It would have been much easier for the leaders in the school district and the church, in a more conservative community, to say, “Well if we change the programming, we’re going to upset a lot of parents / It’s only one kid complaining / 8th graders shouldn’t know about condoms and birth control / etc.” But they didn’t. They realized that they were doing a disservice to their students by using a program that did not answer their very legitimate questions.

It’s also great that a church is hosting one of the “Safer Choices” sessions. It is very important for religious leaders who are for comprehensive sex ed to speak out in their communities, and show that being religious does not mean having a narrow view of human sexuality.

Heads Up: New Dutch Government Contemplating Burqa Ban

October 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Via The Guardian:

“Wilders has won pledges to introduce legislation banning Islamic headgear, joining France, Belgium and Switzerland in a growing campaign across Europe to ban a veil that relatively few Muslim women wear.”

I’m not sure of the accuracy of the statement that “relatively few Muslim wear” the burqa, but, does it matter? Shouldn’t the law protect everyone?

I’m sick of the racist, sexist, Westernized idea that Muslim women don’t have agency and would never choose to wear a religious symbol without being forced by a man. As the article states, this is coming from a conservative government, but how long do you think it will be before this type of Islamophobia is again accepted by many as an aspect of feminism? The last time I checked, feminism was supposed to be about giving all women agency, not just when it’s convenient or when we can’t twist it to make ourselves look superior to another culture.

It can’t be ignored that this is coming from a new conservative, anti-immigration government, though. While many will interpret it this way, I highly doubt they’re doing it in the name of “feminism.” Growing numbers of Muslims do not threaten anyone except for white, usually Christian people who would like to remain a privileged group.  If I were leader of The Netherlands, and I tried to ban all cross necklaces or nun’s habits, can you imagine the outcry in the country and all over the world? I would be told I was taking away religious freedom and agency from the same kind of people who support this legislation.

Putting the rampant racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny seen here for a moment, can I just ask what happened to personal freedom? What gives a country a right to dictate what its citizens should wear, and couldn’t this possibly lead them further down a bad road?

If you live in The Netherlands, please contact the leaders of the nation and voice how oppressive the legislation is. We cannot let this happen in another country.

from the rib?: On Interviews and Intersection

July 4, 2010 § 2 Comments

Over at from the rib?, our own Shira has been posting fantastic excerpts of her Keystone project — a semester-long independent project that every senior at our high school had to complete. She interviewed Jewish women from New York City between the ages of 5 and 95 to explore the powerful intersection between Judaism and feminism.

Often we think of feminism in splintered sectors: Jewish feminism, conservative feminism, Marxist feminism, eco-feminism, pro-sex feminism, queer feminism…the list goes on. The popularity of feminist blogs can help to support this way of thinking, since some blogs make use of a targeted niche. Here at Women’s Glib, for example, we assert ourselves as a blog for young feminists, though the ideas we cover often aren’t specific to teenage women. As bloggers and writers, we tend to focus on what we know because it’s familiar, it’s safer, it’s more respectful to others’ experiences. (That’s not to say we shouldn’t think or write about oppression issues that don’t directly affect us; it’s only to say that often it’s best to read and interact with those who have experienced such oppressions firsthand.)

Shira’s project is a reminder of the importance of pluralism: the idea that within one group (for example, Jewish women), it is natural and desirable to have “numerous, distinct” individual identities represented. Lucille Weisfuse, Shira’s 88-year-old grandmother, is a conservative white Jew from Brooklyn. She says of feminism: “I don’t feel in this day and age -– women have accomplished so much –- I don’t feel it’s important. Women can get any kind of job they want today. I think we’ve made so much progress that we don’t have to work for feminism so much. There are so many other causes.” On the other hand, Sophia Henriquez, a 16-year-old mixed-race and mixed-religion Reform Jew, identifies strongly with feminism. “It’s instinct. It’s what my mom taught me.”

Our power as feminists comes from striking an organic balance between individual experience and shared identity. We can accomplish the most by working together. Just as two people can lift more weight than just one, feminism works best when groups of people ally with one another to achieve a common goal. This is the concept of emergence, the idea that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Shira’s work has also reminded me of the power of personal narratives. My favorite aspect of feminism is that it encourages us to speak, to tell our stories, assert our truths, vibrantly, loudly and without shame. In a culture that’s hell-bent on silencing women, there is perhaps nothing more instinctively powerful, more potent and visceral than freeing our minds from that screaming silence and allowing words to spill from our bodies. This is feminist, and it is biblical, too: Jewish history is built on stories passed from one person to another, through times of immense struggle. When we speak about what has happened to us, we can take solace in our shared experience.

Explore the archive of Shira’s Keystone-related posts, and keep checking from the rib? for more interviews.

Intersectionality Saturdays: Choice in a Cultural Context

January 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s been a really long while since I’ve posted on here, but I’m back for a weekly cross-post between Women’s Glib and my new blog on Jewish feminism, from the rib?. This column will focus on intersectionality – the connection of oppressions and liberation movements – and how it affects my life. Here’s edition #1:

Yesterday, I was talking to a girl in my Biology class who just returned from a semester abroad in Israel. She asked me the broadest yet incredibly popular question: “What do you think of Israel?” After living in various parts of Israel for five weeks this summer, I left more confused than when I arrived. When I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I was ignorant. I left realizing just how many diverse and seemingly unrelated topics there are to be ignorant about. Because of that ignorance, I like to gently lead people away from pre-supposed political answers and into topics I feel comfortable forming opinions about. These usually concern sexism and feminism.

Academically and socially, I feel authorized to speak on sexism and feminism. At times, I feel like I live and breathe books, blogs, and performances of feminist work. I am also a woman and recognize the exploitation of my own gender in the media, as well as what “society” (the largest abstraction of all) expects of me. Culturally, however, I feel like a feminist without a cause. Growing up as a white member of the middle class in liberal New York City with a mother whose income is greater than my father’s, the education of my choosing, and occasionally attending egalitarian synagogues, I am privileged and, on a superficial level, I have nothing in my own life to fight for.

So back to the conversation that got all these thoughts whirling. I redirected it to the treatment of women in ultra-Orthodox Israeli societies. While I was supposed to be researching viral causes of cancer cells, I spoke of the horrible treatment of women in education, in synagogue, and in the home. The girl in my Biology class responded that she does not see suffering amongst women in the ultra-Orthodox communities she has visited. Their roles are what they have been brought up with and it is what they want to continue with because they have never known anything else. It is their lifestyle.

My immediate response was that it is because they have not been shown an alternative. These women do not know they are oppressed because they have never experienced having equal opportunities. And then my Bio buddy threw at me one of the most provocative questions I could be asked: “How do you know your way is better?”

How do I know my way is better? I believe I know what equality is. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a feminist and fight not only for my rights but for the rights of us all that are so interconnected. My way is what I have grown up with and has stemmed from the privilege I was raised with and the beliefs I have had the freedom to foster. I believe in choice and I believe that all women should be able to choose their own way in life, be it sexist or feminist through a traveler’s eyes. If a woman is happy and fulfilled singing lightly in the background of a synagogue or receiving an education different from her husband’s or forgoing occupational opportunities and chooses to do so, that is not sexist. She has chosen it for herself.

What does choice mean in a cultural context? Where is the line drawn between advocacy and – I’m going to make up a word here because we are speaking in a feminine lexicon at the moment – maternalism? How can we enforce a right to choose in communities where women do not know what choice is? And who on earth am I to say they do not know what choice is?

Shira’s New Blog

January 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m a little late on this, but our own Shira has launched a new blog devoted to Jewish feminism: from the rib? (Is that a great blog name or what? Context here.)

From the blog’s About page:

WHAT? A blog written by a Jewish feminist and it is for everyone to explore what it means for two identities to collide and progress. Topics will range from exploring biblical inequalities/women’s untold stories to the current injustices Jewish women face to the successes Jewish women have had in obtaining equal opportunities across denominations to the complexities and ambiguity surrounding gender roles in Judaism. I know – it’s a lot, but it’s because we have a lot to change.

WHERE? from the rib? resides here on WordPress, but should also inspire dialogue on the streets, in synagogue, during seders, at the Shabbat table, in school, at work, and wherever opinions can be transformed into action on behalf of Jewish women (which translates to bettering Judaism as a whole).

WHEN? I will explore the lives of Jewish women past and present, biblical and historical.

Head over there and show her some love.

A Christian Crusader That I Can Get Behind

December 8, 2009 § Leave a comment

Hello!

Read this.

It’s a well-written and inspiring account of a young Christian’s pro-choice stance and her work with an organization called Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom.

Favorite sentiment:

“God gave us free will, and who are you to limit that in me or anyone else?”

Amen…

The Stoning of Soraya M.

May 5, 2009 § 4 Comments

The description of the movie says:

The women, stripped of all rights and without recourse, nobly confront the overwhelming desires of corrupt men who use and abuse their authority to condemn Soraya, an innocent but inconvenient wife, to an unjust and torturous death. A shocking and true drama, it exposes the dark power of mob rule, uncivil law, and the utter lack of human rights for women.

My interest was piqued when I saw this trailer so I decided to look up the case of Soraya M. I didn’t find much, but it I did find that she was an Iranian woman in an arranged marriage with an abusive husband who no longer wanted to be married to her, so he accused her of adultery and because of this lie, she was eventually stoned by a group of men. (Please correct me if my facts are off.)

I want to see this so badly, yet have been unable to find the release date anywhere near me. I’ve read October 2008, February 2009, and July 2009 and yet, up until just now, I haven’t heard anything about it. I think this film is important and has the potential to be eye opening (especially since the civil rights of women are violated particularly in the Middle East very often, even currently), but the cynical part of me doubts that many people will see it — after all, where’s the appeal in a movie released this summer that’s not about robots?

Spread the word!

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