Monday, November 28, 2011

Star of Davida Essay Contest Winner: Christina P

This essay by Christina P is one of the winners of the Star of Davida Essay Contest, answering the question "How has feminism changed your life?"

As a child, I was largely a tomboy. I begged my parents to let me play hockey, refused to let my mom dress me in “girly” clothing (anything pink or that had flowers), and racked up more scars on my body than I could count. I was also largely a stereotypical little girl. I had two trunks full of dress up clothes (which was the only time being “girly” was acceptable), I had at least a dozen boxes full of Barbie and her friends, and I filled the empty hole in my heart where hockey might have been with dance classes and gymnastics. As you might guess, I definitely learned about gender roles very early on because I encountered a lot of things I couldn’t do because it wasn’t considered appropriate for my gender. Because of this, I was quick to latch onto feminism. A movement that told me that I could do whatever I wanted and that my gender was no reason to be held back? I couldn’t have been happier.

In addition to my feminist philosophy, I have also been an advocate for the LGBT+ community, which is a community I began to identify with the more I came to accept and understand my sexuality. Slowly there emerged a middle ground between feminism and the LGBT+ community, and as it became clearer to me I learned about the transgendered community. Unlike discrimination based on sexual orientation, transgendered people face it based on their gender identity, and this is because we are uncomfortable with people expressing styles of dress, behaviors, etc. that aren’t stereotypical of the gender that we (unfairly) assign them along with their sex. In other words, it’s largely because of gender norms and roles that we’re expected to adhere to. I’ve now devoted a lot of time (and by a lot of time I mean an entire research proposal paper on the self-esteem of transgendered youth and another research paper that explores that injustices that transgendered people face) to learning about how these gender roles play a part in all of our lives.

As a psychology major, I was always intent on using my acquired skills and knowledge in order to play a part in making people’s lives better. After having immersed myself in two communities that have played a large role in shaping me (I attribute feminism to making me passionate and caring whereas the LGBT+ community has helped me come to accept myself), I have now come to better realize what more I can do. After I finish my undergraduate work, I hope to eventually end up in a PsyD clinical psychology program with a focus in gender identity and sexual orientation. I want to primarily work in the LGBT+ community in hopes that being a feminist and gender equality activist will have also given me an understanding in sexuality and gender.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I Celebrate Thanksgiving

I celebrate Thanksgiving because I am thankful.

I am thankful to this amazing country that we call the United States of America. My grandparents came here after they survived concentration camp, and they were plenty thankful that they were given a refuge after the hell they went through in Europe. They celebrated Thanksgiving every year, with an elaborate meal shared with friends and relatives. They were more than happy to show their appreciation for this country.

And while everyone always points out America’s faults and goes on about how horrible it is to live here, and yeah, there are definitely plenty of things that need to be changed, I think this country is pretty freaking incredible.

Cool stuff I can do as an American woman without getting thrown into jail or executed:
  1. Run a blog that criticizes the government and its officials, as well as religious leaders and practices
  2. Worship the god I believe in as loudly as I want to
  3. Wear what I want
  4. Vote
  5. Run for public office
  6. Drive
  7. Get an abortion
  8. Use birth control
  9. Pursue a higher education
  10. Play in a professional sports team
  11. Marry who I want
  12. Have a credit card in my own name
  13. Own property
  14. Get a divorce and have custody of my children
  15. Receive equal pay for equal work
I know a lot of these things aren’t as great as they seem. No, there is no WNFL, gay marriage is only legal in a few states, and reproductive rights are being threatened and limited every day (among many other unfair practices). But there are women’s football teams and leagues, same-sex couples can be united in marriage in a few states, and women are able to get abortions and use birth control if they choose. In the nineteenth century (and even the mid-twentieth), most of the things listed above weren’t even dreamed of, let alone enacted. Other countries are, unfortunately, at the same point as America in 1850.

So that’s why I’m thankful to this country, and why I celebrate Thanksgiving. Thank you, America. Please continue improving in how awesome you are.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Star of Davida Essay Contest Winners!

Star of Davida recently held an essay contest that asked students to answer the question “How has feminism changed your life?” I received a number of amazing entries, which made it hard to decide on the winners. Each one of the essays stood out so much and all of them for different reasons. Here are the winners and honorable mentions (listed in alphabetical order)!

Winners: Christina P, Eliana NB, and Quin R 
Honorable Mentions: Jackie O and Lisa B

Christina, Eliana, and Quin have won Care Bears on Fire’s album Get Over It! and their essays will be published here on Star of Davida. Lisa and Jackie’s work will also be posted. Stay tuned!

For further feminist inspiration, make sure to check out the Links page (which can be found in the sidebar on the left) to some awesome Jewish, feminist, and Jewish feminist online media outlets.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Theater Review: The Judy Show

I recently saw the off-Broadway play The Judy Show. An absolutely hilarious one-person show starring comedian Judy Gold, it’s all about Gold’s life as a lesbian and a Jew, and her quest to get a sitcom on TV featuring a family with gay parents.

I totally loved this play. I saw it with my mom, and the two of us were literally clutching our sides with laughter. While I would have really appreciated if she specifically identified with the feminist movement, it’s clear that Gold does support the ideals of women’s rights. She’s also extremely active in gay rights (a feminist cause), hosting the Sirius/XM weekly radio show “Hatched By Two Chicks” and the GLAAD Media Awards, as well as performing on a half-hour comedy special for LOGO, among other activities.

In the play, she talks about growing up Jewish in predominantly Gentile Clark, New Jersey. Being Jewish is a clear part of Gold’s identity: she usually describes herself as a “6”3 lesbian Jew.” (I appreciated her usage of the word Jew as opposed to Jewish, since people are often reluctant to label themselves so blatantly as Jews.) A lot of her jokes are about her stereotypically Jewish mother, obsessed with her children and the state of Jewry. A lot of my own mother’s idiosyncrasies are similar to what Gold was describing, although I never realized they were Jewish mother things. (I thought everyone took the soap and shampoos from hotels! I means, it’s just there for the taking…and doesn’t everyone look at lists of names and point out the Jewish ones?) Gold had her rebellious moments, though: in high school, she ate cheeseburgers, knowing that her parents would be horrified at this blatant disregard of Jewish law. She now calls herself observant, which I think is beautiful. I know many LGBT Jews feel it’s impossible to be religious and gay at the same time, and the fact that Gold is able to do both really gives me hope.

Another thing I found interesting was that Gold didn’t talk about coming out as gay to her friends. I think it’s great that she never felt a need to announce to the world that she’s a lesbian - I mean, do straight people have to tell everyone their sexuality? Gold did struggle with telling her parents, though. Her father knew she was gay, but she was never able to tell him directly, and she deeply regretted it when he died. She eventually told her mother and sister. While it took her mom a while to get used to the idea (she originally told people that Gold’s “roommate” had a baby and she adopted him), she came around.

The whole premise of The Judy Show is that Gold wants a sitcom about her family called The Judy Show: a divorced lesbian couple with two sons. Gold was fascinated with TV during her childhood and adolescence: in the play, she explains how shows like The Jeffersons, Maude, Three’s Company, and The Brady Bunch shaped her views on the world and her expectations for life (which, unfortunately, were not always met). She went to several networks and pitched the idea, but was repeatedly turned down, even by LOGO. OWN actually began filming, but then decided to nix the show because of the controversy it would stir (something the financially-suffering network feels it can’t afford).

I do find it interesting that Gold has faced so much opposition and disinterest to her idea. Modern Family, which has won and been nominated for dozens of prestigious awards, has a gay couple with an adopted child; Will and Grace, which was also wildly successful, featured two gay men and their hags. Why is the concept of a whole show centered around a family with two mommies so threatening to TV producers? Shouldn’t TV shows reflect the reality of the world, which now includes families with gay parents?

Whatever the case, I look forward to the day when kids - hopefully my own - can watch The Judy Show on TV every week on prime time.

Get your tickets fast - The Judy Show closes on November 27!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black Holes of Davida: Togo's

Togo’s, a fast food sandwich restaurant chain often combined with Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, recently released a new ad campaign titled “Better than a Breadwich.” In the commercial (which can be viewed here), two claymation women walking down the street are flashed by a sandwich. At first, they seem traumatized, but then they laugh it off. As the sandwich runs away, a voiceover says, “Don’t settle for puny,” then sells the new Togo’s sandwich.

This commercial is extremely problematic on many levels. It completely negates the fear, anxiety, and humiliation most women feel when they are subjected to street harassment, especially an outright illegal act like flashing. The ad implies that once women get over the surprise of street harassment, they’ll judge the “quality” of their harasser and base their reaction to him on that. Because this sandwich was “puny,” they laughed. If the sandwich was big and meaty, would they have smiled and flirted instead? This is NOT the reality of street harassment. It doesn’t matter what the harasser looks like - women will be upset when they’re flashed, or whistled at, or groped, or otherwise harassed.

It’s also extremely stereotypical. The sandwich, at least in my opinion, seems like a stereotypical Hispanic gangster-type: hanging around in an alley next to a liquor store, with a mustache, wearing sunglasses, preying on non-Hispanic women. (The only twisted little positive this ad has is that it portrays one of the women as African-American. A common misconception about street harassment is that only white women are victimized.)

The saddest part of this is that Togo’s just doesn’t get how offensive it is to women. Renae Scott, the vice president of branding and marketing at Togo’s, described the ad as “edgy.” Ignoring the fact that using the word “edgy” to describe any commercial about a pork sandwich is asinine, does she really think street harassment is edgy, trendy, cutting edge? Does she want someone to come over to her while she’s walking on the street with a friend and flash her? Does she want that to happen to her friends? Mother? Grandmother? Aunts? Nieces? Daughters?

So tell Togo’s that you find this ad offensive! You can email them here and say:

I find your recent “Better than a Breadwich” commercial highly offensive. It trivializes street harassment, a serious and traumatizing crime that shouldn’t be taken lightly or mocked in a commercial. I strongly urge you to pull this campaign and substitute it with something that doesn’t poke fun at women who have been flashed and otherwise harassed on the street.

I sent them an email in complaint, and they responded:

We wanted to make sure you knew that we received your comment regarding our recent TV commercial. It is never our intention to offend anyone.  Our spot was meant to be fun and quirky and to make fun of sandwiches that are all bread and no meat.  I will make sure our Marketing team hears your concerns. I truly appreciate your feedback and will pass it along to our Brand Marketing team.

Make sure they hear from as many people as possible. There’s strength in numbers!

For now, I dub Togo's an inductee into the Black Holes of Davida - people who let us feminists down by advocating misogyny, sexism, abuse, and other anti-woman thoughts and actions. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boys, Music, Rape - the Usual Suspects

I babysit two absolutely lovely boys, aged eight and ten. (The older one has been my “boyfriend” for a number of years now.) Their parents are also very sweet people who. I know the family through synagogue and from around the neighborhood. They try really hard to observe halakha (Jewish law), and send their boys to an Orthodox school. (The fact that I’m willing to babysit for them is a testament to how great these two kids are, because I’m really picky about my clients.)

The last time I was babysitting them, one of the boys was messing around on his dad’s iPad and playing music. His first choice was Ke$ha’s “Crazy Beautiful Life.” His second was Katy Perry’s ET. I asked if his parents mind if he listens to that music, and he said that the only reason he doesn’t usually play it out loud is because his mom is in the yearlong mourning period and can’t listen to music.

It kinda surprised me that his choices were those particular artists and songs. I know a lot of people don’t understand my problem with Ke$ha, but I’m sticking to my guns here. A lot of her stuff has sexual overtones or are downright explicit. Right now I’m thinking of “And they turn me on / when they take it off / when they take it off / everybody take it off” and “Just turn around boy and let me hit that / Don’t be a little b***h with your chit chat / Just show me where your d**k’s at,” among many other Ke$ha lyrics. In “Crazy Beautiful Life,” she uses the word douche in the chorus, as well as the b word and s word, and talks about being high. It’s just not appropriate for little kids. Yes, I know they can hear those words and worse on television, especially cable, but curb it where you can, you know?


I find the fact that they were listening to “ET” absolutely unacceptable, though. The song, as stated in several feminist blogs, is a violent rape fantasy. Katy says in the chorus “Kiss me, kiss me / Infect me with your love and / Fill me with your poison / Take me, take me / Wanna be your victim / Ready for abduction.” It’s not like it’s hard to understand or anything. The lyrics are blatant. Then Kanye West comes in and raps! Surprising that a guy who enjoys raping dead white women would collaborate on a song like this, huh? Well, he does, stating that “Imma disrobe you / Then Imma probe you / See I’ve abducted you / So I’ll tell you what to do.” Again, completely blatant. No double entendres or sexual innuendos here. Katy and Kanye like telling it like it is, apparently.

And so, I think that anyone with any sense of appropriateness will agree with me that this song is completely not anywhere near the realm of okay for children. Two young boys, listening to a woman say how she wants to be raped and hearing a man describe how to rape her? I’m sorry, that doesn’t jibe with me. I know the nuances of the song are totally lost on kids that little, and they probably don’t listen to it that hard and don’t understand it if they do, but it’s still in their heads. I know that I’ve still got songs stuck in my head that I listened to when I was their age and haven’t heard since. What a way to raise future feminists!

It’s not their parents’ fault, since they weren’t home when they were playing these songs. However, the incident still really bothered me. I know people will think I’m overreacting to this and say that I’m making a big deal over nothing, but I really think this is an issue. There are links between violent, sexualized video games to murder and other violent physical crimes. I don’t know of any identified link between music with violent descriptions to crime, but is it so far-fetched? I really don’t think so.

It’s absolutely crazy, to be honest. There are hundreds of great organizations out there that are working to change this, but it’s still the reality women and men face. It certainly has to be changed.