Thursday, November 22, 2012

Feminist Theater Review: Emotional Creature

At the NOW conference in June, playwright Eve Ensler delivered the keynote speech. She was a riveting speaker whose passionate words truly rallied me to action. As a result, I’ve been hoping to see one of her plays ever since. Luckily, her newest show Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World is now playing Off-Broadway, and I was able to get tickets!

The sheer awesomeness of Emotional Creature truly floored me. Walking out of the theater, I was at a loss for words and just kept repeating, “That was brilliant. That was brilliant. That was brilliant.” The play certainly was absolutely brilliant, and extremely well-made. It featured six extremely talented women actors, all of whom played different characters in various scenes. They delivered a powerful message about the state of girls today, from upper-middle class Midwestern America to the exploitative factories of China. Although Emotional Creature dealt with some very serious topics, humor was sprinkled throughout the show, creating some comic relief and an interesting contrast.

The fact that the show had true multiculturalism really appealed to me. Of the six cast members, two were African-American, one was Asian-American, one was Middle Eastern, and two were white. The subject matter dealt with issues from almost every continent, from female genital mutilation in Africa to being accepted by the popular crowd in North America. Although Emotional Creature really celebrated diversity, my mother picked up on the fact that all the actors were all relatively thin. The heaviest actor was only around a size eight. Considering the show had a whole scene dedicated to body image and eating disorders, it’s surprising that all of the actors that were cast had a similar, thin build.

Another thing I really liked was how Emotional Creature equated Western girls’ problems with international issues. When I heard Ensler’s speech at the NOW conference about her work helping African survivors of violence rebuild their lives, I felt almost guilty for being so concerned about issues like equal pay and the glass ceiling. Like, how can I be worried about women entering the Senate when there are women out there who are subjected to horrendous violence on a daily basis? The contrast is so stark. So, I really appreciated that Emotional Creature spent just as much time on the social pressures Western girls feel to live up to their parents’ expectations as it did on sex trafficking in Eastern Europe. While sex trafficking is clearly a lot worse than feeling obligated to be perfect for your parents, everything is relative to those going through it.

Although Emotional Creature is an hour and a half long, it felt like a few minutes had gone by when the lights went down. Both my mother and I wished there was a second act, since the first part was so fascinating and informative. The play was truly an inside look on the secret life of girls, exploring the emotions girls feel and the unique situations that only girls live through.

In addition to writing plays, Eve Ensler is a feminist activist who created V-Girls, a youth-driven movement dedicated to empower girls around the world inspired by Emotional Creature. I know that I was rallied to action by seeing the show, and I hope that I wrote a good enough review to make you want to get off the Internet and improve women’s lives, too! For ideas on how to take action, check out the V-Girls website. Ensler also created V-Day and its One Billion Rising campaign. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten, and that is absolutely unacceptable. To protest this senseless violence, women and those who love them will rise on February 14, 2013, moving the earth and activating individuals across the world. One billion women violated is one billion too much. How can we stand idly by? It is our duty to demand an end to this. If we don’t, who will?

Emotional Creature will be playing at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center through January 13. Get your tickets as soon as you can!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Second Annual Star of Davida Essay Contest!

I am thrilled to announce the Second Annual Star of Davida Essay Contest!

I established the Essay Contest last year because I noticed a serious lack of feminist-themed writing competitions. Although I’ve found a few in the past year, the number is not anywhere nearly as high as it should be. Regardless, the Star of Davida Essay Contest is now in its second year and accepting submissions!

Description: The theme was inspired by the Tumblr Who Needs Feminism?. Answer the question “Why do you need feminism?” To end double standards? To increase your sense of self-worth? To ensure that you feel safe when you walk alone at night? Go crazy with your response, so long as it’s between 200 - 800 words.

How to Enter: Send your essay as a doc, docx, or PDF file to If there’s a technical issue with your entry, I’ll be in touch - don’t worry. In the subject line, please write “Essay Contest” or something to that effect. On the top of the first page, include your full name, school year, and email address.

Deadline: February 28, 2013

Eligibility: Any and all students (from preschool to a PhD program) who are feminists can enter.

Awards: The top three winners will each win a copy of Julie Zeilinger’s debut book A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word. The winning essays will also be published on Star of Davida!

Please direct any questions you have to Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Who Needs Orthodox/Jewish Feminism?

The extremely awesome Tumblr Who Needs Feminism? has garnered a lot of attention in feminist outlets over the past few months. Inspired by its popularity, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) created a similar Tumblr titled Who Needs Jewish Feminism? Orthodox Feminism?. Being an Orthodox Jewish feminist, I sent a few submissions of my own to the site.

I need Orthodox feminism because my community needs to reevaluate women's status. Because of its antiquated views, I have to conceal my identity whenever I associate with feminism. If my right-wing Bais Yaakov school finds out I support organizations like JOFA and Women of the Wall, I'll be expelled. Considering we live in the 21st century, that's just unfair.

I need Orthodox feminism because my Chumash (Torah) teacher has enough knowledge to be a gedolet hador (great rabbi of the generation) and not just a rebbetzin (rabbi's wife).

I need Orthodox feminism because nine guys and me should be able to say devarim sheh'bkedushah (parts of the prayer service which may only be said in the presence of ten men).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sign My Petition: Remove Phyllis Schlafly From!

For today’s young feminists, the name Phyllis Schlafly may be totally unfamiliar; if anything, it triggers a distant memory of a footnote in an AP US history textbook. Those activists who lived and fought during the Second Wave are, however, all too familiar with the uber-conservative activist.

Ever since the 1940s, Schlafly has preached that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. She has said things like “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” and has called Roe v. Wade “the worst decision in the history of the US Supreme Court.” She recently endorsed the candidacy of Todd Akin, of “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” infamy. In the 1970s, when states were voting on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Schlafly waged the STOP ERA campaign. Although she believes womankind as a whole should be homemakers, she apparently doesn’t apply this rule to herself, considering she traveled around the country as part of STOP ERA. Her efforts, and those of other opponents of women’s rights, were (unfortunately) successful; the ERA, which would ensure that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” was only ratified by 35 out of 38 states necessary. (Although the ERA was not passed in the 20th century, feminists have continued their efforts to secure its ratification.)

Given the above description, I think it’s impossible to call Schlafly a groundbreaker for women’s rights. For some reason, seems to disagree.

According to its website, is a “dynamic digital platform…showcasing hundreds of compelling stories from women of today and tomorrow.” There is also an affiliated documentary titled MAKERS: Women Who Make America that “will tell the story of the women’s movement through the firsthand accounts of the leaders, opponents, and trailblazers who created a new America in the last half-century.” One part of the website showcases “Groundbreakers,” whom the website defines as “firsts in their fields, visionary role models or frontline activists who sparked, and some who opposed, change for women.” To the amazement of feminists, Phyllis Schlafly is included as a Groundbreaker along with real groundbreakers like Gloria Steinem and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

My mentor, National Organization for Women (NOW) cofounder Sonia Pressman Fuentes was astounded by this gross misrepresentation. She asked Betsy West and Dyllan McGee, the producers of and the filmmakers of the forthcoming documentary based on it, to remove Schlafly from the website and film. They refused, although they did twice change the definition of Groundbreakers until they settled on the one quoted above. Although the newest definition of Groundbreakers includes those who opposed women’s rights, it still makes no sense. “Since when are those who oppose progress considered groundbreakers?” Ms. Fuentes asks.

“She most definitely does not fit the current description of Groundbreaker,” wrote US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an October 10, 2012, letter to Ms. Fuentes.

Additionally, although claims to include women alive today who were instrumental in changing women’s status during the last 50 years, the website and documentary do not include a single one of the nine living NOW cofounders. “The absence of any founding member of NOW is a huge oversight and surely should be corrected,” Justice Ginsburg also wrote in her letter. When Ms. Fuentes complained about Schlafly’s inclusion and the dearth of NOW members, Betsy West offered several times to interview her in a clear effort to buy her off. Ms. Fuentes declined to be interviewed until Schlafly is removed from the website and film, or, at the very least, moved from the status of Groundbreaker to something more accurate like “Opposition.”

To urge PBS and AOL (’s sponsors) to remove Schlafly from or, at least, remove her from the designation of Groundbreaker, Ms. Fuentes and I drafted an online petition. We’ve gotten a lot of support in a short amount of time, and that means so much to both of us. However, to get the attention of, PBS, and AOL, we need to make this thing huge. Sign the petition here. Send the link to your friends, family, neighbors, and any organizations with which you are affiliated or that you think would be interested in this issue. Understanding the history of women’s rights is essential to ending gender inequality. Unless we ensure herstory is preserved correctly in websites and documentaries like, how can we expect to learn from the past and improve the future?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Musings on the NOW Conference: Why We Still Need an Equal Rights Amendment

This post is part of a series discussing the 2012 National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference: Energize! Organize! Stop the War on Women.

This last breakout session of the NOW conference was moderated by Jan Erickson, Director of NOW Foundation Programs and NOW Government Relations Director. The first speaker was Roberta Francis, co-chair of the ERA Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO). Next spoke Bettina Hager, also co-chair of the ERA Task Force of the NCWO and Programs Director at the National Women’s Political Caucus, assisting with the ERA Education Project. After her was Asafu Suzuki, NOW Foundation legal intern and law student at Georgetown. Diana Egozcue, Virginia NOW President, also spoke. Eleanor Smeal, former NOW President and Advisor to the NOW National Board, also made an appearance. I was unable to take notes on this session, since it was Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Orthodox Jews are prohibited to write, but I’ll do my best to share what was said and my impressions of the session.

I was surprised at how much interest there was in the topic at hand. The room had a good number of seats, but every chair was taken and a large crowd of people gathered in the back, so eager to listen in that they were willing to stand or sit on the floor for an hour.

As a history geek, I was really excited when I saw a session about the ERA. I haven’t done much research on the fight for the passage of the ERA - my knowledge it is pretty rudimentary, especially for a women’s history nut like me - so I was looking forward to hearing more about the past and present of the ERA. I wasn’t disappointed. The session was thorough, effectively explaining the history behind the ERA and how it’s still possible for it to be ratified.

Something that really struck me about this session is how much American women really need an ERA. I knew it beforehand and it’s sort of a feminist given, but this point really hit home as I listened to the speakers talk about what the ERA can and will do when it’s ratified, b’mhera b’yamenu (speedily in our days). If the ERA, or something like it, is put on the books, sexism is literally illegal. Laws like the Paycheck Fairness Act would be unnecessary, even redundant, since women’s right to equal pay will already be protected by the ERA. The concept is, at least for me, absolutely mindblowing. When the ERA passes, it means that America will undergo a whole cultural shift! It means American society will be completely transformed! It means that my daughters won’t have to deal with the inequality and unfairness that my mother and I had to endure! Someone please show me the bad part, because I can’t see it!

At a plenary session, I believe it was Representative Carolyn Maloney who mentioned Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s claim that women are not protected under the Constitution. She then said something to the effect of, “That’s a challenge if I ever heard one! We need to put women in the Constitution through the ERA, and fast!” Feminists from every corner of the United States should take Scalia’s claim as a challenge, like Maloney said, and rally for the ratification of the ERA. We need this amendment!

What you can do to help the ERA:
  1. Call your US senator and congressperson and leave them a message, urging them to support the ERA.
  2. Tell your friends and family to call their senators and congresspeople about the ERA.
  3. Write blog posts like these to raise awareness that the ERA is not dead!
  4. Sign up for updates from organizations like Pass ERA (
If we all work together, this can be a reality.

This is my last blog post about the NOW conference. I’ve been writing about my experience at the conference for so long that it almost feels like the end of an era. But in conclusion, I think the above message is my overall takeaway from that weekend in Baltimore: working together means good results. That means women working with men, straight people working with LGBT+ individuals, Democrats working with Republicans, everyone working together for a common goal: a better world for our children.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Musings on the NOW Conference: Closing Plenary

This post is part of a series discussing the 2012 National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference: Energize! Organize! Stop the War on Women.

Plenary VI, the closing plenary session, was dedicated to celebrating Dr. Heidi Hartmann, who was given the Woman of Vision Award, and Dr. Vivian Pinn, who received the NOW Foundation Victoria J. Mastrobuono Award. They were introduced by Bonnie Grabenhofer, NOW Executive VP, and NOW President Terry O’Neill. I was unable to take notes on this session, since it was Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Orthodox Jews are prohibited to write, but I’ll do my best to share what was said and my impressions of the session.

Heidi Hartmann, PhD, is the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a scientific research organization she founded in 1987 to meet the need for women-centered, policy-oriented research. She is a feminist economist who has done extensive research on women, economics, and public policy, frequently testifies before Congress, and is often cited as an authority in various media outlets. Dr. Vivian W. Pinn is also an extraordinary woman who deserves the recognition. She was the only African-American and woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1967. She went on to be the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the NIH, where she made women’s issues a priority when few others cared.

Hartmann talked about her mother, a single mom who struggled to make ends meet but ensured that her daughter had more opportunities than she had. I could really relate to this, since my mother has always supported my family. Although my mother is very educated and always held responsible positions, she too wants me to have more than she had. Hartmann was really inspiring, sharing her view of a utopian world where society will take care of the downtrodden and ensure that they have the resources to improve their own lives. I certainly hope that her vision of the future will be a reality for my daughters and their daughters.

Pinn also spoke about her mother, and how she was greatly disturbed when she went to a doctor’s appointment with her mother and the doctor spoke down to her and wouldn’t take her seriously because of her sex. Sadly, this doctor misdiagnosed her mother’s bone cancer, which led to her premature death. This unfortunate experience gave Pinn the determination to ensure that medical research properly addresses women’s health and that doctors listen to what women have to say. She also talked about how she became the director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health. When Pinn heard it would be created, she suggested that it should address women’s health, women’s careers, and diversity issues rather than just inclusion of women, and expected to be told to go on sabbatical rather than given an offer to become the director. She stressed the fact that if she had not spoken up, she would probably still be working as a professor, and would not have been such a groundbreaker in women’s health. In many ways, I feel like that was the message of the entire NOW conference: speak up! Make your voice heard! Otherwise, who will?