Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day.

Lest I forgot to call my mother, I had quite a few reminders:

  1. Driving to work on Thursday, the radio reminded me to order flowers, and save 20% by entering their “secret code”.
  2. As I was leaving work on Friday, no less than three strangers said “don’t forget to call your mother” in the ten minutes that it took for me to gather my belongings and walk from my desk to the elevator. Strangers. Think about that for a moment.
  3. Driving to the gym on Sunday, a big, flashy billboard screamed “Call your mother”. It was sponsored  by a local hospital.
  4. At the gym, the TVs on the wall played a commercial approximately once every 13 minutes featuring a celebrity talking about their positive motherly relationships and ending with a message to “call your mother”.
  5. Facebook wished me happy mother’s day when I logged on.
  6. Snapchat sent a special notification to me with a video featuring flowers and music and a special “happy mother’s day” message at the end.

Luckily, my mother and I have a decently okay relationship. I call her weekly, sometimes more if there’s something special going on. She lives a few states away, but I get to see her several times a year. She’s my number one cheerleader and I appreciate that about her. Still…the inundation of mothering messages was still almost too much to take. I kept thinking about what if it hadn’t been this way. What if my mother passed away? What if I was estranged from her? What if she was sick and unresponsive.

It’s hard enough losing a parent and having to deal with major calendar milestones, like birthdays or anniversaries. But this would be too much. I know that if I no longer had my mother in my life, I would just want to crawl under a rock for the week leading up to Mother’s Day and turn off anything which connects me to society in any way. But that’s not realistic.

Maybe, just maybe, we as a society could just be a little more sympathetic and a little more understanding of the varied family structures around us. We could also be a little more trusting–if I need a reminder to call my mother, I’ll set one up in my phone, no need for the hospital to tell me to do so.

Pornography and Premarital Sex

….And we’re back.

Back to the blog after a short hiatus, and back to talking about premarital sex and porn, because we just can’t talk about those things enough.

I’ve been thinking about a conversation that my friends and I had over shabbat. Someone posed the question “would you be okay with marrying a woman who used to act in pornographic movies, assuming she no longer does that work?”

My response at the time was that the question is, really, the same as “would you be okay marrying someone who used to sleep around?”. At first, there was an uneasiness with my response, people seemed to be more okay with having a spouse who used to have sex with other people than they were with having a spouse who used to be a porn actress. (I say “actress” because no one seemed to even bring up the possibility that the man could have been the one in the porno, but whatever). I get that some people want to save the sanctity of sex for marriage. And I get that it’s extremely hard to share that with someone who does not have those same values. But, I don’t really see any difference between that and porn. Porn, in this context, should only be a problem in as much as sex is a problem. But then came the expected “It’s different, because with porn, it’s public. Your random uncle could recognize her.”

My response? Who freaking cares if your random uncle recognizes your porn-actress wife? Whatever shame you feel should be attributed to a woman who works in porn should be EXACTLY THE SAME as the shame you feel should be attributed to those who watch porn. In my opinion, there should be no shame in watching or acting in porn, but that’s me and I’m a flaming liberal. I’ll allow for the possibility that there are those who are opposed to pornography on moral grounds, but here’s the kicker: that stance only make sense if the same morality judgment is applied to both the actors and the viewers. In fact, the viewers are the ones supporting the industry, they’re the ones who make acting in porn such a lucrative position, so shouldn’t they have MORE responsibility towards whatever moral indecency occurs through porn?

The fact that your uncle (or aunt or cousin or random neighbor) might have watched porn that was made by your spouse should only be a problem IF YOU THINK IT IS A PROBLEM THAT SAID VIEWER WATCHES PORN. And if they choose to call your spouse out on his or her choices, go right ahead and call them out on their life choice to watch porn. I’m sure you’ll go far with that one.

To end, I’ll remind you about Miriam Weeks, aka Belle Knox, who got bullied from her classmates after they saw her in a pornographic film (How much sense does that make? None.) And then there’s Alyssa Funke, who actually committed suicide as a result of the cyberbullying she endured when her classmates at University of Wisconsin-River falls found out that she was a porn actress. Situations like these remind us that we need to reevaluate the dangerous, life-threatening, double standard that we hold for actors and viewers of porn.

 

The Invisible Woman

Last shabbat, I was sitting in shul during mincha, already having finished my private shemona esrai prayer, waiting for the chazzan to begin the public repetition. As is oft to happen, I was the only woman in shul. Now, let’s be honest here, I don’t normally go to shul for mincha, but megilla reading was Saturday night, ten minutes after shabbat ended, and I wanted to make sure I got to shul in time. I sort of figured that other women would have had the same thought, but nope.

But anyway. This particular shul has what I term a “women problem”. By that I mean, women just don’t go to shul. They don’t go on Friday night at ALL and on shabbat morning, there are MAYBE a third of the number of women as there are men. I’m not really sure why this is. The shul is located near an apartment complex where many young, newly married couples live. Some of these couples have children and apparently, once you have children, you become unable to ever leave your house at a reasonable time. I get that. But many of these couples don’t have children. The men go to shul, but the women stay home and read or sleep or set the table.

This is particularly troublesome for me, as one of the things I enjoy about shul is seeing my friends and having a chance to catch up with them on a weekly basis. (Obviously not during davening. Don’t you dare try to talk with me while I’m praying. But afterwards, hello.) If my female friends aren’t there, I feel like shul is lacking.

I’ve thought a lot about why women don’t go to shul, and I’ve spoken to a number of women about it. Although each has their own particular reason it basically comes down to “I’d prefer to stay at home and do X than go to shul”.

I mentioned above that I don’t normally go to shabbat mincha. I did, however, do that while I was in college. In fact, in college I prayed with a minyan three times a day, seven days a week. Sometimes I missed a minyan because I had class or homework or was too exhausted to wake up because I had just pulled an all-nighter, but the goal was there. A lot of that had to do with peer pressure, and the fact that going to minyan meant a chance to see my friends. Maariv was great because it was a short prayer in the middle of the night where I could literally take a 15 minute break and see 50 of my friends, and then go back to whatever I was doing before.

So, that brings me back to my current predicament. I go to shul on Friday night and I see maybe three women there, many weeks I’m the only one. Shabbat morning there are maybe twenty. Shabbat mincha, forget about it. Nothing.

There I was, last week, in shul on shabbat afternoon, davening mincha, when the gabbai starts walking around the shul and collecting the unused siddurim and chumashim to re-shelve. Now, this is totally inappropriate during mincha. He should be davening; he can clean up afterwards. But even more inappropriately, he walked over to the women’s section and started to do the same thing there! I was standing alone, and there he comes, just waltzing in to my section as if he owned the place.

I had many mixed feelings about the occurrence. On the one hand, I felt violated, raped. Who is he to decide he can come over to my section?? On the other hand, I felt like I shouldn’t really mind, because anyways I don’t like mechitzas and I would prefer to daven without them, though I recognize their pseudo-halachic  requirement (really, all that’s needed to satisfy the halacha is a separation, these ridiculous fake walls that people put up are basically just chumras adopted by leading rabbis). So if I would prefer to daven without a mechitza, why should I care that this guy violated the mechitza rule and just waltzed in to my section?

I guess what bothered me was the double standard. He, because of his maleness and sense of owning the shul, could go wherever he wanted whenever he wanted, and no one will say anything. Me, because of my femaleness and otherness, can only go where I am told. I couldn’t just decide to walk over to the men’s section, no, that would make the men feel uncomfortable. Plus, they will say, a man can’t pray in front of a woman, but a woman may pray in front of a man, so if the gabbai was really just walking around and collecting books, no halacha was violated.

Well, you know what? Maybe no halacha was violated, but I was violated. My sense of space was violated. My sense of belonging and sense of welcome was violated. I felt like I didn’t matter, like I was invisible.

And you know what? I was invisible. I, as woman, was invisible. Because there was just me there. The rest of the women were at home taking care of their kids or their house or their friends or their novels. But you know what? That’s not okay. Women, if we don’t want to be invisible, we have to be visible. Come to shul. Pray with me. Take the time out of your day to tell the shuls that we are not the invisible half of your membership, we are here and we are present and we are worth something.

In other words, lean in.

Mikvah Preparation for Men

Recently, I attended the JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) conference. It was a fabulous, enlightening, and thought-provoking day, and my only complaint is that I have to wait another THREE YEARS before the next one. The one session that stood out among the many others was the session on mikvah. It was called No More Whispers: Talking Openly and Honestly About Mikvah. The session used anonymous polling technology to allow participants to have a conversation and ask questions to others in the room via text message. One participant asked, “How can men prepare for mikvah night”. I responded that my husband prepares for the mikvah by showering and shaving. The room laughed, but I think appreciated the sentiment.

I have come to realize that this ritual that we do–I leave the house after he returns from work, while I’m cleansing myself he cleanses himself–is more than just happenstance for him. It really is his way of making the mitzvah of mikvah relevant to him, too. While he doesn’t immerse in the mikvah, he makes sure that he is thoroughly cleansed for my return. He showers, shaves, cuts his nails, and maybe even puts on a little cologne.

I realized how important this ritual was for him, when this past week, mikvah night fell on Monday. Monday was MLK day, so I didn’t have work. I told him I was thinking of going earlier in the evening, say around 5pm, right when the mikvah opens. That way, I’ll be all ready for him as soon as he gets back from work. He looked sad. “But then I won’t have a chance to prepare” he complained. It was only then that I realized, he doesn’t just shower and shave because it’s a good opportunity-his shower and shave are part of his mikvah night ritual, just as bathing and combing my hair are part of mine.

Judging by the response at the JOFA conference, this is not the norm. Apparently most men don’t have a mikvah night ritual. Perhaps some men have child care responsibilities that prevent them from having any sort of personal preparation time. But for the men who don’t, I would like to humbly suggest taking some time to prepare yourself while your wife is at the mikvah. You don’t have to soak in the bath tub for half an hour–unless that’s what you want–but do something. I think it will make mikvah night more special not only to your wife, but to yourself as well.

My New Year’s Resolution

I was recently sitting at my computer, typing in all sorts of feminist twitter hashtags, hoping someone somewhere would link to some article about feminism or judaism or both (GOD PLEASE LET IT BE BOTH), when I began to get this itching feeling in the back of my head

“You’ve read all of the internet” it told me.

“Don’t be silly” I replied.

“OK, fine, you haven’t read all of the internet, but you’ve read a good majority of the stuff relating to women, judaism, abortion, rabbinic rule, contraception, modesty, sexuality…”

“Well, okay. But there has to be MORE. There is always more.”

And that’s when the nagging voice in my head told me that if I want more, I should write it. And why not? I’ve read and experienced so much lately, I have so much material.  There’s the woman that stopped covering her hair because she was angry at god. There’s the JOFA conference I attended, and especially the session on mikvah. There’s the time that I went to the mikvah with nail polish and absolutely nothing happened. So, why don’t I write about it? Well, because writing is hard. Writing in secret from my husband is even harder. But-I owe the internet my input. Like any good user-generated content system, it works better the more you add to it.

And then I pushed that thought aside. But not a week later, my husband shared with me an interesting article he found on Cracked.com. He didn’t send the link, and I’m too lazy to look for it,*  but the gist is that there are basically two types of internet users: producers and consumers. He, without knowing about this blog or my feelings of inadequacy for not posting more regularly, told me about how it’s not fair to only be a consumer, you have to do your duty as a producer as well.

And now here we are.

About 30 seconds before writing this post, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution will be to write a post every Friday. Fridays are good because I don’t work but my husband does. I tend to spend the first few hours sitting lazily around my apartment in my pajamas, sipping coffee and checking facebook. Well, now I have a reason to make my mornings more productive. I’m counting on you to keep me honest. If I skip a Friday, send me an angry email or write a comment. Keep me accountable. That’s how this relationship can work best.

So, without further ado, I will sit down to write my next post, and hopefully have it up here within the hour.

*Edited to add: I found the article. Someone else posted it on facebook and I read it. Link here.

Hair Covering

I’m considering writing an article–not just a blog post, an article, with sources and footnotes and all-about hair covering. My goal in the article would be to compile ALL the things I read about hair covering before coming to my own decision (that I don’t need to cover my hair, but I will do so in shul out of respect) to help others make an informed decision. 

My question is–do you all think this would be helpful? I know there are a zillion similar articles out there, and really, enough is enough already, but I also think that it might be good to have all the primary sources collected and in one place, without being preachy one way or the other (which I know will be hard, since of course I do have an opinion on the subject).

Separately, I’m wondering whether if I do write the article, should I post it here on my anonymous blog? Sometimes, I really hate that I have to be anonymous on the blog, but really, I don’t want potential employers googling my name and then finding all about my sexual practices. (Not to mention my parents, who heretofore don’t know that I ever had premarital sex, and I’d like that to stay that way!) Sigh, maybe I should just let you all know my first name, which is really not all that common, and if you know me, you know, and if not, I won’t show up in search results…

But I digress. Should I publish this article, if at all, anonymously on the blog or using my name, but not attached to the blog? I’d like this blog to have more primary sources, but I also realize that if someone were handed an article ascribed only to “OrthoFeminist” they may not take it as seriously as I’d like.

Well, let me know what you think. Comment or shoot me an email at orthofeminist@gmail.com. 

 

My Last Name

Before I got married, I really debated about what I’d do with my last name.

On the one hand, I really wanted myself, my husband, and any future children we might have to be a “real, united family”, and share the same name.

On the other hand, I like my maiden name. I also don’t like the symbolism of just taking the name I was given and throwing it away, replacing it with my husbands name. Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I have to leave all my single life behind.

When my mom got married, she changed her last name to my father’s last name, and changed her middle name to her maiden name. But therefore, she no longer had any legal relationship to her given middle name. It just went kaputs out the window. I didn’t like that idea, either. I wanted to keep all the names I was given, but add on this new part of my life.

I decided that I would keep my given middle name, change my maiden last name to an additional middle name, and take on my husband’s last name. I’d go from “First Middle Maiden” to “First Middle Maiden Married”.

Two things complicated this.

First, when I got married, I was in my last year of law school, and about to start applying for jobs. I thought that this would be the perfect time to change my name, since I hadn’t actually started working full time yet. I could just introduce myself to employers with whichever new name I chose, and that would be the end of it.

I forgot that all those new potential employers will want to contact former employers, who know me by my maiden name. This requires explaining that I HAVE a maiden name on my resume, which in turn basically puts my marital status on my resume. So much for privacy.

Additionally, the state where we got married has some pretty funky rules for name changes. Apparently, if you want to do anything other than drop you maiden name and take on your husband’s name, you have to note so on the application for a marriage licence. I knew this going in, but there was no place on the licence that said “New Name”, so I got confused and apparently didn’t indicate the name properly. When I went to the DMV to change my name on my driver’s licence, therefore, I could only change it to “First Middle Married” without getting a court ordered name change. So, the legal system sort of forced me to take on a different name than I wanted.

I’ve been married for almost a year, and I honestly have no idea what my name is. All I know is that my first name is and will always be my first name, and I tend to rely on that. I sign emails and letters as much as possible as “-First”. On my resume, I wrote First (Maiden) Married. On Facebook and G-mail, I’m First Maiden-Married. If I had it to do all over again, I don’t think I’d change my name at all. It’s nice to have the same name as my children, but its really just not worth it in the end.