The “Religion and Spirituality in Women’s Lives” section of the text got me thinking a lot about the positives and negatives of the institution of religion.  It can both empower women and also oppress them, but it seems like oppression is the main force when it comes to the way Orthodox Jewish women live their lives.

Strict Rules of Dress and Sexual Modesty

I have spent some time both in the UCity Orthodox community here in St. Louis, and had some Orthodox Jewish friends growing up.  While not every Jew follows these exact practices, the basics of modesty, or “tzniut”, are listed here:

In this community, women cover their hair, collarbone, elbows, knees, and any other part of the body that can be sexualized.  Women also MUST wear skirts, as cross-dressing of any sort is prohibiting.  Think about that- every time any of you ladies wear a pair of jeans, you are considered a cross-dresser in this community.  This is an example of such a modest woman:

I admire the fact that these women do not strive to dress in the immodest fashions so prevalent in today’s society.  However, there are some things I personally do not understand about their culture, which leads me to:

The Secondary Role of Women in Orthodox Culture

From what I have observed in these communities:

  • Men pray in a “minyan”, which is a public gathering where ten or more men must be present.  Women must often stay home and cook.
  • While women are encouraged to be knowledgeable in Jewish customs and rituals, study is less mandatory for women than men.  Schools for men, called “yeshivas”, are much more popular than the analogous seminaries for women.
  • A woman must have children, because otherwise she risks being shunned in her community.  Generally this means having between five and ten children, sometimes even more.
  • The woman stays home and takes care of her children.  If money is tight, once the children are old enough to go to school the woman can pursue a part-time career, often social work or elementary level teaching.  While it is not unheard of, women in this community are rarely doctors, lawyers or businesspeople.
Women in this culture strike me as very similar to how Betty Friedan described women of the post-WWII suburban craze in The Feminine Mystique.  While Orthodox women claim they love their role and feel they are serving God, I wonder if secretly they ever wish for more than what their child-bearing and child-raising roles can provide.

Here’s another blog you might find interesting:

And a link on women’s role in Judaism:

Keep in mind- my post is not meant to criticize Orthodox Judaism in any way.  I am considering following a more religious lifestyle when I have a family, but Women and Gender Studies has led me to contemplate the facts around the perceived separate social sphere for women.

-Ilana Saltz

The vast majority of parents just want what is best for their kids. So how does one go from here to here?

Just add:

          -fake skinNot every child is beautiful

         -fake teethYou just can’t see her teeth because they’re so tiny

         -fake bodyit’s just normal

        -pixie sticksShe is so silly today for some reason

So clearly, these people are some fucking champs who all really need to be procreating. To the woman who said that “not every child is beautiful”, that is certainly your prerogative. It is also my prerogative to throw a brick at you.

I’m just curious about the level of education of the woman who gave her daughter fake teeth, because apparently human development is not her forte. Babies are very small. They start as one cell and have nine months to turn into a functional human being. So yes, your daughter does have small teeth because she is a CHILD.

I think the fake padding is a great way to give a kid some serious psychological issues. Nice work.

My favorite mother, the one who gave her kid 14 pixie sticks and didn’t understand why the girl couldn’t stay still, I thank you. Why? Because you are the type of person who gets me up in the morning in my fight against stupidity and ignorance. You are the type of person I hope to change, not your daughter. You are the problem.

                                  On a lighter note, enjoy some Tom Hanks:

Disney Disaster

Two nights ago I was watching the movie The Incredibles, one of my all-time favorite Pixar creations.  My friend Alex and I were discussing how nice it was to finally have a movie where there’s a balance between the strong female and male leads  However, halfway through the movie, we started to realize that while on the surface the movie seems to support the idea of “girl power”, there were still undertones of sexist stereotypes present. 

Notice how the powers of Violet and Helen are limited and follow the typical gender roles of women.  Helen, also known as Elasitgirl, has the incredible ability to change the shape of her body in response to her surroundings, stretching it to impossible lengths.  What does this suggest for girls watching?

·         Must change your bodies

·         Need to be “flexible” in personality

·         Be flexible to preserve relationships

Of course, Helen’s husband lands the power of super strength, the ultimate picture of masculinity.  Meanwhile her son Dash has the gift of speed, and even Jack – Jack has the uncanny ability to morph into some sort of feral animal. Go figure. 

Now let’s take a look at Violet, whose has the ability to create force fields and to become invisible.  Here’s what that seems to say to me:

·         Remain on the sidelines while men fight

·         Stay out of sight (we don’t want the helpless girl to get hurt)

·         Protect others but cause no harm

Now I might be going a little overboard with this, but does this also tell girls that they have certain gender roles to fulfill?  Most of which are simply responses and not preemptive actions.  All in all, I felt very disillusioned watching an old childhood favorite.   And it’s not just in The Incredibles.  Even in a simple google search I found sites like this illustrating sexism in Disney characters.    

This experience pretty much describes the current dilemma I am facing. Ever since taking this class, one thing I have noticed is that I no longer watch Disney movies without analyzing the gender roles of each character in some way, particularly the princesses.  I have to admit that while I enjoy being more aware, this has been a frustrating experience because I essentially live off of these movies (I brought more than 15 movies to college). 

Now looking back I have no idea how these messages got past me. I mean, sure, I was a little kid, but it’s not like this stuff is exactly subtle or anything.  To think we grew up with all of these ideas coming at us under the guise of a catchy song!  I can say that this class has definitely changed how I think, for better or for worse.  Hopefully, though, I can keep watching these movies and ignore the stereotypes shown below because, in the end, I am a Disney die hard.

Helene Prickel

In reading Rose Weitz’s What We Do For Love, I began to think about my own hair history. At the end of 8th grade, I cut off 12 inches of my beloved hair to donate to Locks of Love, and I have never been one to prefer a short haircut, so this was a momentous event. I had just lost one of my most prized traits, yet at this age, I wasn’t worried about the social implications of my new ‘do but of its personal, psychological effects.

How would I feel now that I didn’t have my hair? Would I be more likely to criticize myself on my own appearance? What is going to change now that I can’t “hide” behind my long hair?

According to an article called Hair Loss in Women and its Effect on the Quality of Life, women with hair loss issues feel the

·      Loss of self-esteem

·      Anxiety and depression

·      Social dysfunction

·      Loss of control

·      Lack of support

that can result from this one identifying feature’s disappearance. Now I clearly wasn’t suffering from the hair loss that this article discusses, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to feel some of these same repercussions. 

Take a moment to notice, the majority of these women’s emotions focus on internal matters linked to their hair loss that threaten their psychological well-being, not as much on the external world’s effects.

While I understand and agree with the symbolic nature of hair as a social and sexual trait that women possess, I believe it is important to recognize hair’s multiple influences, including on the complexity of emotions between pleasing others versus pleasing yourself. A woman’s hair is first and foremost what she personally makes of it. As a young girl, one plays with her hair, learns how to wear her hair, and figures out which hairstyles are most comfortable. We shouldn’t forget that our hair isn’t just for everyone else’s pleasure, but for our own comfort and confidence as well.

Furthermore, when you Google image search “women and their hair,” you will notice that most of the pictures, such as the one below, are of women and girls touching, combing, and playing with their hair. We have power over our hair and how it makes us feel, so we take advantage of that first, before it becomes a sexualized image.

Kate Nienaltow

Our bodies come in several types of shapes and sizes. We change them, augmenting them with clothes and accessories. We love and hate them, but ultimately live with them. In a rapidly changing and often chaotic world, our bodies ideally represent the last frontier of control. We can manipulate, adjust, enhance, supplement, or do none these, to our bodies to express our individuality. Imagine a world where our bodies were regulated by an oppressive government. Not pretty.

Today, November 8, the registered voters of Mississippi are in a unique position. Today is the day that voters will be able to decide the fate of Amendment 26, coined the Personhood Amendment. It says:

“The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

If it passes, this one sentence will completely change the pro-choice/pro-life conversations in Mississippi. Clearly, this amendment will outlaw abortion, ultimately the heart of the issue. However, as reporters from have theorized, there are further implications of this amendment:

·         Outlaw birth control

·         Restricting in vitro fertilization

·         Complicating life threatening pregnancies

·         Banning stem-cell research

·         Potentially criminalizing miscarriages

Read the article here

Talk about history in action. Currently this amendment is mostly a Mississippi wide topic, but if it passes it could potentially blow up to become a national focus: becoming a key issue in the upcoming presidential elections. Nevertheless, it still has to pass. The state of Mississippi seems pretty split on this Amendment.

Amendment 26 is an example of how bodies, especially women’s, can potentially be controlled by governmental policy.  This amendment would very much effect how women treated and interacted with their bodies. Women smoking and drinking while unaware of pregnancy could potentially be charged and persecuted. Oppression! This amendment, if passed, could open the door for nation-wide change.

Voting is today. We will see what happens tomorrow

Jonathan Merrill


Throughout the history male leaders have been the most common. Even now, in the 21st century the majority of corporations are led by male CEO’s.

This can be due to the fact that a large percentage of women have to take time off when they are expecting a baby and spent the first weeks, months or years after the birth caring for the child instead of pursuing a career. This costs a lot of time and results in not working at all or not being able to effectively socialize and network during office hours (as we read in the article for today, Women and Leadership). Apart from not having the ability to become leaders, maybe women are just not suited to become leaders.

Female (aspirant) leaders are often thought of as either too masculine or too feminine. Sarah Palin, for example, was seen as too much of a female and wasn’t taken seriously. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton was criticized for not being stereotypic female and therefore being too masculine.

Is masculinity a necessary characteristic to become a leader? Males are often more competitive and assertive than women are and those traits are often found in good leaders. But I am sure women can have those characteristics as well and still be very feminine. I think that women operate as better leaders in certain companies and men can be better leaders in others.

So, if we assume that there are more companies a male boss would fit best, then that could explain the higher amount of male CEO’s. It wouldn’t surprise me if there would be a high percentage of male bosses in masculine firms (with a lot of male employees) and a high percentage of female bosses in female firms (with a higher amount of females). It wouldn’t always be right for a masculine company to hire a female boss. If you look at magazines, it would be surprising if a female became the CEO of the Playboy, just as it would be quite a change if a man became the CEO of the Vogue.

- Caroline Mathijssen

Affirmative action is something we often associate with minorities or women, rarely is it mentioned in the same sentence with white men or even just men. In the article "Too Many Women in College" we discussed today by Phyllis Rosser, I discovered that recent gender gaps in universities have caused many of them to adopt "affirmative action policies" for males. 

Current statistics from the U.S. Department of Education shows that college campuses are still around 57% female and 43% male, in line with numbers quoted by Rosser six years ago. And since the cause of this disparity is due to a rise in the number of females attending college and not a drop in the number of males attending college (since college enrollment is at a record high), does it still make sense to try and balance the sexes?
 We must keep in mind that while male enrollment is not dropping, inevitably every spot taken by a female is a spot that could have been taken by a male, especially in highly selective institutions). And if we assume affirmative action is ethical, and it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish (because this debate has too many complexities to really get into in the scope of a blog post), then I feel like it would be right to have some sort of affirmative action for males. When it is apparent that a certain group of people are underrepresented in some category, the answer has always been affirmative action (e.g. minorities in higher education or women in science and math), I don't think that the case should be any different now that we're talking about males. 

Although we should probably be more specific as to which males should receive the benefits of affirmative action. As Rosser noted, the majority of the gender gap occurs in the lowest income bracket (households making less than 30,000/year), while men and women attend college in equal numbers at the highest income bracket (households making more than 70,000/year). Thus in order to ensure that affirmative action is not taken advantage of, it should only be applied in the case of lower income male applicants. Under these circumstances, I don't see anything wrong with affirmative action. 

Posted by Chengchao Luo