Monday, April 23, 2012

Jewish Women! And a Review of the 2012 CLPP Conference

Hello! I apologize for the delay in updates - things have been busy! And very enjoyable.

Since I last wrote, I completed and turned in my research paper about Judith Plaskow (Clark alumni!) & feminist Midrash for Women in Jewish Culture. Hooray!

Here are some tidbits from my paper (mostly regarding Lilith) that were new to me/surprising/interesting:

  • According to Aviva Cantor (1976), it is likely that the Lilith story was first created during times of exile because fears of women doing anything to break apart the traditional patriarchy would be especially prominent during periods when survival was already being threatened.
  • Judith Baskin (2002) suggests that the first female (the “first Eve”) depicted in Genesis 1:27 could have become amalgamated with other ancient stories about a disobedient woman: “The figure of the ‘first Eve’, who refused to be subordinate to her husband, ultimately merged with ancient traditions about the female night demon Lilith and in this guise became a central character in post-rabbinic Jewish folklore”
  • The Lilith story could potentially reveal women's earlier experiences: "the Lilith story may be a clue to our own history, reflecting some assertive, rebellious behavior of women in the past” (Cantor 1976), 
  • or it could reflect past women's secret desires, unable to be actualized in a patriarchal society (Cantor 1976).

Overall, this paper was satisfying to write because I was able to examine the manner in which traditional (male-voiced) Midrash (such as Lilith's depiction in the Alphabet of Ben Sira) worked to justify the subordination of women under men. However, I was also able to focus on the manner in which theological Jewish feminists are working to create new Midrash (such as Judith Plaskow's "The Coming of Lilith") in order to reclaim biblical stories to fit a viewpoint that empowers women.

And speaking of Jewish women (when am I not?)! My research paper topic was approved for Women in Society; I'm planning to focus on gender roles specifically within Judaism. This is something that has interested me since last semester when I first read Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism in American Jewish Life with Prof. Tenenbaum. I haven't planned out much of the Women in Society paper yet, but I am excited to begin researching within the next week.

I was going to write so many things about the 2012 Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference that I attended at Hampshire College (with Clark's Student Global AIDS Campaign group) a couple weekends ago, but it's sort of difficult to describe, at least in how great it was. On Friday (April 13th, oohh Friday the 13th), I attended an Abortion Speak Out, in which women who had experiences with abortion were invited to speak to those attending the conference. It was really powerful to hear these women's voices, but I had a difficult time listening and trying to understand while still maintaining enough distance to not feel affected by some of the difficult experiences these women described.

On Saturday I attended three workshops, each about an hour and a half. The first was called "The Political, Policy, and Public Health Landscape of HIV/AIDS", with a panel of three people who discussed with us the political and public health context of HIV/AIDS. Everyone from SGAC, all of whom I attended the conference with, went to this workshop. I personally went into this workshop not knowing many things, and I left feeling well-informed.

The second workshop I attended was called "Our Bodies are Beautiful, Our Bodies are Political", with a panel of three people who discussed somewhat "fat activism" and media (mostly, things like tumblr). There was a brief discussion of female circumcision, from the viewpoint of one of our panel members, who came from a cultural context in which this practice is accepted. I appreciated hearing her views, because I am wary of the Western context in which I've heard of female circumcision (in the past I have mentioned my own qualms regarding male circumcision, and I certainly appreciate hearing many views regarding the variety of reasons different people choose to circumcise).

And the third workshop I attended was called "Masculinities", with a panel of four people who discussed what it means to identify as male/masculine within a feminist movement. I mainly chose to attend this workshop because it was focused on a topic that I did not know much about. It was somewhat difficult at points to feel comfortable with some of the things expressed, but overall it was interesting and informative.

Those were the highlights of the conference! It overall involved some mingling and talking to different people, and making new friends, and learning new things about topics I was familiar with, and topics that were new to me. I'm so glad that I was able to attend the conference.

That's all for now! I have a meeting in about twenty minutes with the professor of my Lab in Social Psychology to discuss my final paper/presentation. I hope that everyone is doing well! Happy last week of classes!

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