Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tznius Tzniscussion

I’m wearing a tank top right now.  It’s a beautiful summer day and I’m wearing a pink, candy stripe, sleeveless shirt with small white buttons on the shoulder with a knee length pink skirt.  Accessories: minimal.  An orange necklace I just got from my great aunt and purple Birkenstocks.  Hair: down and not brushed. 

Hey Femipoodles, it’s time to talk about Tznius.

Tznius (snee- us) or Tzniut (snee- oot) means modesty in Hebrew and is usually used in terms of women’s dress though it also applies to men and can refer to modesty in character.  In orthodox communities you will often hear people discussing whether or not something or someone is tznius.  The proper term for the adjective “modest” is tznu’ah (snoo- ah), but at least in America, tznius means both “modesty” and “modest”.  This Jewish concept is really cool because it allows for one to be attractive without being attracting.  It never says that a woman can’t look beautiful (and in fact, many people in the Torah are described as beautiful), you just need to realize that you are not solely a body and dress accordingly.  The body houses the soul and should be decorated and covered with appropriate dignity.  In traditional circles, this means that the collar bone is covered as well as the shoulders (sometimes elbows) and knees (or occasionally calves). 

As a Jewish feminist I’ve jumped around the spectrum of dress, though have never dressed in anything incredibly revealing.  The occasional tank top and scoop neck has been worn, along with skirts that are above the knee and tight pants.  Recently, I stopped wearing pants (hee), and now I wear skirts whenever possible.  It’s probably a comfort issue at the root, as I have never been a jeans girl, but there was some religious motivation.  While I believe that pants are Halachically permitted, skirts do feel nicer to me and I like to dress up for life.

My philosophy on Tzniut is flexible and practical.  Every piece of clothing has its place and time.  The laws of modesty dictate that you dress appropriately according to the situation (my interpretation).  To me, this means that you can wear jeans if you’re working outside or going to be out in the cold or feel that pants are more conducive to your daily activities. You can wear a bathing suit at a pool party because that is what’s appropriate to wear when swimming.  You can wear slightly shorter or tighter items, just pair them with something loose.  

I have approximately a million more things to discuss regarding tznius but I want to end this with one last thought.  Being modest and dressing creatively and beautifully are not mutually exclusive.  I have an enormous issue with people who don’t wear colorful clothing because of tzniut.  While bright colors and bold patterns may be eye catching, Jewish women are allowed to be beautiful, and wearing nice clothing is a way to enhance the mitzvah of covering.  So I’m sticking with my magenta lipstick and pink tank top. 

I would like to end with a moving anthem about tolerance:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Feminism is Fun to Learn/ This May Just be my Womanifesta

Greeting Feminipods!

Yesterday I wrote my first official post all about the title of this blog and I made some controversial statements.  I said that everyone should consider themselves a feminist.  I know this is potentially inflammatory because I’ve said this in real life and I’m aware that it seems obnoxious to tell people what causes they should believe in or identify with. 

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? The definition of Feminism is 
1.the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
sometimes initial capital letter  ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
feminine character.  
Nothing about bra- burning here (which is actually a myth, it never happened—though some women did throw their bras in the trash at a famous protest and I think that after the fact some women have done it to show awkward misinformed solidarity).    Feminism to me is a mixture of six components (this is pretty bare bones, feminism is deliciously complex in practice) 1) fighting patriarchy (which hurts both men and women) 2) empowering yourself 3) establishing solidarity with women around the world who deal with oppression 4) educating yourself and others 5) addressing rape culture 6) being positive (sex positive, tolerant of others, open to change, open to life)

To most reasonable people, the ideas of being tolerant, stopping violence, educating people and spreading positivity are pretty admirable goals.  So why is it that when these concepts are applied to women’s rights they become cringe worthy?  Well, I’ll give you three reasons:  Firstly, we are steeped in thousands of years of patriarchal tradition.  All the successful western cultures that come to mind gave females a secondary status in society.  Women have been considered inferior for centuries and our bodies are charged with communal ideas about purity and the traditional family structure.  This goes right into the second reason, which is fear of change.  Activism by definition means bringing about change and this mixed with the deep seated feelings mentioned above can make things complicated.  Change means embracing the unknown and it’s easier to keep with what’s comfortable.  Another obstacle in accepting feminism is the politicization of vilified women’s issues such as birth control, abortion and paycheck inequality.  Sometimes it seems that there’s so much anger and controversy that even starting to address these problems seems pointless and frustrating.

I actually lied before, I have a fourth reason and that is bad public image.  We feminists have a bit of a PR crisis on our hands and people believe a lot of negative stereotypes.  A lot of folks seem to connect the women’s movement with radical second- wave feminism (of the 1960s and 70s).  While radicalism may seem necessary in some women’s struggle with patriarchy, most of us have at least some positive relationships with men and besides, we need to live out in the world and being explosively angry all the time is exhausting.  To be honest, what this article (and entire blog) is trying to do and what I always try to do when discussing feminism is make it appealing and happy and positive.  Who wants to join a movement that’s grumpy all the time (grumpiness against patriarchy is totally justified and should be harnessed, but it’s definitely not the only side to women’s rights)?

This brings me to my final point: feminism is fun and important (fimportunt?).  The women’s movement has helped me improve myself image, be more understanding of others, broadened my mind and connect with G-d.  It’s different for everyone but feminism has given me a purpose and I am an infinitely happier person because of it.  Yes, I struggle and debate and cry.  I wish people understood that this is my life mission and insulting it means insulting me.  I wish people loved themselves and respected others.  People say why do we need feminism, isn’t everything all good now?  Nothing will ever be perfect, and I choose to see this as a good thing.  Feminism has evolved, is evolving and always will evolve, it will exist as long as women exist, and I’m not going anywhere.

a peek into the future :P

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Who's Eve, What's with this Apple, and Why won't it Digest?

Hello Femifriends!
I just wanted to take a few minutes to explain the title of this blog.  The above video is a poem by Mindy Nettifee called "For Young Women Who Don't Consider Themselves Feminists,"  performed by slam poets Lauren Zuniga and Andrea Gibson.  There are many lines of this poem that have deeply resonated with me, but the last verse in particular struck a chord:

 "Can't you feel it? Some repressed ambition stirring nauseously inside you. The piece of Eve's apple that won't digest.  The slow monstering of you when you try to smile and be nice. The tiger hinging on its hind legs.  Don't be grateful, be ungrateful, be on your last nerve, get ready."

The line about Eve's apple in the context of this entire verse reflects the silent, brewing power of women.  The willfulness and strength that still exists despite every effort to quash it.  The apple won't digest because we refuse to except our banishment from Eden, from the ideal, from equality and respect.  In the past we've been martyrs, accepting fate and trying to "be nice," but we now must rally in the beauty and dignity of Woman that society so disdains.  If you are a human who believes in respect, social justice and positive self- esteem, you are a feminist.  By saying you aren't one, you deny both yourself and others these basic rights.

What I have just said may inflame some who politely don't consider themselves feminists.  Tomorrow I will address concerns about this being rude or presumptuous and the role of enlightened sexism in our society.  Sometime this week (maybe in the same post) I will talk about men being feminists, religious feminism, and why I start my blog posts by calling you guys "Femi" somethings.  At some point, in a longer and more poetic post, I will discuss how the women's movement has changed my life for the better and been a key to my own self actualization.

A poor quality photo of me, with a sign I used as an ironic Purim costume :)

As always, thank you all so much for reading, I'm so excited to get this blog on the virtual road!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Study in Identity by Jennie R.

A self portrait by my Drisha buddy Jennie :)

Hey Femipoets!

I just finished my last final and have been writing down my ideas for the blizzog! What do you guys think about an Image of the Week feature? It could be art or photography and I would love submissions from you all, though I also plan to curate some pieces from online. I might do a video of the week as well because I'm really getting into Youtube as a creative space (check out this amaaaaazing poet). 
Anyway, I'm thinking about writing five days a week here as a summer project. I hope you all enjoy and be sure to comment any suggestions for weekly or monthly features or general topics!

Also: What do you think about me creating a Facebook page where I post new pieces? I think I'll see if I can add a subscribe button too... Tell me what you think!

Photo reminiscing about last summer

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Just got this little tidbit from a college board email.... I am ahead of the curve :P

What are some ways to make school count over the summer?
A:One way to keep up your skills is to start a journal or a blog. 
When you write out your thoughts, you'll start thinking in a different way.  It's also good practice for school papers and essays.

 Hey Feminoctopuses! Speaking of college, another thing I wanted to address because it is, in fact, finals week for many people, is mental illness. This time of year can be very triggering for some people so I recommend educating yourself. Here's a good place to start. 

Some other things that have inspired me to stick through (tomorrow's my last day!) are these two videos: a lovely Macklemore song on civil rights, and this feminist youtuber's pep talk

My first formal post will be sometime this weekend wherein I shall explain the title and intention of this blog.  I'm so excited to begin and hope you all are too. I am majorly stoked!

P.S. I keep obsessively checking this blog, like I do with ones made by other people, but the thing is, I already know when there will be new content but I still do it!

P.P.S Bear with me as a play with the formats and backgrounds. They'll probably change frequently until I like how everything looks.  Oh, and feel free to comment on posts with your own opinions, suggestions, and polite debates!
Summer's soooo close!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Hey Feminoodles! 

My name is Helyn and I've been wanting to start a blog for far too long. So here I am, procrastinating during finals week by finally doing it.  I plan to talk Judaism, feminism, show you my photography and poetry, and maybe even (gasp) talk about m'life.  I am a bit awkward and I hope you are too!  I'll really get going with this blog on June 9th when I'm finally freed from the bonds of dual curriculum finals.  When I'm older I want to be a teacher- artist- activist (and kind of already am one...).  The five main topics that interest me the most are feminism/women, children/education, activism/ environmentalism/some other stuff, Judaism/spirituality, and art/ creativity.  I can't wait to start! Can you see me in the rear view mirror? :)