lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Last night I finished reading On being a Jewish Feminist. I really liked it. It's a good read for anyone interested in feminism and Judaism even if a few of the essays are a bit barmy.

Many of the essays raised an interesting question about whether feminism should put more effort into the struggle to gain women's admittance to male dominated institutions or to exploring, developing and improving the status of specifically women's institutions. In Judaism this can be seen most clearly with women attempting to gain more of a role the three daily synagogue services on the one hand and the development of female centred ritual such as mikvah and Rosh Chodesh on the other. In mainstream feminism it can be seen in attitudes toward whether feminists should concentrate upon gaining women's admittance to traditionally masculine careers or challenging the assumption of inferiority and poor rewards of traditionally feminine occupations.

I think which one sees as more important depends upon how one views gender. If one believes that gender is completely constructed one is more likely to feel that the same institutions will be suitable for both men and women and thus the main issue is gaining women's entrance into existing male institutions. Someone who feels that men and women in general have different needs is likely to place more emphasis upon working on valued female centred institutions.

Ultimately both of these areas need to dealt with to reach women's (and men's) liberation. Institutions should be open to all and should reflect the full variety of people's experiences rather than everyone having to fit into a 'male' model activity or people being segregated into their own equally valued areas. In the mean time it is important to be aware of how actions to promote one area could undermine the other. When women actively work to enter traditionally masculine areas they must be careful that their actions do not reinforce the idea that feminine = inferior. Similarly, feminists working to develop woman centred institutions must be careful to avoid them being used as an excuse to increase female exclusion from 'male' institutions.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
It's been a beautiful day today but rather cold. It reminds me of the part in Orlando:

The Great Frost was, historians tell us, the most severe that has ever visited these islands. Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground. At Norwich a young countrywoman started to cross the road in her usual robust health and was seen by the onlookers to turn visibly to powder and be blown in a puff of dust over the roofs as the icy blast struck her at the street corner.

I felt a little like my head might be frozen to dust as I cycled to lectures this morning. It has become so cold that I wore long johns under my skirt and have turned the radiators in my room on. I feel rather sorry for poor people like [ profile] feanelwa and [ profile] the_alchemist who have even stronger sensations of body parts freezing off in this kind of weather. I am now happily in my room drinking a big mug of darjeeling.


Dec. 18th, 2006 12:20 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Whilst struggling through Christmas shopping on Friday, I bought a few books for myself to read. In the Oxfam bookshop, my usual source of feminist literature, I found Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem and Sex, Art, and American Culture by Camille Paglia. I also bought Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for a relative for Christmas as I couldn't think what to get him and I wanted to read it.

Fun Home )

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions )

I also read Nice Work by David Lodge which has enabled me to convincingly bluff about literary criticism. This led to a wonderful conversation in Clowns with [ profile] feanelwa and a friend of hers, whom I've forgotten the name of, about literary criticism and postmodernism. Their response to my explanation of the aim of finding meanings in the text that the author did not intend to put into it was the most refreshingly original I have ever heard. Rather than saying it sounded interesting or dismissing it as a load of bollocks they responded with moral indignation at the idea of twisting someone's words in ways that they did not intend.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
People who did not do undergraduate economics at Cambridge will not get the significance of this but I just saw Tony 'grumpy' Lawson smiling. This was because instead of trying to lecture to a bunch of first years who still don't get the t test he was giving a seminar on his baby, critical realism. This is a branch of methodology that seems to consist of him and a few other people from Cambridge who meet sometimes at CRASSH and more often at the pub.

I went along because I'm interested in doing his paper in methodology in economics. I've been reading one of his books, Reorienting Economics that is the core text for the course and it's rather exciting. It speaks to the niggling feeling I've been having that, whilst I enjoy mainstream economics, it has about as much practical application as a Sudoku puzzle and, were it for the fact that I can't get government funding to solve Sudoku but I can get funding to construct hugely complex mathematical models with random assumptions and absolutely no explanatory power, I may as well do that.

Vegan porn

Sep. 22nd, 2006 02:09 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Some of my friends may recall that for ages I have joked about opening up a vegan sex/fetish shop that would sell such essential items as vegan safe sex items and clothing for vegan rubber fetishists that doesn't require that they compromise between their ethics and their sex life. Someone appears to have beaten me to it.

I found it when boredly following links through which I found this website According to the blurb the site was set up by a woman who wanted to work in pornography but didn't like the repetitive stereotypes used in the mainstream industry so she set up on her own. All of the models are vegetarian or vegan. They have a range of body types and sexes and genders. The site give a percentage of it's takings to good causes.

My minds been on pornography rather a bit over the last few days. First of all I was looking at Annie Sprinkle's website and decided that I wanted to buy a copy of her film Annie Sprinkle's Herstory* of Porn. I saw a clip from it in the lecture on pornography I went to in the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and became interested in her work. This should be a good introduction as it looks back over her work of the last three decades. It's quite reasonably priced given how weak the dollar is. However, this would involve effectively importing hardcore pornography so I've emailed HMRC to see whether I'm allowed to do this.

For your amusement here is what I wrote )
They haven't got back to me yet.

Continuing the theme I bought a copy of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy for the Oxfam bookshop. Since writing the book Levy has been continuously wheeled out to comment on any story involving 'raunch culture'. Through a lot of the snippets I heard I just thought 'Oh no, not another anti-pornography feminist trying to convince me that I'm oppressed because I have the wrong kind of sex'. However, I scanned an interview with her in some obscure leftist magazine in Borders and decided there was more to her argument than that. So, when I saw her book in Oxfam I bought it. It's quite an easy read and her main seems to be that the problem with 'raunch culture' is that it teaches women that they should express their sexuality in one particular (male fantasy inspired) way and therefore is no more sexually liberating for women than a 'missionary with the lights out' culture. The principle that women should be able to express the full diversity of their sexual identities and desires without feeling that they have the 'wrong' sexual persona should be something the feminists from all sides of the porn debate can agree on.

*Yes, I know that writing herstory represents a shocking lack of the knowledge of the etymology of the word history but I'll forgive Annie this.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Haven't posted for ages due to being busy preparing for and beginning my post grad study. I've moved into Owlstone and have gone through the blind panic at the enormity of doing another degree stage, through the manically getting things sorted stage and I'm now at the most things are sorted and I've just got manageable bits and pieces left to sort.

I bought Scape Goats by Andrea Dworkin from the Oxfam bookshop. This is because I want to read more classic feminist literature from feminists from a variety of perspectives. It's also because Dworkin is quite anti-liberalist and I think it's important to actually read and engage with thinkers one disagrees with rather than dismissing them on the basis of simple caricatures. The book looks and the parallels and interaction of anti-semitism/racism and women's oppression. What I've read so far has been interesting even if it has had a polemical style that I'm not used to.

It has given me an interesting insight. I'm currently quite hetrosocial and possibly find it difficult to relate to women. I also find it difficult to relate to the experience of being a woman described by writers such as Germaine Greer and Eve Ensler. I remember hearing that when the survivors of the holocaust arrived in Israel after the war many of the early Zionist settlers viewed them with a kind of disgust. How could they have passively obeyed their murderers rather than taking up arms and fighting as the first waves of Zionists had? Sometimes when I here about the experiences of other women I feel like a Zionist shaking her head in disbelief. 'Why did you take that shit? Why didn't you fight back?' I remember years ago when I was reading The Whole Woman a friend of mine suggesting that the reason I didn't 'get' the book was that I was too liberated. Maybe I'm deluding myself. Maybe I'm really a man. Who knows?


Aug. 8th, 2006 09:39 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Last week I read Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe. It was like every other Tom Sharpe book, insubstantial and amusing, the perfect thing if you just want some light hearted distraction. The only slightly irritating thing about his books is that they are rather of their time and so have slightly reactionary feel to them*. This isn't too bad as most of the humour is pure farce rather than satire and people getting eaten by lions or complex secret plots going terribly wrong are always funny.

Now I am reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I'm enjoying this and it's making me look forward to going back to being a student at Cambridge. The book isn't so much a page turner, but instead one simply enjoys reading each page. It's like laying lazily on a sunny afternoon when one simply enjoys this moment in the knowledge that the next will be as good as was the last.

I seem to have picked up an accent from the book.

*It's not so much that I would be appalled by reactionary sentiments in 1970s comedy as it is of its time. One may as well by appalled that Shakespeare was anti-semitic. It's more that frequently if the comedy is based upon this social attitudes it is no longer funny to a modern reader/viewer because 'she's a woman and she wants a well paid job!!!' no longer seems ridiculously funny. I often feel this when I watch situational comedies that my father likes because 'they don't have all this bad language of modern shows'. He thinks that a show is instantly not funny if anyone says 'fuck' during it.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
Reading 'Beyond Reasonable Doubt' has helped me clarify in my mind the difference between the different denominations. It basically revolves around how they work out what is right or wrong. Imagine, if you will, that morality is an elephant that everyone is trying to locate but can't see. Different denominations have different approaches to finding the elephant.

Orthodox say "I know where the elephant is because G-d told Moses of Mount Sinai and then filled in the gaps by telling the prophets and endowing the rabbis who wrote the Talmud with divine insight. One can disagree on some aspects of the finer details but when not sure about something it is best to go by the decision of someone who has studied these things a lot such i.e. a rabbi."

Masorti/Conservative say "We don't know where the elephant is exactly but we know that our ancestors have been looking for it a very long time. Either by divine providence or natural evolution of ides we reckon they probably got reasonably close so our best chance of finding the elephant is to look where they looked."

Reform/Liberal say "We don't know where the elephant is so everyone has to look for the elephant themselves using the evidence available to them. As none of us know where the elephant is we shouldn't criticise each other even if we think they're looking in the completely wrong place and we've a lot more experience elephant hunting than them."
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
I am racing my way through 'Beyond Reasonable Doubt'. I've read about a chapter a day which is good for me being, as Alec puts it, slow of reading.

Just to give you some background )

Understandably his book is obsessed very preoccupied with biblical criticism to the extent that he almost seems to dismiss any other method of jewish learning or Bible study. It reminded me of a rabbi I met at Limmud who said 'Hypothesising about who wrote the Torah is all well and good but once you've accepted that it wasn't written by Moses it all gets a bit dull compared with reading the thing.' His main objection to Reform appears to be that he was raise Orthodox and their services are just a bit too churchy.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I have stopped reading 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman'. I am now reading 'Beyond Reasonable Doubt' by Louis Jacobs who (inadvertently) founded the British Masorti movement. The book explains and defends his liberal supernaturalist views. I think it will help me think about whether I think of myself as more Reform or Masorti, although it doesn't really matter as:
a) I like my shul regardless of its official affiliation and if all goes to plan I will be davening there for at least the next four years.
b) UK Masorti recognise UK Reform conversions.
c) denominationalism is so last century and all the cool (Jewish) kids are post-denominational now.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I've finished 'On Liberty', which I liked a lot. Now I am reading 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman'. I asked my mum to bring up my copy of 'The Communist Manifesto' when she visits this weekend and to see if I still have the copy of 'The Second Sex' I borrowed from Mel about five years ago. Alec bought me a copy of 'The Higher Education of Women' so that I can indulge in more first wave feminism.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
In a spur to expand my mind and stop quoting things I've never actually read I decided to read more important and worthy books. I decided to read some key texts on political philosophy and feminism. Yesterday I bought 'On Liberty and other essays' by J S Mill and 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' by Mary Wollstonecraft. I'm also planning to dig out my copy of the 'Communist Manifesto' which I've been meaning to get around to reading for the last six years. Once I've got through those I might read some Rawls as the more I understand Rawls the more he makes sense. I also want to read books I disagree with. Milton Friedman really helped me clarify my thinking on some things even though I can to different conclusions.

Any suggestions on other books I should read?


lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

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