Modesty: Part Two (from Rabbi Angel’s Blog)

Rabbi Angel is one of the people who ushered me into Judaism. While much has changed for me in my views since that time, I find his ideas and the issues he advocates very refreshing. his Blog:

The article below is Rabbi Marc Angel’s most recent posting.

Modesty…or a desecration of Torah?

A trusted friend recently sent me information and photographs relating to a group of hareidi Jews in Bet Shemesh, whose women and girls have begun to wear the Muslim women‘s garb that covers the entire body, including the head and face. A rabbinic supporter of the group says that these “modest” girls and women are hastening the arrival of the messiah.

Does the Torah require such garb? Does halakha consider such clothing to be mandatory or even desirable for women?

Obviously, the Torah and halakha do not require or condone such clothing. Otherwise, our mothers and grandmothers of all past generations would have dressed like Muslims. They did not. They were wonderfully modest, pious women who dressed in the normal clothing of their societies. They dressed modestly and appropriately–as the Torah and halakha require of all people, men and women.

What new madness has overtaken this extreme group of Jews? Is this just a strange manifestation of extreme behavior, limited to a few misguided individuals? Perhaps.

But perhaps this manifestation is a reflection of something deeper and more insidious in the religious life of the extreme Orthodox, who seem bent on creating ever more stringencies in all areas of halakha, especially in what they think of as “tseniut”–modesty. And these tendencies have infected, to some degree, a growing proportion of the general Orthodox Jewish community.

In the “old days”, it was normal within the Orthodox world to have youth groups that included boys and girls. Day schools were often co-ed. Synagogues sponsored events where young men and women could meet and socialize. Men and women sat together at weddings and wedding banquets. Modest, religiously proper behavior was encouraged within a context where males and females could interact in respectful and appropriate ways.

In recent time, though, there has been an increasing tendency to isolate girls and boys, men and women, on the notion that this separation is somehow more “religious” and more “modest”. It isn’t. It is rather a reflection of a warped understanding of human nature, a belief that men cannot be trusted in any way to interact with or even see women. Men are deemed to be so untrustworthy, that girls and women are to be kept out of men’s sight.

Who pays the price for such a warped worldview? Girls and women! Because of men’s supposed weaknesses,  females are made to wear ridiculous clothes so as to hide themselves from view. Because men and women are deemed to be unable to relate to each other except in a sexually improper way, barriers are made to separate men and women so that they have as few opportunities as possible to speak with each other as fellow human beings. Women are victims of this philosophy–but so are men. It reduces all humans to sexual objects, unable to conduct themselves with properiety, decency and morality. It creates an artificial society that can only be sustained by building ever-more and ever-higher barriers between the genders.

This philosophy is grotesque and abhorrent. Seeing pictures of Jewish girls wearing Muslim clothes draped over their heads and faces is painful. It is a negation of the Torah values which have characterized the Jewish people since antiquity.

We need to recognize that this extreme garb did not just suddenly spring up. It is a result of the ever-increasing stringencies introduced by hareidi Orthodoxy, and increasingly accepted among the rest of Orthodoxy.

If we do not stand up against these tendencies to isolate the genders, then don’t be surprised if these tendencies continue to become entrenched within Orthodoxy. Don’t be surprised if more of our girls and women start dressing like Muslim females.

And don’t be surprised if ever more Jews become alienated from Orthodoxy, from Torah and halakha. Enforcing false and unnecessary policies of “modesty” does not enhance religion or morality. Rather, it leads directly to a desecration of God’s name.

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Modesty: Part One

Modest /Immodest  Modest/Extravagant  Modest/Eccentric  Modest/Improper  Modest/Disgraceful…it’s extreme, but if you grow up in an orthodox community that last pairing makes just as much sense as the others because, if we are to really simplify it…the people who define what it means to be “modest” will not hesitate to define you as a shameful and unfitting (for the community). And that is the problem I have with “modesty” as something definitive and prescribed.

Modesty has been a topic of great importance in my life…I went to Yeshiva (religious jewish day-school) for high school and for most of college. In the orthodox jewish faith one of the most important aspects of being an observant woman is modesty. In the Mishnah (the written compilation of Jewish law that was transmitted verbally), in the Gemara (the documented discussion of the mishnah between the great, ancient masters) and in the various writings by highly esteemed Rabbis over the millenia the idea of a Jewish woman’s modesty is explored in great depth. There are guidelines, suggestions based on derivations from laws, and allusions made in scriptures. There are examples: behaviors modeled by the matriarchs and great women throughout the bible.

In high school in order to determine whether a shirt was appropriate we were told to place our fists along our throats and the point where the fist ends is where the shirt’s collar should be. Our skirts had to cover the knees. Sleeves were preferably to reach the elbow…short sleeves were permssible as long as they werent cap sleeves (afterall, my school was modern orthodox…there was some progressiveness).

The religious college I went to had similar requirements. My gemara teacher actually once kept me after class to ask me to start wearing longer skirts (my knees were showing). I had always been somewhat conservative when I was growing up in terms of my clothing.In secular school I was very critical of the girls who wore tight clothes to show off what was only budding at that time. I would have arguments with the “fast” kids in my classes, saying, “We are only 10 years old! Why don’t you act it? “…Miss Morality Police. So when I went to Yeshiva High school, the dress code made sense to me. I was not interested in the laws that forced us to dress in this way. I just felt that putting boundaries on how you dress was a positive restriction to place on teenagers. I felt it was important to shift the focus from the raging hormones to the actual purpose of being at school…learning.

But something started changing in my mind as I got older and I was exposed to more of the world, and most importantly, as I grew into this skin of womanhood. When the Rabbi in my college kept me after class to ask me to dress differently, I was mortified. In high school male teachers were not allowed to comment about female dress. They could report any issues to a female faculty member who would then address the issue with the girl. When the Rabbi spoke to me I was struck with profound sense of shame. This shame turned to guilt and also a feeling of being dirty…”who am I to dress inappropriately while studying these holy scriptures?”, I thought. Disgusting.

But I thought about it further…and I remembered something that happened to my friend. One morning she was changing in a bathroom. Someone walked into the bathroom, and by chance my friend’s Rabbi happened to be passing the door at just such an angle that he saw my friend. My friend plummeted into a deep shame and depression that lasted for days if not weeks. She was filled with self loathing. She endlessly castigated herself, “how could I have let this happen? why did this happen to me?” I was shocked at how severely she judged herself. Clearly, what happened was not in her hands. But she believed, “It must have happened to me because my thinking is in the wrong place, my consciousness has fallen.” She seemed to think that  somewhere inside of her she was depraved, and that as a wake-up call this massive embarrassment had to occur to set her on the right path. I guess we all believe what works for us, and yes, things do happen to convey a message to us. But the way I felt about myself when the Rabbi spoke to me about my skirt and the abuse my friend inflicted on herself…cannot be the types of feelings that give us greater self-love and self-respect.

And so I came to a conclusion

Modesty is a very subjective issue…

I’d say I have been accepting this truth only in the past few months. It’s a provocative declaration to make when you’ve lived a good portion of your life following specific guidelines of modesty. I think following guidelines are useful when you do not fully know yourself, your skin, your mind, your needs, your sexuality, your taste and your relation to the world around you. But following guidelines also brings us to a particular problem…once you reach a point where you have more self knowldge, or at least the capacity for it, do the guidelines let loose their grip on you so that you may explore the important questions of the self? Or, do the guidelines latch on to your mechanisms, overtaking them like a virus, preventing you from exploring what your true senses and true values are? Scary thought…

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the Splendid Earth

I am choosing to write about motherhood and the unique power of women to bring life into this world. I am placing significant value and importance to this power that many women have, but the emphasis I am placing on it is for the purposes of the argument I am making in this article: one of the fundamental tenets of patriarchal societies is that women are subordinates because childbearing renders them weak and vulnerable.

Childbearing, however, is NOT definitive of Womanhood. I absolutely believe that beyond social constructs, and beyond even biology and medicine, Womanhood has a mystical existence…fluid and yet distinct, beautiful, multifaceted and Whole. I hope  that those of us who may not be able to experience motherhood will not feel offended or disheartened.  My focus here is narrow and merely conceptual. I invite you to explore my thoughts and share your own.

With great love and respect for each of us, Whatever powers we possess are, in truth, vital and great, and I celebrate them with you.

Isn’t it incredible? A cluster of cells become implanted in a woman‘s  body. She is then able to nourish, protected and transform this cluster of cells, giving it the time and space to grow and ultimately enter this world an entire human being! What a magnificent power! Women certainly feel what a feat this is…their bodies change and redirect resources to support the life (lives) she is carrying…we see this phenomenon all around us. But unless we are directly witnessing it, do we stop and appreciate for a moment the profundity of what is happening? In ancient pagan religions there were many deities that represented the earth, fertility, abundance, and fruitfulness. All of these deities were depicted in the form of women :)

Mother earth, right? Think of planting a seed. The seed cannot grow into its full potential without being ROOTED in soil. In Kabbalah (though certainly not exclusively in Kabbalah), the energy of females is referred to as “malchut”, which can be translated literally as “kingdom”, but also can be defined symbolically as the ground, the earth. And this makes sense given the different attributes of women.

But there is another aspect to being the “earth” or the “soil”: an element of passivity. Earth and soil are naturally “grounded”, (note the pun). Earth is essentially stationary and, (except in the case when it has been angered and rises in defiance causing destruction and chaos in the form of earthquakes – an idea I’d like to explore a little later), earth is passive and receptive. Passivity suggests vulnerability, and perhaps, even a sense of powerlessness; interestingly, women are the “weaker” and “vulnerable” sex.

I’d like to reconcile this dichotomy that lies within the physical existence of a woman. What great power she actually holds! Sterility in males tends to be a more devastating issue. Compared to the options available for a woman who is facing sterility, many men who are sterile will face the reality that their genetic material will simply not be passed on to a future generation. While this can happen to a woman, even a woman who does not have eggs could technically carry and nourish an embryo to birth. And yet, note, how this very ability, the ability to contribute to and then carry a child to term, is also the very attribute of women that has been used as a shackle to tie them down and declare them the inferior citizens of the world. Wouldn’t you say it’s ironic? People in patriarchal societies have taken this unique ability and with it labeled women as passive, vulnerable, weak…and ultimately subordinate to men, who don’t bear this “affliction”.

The earth can appear submissive. If we litter it, if we saturate it with toxins, if we neglect it, it seems like it will just absorb all that we do. One of the greatest, if not The Greatest ecological disaster, the BP oil spill…people are “working” to find a solution, but meanwhile the damage is being done, the earth is taking the beating. Women can seem weak in much the same way. Rape, abuse, sex trafficing, female genital mutilation, honor killings, virginity tests…these are all signs of a general belief in our world that women are passive and will be recepients of whatever is given.

What people forget is that there are consequences to this abuse. Soils will not be fruitful if they are eroded, crops will not be healthy if the roots are being fed toxins…the earth may seem passive but it has memory and what you give it is what you get. Earthquakes, tsunamis, all kinds of natural disasters, pandemics, mutations, defects…and lately most of these types of occurences can be traced to abuse of the planet…a lack of respect for the planet.

Two recent articles sparked my thoughts on women and childbearing. The first was a Sunday Times article on three women who weighed the option of in-vitro fertilization and subsequent single motherhood, to the extent that they acquired sperm for that purpose (from donor 8282). But just as they were about to take the plunge, each of these women “magically” met and had children with men (marriage is in there somewhere).

The second article was the cover story of the May 3rd edition of Time Magazine, The 50th Anniversary of THE PILL. The article outlined the history of contraceptives leading up to the pill and its journey through our society up to its present day status, medically, legally, morally and socially. I loved this article because it was successful at portraying the interplay and co-dependence of “the pill” and the various social progressions in the realm of feminism in this timeframe (1950-today). Many people attribute the women’s liberation movement to this tiny little pill. I don’t know that I can fully embrace that…it rings to me like an oversimplification. And yet, the pill was a tiny sized miracle: Women could finally make choices, act deliberately, and most importantly, act with a greater sense of certainty when it came to their sexuality and its relationship to reproduction.

But with power (the power to make choices) comes responsiblity, and almost immediately, the necessity for accountability and defense for your decision. Before, it had been only The Men and God who had executive rights over a woman’s body. What a revolution, what a shock to the system to overturn that norm…to figuratively slap them on their wrists and say, “no, no…I am the source, I make the decisions.”

My objective today is not to evaluate the Pill, it’s consequences or pros and cons. Rather, I’d like to celebrate a movement and a tool that, to whatever extent it may be, granted many women the power which, in truth was always their’s…was their birthright. We can muse about the different reasons why partiarchal ideologies and societies found it convenient to convince women they were powerless vessels…it’s so easy to buy into flawed thinking and to lose sight of reality. When we look at pregnancy and motherhood as something which defines women as weaker and vulnerable we have subscribed to patriarchal renditions of life and creation. Motherhood is not only a glorious power, but it is part of what makes women powerful, indispensible and splendid beings.

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the law of synchronicity

Friday morning at 1 am I was thinking, My God, how incredible! I had spent that week thinking of two topics. First, ideas about women, age and achievement as a woman. Second, cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, as I just got my first series vaccination a few weeks ago. I’ve been wondering about the underlying mechanisms of HPV and how it can lead to cervical cancer, and how much of a problem all this poses for women in the world.

I went out Thursday night to celebrate a friend’s birthday party downtown, and after a pretty decent amount of eating, dancing and such, I made a quick stop in the restroom before leaving. As I walked in I heard a woman speaking to the restroom attendant saying, “I just love visiting NYC!” Compulsively, I asked, “Where do you come from?” This woman is researcher based between Kenya and China who studies cervical cancer. I asked if she was a PhD or MD and she said, “Oh, I have a PhD. But let me tell you, if you are thinking about it, do yourself a favor and go for your MD.” We then engaged in a deep conversation (all within several minutes of hand washing and hair fixing) about how as a woman researcher, the best option is to get an MD. She told me that working in her field with a PhD she is “a woman before a researcher.”

“The men will walk all over you. Just get your MD, don’t give them that chance.” She kept telling me how famous and renowned she is in her field. She graduated from top schools and leads the field in her area of research. “I do very important work!” And yet, she was so…bitter. It seems that for all her work and all her qualifications, she still feels that she has to prove herself over and over…she still has to strain her voice and demand to be heard.

I work in a hospital and I know many powerful women in the field of research doing great things. Some are PhD’s, some are MD’s and some have both. There certainly seems to be an advantage to being an MD when doing medical research. So I can understand if she clashes with MD-egos as she is doing research in a medical field. But I wonder about the effect of her sex on her experiences. How much of what she is experiencing comes from the fact that she’s a woman?

I have often thought about whether in my own field of clinical psychology, I wouldn’t be better off if I got an MD as well. Would it give me more credibility in my field, amongst my peers?

Ultimately, I’ve decided that I need to make realistic academic and career goals that are rooted in self-knowledge. I have neither the patience for empirical lab-based classes nor the taste to deal with all the bureaucracy that comes with being an MD (not to mention my personal qualms with the modern field of psychiatry). But it saddens me to think that my mindful decision may one day cause regret and frustration. It is a fact that there is a measure of friction women face as researchers and professionals in any field; the measure changes based on the field. It is a sad reality and we all grapple with it. But I also think that there are some areas where women are making great strides, and the progress shouldn’t be ignored. The progress can serve as an example to many of us who may doubt our ability to progress or compete in this world. I don’t think it’s entirely true that this is a man’s world, anymore.

When we continued in our exchange, she argued that I ought to get an MD or even an MD PhD (which is on average a 10 year program), upon which I asked how one would figure a family into all this (because, you know, I just wrote about it!) She blinked and told me that that was her regret in life. She said she didn’t have children when she could and that she didn’t think that she could have them anymore…

She’s 41, she’s beauuuutiful, and she’s brilliant. I don’t know what in that combination would preclude one from having kids unless she herself didn’t really want them. Amazing what blocks we form in our own minds. I have spoken a lot about patriarchal societies and about culture and norms that lead us to be unhappy or that prevent us from being able to actualize… But I would be remiss if I said that we were powerless…far from it! It is hard to rise above opposing forces, harder for some more than others as their obstacles may be more formidable or even deadlier.  But for those of us who have relatively minimal resistance, feeling limited or barred or powerless is really…I dare say…a choice!

We choose our reality, and if one day we wake up and decide that we are going to go for our dreams, every single one of them and let the rest of the chips fall where they may, it’s all going to happen!

My favorite part of the exchange that night was the following:  “I grew up without a father, and my mother was a very strong woman. She taught me many things. But there were a few things she didn’t tell me because she didn’t know them herself, so I’m going to tell them to you. First, never, ever forget to be feminine.” She looked me up and down…(one of those nights when you KNOW you look good), so she said, “and you’ve got that covered. Second, for God’s sake get your MD and don’t let anything stop you. Third, have kids. Have them now, have them whenever. Do it all, you’ll figure it out somehow.” I told her I would consider an MD (which in my mind means going as far as I want to in my career), as long as she would go and have her kids. We laughed, and agreeing, we parted ways.

The next day I looked her up on Google and found her to be, just as she said, the leading researcher, internationally, in her field. I thank the law of synchronicity that brings people together just when they need each other…I Thank the law of synchronicity that provides answers to the questions in our hearts, just when we need the answers the most.

The woman from that night…she really does amazing work. I wish she knew just how amazingly, incredibly, beautifully inspiring she is, and I thank her, wherever she is!

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Response to Is “the clock” ticking?

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and your stories. I love it that you are sharing and I hope that you will want to continue to respond with your stories, thoughts and feelings.

There are some common themes in our thoughts, it seems…strength, trust, faith.

We make the decision to follow a path…yes, that’s the first step. But the hardest part is actually then choosing to follow through. It’s hard to follow through because others will judge, we will face challenges, we will face the chain of decisions that follow the initial decision. We’ll probably face loneliness, if we’re going against the grain. We face doubts and then fears. And THAT’s when we need faith. One would hope to have faith in the path that they’ve chosen…faith that it is the right path and that it will bring fulfillment.

If we don’t have complete faith in the path, maybe we’ll have faith in ourselves, in our sense, to know when to turn back or fight on. If we don’t have faith in that, what is left? For the ones who are spiritually inclined, there is having faith in the universe…that the universe is a place of goodness and that it will conspire to help us on the path (The Alchemist).

The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, has a message that I find helpful when I feel like I’ve lost faith (in almost everything). The key in life is to do your best, fight your hardest, get off the fence and be brave…but relinquish the fruits of the battle. The victory, the prize, even the success should not be the goal. The battle you forge, the Process, is where the growth lies. If you divorce yourself from the hunger for a specific fruit, a specific outcome, you make yourself an open vessel to be filled with endless possibilities.

We cannot control outcomes…this idea solidifies, I think, the older we get. We waste so much time and energy, chasing after castles in the sky.  My good friend Barbara always tells me, “Try, Shiva, for once, to explore living in the unknown.” We can’t imagine all that could be in store for us…if we would just let go and make room for those things to come.

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Is “the clock” ticking?

It’s always been interesting for me that of all the 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah, only 3 (THREE!) are considered chovah, mandatory for a woman. The commandments are split up into to general categories, commandments that time restricted and commandments that are not. The Mishnah (the compilation of Jewish oral laws) explains that women are not required to fulfill laws that are time-restricted, and they may voluntarily choose to do the laws that are not time-restricted. This leniency is granted because of their constant demands, children, the household, etc. Requiring them to do all time-based laws would be unrealistic.

Isn’t it fascinating? For a gender that time is so much of the essence,  Judaism decided to give a break on exactly that issue? Women are not bound by time!

As I grow, as a woman, time is becoming more and more of an issue. What do I want to do with my life, when do I want a family, how will it all figure in, if I do this now how will I become successful, if i wait will I be able to have kids and raise them as I want to…it’s actually quite terrifying. I know people, friends and family who have gone through fertility issues, first and second marriages, first and second careers. Culture and society, obviously, play into this a lot. It’s more acceptable now to put off having kids, to pursue a career and make professional success a priority…but is it? I am sandwiched between modern culture and the modern orthodox (Jewish) culture. I would say that at least 50% of the people I went to high school with are married…and that is a conservative estimate. So am I late? According to a woman in our community I am; she once told me, “Nuu, come on, when I was your age (22 at the time) I had 2 kids!” Ehem…

Yeah, it’s a different generation, but different, in a big way, in that it is confused. Mixed messages are all around. Teen pregnancy, divorce, adoption, motherhood at 65, in-vitro at 25. We know we have options, but how can we hear our own voice over all the bantering, all the suggestions, all the PRESSURE?

It’s about perspective…objectivity to be precise. At the end of the day, time is an illusion. At best it is a social construct. “Norms” don’t entirely exist anymore, as far as I can see. I think as a woman who struggles with expectations, ambitions and guilt, the first and healthiest thing one can do is to just throw that clock away all together. It is a hindrance to creativity and a burden. We/I need to always remember that the world is wide and age is a number. This is not to say that one can just float like a dandelion seed  to wherever the wind blows. My point is that life is not about reaching checkpoints in a timely manner. It’s funny, that game “Life” that we play as kids is just like that. You get a job or go to college, you get married, you buy a house and have kids…but we need to remember, that’s just a game. It’s not the real thing. Forget the checkpoints. The only way to have peace of mind is to be efficient in whatever it is you are doing. Live. Whatever you are doing, do it with purpose, with mindfulness and with love.

Once in college I went to career guidance to talk about and plan graduate school. I came into college as a naive, sheltered (very sweet) observant girl from a religious high school. I asked the career counselor, “so how does all this figure in if I get married? How do people balance?” She gave me this funny look as if to say, “You got plans to get married, hunny?” And she said, “I…wouldn’t PLAN around marriage. You do your thing, and if something comes up like marriage, then you fit it around what you are doing.” It was SO incredibly important that I heard that piece of advice.

I think the moral and my message are first, as I said, throw out that old clock. It’s meaningless, a waste of time and causes the secretion of unnecessary stress hormones (bad for the skin). As a woman I know I need to be mindful that I am living for myself and not for a mold or a norm, imposed by others or even by myself.

Just look for a minute at the mystical aspect of things: The soul is timeless, isn’t it? So what is age? A number…not more. And we all have as much time as we want to have…we are as free as we allow ourselves to be.

Chag Shavuot Sameach :)

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Response for “The Future Stands of the Shoulders of Women”

In response to Rachel’s (my MOM :D) comments on my last post…

Absolutely, women all over the world suffer from being or feeling disempowered. My argument is that the subjugation of women by different entities of patriarchal societies has been the norm for a very long time. But any being, whether male or female, if oppressed, if treated badly or is convinced that he or she is unworthy will internalize these messages and it will become part of his or her self concept, rendering the individual passive or self deprecating and unmotivated. So this response is human, not something that is endemic to women…it is an outcome. And subjugation can occur on many plains. It can start on a very fundamental level, the way your parents and your community treat you and educated you. It can be on a larger plain, on the plain of religion/dogma, politics, law; but these arenas are not divorced from or independent of the familial or communal arenas. They are in fact all symbiotic and help perpetuate one another over generations.
There are some cultures and parts of the world where subjugation seems almost to be bred. In these places it seems like people, women in this case, are living at the source of these unfortunate conditions. Well, the sin is always greater when someone else is doing it, and it’s easier to judge when you are judging someone else…there is no stack of justifications, rationalizations and denials. My point is that just because women there are clad differently and the statistics on economic equality depict a more stark disparity does NOT mean that the root issues that cause those problems preclude the structures in the “West”. Far from it.
In the US, women enjoy freedoms and safeties that many countries cannot offer them. No doubt. Women here are constantly faced with redefining the gender, redefining the expectations. But freedom of speech, expression and laws that promote equal opportunities cannot change, overnight, the prejudices…whispering sinister protests to all this progress. All it takes is a five minute walk down times square, a minute looking through a magazine, 15 seconds of television to see how the contradicting messages bombard all of us every minute.
So girls don’t know how to feel good about themselves if they don’t have a boyfriend, many women don’t know how to ask for a raise, many women don’t know how not to feel guilty when they want to work instead of being a housewife. Maybe some of them end up giving up their dreams and they stay at home, or maybe they don’t speak up when they know their husband is cheating, or as you said…they go after a man who is unavailable because they only feel woman enough when they have “won” a man.
The field of mental health has a history of struggling a lot in the insurance industry. This has mostly to do with the fact that there is usually no concrete time-frame for psychological treatment, and insurance is all about treatment plans that are water-tight and establishing limits. But therapy should naturally take time…reprogramming your thinking, unlearning certain false messages, re-loving you inner child?

A certain type of “therapy” does get more coverage for obvious reasons. In psychiatry, you give a drug to help alter the activity in a certain pathway in the brain. It either works or doesn’t, and that becomes clear within a few weeks. Then either you change the dose or try other meds.  God forbid the patient is a non-responder. Both treatment and coverage get complicated then. The fact is that  the meds, for some people, really help them rise above the fog, or maybe give them an oar to start getting somewhere. But for many people suffering from mental health disorders, the roots of the disease are non-biological…they are social and emotional. So essentially the medication is working at on the effect, not at the cause. These people must now use the effects of the medication to face their lives and work on the actual causes of their disease. So for complete healing, a long road is unavoidable.
Healing the condition of women in the world, resetting the status quo is a long process. Some tools (the meds) for doing this could be changes in policy, providing freedom and safety for women. But the underlying pre-programming, the poisonous, backward mentalities…those will all take time to change. Those will take individual as well as global transformation…it’s the next step on our “evolutionary track”.

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The Future Stands on the Shoulders of the Women

Since I started this blog I signed up for a bunch of different google alerts, news alerts on specific topics that interest me. I give google some keywords of issues I want news updates on and several times a day (which is one of the settings of the application) I receive emails with links to all possible internet sources on those topics…God bless google. So my alerts are about women’s rights in the middle east, the green movement in Iran, etc. And my eyes have been peeled open by some of the things I come across in these alerts. I realized how silly it is to say that women in the middle east are silenced. It’s just not true. Yes, many are…many suffer at the hands of dogma or regulations, we hear all about those things…but soooo many women are so incredibly active, so bold, so fearless and Eloquent, my God.

The most inspiring event that I experienced in my life so far  was hearing Shirin Ebadi talk at Columbia University. It was 2 or 3 years ago, she was there to give a talk about her new autobiography, Iran Awakening and also about the role of women in world peace.

She is such a sweet and endearing lady…tiny with very round features…big Iranian eyes. I wanted to hug her (and I actually did!) she had a translator for the talk, and at the end she had a lengthy q&a session. One student asked her the star question, “Ms. Ebadi, what do you think is the role of women in the future of Iran.” Ebadi smiled knowingly, and in her tone of voice I could hear her saying (eventhough it was in Farsi), “Listen, hunny; the ‘Future of Iran’… it will stand On the Shoulders of the Women.” Meaning, the point is not the “role” women will play in it….it’s just not going to happen WITHOUT the women. Haha :)

My mom would always tell me, if you look at the countries that are suffering the most, they are the ones in which the women are the most oppressed. That’s because, as we all should know by now…a society will never go very far if it ties up the hands of half its population. Period. It’s logic.

So, yes, the inspring article of the evening is the following:

Let’s just note, please, what this woman looks like…oh, yes, she is in a black burkah

But guess what? I’m alllllll the way here, thousands of miles away and I can identify her words, her name, her message. So I guess forcing us to speak behind a black bag still doesn’t drown out our voices, amazing! And it sure doesn’t make the clerics’ postulations and fatwas any louder.

So how did I hug Shirin Ebadi? :) After her talk they had a little cocktail thing where she was signing books for people. I bought her book and went to her to sign. At this point i knew ummm…five words in farsi. But I managed to walk over, say “salaam, hale shomaa khoobe?” (formal way of saying, hello, how are you?) She responded graciously and said something to the effect of (i believe) “shall I sign this for you?” I answered with my eyes, since i had exhausted my farsi at that point. Then when she was done she asked me, “Farsi harf mizani?” (Do you speak farsi?) And i said something like “ye kam” (a little). She got very enthusiastic, took me by the arms and told me “Learn Farsi, learn it well and use your words, you are Iranian.”

I know what I am. I am Turkish born, and my father is Iranian and has super genes that completely dominated my phenotype :) But she hit it on the mark…words are incredible power. May we use our words to bring peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Freedom of Music/Speech/Life: Propaganda Balagan

Egyptian Heavy Metal Fans Reject Accusations of Satan Worship, Collaboration with Zionism

Balagan is the word for “a hot mess” in Hebrew;  it thoroughly captures the vision i had upon watching this clip.

first, i’m reeling at the ignorance and i am slowly feeling sadness creep up through the numbness. this link is representative, to me, of the demon (i guess, pun is intended) wrecking havoc on the middle east and locking it in the state of conflict. the “ideas”…or mindless propaganda the “moderator”  is spewing…sadly, i have heard such thinking first-hand. it always leaves me speechless…but i know that is just my own naivete. i live in america, in NYC, no less…i surround myself with open-minded and like-minded people. so facing people like the speaker on this show is like an alarm in my face at 5 am…that gross feeling. but the one spark of hope: if you pay attention to the defense from the youth being interrogated — i mean, interviewed …they are so bright, so honest, so genuine. my heart reaches out to those that are struggling in this type of environment. they are certainly not alone.

i hear you and i respect you :)

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