I've just come home from a lovely housewarming party given by two young friends of mine and am delightfully full of food and good conversation and (duh) beer. You will understand how much I love this pair by the fact that they live in the far reaches of Brooklyn...requiring a bus, a subway, and another bus.
However, the conversation, at one point, turned to Orthodox Jewry. (The male side of this pair is Jewish.) And we began talking about a very upsetting trend.
I am disturbed as HELL, as half a Jew, about what seems to be happening, not only in Israel, where an 8 year girl was recently spat upon and hounded for her perceived "immodest dress," (an 8 YEAR OLD) but here in New York, where women in highly Orthodox neighborhoods are told that they must sit in the back of the bus...which brings us almost inevitably to Rosa Parks, and also told that they must walk on the other side of the street from men, and on and on and on. There was a very good op-ed piece in today's paper about this.
What I find fascinating about it is that I'm a half-breed Catholic/Jew, raised in both religions, and this sounds exactly like what I was taught in Catholic school. When I hit puberty, I began to grow a bosom (it happens) and mine was pretty impressive. Still is, although it needs a LOT more shoring up than it used to. I was told to wear ever larger uniform blouses, and try to find a flattening bra, because my breasts were giving boys "bad thoughts." If I wore patent leather shoes...well, we all know that one. We were also taught to wear a horrible thing...a Playtex rubber girdle. The idea was that since we could barely get the thing on, no boy could get it off. This was undeniably true...you try dealing with sweaty rubber in August in Chicago. It took you 20 minutes to get the damn thing off. And my all time favorite was the nun who told us that if we had to sit on a boy's lap, we should put a telephone book down first. Personally, I ALWAYS carry a telephone book in my purse...don't you?
However, in either religion, do you see the point here? It's ALL OUR FAULT. By our mere existence as women, we bring this upon ourselves. Men are completely innocent. In today's article (I'm sorry, I've forgotten which paper) there was a story about a wig store in an Orthodox neighbor which was forced to close, because the ultra-Orthodox announced that the faceless wigheads modeling wigs in the window were an incitement to...BAD THOUGHTS.
Dear sweet GOD. We are being dragged right back into the old bad days. When I was abused by my first husband, I had to run barefoot in the snow (yeah, I know it sounds like an 18th century novel, but it's true and it happened to me), I got the cops to come with me to get my things out of the apartment, and the cops said (this was 1968), when I told them about my broken nose and permanent scars..."What did you do to him, lady?" Well, of course. By my very existence, I was the cause of being violently raped and beaten.
And all the conversation about how men are led by their penises and should therefore be given some sort of pass? What is that? Surely it can't be right that we walk innocently down the street, NOT dressed like streetwalkers, NOT hunting for a man, NOT doing a goddamn thing except trying to get home from work or a party...and goddamnit, if we are attacked, we are STILL greeted with "What did you do to him, lady?"
How on EARTH is this still going on?