Women have never needed tools for empowerment more than we do now. As America puts an admitted sexual predator into the White House, when the hatefulness of sexism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia have been unleashed and legitimized in one of the most powerful offices in the world, as stories of violence and intimidation are starting to flood in, we need tools to help us maintain our own safety and the safety and that of our communities. In supermarkets, malls, subways and public spaces all around the world, new faces of fear are being unleashed. Just today, a friend posted a story about being attacked at her gym in New York for wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt. Now, more than ever, women need tools for dealing with everyday sexism and abuse, to help us ensure safe spaces for ourselves and the people we love.
Enter El Halev. This phenomen organization directed by Sensei Yudit Sidikman, is leading the way in women's empowerment self-defense and safety. El Halev ran an outstanding conference this week for educators and therapists to mark the International Day against Violence Against Women, which falls tomorrow. The conference explored approaches to providing safe spaces and dealing with trauma. People from all around Israel participated in a range of lectures and workshops providing insights and tools for dealing with physical, emotional, and sexual trauma. Sessions included samples of El Halev programs such as Freedom to Choose, Impact, the Young Lionesses, as well as crafts, bibliotherapy, and brick-breaking. Speakers also explored the role of self-defense and "Personal Safety Literacy" as key components of the broader feminist vision of gender equality and creating a world in which women and men can both thrive.
Admittedly, as the Board Chair of the organization I am possibly biased about how amazing the conference was and about the organization generally. But my feeling at the conference was really one of privilege. I felt truly honored to be part of all this. I was so excited to speak to so many people there, all of whom share this vision. The atmosphere was electric. And it is so gratifying to watch the organization -- with its incredible staff and throngs of magnetic students, instructors and parents -- to emerge as a leader in thought and in practice about women's power in the world.
The truth is, I became Chair in 2014 because of my experience with the organization, not the other way around. I decided to join the board because I had taken the self-defense course, Impact, which teaches you to stave off attacks -- physical, emotional, and sexual. The course changed my life in many ways. Before I took it, I thought, I'm a pretty tough and experienced woman. I thought I knew how to say "no". I thought I knew how to set my own boundaries. But I didn't. It was only through the course that I realized how vulnerable I really felt and acted, how I participated in my own disempowerment. I am still learning...
The US Presidential election results have left many people shocked, depressed, and afraid.
The victor, Donald Trump, spent his campaign threatening entire populations within American society – Mexicans, Muslims, LGBTQIA+ folks, and women – and with his win, many are shell-shocked and panicking about their futures.
And with good reason: Already there are reports of spikes in hate-crimes and violence against Black, queer, and Jewish people. Trump has announced plans for immediate deportations of millions of people, and he has hired white supremacist Steve Bannon as one of his top aides.
This video of a woman yelling at a Muslim woman on the train gives a pretty clear example of how this election has emboldened bigotry and hatred.
As Rebecca Traister wrote, “The heartbreak of this election…[is] the loss of the idea that this country was so very close to being better, more inclusive, more just, and more representative.”
It can be very hard to stay balanced and process your own emotions when fear and viciousness surround you. What’s more, as many people are working to figure out how to handle their new reality – whether in mourning or in protest, in public or in private – the emotional abuse carried out by Trump supporters has continued and even escalated.
Perhaps this isn’t surprising.
After all, Trump utilized tactics of emotional abuse throughout the campaign, and his tactics paid off nicely for him, empowering his followers and sending the message that emotional abuse is a legitimate (and even successful!) form or discourse.
In fact, since Election Day, some new tactics have emerged, along with some revised old one. This makes the healing process even harder.
Here are some of the new tactics of emotional abuse to be wary of as you work through the impact of these elections.
The first trend I noticed in Facebook feeds right after the election was the new language of “sore loser.”
Many of those who were expressing deep sadness, mourning, or disappointment were attacked Trump supporters coming onto their feeds with mocking comments, like “Haha, you’re just upset that you lost,” “Grow up and stop being a sore loser,” or “Stop crying.”
This tactic is the kind of behavior that we’re taught in preschool not to engage in. But the Trump campaign has brought back many of those toxic behaviors that we thought society unlearned long ago.
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic aimed at twisting reality and making you seem and feel confused and disoriented. And some Trumpists continue to gaslight opponents, just as they did during the campaign.
This includes claims that protesters are “exaggerating” in their fears, as Rudy Guiliani said, or that the protesters are the bad guys here, as Trump himself suggested when he said that protesters are “unfair.”
In another illustration of gaslighting, Trump supporters are trying to rewrite history by claiming that Republicans accepted President Obama’s victory and embraced him as president. This completely ignores the relentless attacks on Obama’s personal credibility throughout his campaign, the Trump-led “birther” movement undermining his very identity, the constant lie about Obama being a secret Muslim (as if Muslims aren’t allowed to be president anyway),...
"Radicalization is getting worse, for sure. At the same time, the vision of equal rights, equal participation and women's power — all of that is getting stronger around the world," says gender sociologist Elana Sztokman, author of a book called The War on Women in Israel.
Read the rest here. Or, listen to this NPR podcast about ultra-Orthodox battles against women in Israel.
The depths of anguish, depression and despair over the past two weeks (has it only been two weeks?) are unlike anything I have ever experienced. I think that a lot of people who were rooting for Hillary Clinton are in a similar state. Some have joined or created Facebook groups for support and actions. Others have gone off social media altogether. And many are wandering around in a half-daze, getting through their lives in the way one does after having been unexpectedly punched in the gut.
It is hard to know what to do next. The realization that so many seemingly normal people have put this person in office, a person who is an admitted cheater, racist, and sexual predator, a guy who is a textbook narcissist and demagogue, the one who surrounds himself with the worst of humanity -- white supremacists who believe that white men are literally genetically superior to everyone else -- is really too much to wrap your head around. How do you walk through your life knowing that these are the beliefs of so many people you have connections with?
And it's not abstract. There is a very real trickle-down trump effect. My feeds are filled with stories of everyday aggression and violence. People are sharing stories of racism and homophobia at check-out counters, in malls, in parking lots, at the gym, and at home. I have read about several divorces that resulted from the election -- that is, from the outing of trumpism in real life. People who like trump because he gives them permission to air their dark sides, their abusiveness, and their hatred, are now let loose on society. Anyone who complains about "pc police" -- basically saying that they are tired of having to consider other people's feelings and experiences -- have been given the legitimacy to now speak without restraint. It is as if all those great lessons from kindergarten -- be nice, be kind, be considerate, don't bully, don't name-call, don't mock others, treat everyone as equals -- are all thrown out the window.
it is a truly frightening time.
And it has been, in many ways, paralyzing.
But I have made a conscious decision to keep on fighting. My words are my tool of choice. I will keep on writing and sharing words. You can read more about this here.
If you want to be part of the discussion, if you want to work together to figure out how to stop the spread of hate in our world,
Trump stands above Clinton during the second presidential debate.
One of the creepiest aspects of the second presidential debate was the way Trump seemed, from his body language, almost to be stalking Hillary Clinton. When she moved to one side, he followed. He stood behind her, often with very little distance between them, silent, frowning, looking like he was growling. Body language expert Janine Driver called his movements a pre-assault indicator and said that she was getting “really nervous” for Hillary because he was “like a dog starting to get anxious.” Screenwriter Adrienne Parks wrote in Huffington Post that this was a kind of “upstaging,” where he was trying to seize power and divert attention away from her and back to him. “This was infuriating to all of us who have ever been forced to stand our ground on the rigged white male playing field”, she wrote. “I felt the unfairness of it to the bone. This was live televised assault and battery with intent to maim, politically rape, and kill.”
I was also extremely uneasy watching Hillary speak while this large, menacing creature was behind her, a person who had just promised to dedicate himself to sending her to prison. As a short person – I’m five feet tall – I have spent most of my life dealing with situations in which the men in the room loom over me. Of course most are not dangerous. But in that kind of physical imbalance, even a little ill-will can feel threatening. And in situations where men actually do have more power than women – such as Orthodox synagogues, rabbinic courts, school playgrounds, and many workplaces – the feeling of powerlessness that you get from being surrounded by men hovering over you can be very real.
I asked my Facebook friends if any of them felt triggered by Trump’s body language. The resulting extensive thread offered a resounding “yes”. Here are nine situations that other women and I have been reliving as we watched Trump stand near Clinton in the menacing way he did:
(1) Abusive ex-husbands. Many women I have spoken to have been reliving nightmarish situations of abuse from ex-husbands. One women told me the way her husband used to stand behind her when she stood in front of the mirror, telling her how many of her body parts are “fat”, “ugly” and “disgusting.” She has been happily remarried for many years, but Trump has been dredging up many old, painful memories and fears. “It is the accumulation of my lived abusive assaults, dismissiveness, egotistical mansplaining, sexist, misogynist, ‘women don’t know anything’ experiences as a woman all wrapped into one person,” she said about watching Trump.
(2) Bulldozing coworkers. There is countless research about men bulldozing women in work situations – talking over women, dismissing women, infantilizing women, mansplaining,manterrupting, gaslighting women, and harassing women. Trump triggers many of these situations every time he talks to or about women. During the debate, he looked like every fiber in his being wanted to crush his rival. It...
I wrote a two-part series at Lilith Magazine about Jewish women who do not fast on Yom Kippur because of eating disorders and/or painful scars from abuse. Part 1:
Choosing Not to Fast: Eating Disorders and Yom Kippur
Last year on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Naomi Malka was busy. The High Holiday Coordinator and Mikveh Director at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, she was preparing for a 6PM service for five thousand people and had no time to eat. For most people who observe this holiday – which, according to the Guttman Center, is the majority of Jews – the 25 hour fast is hard enough. But to start the fast already on an empty stomach and to be running around organizing and working, that is bordering on painful. But for Naomi, the challenge was even more extreme: she is also a recovering bulimic.
“My fast started without thinking about it, but by 4:30 or 5:00 the next day, I was in the room where we set up for the security guards and people not fasting, and I was in there stuffing my face,” she recalled painfully. “Imagine, it was Yom Kippur, and I was so embarrassed and humiliated and I was crying. It was a manifestation of so much stress. And then I went and threw up in the synagogue on Yom Kippur! It was just awful and I was so ashamed about it for weeks after. And that’s when I realized, I can’t fast. I can’t be healing from an eating disorder and fast as a Jew. Those two things just don’t work for me.”
Jews are taught that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year. It is called in the Torah, “The Sabbath of the Sabbaths,” the day when Israelites connect with their Creator rebirth their souls through fasting and praying. But for some people, the day brings on swarms of difficult feelings – dread, trauma, shame and guilt – along with severe risk of self-harm. The idea of fasting for a whole day triggers symptoms of eating disorders and disordered eating – not necessarily the same thing – and can send people into downward spirals and unraveling.
“Food’s distinct role in Orthodox Judaism makes it a prime vehicle for playing out unspoken conflicts and confusion,” Dr. Caryn Gorden, an expert in eating disorders in the Jewish community, writes in Psychology Today. “The religious regulations that demand strict observance can serve as scaffolding for the rigidity, control and deprivation characterizing restrictive anorectic eating,” as well as other disordered eating such as bulimia and compulsive eating.
Indeed, Naomi Malka is not alone. I spoke with a dozen women from different Jewish communities around the world, many of whom were not ready to go public with their stories, about their decisions not to fast on Yom Kippur. Although a 1995 study found that 1 in 19 Orthodox Jewish women suffer from eating disorders—twice the number as the American community generally—the topic is still...
Crossposted from the Lilith Blog
I recently investigated the following question: Does the Bible pass the Bechdel test? You know, this is the test about how pro-women a dramatic production is. The test is simple, and sets an admittedly low bar. In order to pass, the film, show, or play has to have at least two named women as characters, and the two have to talk to one another about something other than a man for more than 30 seconds. I was curious how the Bible fares.
The answer? Out of the 24 books of the Bible, only one book passes: The Book of Ruth. The relationship and conversations between Ruth and her widowed mother-in-law Naomi are the sole example of named women talking to each other about something other than a man. These exchanges are also among the most poignant in the entire Bible, and present such a compelling model of compassion and care that they are credited with initiating the lineage for King David, and hence the Messiah. There is much to adore about the Ruth-Naomi relationship, and women—especially feminists—have been claiming this story as their own for some time. At all my daughters’ bat mitzvah ceremonies, I invoked these passages as examples of what I see as core Jewish values. When Naomi was left destitute in the foreign land of Moab following the deaths of her husband and sons, Ruth dropped everything to stay with her m-in-l. Ruth’s signature declaration of loyalty—“Wherever you go I go; your people are my people and your God is my God”—continues to inspire a vision of love, care and compassion, as well as a deep abiding friendship between women.
I was very surprised to learn that there is a midrash suggesting that the two women were secretly lesbian lovers. I discovered this recently at a phenomenal play, “God’s Girlfriends,” which presents a dramatic, feminist interpretation of three key women’s stories in the Bible; one of which is the Ruth-Naomi story. The play presents these stories—the other two being Sarah and The Concubine on the Hill—entirely from the point of view of the women. This did not strike me as a radical premise, until I realized that the female perspective is completely absent from the Bible.
Certainly women appear in many riveting biblical stories. The story of Sarah is a shallow aside to the narratives of her husband Abraham and their son Isaac, whom she birthed when she was 90 and whom Abraham was willing to sacrifice on the altar for his God. We never really know what her experience of motherhood was like under those circumstances. Similarly, the little-known story of the concubine on the hill is one in which we are told nothing of the woman’s thoughts or feelings. The unnamed concubine decided to leave her husband/master, only to be dragged back home through a contract between her father and her husband. On the way home, they pass through a village in the tribe of Benjamin, where her husband...
The worst tactic was the threatening bullying. He interrupted Hillary incessantly, he talked over her, he literally physically stalked her as she moved, and used every opportunity to attack her.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look on at the start of their debate.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
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[This is a follow-up to my essay on Everyday Feminism: 10 Tactics of Emotional Abuse that Trump blatantly used in the presidential debate]
It is hard to listen to the video clip in which Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump talks about grabbing a woman’s “pussy”. For many sexual assault survivors, this clip can be very triggering. What he describes in fun and laughter others have experienced as violent, invasive attacks on their bodies. In fact, within hours of the clip’s release, millions of women were sharing their stories of sexual assault, and the ways that they were triggered by the clip.
Katie Dupere, a survivor of sexual assault, described the harsh memories that the recording brought up for her. “My assault began when this boy ‘grabbed me by the pussy’,” she writes, using the exact act that Trump brags about on the clip. “To a sexual assault survivor like me, Trump’s words are not the harmless ‘locker room banter’ he claims they are,” she continues. “They are words that reach into the deepest parts of me, plucking out trauma that gets replayed over and over with each new article and retweet. They are reflective of a culture of men that sees women as available to fulfill their desires, even without their consent.”
Another survivor, Chrissa Hardy, who was raped when she was 17, writes that Trump’s bragging “left me frozen in place. These comments are ones that only a sexual predator would make, and they made me relive my rape all over again.”
What’s more, on the tape he has an engaged audience. Billy Bush, a media celebrity and cousin of former president George W. Bush, can be heard laughing throughout, giving Trump the boost and legitimacy for his descriptions of sexual assault. And then it gets worse: Bush convinces Arianne Zucker — the object of Trump’s ogling a moment earlier — to give him a hug. She unwittingly becomes the object in Trump’s fantasy. She went from being an object for ogling to an object for touching.
“When women watch that interaction between Trump, Bush and Zucker, they’ll think of the countless times they walked up to a group of jovial men in mid-conversation and felt something in the pit of their stomach,” writes feminist commentator Jessica Valenti. “They’ll wonder if their sneaking suspicion was right all along — that they were on the outside, that they were the joke.”
There is mounting evidence that Trump was not just bragging, but has also done what he said he did — that he kissed women without consent,grabbed women’s genitals, and even raped women.
Trump issued an apology of sorts, but his words were not consoling. That’s because even in his apology, he was still using toxic tactics, still using words to assault women.
Like so many other moments of the American presidential election, this episode is replete with examples of toxic abuse. The tape is an example of the connection between verbal abuse and physical abuse. They are often intertwined, with one tactic reinforcing the other. As Gloria Steinem said, “Trump’s rhetoric normalizes dominance and violence, and endangers us all.”
It is important to understand...
I had such an interesting conversation over the holiday with Julie Gray andYael Schuster about who are the people supporting Trump. We discussed the Hillbillies book, about how many of Trump supporters are from these dirt-poor remote-rural areas and have developed a deep and unwavering distrust and even hatred of people who they perceived as academic, educated, elite, New England college types. Anyone who speaks with multiple-syllable words is not to be trusted, is out to get you, is holding secrets, is going to do things you don't understand and somehow screw you over. This election is like the revolt of the hillbillies.
I think also that this is what Barack Obama was saying in that commencement speech that is going viral, the one where he says that "anti-intellectualism" is not cool. Not knowing what you're talking about is JUST not knowing what you're talking about. LIke that. He was trying to talk to would-be hillbilly-type Trump supporters. He was trying to say, don't think that ridiculous conspiracy theories that have no basis in FACT are somehow truth. Don't dig your heels in and vow to make smart people your enemy in life by believing in rubbish. That's not cool, it's just idiotic. But he was saying this at a college commencement, so I'm not sure if his message will reach its intended audience...
But in any case, I think that there is a really important insight here about what drives the Trump popularity. His audience LIKES when he speaks like a fourth-grader, when he spews conspiracy theories, when he allows all those obnoxious thoughts to flow freely and unfiltered -- a child's dream, letting go of all the rules of those snooty people who are bigger than you and think that they are smarter than you. They love that! They have been waiting their whole lives for someone like Trump to come along and let them be as unfiltered as they want! To not be bogged down with logic and fact and manners and rules for how to behave! Like, hahaha, we'll show you guys, all you rich, educated snobs who think you know the truth. We'll show you! That is the dynamic, scary as it is, driving this election.
But I have to say, at the risk of offending people who I went to school with, being dumb used to be considered cool back then, too. People who sounded smart were completely uncool. There was all this pressure to not sound smart, to not BE smart, to not really study, to not engage in conversations that were, you know, interesting. That's how I experienced Flatbush. As we were talking the other day, I really could envision that dynamic, of people trying really hard to be perceived as anything but smart, trying to dig their heels in that anti-intellectualist identity. I've seen that. But maybe that's beside the point. Or maybe that explains why so many Orthodox Jews are voting for Trump. I'm not sure.
Anyway, I think it's really important to try...