Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Long Line Outside The Women's Restroom: An Allegory

Standing in line outside the restroom in Central Park, together with dozen other women, a young girl came running to the front of the line and asked to go first. She was in tears and was obviously distressed. But she still had to wait a couple of minutes until the first woman came out of the stall.
It was painful to watch that girl’s plight and as I stood there, I realized that this long line of women waiting patiently, outside, in the freezing weather, while next door men went in and out of their restroom with no wait, was a sad allegory of the condition of women in the 21st century. We all know that there is a problem and still nothing is done to fix it.
We see women standing in lines at restrooms everywhere: in the movie theaters, sport events, concert halls, and museums. Yesterday in New York City I stood in 5 different lines.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Facebook Power: From Clarence Thomas to Yitzhak Laor

In the last few weeks we witnessed extensive protests in the social media against the decision to award the Landau award, by the national lottery association, to the writer Yitzhak Laor. Although he was never charged, it appears that over the years he had sexually assaulted and harassed numerous women.  In response to the outcry,  the board of the Landau Foundation decided to withdraw the prize for poetry from Laor.
It could have ended differently, In 1991 president George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.  Anita Hill, was an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas who was then the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. After a report of a private interview with her by the FBI was leaked to the press, she was called to testify at the hearings. At the time we lived in the US and I remember how she described in great details the sexual harassment which she had suffered from Clarence Thomas, her boss.
Yet, in spite of her testimony, the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Clarence Thomas as associate justice of the Supreme Court.
At that time it was still possible to dismiss serious  accusations  like those of Anita Hill, as merely her word against his, and to cover up sexual misconduct. But today thanks to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, women are no longer alone, they have a community and  are not afraid to speak up.  It happened recently on Twitter with the accusations against Bill Cosby and here in Israel in the case against Yitzhak Laor. In contrast,  during the Clarence Thomas hearings, four female witnesses waited in the wings to reportedly support Hill's credibility, but they were not called to testify and their voice was not heard.
During the course of the debate concerning Laor, some people, especially men, claimed that he should be judged for his art and not for his character or his conduct. They argued that we should make a distinction between the man and his art. I feel that this is no longer possible.
As long as we knew nothing about our artists we were content to merely judge their work. However,  at the age of information it’s getting harder  to cover up misconduct. Thus when an artist is about to get a prestigious award,  it makes sense to assure that he is an upstanding  person who could bring credit to those who  nominated him/her.
There is no going back, in Ha’aretz today the writer Michal Zamir complained that being politically correct ruins all the fun.  She is right, it is not hard to imagine the Facebook outrage if we heard a declaration such as  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” today.
Richard Wagner was banned and his music has not been performed in Israel not because he was an inferior composer, but since he was an Anti-Semite. Paul de Man lost all his standing when it transpired that he was a Nazi collaborator. So why should we make allowances  when it comes to crimes against women?


Sunday, December 21, 2014

"One Radio Host": Ira Glass At Yale

I have to admit that I wanted to see “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host” because I am a fan of This American Life. I guess I wasn't the only one, the theater hall at Yale was packed and this was only a matinee, there is going to be a second show tonight.
I didn't know what to expect, but juxtaposing the two dancers,Monica Barnes and Anna Bass, whose voice is their body with Ira Glass, a radio host who normally is only a voice, sounded intriguing.
The show consisted mostly of old episodes from This American Life and recordings of Ira Glass’ interviews.The artists reexamined and revisited those stories with dance and narration.
For example the first act presented a story from the episode “Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time”( number 306 from  2006)  about the cast of Riverdance which  had been performing eight shows a week and suffered from boredom
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Everyone Said” Or The Emperor Has No Clothes

Tzipi Livni gave a great performance on TV the other night, she was clever, eloquent and almost as funny as Einav, Orna, Lior and Gouri, the real hosts of the humorous program  “The State of the Nation.”
It is true that I didn’t appreciate her effort to become one of the gang which prompted her to take part, and even enjoy, the ubiquitous sexist remarks and sexual innuendos which flew in the air in order to 
But after fifteen minutes of idle chat finally Livni showed courage.  It wasn’t a real question, but Lior Shlein made a derogatory comment about the latest unsuccessful negotiations with the Palestinians. He said that “everyone said”  that her negotiations would explode and that it was clear there was no chance to succeed.
Livni’s response was hopeful,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Lot's Wife To Malala Yusafzai

Today on Human Rights Day when Malala Yusafzai is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize it is important to remember that until fairly recently even in Europe and in the US women were denied education.
In  the introduction to his book Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education, Barry Turner states: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community.”
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"After The Holidays": University Towns And Christmas

If you want to get something done in Israel during September and October you'd probably hear that it will have to wait until “after the Holidays.” I never thought about it before, but like us, Americans have their own "after the Holidays." The period from Thanksgiving till the New Year is one long holiday with few working days in between. This is the time when people get together, have parties, remember their friends,  and get ready, at least in the cold climate, for those long lonely months of winter.
Spending this season in the US, I have already observed a familiar quality of the holidays which is unique to university towns. During last Thanksgiving weekend, and even on Black Friday, New Haven became deserted as students who usually filled the stores, coffeehouses and restaurants went back home to their families. I remember other empty towns throughout the holiday season from the many years we spent in this country. Last Christmas season I wrote an essay titled, “Home Alone: University Towns And Christmas.” After last Thanksgiving in New Haven I expect a very quiet Holiday season here too:
In the small Midwestern university town where we attended graduate school the dominant calendar was not Gregorian but Academic.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Breastfeeding Iמ Public? Not In My Front Yard

In the 1980s when my daughters were born, in the US, I was advised to breastfeed them until they were at least a year old. I was also urged to do it as much and as often as possible. So during that first year I nursed my babies everywhere I went: the public library, the mall, and the coffee shop.  It wasn’t a big deal, all the other mothers did it as well, no one ever stared at us or made a comment.
That was how life was in Iowa City, a small university town in the Midwest, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." It was that simple, since mother’s milk was essential to the well-being of the baby, it meant that breastfeeding mothers were made welcome everywhere.
But our breastfeeding friendly world has all but disappeared, 
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel