Posts Tagged women

Don’t put the girls and the drinks at the back of the room: why Yom Kippur needs saving

Note: this post was originally entitled ‘In defence of Yom Kippur’, but I started explaining why YK needs saving in the first place and that became an entire post. So please read this first and I promise that the defence is coming.

As I walked into my relatives’ home yesterday to break my fast, it was quite obvious to me that the whole function had been planned and organised by people who had not themselves been fasting.

How could I tell? Simple: after 25 hours of not eating or drinking, the one thing that you need more than anything else is some liquid. The human body can actually survive relatively well for weeks without food, but a couple of days with no water and *goodbye*. Knowing this, anyone who had been fasting would have drinks — and a lot of them — made very available for everyone leaving synagogue and coming to the social part of the evening.

As I walked through the door, however, I was greeted not with drinks, but with a whole range of food. This is not to say that I have a problem with the honey cake, chopped liver and other Ashkenazi fast-breaking treats — it’s just that it’s extremely difficult to swallow a mouthful of honey cake without choking when your throat feels like it has been covered in a layer of fly-paper.

I said the obligatory hello to the several relatives who caught my eye as soon as I walked in, but during this time my eyes were constantly searching for the elusive drinks table. I asked one of my interlocutors where I could find myself a drink around there, and he promptly pointed down the hallway, through a crowd of 50 assorted relatives and family friends, to the garden at the back of the house.

My face dropped in dismay. There was no conceivable way that I would be able to get to the drinks table without being stopped by at least one parent, two grandparents, one auntie and two or three cousins — each of whom would take up approximately 5 minutes of conversation before I could make a polite exit. Nevertheless, I have been fortunate enough to have had some rather intense commando-style training in moving through crowds with my head down, and this was definitely the occasion to use it.

A few minutes later, having managed to avoid eye contact with the vast majority of my kin, I arrived panting at the drinks table, only to discover that my cousins had hired a bartender for the evening to cater to the 70-odd guests and that — being a professional — he had a few bottles of mostly alcoholic drinks on the table and all of the glasses behind him. To my even further dismay, he was using those tiny glasses that people seem to think makes a function more classy, but I’m pretty sure are only used by restaurants to force customers to keep ordering more overpriced drinks as there is no way 200ml of anything can remotely quench anyone’s thirst.

At that point I probably would have started shooting my own family if it meant there was a drink at the end of it, yet I still had to wait for another 3 minutes while the bartender casually served other people as though he had all the goddamn time in the world and there wasn’t some guy standing there about to collapse from dehydration. When I finally managed to grab him by the arms his attention, I ordered three glasses of sparkling water (there was no still) which, after what seemed like an eternity of pouring, I was finally able to gulp down.

Now I am not telling this story not just to vent — I’m getting to the point, I promise you.

Putting the drinks at the back and guarded by the bartender would seem like a perfectly natural thing to do when putting on a function of that size which was not a breaking-of-the-fast. For those of us who did fast, however, it was torture. This is relevant because it suggests — as was the case — that most of my family did not fast. In fact, most of my family were not even at any shul services.

I have done calculations before that put shul attendance on Yom Kippur in Sydney at about 50% of Sydney’s Jews, excluding those who cannot make it because they are too young, too elderly or too unhealthy. There are many reasons why the other half of our community do not attend and if you had the next week or two to keep reading this I could perhaps list most of them, but as it is I may have to settle for one or two.

One thing that I can say for sure is this: the men in my family may put in an appearance at shul, but the women don’t go. Similarly, the women do not fast. That is true across the board — my sister, my mother, my grandmother, my aunties, my female cousins — they all arrived at dinner much earlier than those of us who were rushing home from the ne’ila service for the reason of having been not at the service and not fasting. (Some will tell you that they fasted until the afternoon, but to me that is called ‘skipping breakfast’ and happens once a week, not once a year. Also, in fairness, my mother did go to shul — but I will explain that below.)

This, while perhaps unfortunate, is unsurprising. As you may have gathered, my family is not particularly observant of our religion. Despite this, almost without fail, they have seats at Central Synagogue. That is the major Orthodox synagogue in Sydney, which charges an obscene amount of money for seats that people renew each year but never sit on.

In a religion and a culture that is theoretically so focused on questions and discussion, you would think that at some point people would ask questions like “why do I pay $3,000 every year to attach a little chrome plate with my name inscribed onto a chair in a synagogue that I never intend to ever sit on?” But ours is a community that is never taught to ask these things — all we really “know” is that it would be “wrong” not to fork-out the cash.

I think I may have touched on this before, but I follow Mazorti and not Orthodox Judaism primarily because we do not believe in forcing the women to the back of the room and hiding them away, lest we be distracted from the important things — like peering over the shoulder of the guy in front to see where we are up to in the service, counting the amount of pages left, then crying a little when we realise that we have only gone through five pages in the last half hour because the chazzan loves his annual moment in the spotlight and feels the need to drag each syllable out as far as it can possibly be stretched and then repeat the whole line.

You know, because you can’t do that if you’re standing next to your mother. She might distract you, by being female and therefore quite possibly having cooties. Or something.

I, for one, can attest to the falsity of these entrenched tenets of Orthodoxy. I spent part of Tuesday night standing next to my mother in shul and still managed to not follow the service like a pro — I must have lost my place at least a dozen times.

Point is, if I were a woman and a member of an Orthodox shul (neither of which I am) I wouldn’t go either. I have been to Central on Yom Kippur and peered into that upstairs balcony from whence the womenfolk look down upon the service happening below and I know that what goes on there is not so much prayer as it is… let’s go with “discussion of secular topics”, to be polite. I have no idea why anyone would even need to go to shul to sit and chat when the same thing could be done anywhere else, so why bother?

Another consequence of the gender segregation in shul is that it breaks up families. One relative observed to me that he has a wife and three children and cannot be with them the whole day if they go to shul, so they don’t — and his wife has a very prominent educational role in our community.

Meanwhile, I have also been in the men’s section at the back of Central and found a lesser version of the experience of the women’s section. At least you are not totally excluded from the service and do get the occasional opportunity to reach out and touch the Torah scroll with your tallit as some dude walks by carrying it, but there is still a lot of gossiping and not much davening at all.

One thing it is most certainly not is any kind of spiritual experience — and yet the rabbis wonder why nobody shows up on any other day of the year.

Well, I think it’s a shame. I will stop here because this post is too long already, but bear with me and I will soon explain why I think YK is important and the kinds of things we could be doing instead.

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Ivory tower watch: sure you hate the homosexuals, but if you kill Americans you are in the ‘global left’

Pro-BDS, ‘post-structuralist’ academic Judith Butler has controversially been given some German award that nobody had heard of until they decided to give it to her. But apparently is a big deal in the city of Frankfurt.

I, for one, am completely indifferent outraged!

Well, when I say ‘for one’, what I mean is ‘as one of many’. This incident seems to have sparked a bombardment of Frankfurt the likes of which have not been seen since… the Allies dropped 12,197 tons of explosives on the city in the World War II (more like: World War TOO soon).

Anyway, as Kenan Malik explains, Butler is known less for supporting BDS and more for her godawful writing, which is almost impossible to understand and, for those who have the patience to get their heads around it, says nothing very interesting anyway.

Oh, and there was also this little doozy that seems to have been brought-up a fair bit during said bombardment of Frankfurt:

Benjamin Weinthal and Richard Landes: The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler – WSJ.com.

Participating in an “Anti-War Teach-In” at Berkeley in 2006, Ms. Butler answered a question about Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s place “in the global left.” These are two of the most belligerent movements within the warmongering, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic world of Islamist jihad. Yet while criticizing violence and “certain dimensions of both movements,” Ms. Butler told the students that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”

And there we go: exactly what I’ve been complaining about all this time! This is a self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ claiming two groups to her cause that are not merely conservative, but are actually bent on returning to a 7th Century society in which homosexuals were hung, adulterers were stoned to death and women were neither seen nor heard unless they were being beaten or raped, in which case it was probably their fault and they may be liable for death by stoning since they did technically commit adultery while they were being raped.

Oh and that’s not to mention the whole ‘driving the Jews into the ocean’ thing. Or the part about going to heaven for killing a Jew.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty damn progressive to me. Lucky we have people on the global left to fight against injustice by firing rockets towards civilian areas and hoping to hit something.

*sigh*

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Bitches and ladies: in defence of Lupe Fiasco [song of the week]

Lupe Fiasco has just released the video for his new single ‘Bad Bitch’. In it, he attempts to tackle the depiction of women in hip hop culture.

To me, Lupe is in a league above most of his contemporaries in the mainstream rap scene. His music has a sophistication that most sorely lack and he has a lyrical flow that is close to unmatched. Great rapping is like poetry — the words have a meter and fit the rhythm of the song even when you are reading them from a page.

At his best, Lupe’s lyrics can contain biting, insightful commentary on the society in which we live. The issue of women in hip hop is not a new one for him to be approaching. Take, for example, one of my favourite songs of his — ‘Hurt Me Soul‘:

Now I ain’t tryna be the greatest
I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half
Omittin the word “bitch,” cursin I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, til a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learnt it from a song I heard and sorta liked

And then there’s this absolutely brilliant little send-up of standard rap videos from ‘Daydream’ — possibly his most well-known single:

Now come on everybody, let’s make cocaine cool
We need a few more half naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that’s all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?
And where’s the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain

The subject of the post itself can be seen here:

Meanwhile, the song has not been popular with everyone. In a review that is now the subject of a massive Twitter campaign against Spin magazine, reviewer Brandon Soderberg slammed Lupe for ‘mansplaining’:

Lupe Fiasco Mansplains Some More in the Video for ‘Bitch Bad’ | SPIN | No Trivia.

The whole thing is an impressive exercise in mansplaining. Its hook goes, “Bitch bad, woman good, lady better,” which sounds sweet and all, but does any female want to be called “a lady”? And although the song is a bit more complex than described above — or really, muddled — it is the umpteenth example of so-called “conscious” hip-hop replacing one type of misogyny with another. While listening to Lupe’s well-intentioned grousing, I couldn’t help but think of Azealia Banks, whose pointed use of “cunt” on “212” blew minds and inspired enthusiasm, and whose clothing style might not meet Lupe’s approval. So much of the song’s characterization seems to hinge on the clothes the female character wears (and also how sweet or “nice” she is). …

So often, the appeal of this kind of commentary on hip-hop … feeds on outdated and simplified hip-hop stereotypes. The use of a 50 Cent stand-in for the video also plays into a decade-old understanding of hip-hop as the world of endless thugging and violence, which as I’ve said time and time again lately, just does not represent what rap music actually looks like and sounds like in 2012.

The use of the word “bitch,” sensitively deconstructed by Jay-Z on “99 Problems,” and currently being twisted and challenged by Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj, and many more female MCs, proves that the discussion doesn’t need a backpack rap hustler selling cynicism. [my bold]

The first thing that popped into my head when I read that was, ‘are we talking about the same hip hop?’

So I looked up the current number one in the US. The most popular rap song there at the moment? ‘Whistle’ by Flo Rida.

The lyrics in that song?

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby

And on the subject of depictions? Perhaps these bikini-clad women on jetskis are the new, modern, respected hip hop women that Soderberg was referring to? Or the one on the horse? I think Soderberg may have been a little too hasty in announcing the end of misogyny in rap music.

But then, Soderberg specifically mentioned a few of the female rappers who are causing rap stereotypes to come crashing down like European banks. He seems especially fond of this ‘Azealia Banks’ character. I guess that would be the same Azealia Banks who sang this:

These niggas ain’t fly, got wings like always
You’re finger-fuckin’ the pussy
Lickin’ it all day
Niggas on me cause my position is real sweet
Niggas on me cause all my fabrics cost change

I see what Soderberg was talking about. I guess women everywhere can take comfort in the fact that they have Ms Banks fighting for their cause.

Lupe’s new single may not be the most eloquent deconstruction of gender depictions in hip hop ever written and it may be a little didactic, however that does not mean that it deserves the kind of criticism that Soderberg threw at it.

In terms of mainstream stature, Lupe is almost in the top tier of commercial success and has been around for almost a decade — making him far more influential than any of the other rappers that Soderberg mentioned. Also, he makes some of the best rap music around — infinitely more listenable than Nicki Minaj’s bland, overproduced pop stylings or Azealia Banks’ monotone drawl laid over God-awful David Guetta-esque backing tracks.

‘Bad Bitch’ may be a little obvious in its message, surely Lupe can be forgiven. After all, he has been discussing this issue for his entire career, at times with sophisticated allusions to rap culture. He has released this song as the preview single from his not-yet-released album, illustrating how important he feels this discussion to be.

Soderberg’s reaction is simply patronising, elitist and counter-productive. He clearly would rather maintain his sense of superiority over the average rap fan than give credit to a mainstream rapper like Lupe for doing something positive and important.

Soderberg elevates people saying far worse things than Lupe to some kind of false pedestal in order to whitewash the issue of women in hip hop, as though it had not been a serious problem since 50 Cent’s debut album. He is pretending that the hip hop world is going through a period of deep introspection so that he can slam Lupe for being too late the party.

It’s really quite pathetic.

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It’s about the victims, not Assange

Do the names ‘Sofia Wilen’ and ‘Anna Ardin’ mean anything to you? No? Well then, keep reading.

Ever had that feeling where you’re watching someone on TV and every second brings you closer to throwing something at the screen? I came quite close to breaking my beautiful 47″ LCD last night watching the Julian Assange love-in on ABC 24’s The Drum TV.

The whole thing was abysmal, but I was particularly bothered by Assange biographer Andrew Fowler at 5:00,

Julian Assange is a journalist seeking political asylum from Australia, saying that Australia won’t protect him.

And at 5:20,

I think, you know, the issue of the third party, which is the issue of national security, would appear to be what we’re talking about. We’re not really talking about an extradition for sexual molestation.

He’s right, we are not talking about an extradition for sexual molestation. What we are in fact talking about is an extradition for sexual assault, which is a more serious crime than “molestation”.

But that’s not really what our friend Andrew meant, and we all know that. Yes he was trying to make “rape” sound more palatable by using softer language like “sexual molestation”, but what he was really saying was that there is a US conspiracy to extradite Assange once he reaches Sweden and the rape charges are all a fabrication.

Now where does that line of thought come from exactly? Well, you see, Fowler thinks that Assange is a pretty good guy. Assange seems to be a hero for a lot of people around the world who think that pissing off the US government is more important than the lives of US collaborators in Afghanistan or maintaining good diplomatic relations around the world. I personally don’t agree — I think dumping all of those cables was completely irresponsible and a real hero would have gone through them first and only published ones that were actually important — but Fowler is entitled to his opinion.

Here’s the thing though, there’s this old trope that nice, upstanding guys couldn’t possibly be rapists. When women who were clearly throwing themselves at Assange later accuse him of rape, that must be false — they were obviously asking for it.

It is telling that I get 340 words into this post before I mention the two women who are at the centre of this whole affair. Want to know something ridiculous? I had to look up the names Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin — who, by the way, are the victims. All of this media coverage over the last two years and I did not even know their names off-hand. I do feel a little guilty about this (pun not intended), but then you probably had no idea who they were either.

See, this notoriously egotistical Assange character has managed to convince the world that it is all about him.

This is some huge conspiracy to persecute poor little Julian. It’s really the US, UK, Australian and Swedish governments all secretly coordinating to get him into an electric chair in CIA HQ. He‘s the victim.

Bullshit.

It’s not like we’re talking about an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay here, he’s being extradited from the UK to Sweden. Both are European countries with very strong legal institutions and the rule of law. In fact, there is no logical argument that I can see for Sweden being easier to extradite him from, or why the US wouldn’t be trying to extradite him from the UK right now if that was the intention.

It especially bothers me that so many people seem to be attacking the Swedish legal system for being too easy on rape victims. Seriously. Now that’s the argument that the pro-Assange left is using — end Sweden’s draconian anti-rape policies!

Put simply, Julian Assange is doing everything that is humanly possible to avoid standing trial for rape in a liberal, democratic country. Of course he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but his victims are also entitled to justice. If the Swedish prosecutors believe that they can prove the charges, Assange must have his day in court and if he continues to avoid doing that, it only makes him seem more guilty.

In a way, it feels similar to the people who are willing to overlook the horrific culture of abusing women amongst Palestinians because it doesn’t fit their anti-Israel narrative. Because it’s Assange and they like Assange, he is being treated as an oppressed hero and not an accused rapist.

Here’s the reality: nothing you may like about Assange or Wikileaks means that he is not capable of committing sexual assault. Nothing about the behaviour of those women towards Assange means that they were Asking For It.

If you have any credibility, stop making excuses for Assange, it’s not about him. If Julian Assange had sex with Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin and they did not consent, he is a criminal and should go to jail. The only way to resolve the situation is for him to stand trial in Sweden, which he must do by law. That is all there is to it.

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Women can’t have it all and neither can men

With extraordinary timing, just after last night’s post on high-powered career women, The Atlantic‘s July issue was released with a cover story addressing exactly that issue. In her essay, former director of policy planning for the US State Department Anne-Marie Slaughter  has given her treatise on why she left that dream job after just two years in order to be with her family and how society can change our expectations in order to better accommodate work-family balance.

I can’t do her argument justice, so please go and read the essay (it’s very important). There is, however, one point that I would like to focus on relating my post yesterday (my bold):

Magazine – Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – The Atlantic.

Still, the proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.

This supposition is the issue. Slaughter does give evidence later that is closer to my perspective, however it does not seem to change her perception from what she has encountered in her “experience” (my bold):

To be sure, the women who do make it to the top are highly committed to their profession. On closer examination, however, it turns out that most of them have something else in common: they are genuine superwomen.

Seeking out a more balanced life is not a women’s issue; balance would be better for us all. Bronnie Ware, an Australian blogger who worked for years in palliative care and is the author of the 2011 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, writes that the regret she heard most often was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” The second-most-common regret was “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” She writes: “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.” …

What I glean from this type of thing is the harm that is genuinely being done by gender-normative assumptions — not just to women, but to us men as well. The assumption here is that men won’t care about being away from their family and will naturally just spend more time working.

It seems that people have been extremely reluctant to acknowledge the sacrifices that men at the top actually make in order to be there. It could be that this phenomenon that we’re seeing is not a case of society having created top-jobs that women can’t do because women care about family too much. Maybe it’s a case of society having created top jobs that are extremely difficult, and the women who were born into the egalitarian era are just beginning to discover how true this is.

I am a little offended by this idea that it is something reasonable to expect of men, but unreasonable to expect of women. Even Slaughter here has made the assumption that the men around her were not hurting just as much about the fact that they weren’t spending time with their family.

Maybe the difference was not that she had some kind of inherent need that they didn’t feel — maybe it’s simply that it is more socially acceptable for her to make the decision to sacrifice career for family because, while she may be seen as “betraying her feminist principles”, she will not face the stigma that the men would of being “weak”, “not dedicated enough”, or — dare I say — “girly”.

Of course, evolutionary psychologists would disagree with this idealised view that human nature is so malleable and would argue that men and women really are wired that way. Even accepting this as true, the furthest that this argument can go is to say that most women on average will be inherently more likely to want to sacrifice their careers for their families than most men. There would still be countless men and women who do not fit this characterisation.

Men have, of course, become much more involved parents over the past couple of decades, and that, too, suggests broad support for big changes in the way we balance work and family. It is noteworthy that both James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, and William Lynn, deputy secretary of defense, stepped down two years into the Obama administration so that they could spend more time with their children (for real).

Going forward, women would do well to frame work-family balance in terms of the broader social and economic issues that affect both women and men. After all, we have a new generation of young men who have been raised by full-time working mothers. Let us presume, as I do with my sons, that they will understand “supporting their families” to mean more than earning money.

I don’t see why this needs to be a “framing” issue. Why can’t we just accept that work-life balance is important for everyone? This idea that it’s a “feminist” fight immediately isolates anyone who does not define themselves that way. This is not about making work easier for women or men, it’s about strengthening families, improving peoples’ working lives and improving the wellbeing of parents and children.

And where are the Unions on this one? It seems a hell of a lot more important than keeping those damn foreigners from taking our jerbs.

That said, I will end with the point made here by Rod Dreher — who, as he describes in that post, is a man who sacrificed his career to spend more time with his family.

Slaughter is still hanging onto the 1960’s feminist dream that women can “have it all” and that is what her solutions are geared towards. Her solutions would definitely help with peoples’ work/family balance in general, however they would not allow women to “have it all”.

The unfortunate reality is that no one can ever have it all. It is impossible to do everything. There is no conceivable way that someone can work a 60-hour week and still have a huge amount of time with their families and there is no way that someone who works less than that can compare with someone who does work that much. At some point, everyone has to make a trade-off: some will choose their family, and some will choose their career. We can try to ease the conflicts as much as possible, but they will never go away completely.

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Gina Rinehart and how self-styled “progressives” are keeping the boardroom male

This is the first of two posts on Gina Rinehart,  resulting from a few debates that I have been having over the past few days, mostly on Facebook. The other one will consider her Fairfax bid and press freedom.

IN MY line of work, I get to spend quite a lot of time in high-level boardroom meetings with people who all sit on corporate boards. I also have a few relatives who have sat on various boards in their time and my extended networks include quite a number of others. This means that while am not on any corporate boards, I am not a stranger to them either.

I still remember the first time I was at one of said meetings and a female colleague muttered to me, “do you notice anything particularly… male about the room?” The truth was that I hadn’t. While I had definitely noticed that I was the youngest person in the room by at least a decade (two if you didn’t count her). Until she pointed it out to me, it did not occur to me that she was the only woman there.

That incident jolted me into awareness. Since then, I have been paying attention to the gender balance when I am in corporate settings and a lot of observations have struck me that anecdotally support the mountains of research showing that the boardroom is simply not a place for girls. Not once in the last couple of years have I ever seen anything that even comes close to gender balance. Several times, there have actually been no women present. I also find that the “higher-level” the meeting, the less women tend to be invited.

That said, there are other observations that I can make about people in boardrooms than merely their gender. They are generally very sure of themselves – often manifesting as arrogance, but always including a calm and confident demeanour. They are hard-working, ambitious and persistent to the point of obsession, they know what they want and they make it happen. They are uncompromising – they expect the best and will not accept anything less. They are often very blunt and straight-talking. They can be friendly and charming when they want to, but they can be aggressive and intimidating when they have to.

I note these things not as a criticism of the corporate world and certainly not as an affront to the people that I am writing about. I have a tremendous amount of respect for most of them, they work harder than anyone else I know and they do amazing and under-appreciated (if not under-paid) work, without which our society could not function.

I MENTIONED those character traits is because of a common thread running through them: they are generally “alpha male” traits, they are not things that women are “supposed” to be. Women are loving, conciliatory, family-oriented and selfless. Women are neurotic and emotional, they doubt themselves, they shut-down and cry when bad things happen and they panic when they are stressed. They are not confident, ambitious, persistent and aggressive. When shit hits the fan, they are the ones panicking and screaming, not the ones who take-charge – at least in most sitcoms. [UPDATE: as the comments show, apparently this paragraph was not interpreted correctly by everyone, so I need to give a disclaimer. The previous paragraph was not intended to be a true and accurate reflection of how all women behave, it was supposed to be illustrative of a stereotype.]

Again, I am not trying to say that it is a bad thing for someone to put others first, display their emotion and focus more on relationships than outcomes. I am trying to say that doing this is unlikely to get you ahead in the corporate world (or in other areas of public life). If you doubt yourself, the person who believes in themself will get the pay-rise or the promotion. If you shut-down and cry or panic, someone else will take charge. If you compromise, someone else won’t and they will have the better result in the end. Potential alone can only get you so far, there is not a lot of room at the top and to get there requires hard work, sacrifices and, above all, wanting to be there more than everyone else.

The public image of most successful women in Australia does not fit the stereotype of a high-powered Director. I say “public image” because, from my experience, the women who get to these positions do have most of these traits in private, but are able to create a persona that comes across as more “feminine” when they want to.

I refuse to believe that the corporate exec described above is actually gender-related. I know plenty of men who do not act like that. That character is simply how a person needs to act in order to reach the top of the corporate ladder – possibly the most competitive position anyone can aspire to reach (except maybe professional athlete). Other high-profile positions (rockstar, politician etc) require a huge amount of luck as well as hard work, becoming a CEO or company chair is about nothing except ability, attitude and work ethic.

THERE IS one very notable exception: Gina Rinehart. Here is a woman who is overweight and unattractive, but clearly not too concerned about her appearance and uninterested in the world of glamour and fashion. She is abrasive, intimidating and even a bully. She is willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, without regard to the way it makes her look or the people she is offending. She is ambitious, single-minded and dedicated to the point where she supposedly goes without any of the frills that other billionaires afford themselves so that she can re-invest all her money into her company.

She is also not a “loving mother” figure by any stretch of the imagination. She is reportedly quiet and reserved in person and she keeps her personal affairs completely private. What did leak last year was that, having judged her children as inept for running her company, she offered them each $300mln a year in return for signing-away their shares. When they refused, she fought them all the way to the High Court – becoming estranged in the process.

Meanwhile, her achievements are incredible. She inherited a floundering, debt-ridden mining company that was making its money from a lucky break and transformed it into a hugely profitable, gigantic operation – becoming the world’s wealthiest woman in the process. She is now in the process of planning the biggest Australian-owned mining development in history and is funding it entirely on her own.  Yes, she was born into some wealth due to a lucky find by her father, but many people born into wealth spend their lives turning a large fortune into a small one. She turned a small fortune into a gargantuan one.

And yet she is being punished for this – not by the Andrew Bolts and Alan Jones’ of this world, but by the very people that would generally be the first to jump to her defence if she hadn’t made the unfortunate mistake of being a Conservative and one of the mining magnates vilified by Wayne Swan. Oh, as well as committing the awful sin of giving jobs to people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in Australia.

The best (but not the only) example was the abuse she received from David Marr and Miriam Margolyes on Q and A last month:

Note: I did not criticise the others as Barry Humphries was playing a character, Tony Jones was trying to defend her while still maintaining his “distance” as chair, Jacki Weaver seemed a little stunned and John Hewson later said he regretted not arguing but felt overwhelmed. Also, Marr and Margolyes were the two noted “feminists” on the panel.

THAT INCIDENT did receive fairly wide coverage – in News Ltd papers. It was all but ignored in the ABC, Fairfax (well, aside from the SMH’s balance columnist), New Matilda etc. Some good responses were written that I could find in more minor leftist publications, however it was generally her political allies that were jumping to her defence. More anecdotally, the people on my social networks who would normally be concerned about this kind of thing have been completely silent.

Why is this such a problem? Because it shows that this kind of abuse is acceptable for women that the left don’t like. It sends the message that the only reason anyone complains about comments aimed at Julia Gillard or Christine Milne is that they are on the left and not because this kind of discourse should be unacceptable. It reaffirms the idea that women shouldn’t act like CEOs, which discourages women from acting like CEOs, which in turn means women won’t become CEOs.

To some degree I think that it may be that people who hold corporate leaders in contempt yet think they want to see more women being corporate leaders were somehow expecting female corporate leaders to be more like “women” and less like “businessmen”. The issues inherent in that assumption should speak for themselves.

It’s all well and good to conduct research and then complain about the lack of women at the top, but unless there are a lot of ambitious and competitive young women willing to fight to get there, nothing will ever change.

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Discrimination in Australian Jewry… again

Just saw this post on Galus, showing the number of female speakers in Melbourne shuls over Shavuot (in most cases, the number was “0”).

Shavuot Scorecard – Where are the Women? | Galus Australis | Jewish Life in Australia.

I may have a bit too much time on my hands this week, and I did a little survey after I received an email of all the Tikkun Leil Shavuot events happening in Orthodox shules [eds: The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is an evening of Torah learning that is held on the first night of Shavuot].

Each shule is hosting between 3-11 speakers on the night. Below is a list of how many women are speaking at each shule.

St Kilda Shule: 0

South Caulfield: 0

Elwood: 0

Spiritgrow: 0

Chabad Malvern: 0

Elsternwick Shule: 0

Hamayan: 0

Yeshiva: 0

CBH – Katanga: 0

Chabad Glen Eira: 0

Kew Hebrew Congregation: 0

Chabad on Carlisle: 0

Blake Street: 1

Bnei Akiva: 1

Mizrachi: 1

Caulfield Shule: 1

Beit Aharon: 2

Shira: 7

Regular readers may know that I have been looking at a lot of material on discrimination recently — mostly to do with racial discrimination, but there is an obvious overlap with gender.

A couple of very important points to note are firstly that discrimination is generally not a conscious decision and secondly that it is generally hard to see in individual cases, but reveals itself when you start looking at the broader picture.

This is a case in point. No doubt, each shul would have a very reasonable explanation for who they invited, but taken as a whole, it is obvious that Melbourne’s shuls are not interested in hearing from women. I would venture a guess that the picture would not look too different in Sydney (or indeed in most Orthodox communities).

This is once again a sign that Orthodox Judaism is a sect by and for men. As I have often maintained, manifest discrimination during the religious service filters into all other aspects of life on some level. This is off-putting even for people like me who are not women.

Yet the rabbis of these shuls are sitting there, staring at thousands of empty seats and wonder what could possibly be keeping their congregation away…

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Why do they hate Mona Eltahawy for speaking about Arab women?

Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy has a piece in this month’s Foreign Policy on the problems faced by women in the Arab world. This is a very important article and I would encourage you all to read it, but I want to highlight the central point in her thesis — which has been proven overwhelmingly by the response that has exploded literally hours since her article went online (the print edition is not even out yet).

Eltahawy begins her essay with the point that when anyone normally brings up the issue of Arab women, they are shouted-down with problems women face in the West. As if this is a reason not to speak about something far, far worse.

This is the third-worldist cultural relativism that I have highlighted a few times. It is the insipid prejudice of low expectations — using “cultural differences” to justify holding others to a lower standard. It’s hard to even imagine the outcry that would follow a white, American pastor coming out in support of female genital mutilation — yet one of the leading clerical celebrities in the Arab world does so unashamedly and no one blinks. He even gets invited to hang out with London Mayoral candidate and career antisemite Ken Livingstone.

If no one says anything, nothing will ever get done about this. Good on Eltahawy for standing up to the cultural pressures trying to crush her into silence. Elections in Egypt will not bring democracy so long as female candidates cannot even have their faces on electoral material.

Why Do They Hate Us? – By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy.

So: Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries (I live in one of them). That’s where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.

But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.” What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either. …

First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man — Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation — but they will be finished by Arab women.

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The battle for marriage equality in Israel

For those of you not yet aware, I identify with the Mazorti (Conservative) stream of Judaism. Minor jurisprudential differences aside, the most obvious distinction between Mazorti and Modern Orthodox Judaism — and the one most apparent to anyone who actually attends a service of either — is that Modern Orthodoxy maintains the millenia-old archaic Jewish practise of gender segregation, while Mazorti does not. In Orthodox synagogues, I pray in male-only areas and am preached to by rabbis who can only be men, who stand on bimot (pulpits) on which only men can stand and read from torah scrolls from which only men can read. Meanwhile, the women are in a gallery above us where they can be neither seen nor heard. There is something dreadfully medieval about the whole experience, which I have found myself consciously avoiding recently. The Mazorti service has the same feel as the Orthodox one, follows the same procedure and sings the same prayers to the same tunes, the only noticeable difference being that I can sit with all of my family and friends, rather than have half of them forced to be somewhere out of sight on the basis of gender.

Why am I saying this now? Well another Mazorti man — Mati Gill — has written in the Times of Israel against Israel’s current marriage laws, which recognise only religious marriages and places all “Jewish” marriages under the purview of the Haredi-controlled State Rabbinate.

The rabbinate: Making a practice of discrimination | Mati Gill | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel.

The official Israeli establishment recognizes me as a Jew, just not the way I choose to practice. The government of Israel continues to allow the ultra-Orthodox to fully control all Jewish-religious life in Israel.

They don’t accept that I prefer to pray in places of worship that allow women to take an active and equal part.

I am not allowed to choose the rabbi I wish will marry me one day.

When I pass away, the ceremony with which I will be buried will be dictated to my loved ones. I cannot choose the rabbi and cannot ask that I be eulogized by a female …

My sister Hadara and her fiancé Noam grew up, like me, as Conservative Jews. They went to a traditional high school and were active in the local Conservative youth movements, which were affiliated with the affluent Rama program. They will be wed this summer by a rabbi of their personal choosing in their own community of Kfar Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Their wedding will not count. Our family and friends will watch them stand below the huppah, reciting all the traditional blessings and text, sign a ketubah, exchange rings and break the glass. But their marriage will still not be recognized as Jewish. They will, absurdly, need to wed somewhere overseas in front of a civil judge in order to obtain marital status in Israel. Yet, still, their marriage will not be recognized as a “kosher” Jewish marriage.

This situation is absurd, discriminatory and isolatory. Ironically, the Israeli political party most dedicated to ending it is Yisrael Beitenu, with whom I disagree on most of their Putin-esque policies. When the majority of Jews in the world do not identify as Orthodox, howe does it make any sense to exclude them from Jewish ceremonies in Israel? Surely that will only isolate the Jewish people from the Jewish homeland.

The Orthodox community in Israel is clearly moving in a direction that no one else agrees with. Their domination of the State’s Jewish institutions needs to end.

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Why does Australia’s state media give a column to Hizb-ut Tahrir?

Uthman Badar seems to write regularly for The Drum. I do not understand how the ABC still has a columnist who is a spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir. I don’t have time to go into the details, but suffice to say that everyone in the UK has known exactly who HuT are since the 2006 London bombings — and if they had known before, there may not have been any 2006 London bombings.

Meanwhile, the man himself wrote yesterday trying to claim that giving sons twice the inheritance of daughters is not discriminatory. I do not have time right now to write a whole breakdown, but luckily his argument falls flat on its own accord.

Women undervalued: is Liberalism or Islam guilty? – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Caroline Overington, who first reported [pay-walled] the case in the media this week for The Australian, wrote:

The imam of the Canberra Islamic Centre, Adama Konda, agreed that the “standard expectation is that a Muslim will leave full shares to sons and half-shares to daughters” because “one boy is equal to two girls”.

Notice how the two directly quoted statements have the word ‘because’ inserted, by the reporter, in between them. Why? Well because the Imam, as is clear in the court transcript, did not say ‘because’, he was simply explaining what the law is, not giving its reasoning.

But Ms Overington felt the need – for that requisite pinch of sensationalism it seems – to present an explanation of what the law was as being the reason for that law, so it could be made out as if Islam attaches, per se, a lower worth to women relative to men, and that this is the reason why a daughter’s share of inheritance is less than a son’s.

To me, the word “because” was not the most influential part of that paragraph, but anyway. Read on (my bold):

… As for the reason why male children inherit double the share of female children, this has nothing to do with the worth ascribed to either gender. Indeed, only those who see the world through the lens of wealth and materialism would infer the worth of people from the material gains they receive. Rather, the law has a context and is part of a larger coherent framework.

Ah! So the female children are not worth less, they just deserve less because, at the end of the day, inheritance is just stuff. Right?

The consideration, which accounts for the differences, is not for who is valued more, but is based on factors such as the degree of kinship between the heir and testator (closer heirs getting more), the placement of the heir in the sequence of generations (younger heirs getting more), and degree of financial responsibility towards others (those with greater responsibility getting more).

The female has no continual financial responsibilities as a child, sister, wife or mother; these responsibilities are always on the men of the family. The husband is obligated to cover the expenses of his wife’s basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, as well as to cover the expenses of their children’s upbringing. The wife is absolved of these duties, though she may assist if she chooses to. She has a set right, by law, in his wealth, but he does not have a right in her wealth.

If we were to apply the atomistic view of liberalism, we may now argue that men are discriminated against! Of course, this would miss the point entirely, which is that the problem is not with Islam, but with the premises of liberalism which divorce the individual from the community and, in an abstract appeal to an intrinsic equality, neglect the circumstances of the real world, taking as a focal point the imagined, apolitical and ahistorical, free individual.

So the dependent female is not valued less than the independent male who is obligated to provide for her and she is, by the same token, obligated to depend on him (well, supposedly she can choose to take on the “duties” of being self-reliant — I wonder if Badar’s wife does).

I bet Badar’s daughters will be forever grateful that Islam has absolved them of the duty to look after themselves and their families. Lucky them.

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