Frum women dangle. Their car keys, usually attached to photos of their children and grandchildren, their house keys, iPod, supermarket card and gym locker tokens are all hanging off them. In one hand they are holding clunky wallets brimming with credit cards, dry cleaning receipts, parking tickets and cash. In the other, they are clutching onto an important database of sociological data currently held on the SIM card of their mobile phone. Find the phone and you will unlock all the important numbers a woman needs to know: shaytel macher, kosher butcher, mikvaot, rabbi, my cleaner and her sister in Poland.
However, one item sits on the other side of the electronic mehitzah – the Blackberry. This symbol of manly achievement eludes most frum women, for it symbolises corporate power and importance. It means you’ve got a well paying job.
However, this may all change now that the pink Blackberry has been launched in the UK. If a woman’s accoutrements are her calling card, then surely the pink Blackberry will become a lifestyle item for the religous woman allowing her to retain her modest femininity while telling the world that she too, is a very important person with a very busy schedule.
Pink used to be an innocent colour: Barbie dolls, bridesmaids dresses, icing on the birthday cake. Our pinky was for pretending to be posh while holding a cup of tea and we had no idea that a pinko was a communist sympathiser. How things have changed: now teenage girls around me are fully aware that the pink collar lapel is for breast cancer. Young mothers are dying around them, and many of these teenage girls are involved in charitable efforts to raise money for cancer research. They also know that lesbians have politicised the colour pink, and that the pink pound refers to the disposable income of gay people. So, who is the pink Blackberry really for – drag queens, soccer moms or lipstick lesbians?
Gay issues now have a prominent place on the social agenda. For example, Stonewall, a gay advocacy group recently put posters up all over the London underground railway, “Some people are gay. Get over it.” When my children saw this they giggled, and then were embarrassed when they realised that I had also seen it. I am being forced to discuss these issues with my children at a relatively young age, long before they have had a chance to understand their own sexuality, let alone begin to understand how Judaism views homosexuality. The media is a prominent vehicle for promoting a gay lifestyle: on YouTube, Lizzy the Lezzy, an English born Israeli is emerging as a gay icon. In her feature, Lizzy the Lezzie does Gay Israel, she poses the question, ‘Why is it good to be gay in Israel?’ An attractive woman replies, ‘Because there are so many gorgeous girls.’
Thousands of young girls are listening to Katy Perry’s popular track, ‘I kissed a girl.’ The lyrics are very provocative and disturbing:
I kissed a girl, and I liked it.
The taste of her cherry chapstick.
I kissed a girl, Just to try it.
I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.
No, I don’t even know your name,
It doesn’t matter, you’re my experimental game,
Just human nature. it’s not what good girls do,
Not how they should behave.
I kissed a girl, and I liked it.
Us girls we are so magical,
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable,
Hard to resist, so touchable.
Too good to deny it…
Now I know why some parents only let their children listen to Uncle Moishy.
But I don’t live in a bubble and our frum teenagers know a lot more about homosexuality than we can even imagine. The conversation in the religious community tends to focus on male homosexuality, and is usually summed up in a couple of sentences: ‘Homosexuality is forbidden by the Torah. You can’t be religious and gay.’ The fiasco surrounding the Gay parade in Israel, or formal Jewish participation in Gay parades abroad distracts attention from the day to day, and often poignant struggle of religious Jews who realise that they are gay.
I want to know how parents are discussing the complexities of this situation with their daughters, particularly just before they go to ‘sem’ on their gap year after high school. 18 year old girls, away from home, are very vulnerable and research has shown a high incidence of eating disorders in the close confines and somewhat pressured world of the religious seminary. What about sexual experimentation in such an environment where access to boys is usually quite limited? The rules of ‘shomer negiah’ (the touching of the opposite sex which is forbidden before marriage) certainly don’t apply.
Being slightly pinko myself, I try not to judge people’s personal relationships and I don’t want my children to be homophobic, racist or sexist. If biology is destiny, then surely we are obligated to support a religious person who acknowledges their homosexuality and does not want to lead a double life that will inevitably end in tragedy for all those he or she duped. Nevertheless, a gay religious person is also destined to a life on the margins, whether that be within their own community or when they venture out into the general society that may not understand their religious convictions. Do we want our children to have conventional married lives merely because it removes the angst of not belonging?
So, until our daughters are married they may just have to settle for a pink Blackberry which advertises itself as “the phone that gives you everything you need – without sacrificing everything you want.” Yes, the pink Blackberry may just be the man that every single frum woman is waiting for.
Cross-posted to the Jerusalem Post blog.