What a Papaya Has to do with Jewish Feminism
One of the first pieces I ever wrote for the Lilith blog, in April 2013, was about how to perform a manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) abortion on a papaya. An MVA is one type of early abortion, and a papaya is a realistic model for a uterus. I wanted to write in order to at least begin to break apart some of the stigma around abortion—in this case that it’s dirty, dangerous, and that doctors who perform it aren’t legitimate. As long as the procedure remains a mystery, the stigma continues to be perpetuated.
When I pitched the piece to the blog’s then editor Sonia Isard, she did not ask, “How is this Jewish?” There was no need to sell an angle, to summon a Jewish connection, because there already was one—Jewish people have abortions. That reality was, and is, enough for an article. The importance was understood, there was no need for proof.
I wrote other pieces after that were less explicitly political—about my mother, her early death, and what that death prevented me from knowing about her, and by extension, about myself. Again, there was no questioning or demand to “make this Jewish.” The strength of an identity does its own work—folding in on, pressing, infusing. How fear is inherited, what we forget, what we mistake, what we’re never told—those are experiences that are universal, but are also certainly impacted by my Jewish imprint.