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Lines of communication

“JAP-Baiting” HOW TO FIGHT BACK

To the Editor:

Congratulations to LILITH and my special thanks to Judith Rubenstein for bringing my research and social action on campus “JAP-baiting” to the attention of your readers [issue#17] and indeed to the nation.

Until recently, I have been feeling quite isolated, a little lonely…. Now, with your help, the issues are spreading to other campuses and hopefully also to many Jewish communities where the self-denigration begins….

It is unfortunate that the media have focused on the “JAP-joke” and whether or not feminists have a “sense of humor.” My research shows quite clearly that “JAP-jokes”… progress to more serious issues of gender denigration, sexual harassment, implied physical and sexual violence, and ugly annihilationist sentiment. One has only to look at the Syracuse example to see the ugly consequences of what students have come to view simply as “harmless fun.”

The issue transcends the degree to which feminists do or do not have a sense of humor. “JAP-baiting” is a pernicious slur. It is participated in by Jewish women against other Jewish women, by Jewish men against Jewish women, and by non-Jewish men and women against Jewish and non-Jewish women. When Jews denigrate one another they give legitimacy to non- Jews to do likewise, and an environment is created that permits those who hate to join in with impunity. At its roots are the all-too-familiar issues of sexism, sexual denigration, class and regional antagonisms, anti- Semitism, and ignorance regarding how stereotyping leads to “false correlations” between appearance and behavior.

We at Syracuse are now working hard to reduce the “JAP-baiting”, and issues of sexism and bigotry more generally are being seriously addressed by students and administrators. There is resistance, but there is also a rising tide of support. Above all what must be overcome are ignorance, denial. and indifference. For too long, gender and ethnic denigration have been simply accepted as part of the everyday reality of campus life.

Again, thank you for your efforts. Let us continue to join battle against bigotry and ignorance in all its forms.

by Gary Spencer, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Syracuse University, Syracuse NY

To the Editor:

I have been a subscriber since the inception of your magazine. It has been a revelation to me to find many of my thoughts and concerns in print. It is difficult enough to be Jewish, but to be a Jewish feminist woman often lends itself to paradox. I have shared your magazine with my college-age daughters, and your latest issue especially has touched them deeply.

Lately, I have felt a rising tide of anti-Semitism. It seems that it is more acceptable to be overt in making gestures and voicing vicious and hateful thoughts about Jews—particularly Jewish women.

The Reagan backlash has allowed a vacuum into which negative actions are fed. “JAPing” is partially a result of the times; unfortunately, I believe, it is also fed by our own poor images of ourselves as Jewish women. This can be undone by learning our own unique history and tradition.

Thanks to LILITH, we are beginning.

by Karen Schulte, Oakdale NY

KEMPNER AS ORAL HISTORY

To the Editor:

With regard to the interview with Vitke Kempner [fighter in the Vilna ghetto, profiled in issue #16], I fail to see the value of literally transcribing the grammatical mistakes of the interviewee, who was speaking in neither her native nor adopted tongue. I think Ms. Cantor’s technique performed a disservice to the interviewee as well as making her story harder for the reader to follow.

by Dr. Daniella Saltz, Ann Arbor MI

Aviva Cantor responds:
We gave a great deal of thought to this question. We felt strongly that words spoken in an interview could not be treated as words originally written down on paper. In a printed interview, as in a radio interview, it is important to “hear” the speaker’s voice, her own words, as she spoke them. Furthermore, Kempner’s words are part of our history, even as her actions are. It would have been both a disservice and a dishonor to Kempner—and to the historical record —to change her words.

COVER PHOTO OF AN ARGENTINE MADRE

Dear LILITH:
I am one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and my photograph was published on the front of LILITH
#15. I want to thank you for the article about us.

by Maria Lugo de Sans, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The photograph of Mrs. de Sans was a still from the film “The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” by Susana Munoz and Lourdes Portillo), which we wrote about in our story, “My Children Are Disappeared: An Argentine Mother’s Nightmare” in issue #15. The identity of Mrs. de Sans was not known to us at the time we received the photograph, and we are glad to bring it to our readers’ attention.—Ed.