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Reclaiming Our Reputation

Too Smart, Too Strong, Too Sexy, Too Loud

Jewish women in America have been caught between two conflicting sets of instructions: “Be all you can be” and “Behave nicely.”

These injunctions may not be so different from the messages every female gets as she’s socialized into womanhood. But Jewish women’s role models have been a little different (as our history has been). The shtetl models of outspoken activism (the yenta, the “big mouth” organizer, even the baleboste who makes soup from a stone) contrast sharply with the more passive, straitlaced Victorian Lady, an ideal which led some Jewish women into a frenzy of straightening our bodies, our voices, our hair, our noses, our houses. And no other women have been so consistently portrayed and betrayed by diverse and disparaging stereotypes: Domineering Mother. Pouting Princess. Rabid Radical.

One of Lilith’s missions is to lay claim to the powerful positive role models at the heart of these images. In even,’ decade of Lilith’s existence we have had to revisit this subject, explaining to each new generation of Jewish girls why calling a peer a JAP is, in fact, a slur.