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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category

Beyond Patriarchy


by: Letty Cottin Pogrebin on October 23rd, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s note: Our Winter 2019 issue is going to address how we can move beyond patriarchy, and some visions and ideas of what a world beyond patriarchy might look like.
Tikkun is a non-profit and we are legally prevented from endorsing candidates or political parties. The article below is not a statement of Tikkun‘s position, but a reflection of one of the founders of Ms. magazine, and is published here in honor of her long contribution to the development of 2nd wave feminism, and not as a reflection of an editorial position by Tikkun.

In April, Tikkun magazine asked: What would a world beyond patriarchy look like? The question hooked me. My brain took flight, imagination soared, hope sprang nocturnal. But after six months, I still hadn’t written the piece. How come? Writer’s block was an unlikely culprit since I’ve been churning out pages for a new memoir. Finally, I realized what the problem is: I could no longer envision a world beyond patriarchy.

This election boils down to a simple binary choice. Photo by Mirah Curzer

In 1975, for the anthology, Women in the Year 2000, a bunch of activist optimists, among them myself, Gloria Steinem, David Saperstein, Nora Sayre, Alvin Toffler, and the then Congresswoman Bella Abzug, were asked to imagine what the world would look like for women twenty five years in the future. In 1975, everything seemed possible. Second Wave feminism had already beached a wide tide of progressive change. We had Title VII, Title IX, affirmative action, and dozens of states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Nixon was out, Ford was weak, a pride of Democratic lions who claimed to be “pro-women” (Jerry Brown, Mo Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris, Jimmy Carter) had their eye on the Oval Office, and Time magazine bestowed its 1975 “Man of the Year” award to “American Women.”


PINK Armenia: Some Personal Reflections


by: Paul von Blum on August 27th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Sara Rampazzo

In two recent trips to Armenia, I had the privilege of visiting the headquarters of PINK Armenia in Yerevan and talking to many of the people involved with this courageous human rights organization. PINK (Public Information and Need of Knowledge) Armenia is a NGO dedicated to serving the LGBT community in Armenia. It has taken the lead in publicizing the plight and protecting the rights of women and men who, tragically, have been subject to ostracism, persecution, and even physical violence.

Armenia is a young and vibrant democracy. Recently, the Armenian people rose up and peacefully overthrew the corrupt government of Serzh Sargsyan and replaced him with Nikol Pahsinyan in a Velvet Revolution. The new Prime Minister promised to address the rampant disparity of wealth and power and many other serious problems. The prognosis is good but guarded; it is far from easy to change such deep-seated problems as corruption and economic domination by predatory oligarchs.

Deeper social change is even more difficult. The issue of homophobia remains extremely troubling. Armenia, like its neighbors Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Georgia, has extremely conservative values about sexuality. Fueled by religious orthodoxy and entrenched social convention, LGBT people have an extremely difficult time if they are open about their sexual orientation in these areas.

PINK Armenia has systematically documented the discrimination against Armenian citizens whose sexual orientation differs from that of the majority of the population. In 2016, it published a report entitled “Hate Crimes and Other Motivated Incidents Against LGBT People in Armenia.” Its findings are both unsurprising and depressing. The report revealed substantial examples of hate crimes against LGBT people; moreover, many gays and lesbians often hide their sexual orientations in order to avoid discrimination and violence and others decide not to report hate crimes. The reported figures are therefore lower than what actually occurs.


Religions Discriminating Against Same-Sex Couples are Religions Lacking Moral Authority


by: Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld on June 5th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Long long ago in a land far far away at the world’s Middle East then under Roman rule, a man with ivory white skin and long flowing blond hair (really, I thought you said he was from the Middle East?) proclaimed:

“Thou shall not eateth cake if thou expecteth to marry someone of thine own sex, for it is abomination. If thou eateth said treat, thou shall burneth in the flames of the deep hot confectionery hellhole for eternity!”

While the historical Jesus of Nazareth has been shown never to have asserted any mention of same-sex sexuality, same-sex marriage, or the purchase and consumption of baked goods for same-sex couples, people with same-sex attractions and love interests have suffered the ravages of religious persecution throughout the ages on “religious” grounds.

Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed religious dogma to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.

The United States of America was founded on Christian justifications for oppression, utilizing so-called “religious” rationalizations for slavery, bans on interracial marriage, advancing racial segregation, against women’s enfranchisement and the rights of women to control their bodies, opposition to public schooling, banning public education and other services for people with disabilities, restrictions on immigration and voting rights, imposition of school prayer and so-called “Blue Laws” prohibitingSundaysales, and many other areas of public policy.


The Jewish Woman Whose Story Rebukes Hollywood Stereotypes of Female Spies


by: Gregory Wallance on March 28th, 2018 | Comments Off

Hollywood has a hang up with women spies. Tinsel town can’t envision them other than as one dimensional women whose espionage is sex driven.

There are the femme fatales who erotically lure men into dangerous or compromising situations, obtain their secrets, and then betray them. Consider a 2014 episode of “Homeland,” where CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) seduces a teenage Pakistani asset and then uses the love struck boy as bait to catch a terrorist but succeeds only in getting the boy killed. Essentially, a misogynistic concept of women spies as destructive to men.

Then there are the women who are forced into spying as a form of bondage. Think “Femme Nikita” (her choice: life in prison or become a spy) or the recently released “Red Sparrow” in which Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina who suffers an injury that ends her ballet dancing. As the movie tells it, she has no career alternative or means to care for an ailing mother other than to enroll in spy seductress-assassin school, where her sexuality is weaponized.

A Jewish woman, Sarah Aaronsohn, is one curative for Hollywood’s unfair women spy tropes. In fact, she puts the lie to them because she was the skilled leader of Great Britain’s most effective espionage network in the Middle East during World War I.

She was born in 1890 in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, to Jewish settlers from Romania. When World War I began in 1914, Sarah was married to a Jewish businessman in Constantinople (now Istanbul). In late 1915 Sarah returned home to Palestine for an extended visit. By a coincidence of timing and geography, her three-week train trip took her through the heart of the genocide the Turks conducted against the Armenians.

The nightmarish journey convinced the deeply shaken Sarah that unless the British defeated the Ottoman Empire, the same fate would befall the Jews of Palestine. Little more than a year later, at age 27, this housewife had become the leader of a pro-British spy network, code-named Nili.


Nothing to Say until Now


by: Mandy Fessenden Brauer on January 25th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

(Remembrances of a man about his boarding school days)


There was nothing to say about it

because who was to care? I wasn’t

the most loveable of offspring nor

one of the most talented, funniest

or outstanding, no doubt just

the sort of boy to be molested

when others were sleeping, or

at least pretending to.


I chose never to tell my parents.

They were too consumed with their

own problems anyway and didn’t

care what I did or where, so long

as I didn’t bother them with it,

my mother with her rotgut gin and

my father drowning himself in yoga

and meditation that he picked up

from a wild eyed guru in India.


So when the teacher approached

my uncomfortable bed I didn’t even

have enough sense to be concerned.


#MeToo and Liberation for All


by: on January 22nd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

“I want to kiss you all over your smile.”

The poetic beauty struck me even while my entire body was contracting. The man speaking was drunk. I had asked him several times to stop calling me, at least not so late. He was married, with four children, 20 years my senior, and the president of the company I was working for at the time. I was in my late 20s. It was 1984.

Somehow, between the persistence of the phone calls and my repeated attempts to create boundaries while being human and caring, an unlikely friendship developed. Maybe because I was touched by the vulnerability at his core, or inspired by his brilliance and apparent openness. Slowly and painfully I realized, like so many women before and after me, that maintaining the budding friendship would require succumbing to the sexual overtures. I remember the moment of saying straight into his eyes: “Do you really want me to kiss you even if I don’t want to?” I was so shocked by his insistence in the face of my disinterest, that I lost my will; as if being seen solely as an instrument for his pleasure actually made me less of a person in my own right.

A relationship of two years emerged. It had its moments of true intimacy. And it was a difficult and complicated relationship. When the time came to end it, he predictably asked me to resign. I, unpredictably, declined. I loved my job and didn’t want to lose it. He protested, insisting that it would be difficult for him to see me daily after the breakup. I told him he could fire me, and that I would speak about why. To this day, I am astounded by my matter-of-fact courage.

Two years later, I discovered the literature on sexual harassment. My world exploded in understanding of what had happened; one of my own pivotal #MeToo moments. Even then, I knew I was relatively lucky. No ruined career. No watching him continue, with impunity, to victimize others.


Empathetically Explaining Weinstein: A Counter-Intuitive Necessity


by: John McFadden on November 1st, 2017 | 5 Comments »

Prison is where Harvey Weinstein should be, because, for one thing, there is zero guarantee that he will stop preying on women. He has said that he’s been trying for ten years to deal with his assaultive behavior, but he couldn’t stop. And although he said he’s seeking help from therapists, therapy can be a lengthy process for sexual predators. Perhaps if he had some compelling self-understanding, expression of remorse, and plan to repair the damage done to his victims, we might believe him. But his explanation of his disgusting behavior and his expressions of remorse have been trivial, as is his plan to repair the damage. He set up a scholarship for women directors at the University of Southern California. At this point, what woman would want to take his money? He doesn’t get that they’d feel that he’s buying them off, a practice he has used with some of his victims.

Perhaps it seems that I’m condemning him. But I’m only trying to be realistic about the damage he’s done and how oblivious he still is despite having been caught. I have to if I’m to be taken seriously when I advocate imprisoning him, as well as when I try to empathetically understand him. But empathy? Isn’t punishment what’s needed? And that is being done to him. He’s been paraded out in front of the entire civilized world and humiliated. Victims and their supporters are righteously angry at him, as well they should be. In their angry words is much needed detailing of both what he did and the harm his behavior caused. Without that, the public and our leaders would be less motivated to solve this problem. But there’s a problem with this reaction to any level of any harm.

The abject pain of public humiliation is, many therapists believe, the most unbearable punishment. It can break people without changing them. And what’s much worse, it can drive other perpetrators further into the shadows where they can more deftly ply their domination.

Whereas if we empathetically understood Harvey Weinstein, we’d be much more likely to reclaim him than we now are. And because he is widely known, the revelation of his eventual transformation would have broad impact. His example would enable other sexually assaultive people to seek help more than our current method does. That’s because the standard method is degrading, whereas empathetic understanding is not. So, it’s more inviting, making it more possible for a perpetrator to face his problem. And if a perpetrator also knows he will be treated with compassion and get genuine relief of what’s driving him to rape, he is much more likely to seek help and eventually make amends with his victims. These ideas apply best to people like Weinstein, men who are reasonably well educated and not severely mentally ill or lacking in genetic empathy.


Why Patriarchy Is Not about Men


by: on August 4th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

In response to my recent newsletter, which I named “Tenderness, Vulnerability, and Mourning as a Response to Patriarchy“, I received two comments from men that led me to choose to write this piece. In two very different ways they pointed me to the reality that the word patriarchy is used in many ways; that some of those ways lead to a lot of misunderstanding; and that, in the process, men in particular get targeted in ways I never wish they did. In this piece I hope to rectify this a little bit. I start with pointing to what I mean by patriarchy, since I don’t yet have a definition that I am fully satisfied with. Most significantly, I speak to what patriarchy does or does not have to do with men and what it has to do with all of us. I also aim to make it clear what my very deep concerns are about continuing within the patriarchal paradigm that’s been with us, at least those of us who are part of Western civilization, for about 7,000 years. And I end by what I believe every single one of us can do about it.

What Is Patriarchy?

One of the things that make it difficult to speak about patriarchy, or any other system, to a mostly North American audience, is that the capacity to see systems as distinct from the individuals that live within and are affected by them has been systematically rooted out of most people’s awareness. Instead, everything is seen as an individual issue with only individual solutions.

This is, sadly, also the reason for why the main accomplishments of the 2nd wave of feminism (about which more below) in the US, for example, have been at the individual level, such as access to more kinds of jobs and to education, or increased reproductive choice. There has been very little change in the system that I call patriarchy, nor have the individual changes been open to women who are darker skinned and/or of limited economic means.


A Response to “Overcoming Trump-ism” and More


by: Gilbert Caldwell on March 16th, 2017 | Comments Off

Gilbert Caldwell of Asbury Park, New Jersey – a longtime Methodist pastor and activist in many progressive causes – offers a thoughtful and personal response to Rabbi Michael Lerner’s recent article on Tikkun.org, found at this link:

Overcoming Trump-ism

and to Rebecca Solnit’s article “Grounds for Hope” in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun Quarterly.

My re-reading of “Grounds For Hope” by Rebecca Solnit in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun has caused me to respond from a personal standpoint, as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church, and with reference to what Rabbi Lerner has written in his article “Overcoming Trump-ism.”

Solnit begins her article: “Your opponents would love to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win.” But, she writes; “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away … hope is about the future, grounds for hope lie in the records and recollections of the past.”


Pew Report on Religion and Education Around the World


by: Pew Research Center on December 16th, 2016 | Comments Off

Large gaps in education levels persist, but all faiths are making gains – particularly among women

Religious figures/people painted on a wall.WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 13, 2016) – Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling, according to a Pew Research Center global demographic study that shows wide disparities in average educational levels among religious groups.

At present, Jewish adults (ages 25 and older) have a global average of 13 years of formal schooling, compared with approximately nine years among Christians, eight years among Buddhists and six years among Muslims and Hindus. Religiously unaffiliated adults – those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – have spent an average of nine years in school, a little less than Christian adults worldwide, the study finds.

These gaps in educational attainment are partly a function of where religious groups are concentrated throughout the world. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s Jews live in the United States and Israel – two economically developed countries with high levels of education overall. And low levels of attainment among Hindus reflect the fact that 98% of Hindu adults live in the developing countries of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.