Jewfem Blog


  A kindergarten teacher noticed that the block corner in her classroom was completely boy-dominated, and decided to do something to bring girls to the space. She took a bunch of blocks and painted them pink and purple. The results were both good and bad. The good news: girls came to the block corner to play with pink and purple blocks. The bad news: girls came to the block corner to play with pink and purple blocks. This story, recounted by my colleague and friend Dr. Chaya Gorsetman in the first session of our telecourse, “Ready for school? Gender Issues in Jewish Education”, brings up some of the huge challenges and dilemmas that educators face in trying to create equal gender opportunity in schools. Mountains of research Dr Chaya Gorsetman demonstrate the negative impact of sex-role socialization on girls from the earliest ages.  Girls – and boys – receive the message in direct and indirect ways that boys are supposed to be aggressive, assertive, physical, competitive leaders while girls are supposed to be sweet, dainty, helpful, obedient, small, and nice. These ubiquitous messages come through books, school décor, classroom structures, teachers’ commentary, and of course Hollywood and Toys R Us. Peggy Orenstein’s crucial book, “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” describes in painful detail the pink-and-sparkly takeover of girls’ lives from the time they are born. Girls, especially, are bombarded with these messages from every angle. But sometimes, if you can’t beat them, join them. If turning the block corner pink – or turning the science lab, or the computer lab metaphorically “girls” – brings more girls into the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), then some teachers are working to use that to girls’ advantage. Such an approach may make some of us cringe (or anyone who has read Peggy Orenstein’s book). But, as the panelists in this telecourses debated, perhaps the end-goal of advancing women and girls in high-status studies and careers is more important than fighting the pink-sparkly wars. Maybe. We all have to choose our battles, right? Amy Newman Maybe there is another way. Amy Newman, a fabulous feminist teacher at the Gann Academy in Boston, who also spoke on this first telecourses panel, shared some interesting insights about the ways in which gender socialization happens in schools, and what her school is doing to change it. She reflected on the crossover between expectations of “extrovertness” and gender hierarchies. Teacher expectations about student assertiveness in the classroom invariably reward boys, she said, by cheering on boys who jump in, take over, or initiate – sometimes inadvertently punishing the girls who show a preference for being an introvert.  She also shared insights about how body commentary shames girls. In both of these areas, Amy said that her school has been engaged in school-wide discussions and consciousness-raising, and has made some remarkable changes in these areas. For example, teachers are now more conscious about favoritism towards extroverts, and today are not allowed to write on report cards comments such as,...

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Guest post By Eve Sacks, originally posted at The Center for Jewish Feminism By Eve Sacks My two oldest children attended four different Orthodox Jewish nursery schools (kindergarten / gan) in four consecutive years. Of these three were affiliated to Jewish primary schools and one was a stand alone nursery. All four had Shabbat parties where parents were invited. In my work with JOFA I have also spoken to others about their gender experiences in other London Orthodox Jewish schools and nurseries, so I am aware of the issues in many London primary schools. My first Jewish nursery school experience was nine years ago when my daughter started nursery just before she turned three. We chose a nursery that was local, and connected to the synagogue we were members of, an orthodox synagogue with a mixed membership, including both shomer shabbat (religiously observant) families and also those who rarely attended and were not observant. The nursery had a great reputation; the children in the nursery came from a mixed of religious backgrounds; indeed at the Chanukah party most Dad’s did not wear kippot and in the summer the mums didn’t think twice about collecting their children wearing vest tops or gym leggings. Less than a quarter of the 18 children would have been from shomer shabbat homes and it’s also worth noting this was a reasonably affluent suburb of London. Within a few weeks of starting she was asked to be Shabbat Ima – the Shabbat “mother”. I was very excited and took my mother in law with me. My daughter was also very excited to be Shabbat Ima. But I was shocked with what I saw, and as this was the first time I set foot into the nursery I began to worry about what else she was being taught. “So”, said the teacher, “let’s start with getting ready for Shabbat. Will all the girls now stand up? The Mummies are going to do the cooking and the cleaning for Shabbat.” My jaw dropped in amazement as I saw the little girls all stand up and pretend to be first cooking and then cleaning for Shabbat. As the Shabbat Ima my daughter was also given props, some play food and then a broom! “Now”, said the teacher, “the boys can stand up as the Daddies are getting ready for Shabbat! They are all at work and will be coming home soon. Daddies please all march around the room to come home for Shabbat!” So the boys all stood up and marched around the room. It continued, my daughter lit the candles and the 3-year-old Daddy went to shul. I don’t remember much more, I just remember being totally shocked that I had chosen a nursery for its orthodox yet inclusive nature and this is what she was being taught? And who knows what else they were teaching the rest of the time? It was even more surprising as the nursery teacher was young; certainly younger than the mums! Later, my mother-in-law commented on what a “traditional” nursery...

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Thoughts on 8:01

I would like to take a moment and question the obvious: why is 8:01 the hour of crime? Why is it that what is acceptable at 7:59 becomes the cause of all kinds of punishments and consequences a mere two minutes later?

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From Bustle: Are Overprotective Fathers Cute Or Controlling? Why Overprotection Actually Harms Young Women

From Suzannah Weiss:......I also know women who can testify to the effects of the opposite approach. “The so-called protectiveness can be really detrimental,” Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman — who describes herself as “a recovering daughter of a control-freak father” — told me.   It instills a complete lack of trust, teaches the daughter that she can’t rely on herself, cannot trust herself, cannot handle herself, that the world is scary for her because she’s a woman but it’s not scary for men, that she will always need him and will never be independent nor should she ever want to be.Read more at Bustle here

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Single-sex versus coeducation -- and other conference topics

I'll be speaking this week at two great events: “On single-sex versus coeducation in the religious school: Undoing the quagmire” at a conference at Yad Ben Zvi titled, "Education for girls and processes of modernity in Jerusalem: 1854-2014," International Academic Conference Marking the 160th Anniversary of the Evelina de Rothschild School," Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 1:30-3:00 And “Orthodox feminist narratives” Limmud Modi’in, Thursday, June 12, 2014, 4:00-5:00 Really excited about both!!

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חינוך נפרד או חינוך מעורב בנות-בנים?

תקציר בעברית של הפרק השלישי בספר: Chaya Rosenfeld Gorsetman and Elana Maryles Sztokman, Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools. (Hadassah Brandeis Institute 2012) תקציר זה נכתב ע"י ד"ר אילנה סטוקמן הסוגיה של חינוך נפרד לבנים ובנות לעומת חינוך מעורב תפסה תאוצה בקהילה היהודית-דתית באמצע המאה הקודמת, כאשר הרב יוסף סולוביצ'יק החליט שעל מנת להשתלב בחיים המודרניים, בית הספר שלו – בי"ס רמב"ם בבוסטון – יהיה מעורב. בתי ספר יהודיים-דתיים רבים הלכו בעקבותיו, וכך נולד הרעיון שחינוך מעורב פירושו יותר "עכשווי-מודרני" ודהיינו פחות דתי, ומאידך, שחינוך נפרד משמעותו חינוך יותר אדוק ונאמן לעקרונות התורה. על אף שרעיונות אלה לא התבססו במחקר – הרי לא ידוע אז ולא ידוע היום אם באמת קיים קשר מוכח בין חינוך נפרד לנאמנות לתורה – האשליה הזאת שלפיה הפרדה מינית משמעותה מסגרת יותר "דתית" תפסה יותר ויותר מקום בתודעה הדתית לאורך השנים. בינתיים, בעולם הרחב, מחקרים חינוכיים ומדיניות חינוכית התחילו ללכת בכיוון הפוך. בשנות ה-70, סדרה של מחקרים הצביעו על תופעה אחרת בחינוך נפרד. הסתבר שכשנשים למדו במסגרות חד-מיניות, הן הפכו דווקא ליותר "מודרניות" – יותר קרייריסטיות, יותר חזקות, יותר למדניות, יותר עוצמתיות, יותר שאפתניות. התברר שבכיתות מעורבות, הרבה פעמים יש בעיה שבנים נהיים דומיננטיים, במיוחד במקצועות הטכנולוגיים ובספורט, והדבר מקשה מאוד על בנות להצליח במקומות כאלה. האפליה נגד בנות בכיתות מעורבות בתחומי המתמטיקה והמדעים הולכת ומחמירה לאורך השנים בבית ספר. כלומר, אם בכיתה א' קיים בעצם שוויון בין המינים, הפערים הולכים וגדלים בכל שנה. זה ממשיך גם באוניברסיטה, כך שהפערים הכי גדולים בין בנים ובנות בתחומי הטכנולוגיה נמצאים בקרב דוקטורנטים. וכמובן שדבר זה משפיע מאוד על היעדר נשים בקריירות טכנולוגיות. לעומת זאת, בכיתה של בנות בלבד, יש לבנות יותר הזדמנויות. הכל פתוח עבורן. נמצא, אפוא, שמבחינת חינוך לבנות, ישנן סיבות מעניינות לקדם חינוך נפרד: העצמת נשים, קידום נשים במדעים, ושמירת נשים מדומיננטיות ואגרסיביות גברית. לגבי בנים, חינוך נפרד יכול גם לפתוח אותם למישורים שנחשבים "נשיים" במסגרות מעורבות. במסגרות מעורבות, כמו שמדעים הרבה פעמים סגורים לבנות, כך גם מקצועות "עדינים" נסגרים לבנים – אומנות, שירה, ריקוד, ועוד. כלומר, לאו דווקא יש מקום במסגרות כאלה לבנים להיות רגישים, עדינים, אכפתיים, רכים, או אומנותיים. בחור שכותב שירה, שאוהב לטפל בילדים, שלא אוהב מדע, וכו', יכול למצוא את עצמו במצב קשה – כמו הבחורה החזקה והספורטיבית שאוהבת לטפל במכוניות או לבנות ערים שלמות מלגו. היתרון של המסגרת החד-מינית יכול להתבטא בכך שבמקומות כאלה יש לכולם גישה להכל – רק בבית ספר לבנות, שיעור הפיזיקה יתמלא בבנות;  כמו כן, יכול להיות שרק בבית ספר לבנים, הבנים יעשו את כל התפאורה להצגה. ברם, גם זה לא כל הסיפור. בשנות ה-90, סדרה של מחקרים התחילו לפקפק בממצאים הללו. אמנם במצבים מסוימים ישנו יתרון לנשים ובנות בהקשרים חד-מיניים, אבל במצבים אחרים ישנו יתרון דווקא במסגרות מעורבות. בכיתות מעורבות, מסתבר שגם בנים וגם בנות יכולים ללמוד להתמודד עם מצבים מאתגרים ושונים, כאשר לפעמים בוגרי מסגרות חד-מיניות מתקשים כשמגיעים ל"עולם האמיתי". בנוסף, בריונות קיימת גם במסגרות חד-מיניות. זה שאין בנים לא אומר שבנות "שמורות" מפני פגיעה. אלימות קיימת במקומות כאלה וכאלה. לאחר חקירה נוספת, נמצא שישנם שני סוגי מסגרות חד-מיניות: מסגרות מעצימות ומסגרות מחלישות. ישנן מסגרות חד-מיניות שבהן בוגרים נחשפים...

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On single sex versus coeducation: Unraveling the quagmire

Are you trying to make sense of all the talk and conflicting research about single-sex versus coeducation? Here's something to help you: A SPECIAL EXCERPT from Educating in the Divine Image -- the entire chapter on the subject of single-sex versus coeducation. Download the FREE chapter here And please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below or on the Facebook page.   CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD Chapter 3 of Educating in the Divine Image: Single-sex verus Coeducation.pdf     Click here to purchase your own copy of Educating in the Divine Image

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Gender and education at Galus Australis

One day several years ago, I walked into my year-7 Jewish Studies class with a shofar in hand. It was a few days before Rosh Hashana and it seemed like a great idea to engage students in the holiday practices by giving them all a chance to hold, feel, and try to blow a shofar on their own. When I walked into the class, however, I was in for a shock. As soon as the shofar got passed to a girl, some of the boys in the class began yelling. “She can’t touch that!” they asserted. “Girls are not allowed to touch a shofar!” It took me a good half of the lesson to reason with them and explain to the class, even though almost all of them are not religious (not even the boys arguing with me) that there is nothing wrong with girls and women touching or holding a shofar.  Since they had never in their lives actually seen a woman blow shofar, they simply assumed that such a thing was expressly forbidden, at all times and under all circumstances. Gender exclusion from Jewish ritual became the assumed correct norm, regardless of their own practice. So what was meant to be a fun and innocuous lesson for the New Year ended up being a battle to help some students unlearn everything they had been taught about gender and Jewish life. We are all filled with assumptions – conscious or otherwise – about correct gender behavior. Ideas about how women/girls and men/boys are meant to act are transmitted from the earliest of ages. Abundant research over the past 20 years has shown that people talk differently to boys and to girls. We tend to applaud boys for being innovative and adventurous while we praise girls for being sweet, caring and helpful. We abide boys boisterousness under the catch-all motto that “boys will be boys” while we castigate girls for much of the same acts. In schools, these practices are exacerbated. In class, boys are called on more often than girls; boys are given more response time than girls; teachers look at their watches more when girls are talking; boys are allowed to interrupt more, including interrupting the teacher and interrupting girls; boys dominate small group work, science labs, computer rooms, chess clubs, and more.  It’s as if schools unintentionally promote two different models of an ideal graduate, one for boys and one for girls. Certainly no school would ever say that out loud, but we all know the power of the hidden curriculum. Sometimes the unintended messages are the most powerful of all.   READ THE REST AT GALUS AUSTRALIS  

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Book event tonight in Givat Zeev!

בס"ד הנכם מוזמנים לערב עיון בנושא: מגדר וחינוך דתי תפילה, לימוד תורה, צניעות, מנהיגות, ועוד עם ד"ר אילנה סטוקמן מחברת הספר: Educating in the Diving Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools שזכה בפרס National Jewish Book Award 2013 הערב יתקיים בבית משפחת ברדוגו מבוא הדס 10 ביום שני 17.2.14 אור ליח' אדר א' ב-8:30 בערב

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On modesty, sexuality, and watching girls' bodies: part 2

book cover -- educating in the divine image

"One educator admitted that he believed in discussing sexual activity (or rather the need for abstinence) even from fourth grade: “ I think that it is self evident that one should teach our students about all halachot that we expect them to observe. As the laws often called "negiah," as well as laws forbidding (among other things) pre-martial sexual relations, are certainly laws we want them to observe, we need to teach them (I bring up the subject of "negiah" in 4th-5th grade, within the context of our Mishna study. I feel it's important that they've heard of this prior to their developing "interest" in the opposite sex.)”, he wrote. “We need to give our students the information they need to fight against the "Yetzer haRa." Read another excerpt of our book, Educating in the Divine Image at The Eden Center blog    

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