In 2007, with long chestnut pigtails sprouting from the sides of my head, I attended my first day of kindergarten at a public school just outside of Boston. I was enrolled in what was called the Choice Program, an institution that four years later would implode with scandal.
How did so many Jewish women come to be leaders within the women’s health movement? Eight of the twelve creators of Our Bodies, Ourselves were Jewish. Four of the five founders of the National Women’s Health Network were also Jewish.
When I saw a flyer advertising the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center, with something called Egg Cream listed as a short film to be shown toward the end of January, I was intrigued.
Gertrude Berg and Amy Sherman Palladino are two women who have brought Jews to television in completely revolutionary ways; as funny, approachable characters who are incredibly dynamic and unapologetically Jewish.
My accelerated math class has nearly twice as many boys as girls. There are only five of us. I’m no stranger to a good mansplaining, or to feeling like an anomaly in a math bros club. While many interactions in Honors Precalc make me feel like a fish out of water, a comment like “mind your own business” really highlights just how different it is to be a girl in an advanced math class.
Female leaders in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are few and far between, and Jewish female role models in those fields are even harder to find. Emmy Noether and Martine Rothblatt are superheros whose hard work and intellect propelled them to defy the odds and make contributions to the world that will outlive them.
While my brother’s intention was to help me better clarify my writing, that isn’t what my mind told me in the moment. During our conversation, I became resentful of him, and doubtful of myself. I started to question the value of the ideas I wrote about, the ones that he claimed were too big and detached.
Every “perfect girl” I have ever met has been so humble, that they can turn a compliment into self-deprecation. It is so unbearably heartbreaking to me that these girls who are so marvelous all don’t know how marvelous they are. But the truly terrifying truth is that their humility and self-consciousness seem to be an essential part of being the “perfect girl.”
My mother had learned a version of the St. Anthony prayer from her Catholic coworkers: St. Anthony, St. Anthony, won’t you look around? Something is lost and must be found. She proceeded to recite this prayer next to the dumpster.
As the first woman Justice of New York, Polier valiantly worked to improve the family court, fought for the rights of children and poor families, and tirelessly lobbied to ease quotas on Jewish refugees. Libby Schaaf, the 52-year-old mayor of Oakland, California, also fights for the inclusion of all people.
I’ve spent my formative years in various liberal bubbles, shielded from the reality of a bigoted and unaccepting America. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in New York City, a progressive hub and notoriously accepting city, to spend five summers at Eisner Camp, a Reform Jewish camp where we often discuss gun violence prevention, and to attend the progressive Temple Shaaray Tefila my whole life.
To ask for the space you need is a daunting, terrifying task. But to take the space you need without permission? That’s even more challenging. Emma Goldman and Avigail Antman are two women who refused to settle for less, and who weren’t afraid to demand more.
When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. My parents were told that I’d need extensive therapy in order to read and write. At five, I never thought I would read. I threw books on the ground and refused to even try. I would yell, “I don’t need to read! I hate reading!” over and over again.
Besides its bike-friendly status, Madison also has a reputation for being incredibly liberal. You can’t go one block in Madison without spotting a Prius sporting a bumper sticker in support of a Democratic candidate. Often, Madison feels like an insulated left-leaning bubble within red Wisconsin.
For my 22nd birthday in December, I decided to rewatch Season 4 Episode 6 of Broad City—“Witches”and let it all sink in as another year goes by, another birthday passes, and I apparently keep growing older.
Constricting suppositions about young women are nothing new. We’re “bored by academia,” “weak,” “hysterical,” “hormonal,” “boy crazy,” and “fashion-obsessed.” Of course, we teenage girls are sometimes hormonal, fashion-obsessed, and a little romance-crazy (as most teenagers are), but we are so much more than that.