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Teen Mag: Cover Up, Obey

Posted By FreiFem On August 17, 2011 @ 10:56 am In Blogs,FreiFem | 16 Comments


credit: ma neeks

I know this is going to squick some of you out, but when I found out I was carrying a girl, I ordered a book [2] of photos of (– and, out of fear of readers’ sensitivities I’m not even going to use the accurate word) – female genitalia.

Sexuality (even if just in its most basic biological presence) is a part of life for all humans, and our choice is to be open about that with our daughter. I bought the book because although I do think genitals are personal or private, in private, I want her to have a non-shameful reference for other women’s experiences with their genitals, if she wants it. I don’t want our stance on privacy to become synonymous with shame.

Today, Tablet magazine has a profile [3] of Yaldah, a magazine by and for frum girls, that emphasizes tsnius and obedience. Although I have to admit I, like Yaldah’s founder and readership, am not thrilled with the emphasis on consumerism and age-inappropriate (and often female disempowering) sexuality found in most other young girls’ magazines, the idea that “Jewish values” for girls are basically obedience and modesty, and that’s what the magazine trumpets on every page, makes me a little nauseous. It’s just willfully blind to reality.

Even the most religious girl goes through puberty and is forced to establish some relationship with her sexuality. This magazine’s emphasis on modesty and its refusal to address any real issues of teenage life, is irresponsible and sickening.

The obscene rate of eating disorders [4] in the religious community is just one symptom of what happens when a girl’s sexuality and identity is so repressed. And although more attention is paid to the nightmares of boys being sexually abused in the religious community, there are plenty of cases of girls being abused as well. By insisting that obedience and modesty are all there is to the teenage experience of religious girls, this magazine perpetuates a culture of shame [5] that is harmful to its readers and feeds the more intense problems of the community.

Isn’t there a way to talk about puberty and its physical and emotional realities in a way that would still be palatable to the Orthodox community? From my experiences growing up in that world, I’m going to bet not, and that’s just sad.

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