Friday, December 5, 2014

The Book Lover's Den #13: More Feminist Books, Old and New

Welcome to my Friday feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

This is, in a way, a continuation of a previous post regarding feminist books. While visiting a blog the other day, I came across two recently-published books that look very interesting. One of them is a very hopeful, uplifting book, while the other has some rather dismaying news.... I would definitely like to read both, because the events detailed in these books are true, and happening in the world at this time.

I found this post at Feminist Reflections. This is a great blog featuring a variety of books, as well as articles on beauty, entertainment, and lifestyle. Below are the two books I discovered through this blog. They certainly look very interesting!

This is a memoir, written by an American woman who actually pulled up roots to start a nonprofit for the purpose of helping to educate and provide opportunities for the women and girls of Afghanistan. What is most inspiring of all is that she was a rape victim herself. Refusing to be defined by that unfortunate event, Galpin has thrown herself wholeheartedly into this self-appointed mission. 

One of the things mentioned by this author is that she was actually the first women to ride a mountain bike in Afghanistan. Why? Because Afghan women are not  allowed to ride bikes! This is nearly unbelievable -- that something taken for granted by women in other countries is not permitted to Afghan women..... Galpin is now using her bike rides to raise awareness about, as well as support for, the plight of women in Afghanistan. Her example is truly noble and inspiring, and I can't wait to get this book and read it!

This is the more disturbing of the two books, especially because the topic is not that well-known. At least, I had never heard of this type of situation in Israel before. This book deals with the increasing oppression of women in that country, which is, ironically enough, a democratic state. I was shocked when I read the synopsis -- women are being segregated by gender on buses, female politicians are being silenced, not allowed to attend important conferences and events.... There are many more things covered in this book, written by leading Jewish activist Elana Maryles Sztokman.

In a way, I really shouldn't be surprised, what with the misogyny rampant in  the Old Testament of the Bible. Besides, in Orthodox and Conservative congregations even today, women sit in a section separate from the men. This means that family members are separated during services. However, this is not the case in the Reformed denomination of Judaism, or in more liberal denominations of this religion.

The one thing mentioned in this book that I would definitely oppose is the opinion that a  woman has the "right" to choose to abort her child. I am a pro-life feminist. Other than this one issue, I wholeheartedly support the basic tenets of feminism.  

I would not be surprised by tales of abuse toward women and girls in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Arab countries, but Israel! After all, Israeli women have long served in their country's army.

In her interesting review of this book, Benish Khan, owner and creator of Feminist Reflections, states that, whenever religion takes a fanatical turn, these types of things happen. This is very true of Islamic extremism; however, this also happens in other religions, as fundamentalism is the extremely conservative wing present within most mainstream religions. Christianity itself is not exempt from this; there is a controversy raging at present in Evangelical Christian circles regarding the possibility of women being pastors. Some Christians totally support this, while many others don't, citing certain verses in the Bible that "prove" that women are not to have "spiritual authority" over men. However, the Anglican Church in England (the same denomination known as the Episcopalian Church in the U.S.) has been ordaining women to the priesthood for many years now, with no heavenly lightning strikes upon their churches. The Catholic Church still has a lot of catching up to do. Protestant denominations, as I stated above, are divided on this issue.

As for Judaism, the first female rabbi in Orthodox Judaism was ordained in Germany, in 1935. Her name was Regina Jones, and this leads me to yet another book related to this topic. I have owned this book, though, for some time, and must confess to not having read it yet. Shame on me!

The first female rabbi in Reform Judaism was Sally Priesand, ordained in 1972. From that year to 2008, Hebrew Union College, a Reformed institution, has ordained 552 female rabbis. Not that many, obviously. (Source: Wikipedia)

I could point out other religions as well. I know for a fact that Hinduism is another religion with a misogynistic component. I'm not sure about Buddhism. However, as I don't want to make this a very long post, I will have to leave this for a future installment.

In closing, let me add that I have added all three of these books to my Goodreads TBR shelves, and I will make every effort to read them in the coming year!

Have you read any of these books?
If so, what did you think of them?
If not, would you like to 
read them? Why or why not?



  1. Another great post Maria.

    You and I almost have a little feminist book club going!

    I am actually shocked by the situation in Israel.Though so rooted in religion, I always pictured the society in that country, at least for Israeli citizens, to be modern and egalitarian. I had no idea about this.

    The book on Afghanistan looks good too. There is a picture that is floating around social media. It was taken in Kabul in 1972. It shows women walking dressed in Western attire, it gives the impression that they are confidently involved in either business or educational pursuits. In light of what has happened it is extremely disturbing. It shows that we can move backward. It is like a nightmare out of a dystopian novel but it really happened.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Thank you so much for the compliment!

      Yes, we do seem to have spontaneously started a feminist book club! Lol. This has given me an idea. Maybe our next read-along could deal with a feminist non-fiction book, or a feminist novel. Something to think about!

      I was shocked, too, by the situation in Israel. One hears SO much about misogynistic abuse in Muslim countries, but not in Israel. I wonder if that's because of the bad image these countries already have, due to terrorism, although it's also due to the worldwide fame of Malala Yousafzai.

      This is why I mentioned the misogyny to be found in the Old Testament, some of which persists to this day. I once met an Orthodox couple at a bar mitzvah (my husband is Jewish, although he doesn't practice). They were introduced to me by one of my husband's relatives. I shook the wife's hand, but when I went to shake his, he didn't stretch out his hand to me. I was taken aback by this. When he noticed my dismayed expression, he then explained that Orthodox men do not shake women's hands. It's expressly forbidden, Say WHAT?! Of course, I was polite and didn't argue, but inside, I was seething. What do these men think, that if they shake the hand of a woman not married to them, they are therefore committing adultery?!

      You know, even Jesus shocked his disciples when he once spoke to a Samaritan women. That just wasn't done at the time. Based on this and other instances, some Christians have claimed that Jesus was (is)Himself a feminist. But well, that's a lengthy theological debate. Lol.

      More coming! Battery running

    2. To continue....

      Yes, I've seen that picture of the three women walking down a street in Kabul, in the year 1972. It's so sad that things can indeed go backward.....let's hope that never happens in the U.S.! And indeed this does sound like something out of a dystopian novel. It's almost hard to believe that it REALLY happened....

      BTW, I was at a public library when I posted the previous comment. My PC battery ran out. Then we went out to dinner, and got back a few minutes ago. I could have continued from my cell phone, but WIFI is not always available on the road....

      Thanks for the GREAT comment!! : )

  2. Aw, I still can't believe you shared my book recommendations! Thank you for this :) & I agree with you on many points, it's really quite shocking on what's happening in Israel right now and how people are trying to keep it on the low.

    Some people take religion too far honestly, amazing post! Look forward to your reviews of these books soon :)

    Benish | Feminist Reflections

    1. Hi, Benish!

      You're very welcome for the sharing!! I thought these were GREAT books, and wanted to make sure to discuss them on my blog. Of course, I want to buy and read them, too!!

      I was definitely shocked in regards to what's going on in Israel. But it's true that Judaism has some very misogynistic elements. Orthodox Judaism is, I think, actually contemptuous of women. As I told Brian in my first comment to him above, Orthodox men don't shake hands with women who are not married to them. Also, their wives must wear wigs when they're out in public. Why? Because only their husbands are supposed to see their hair!! They must also wear long skirts and very modest tops, and they can't wear makeup. OMG!!

      So yes, when religion is taken to an extreme, these things happen. That's why, although I'm a Christian, I am not very religious. I would describe myself as spiritual, but not religious.

      Thank you so much for the GREAT comment!! : )

    2. Hope you enjoy reading the books :) I really loved reading them <3

      I'm Muslim, and I've been practicing for the past three years now. The segregation and not mingling with men exists so things like relationships and fornication doesn't occur. In Islam, we can't draw attention to ourselves like that either, I think it also depends on your intentions as well. Sometimes, it seems too extreme for all these rules, they're mainly for guidance though to help us. Although, I do feel a husband should never force the religion down on his wife, she should accept it on her own! :D

      Thank you again :)


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