I haven't been so upset about an academic paper in a really long time. And maybe it's because it isn't really an academic paper. I mean, this paper was written by a PhD student, right, but it reads like something a JSchool student would have turned in that would have ended up under the "not likely, but belongs in the Op/Ed section -- major edits necessary" pile. I have to say that I'd describe the author (not to mention a lot of the other people who went to the talk) as delusional (the same word I use for Hilldawg in her efforts to "secure" the White House). On the upside, at least she isn't planning on using it as her thesis.
Anyway, the paper was all about mikvah and how it's "broken." Now, I'll give this "academic" props for acknowledging that "broken" isn't exactly the right word. But after that? I've got nothing. The paper was full of broad generalizations about how women in the Orthodox community are meant only for making babies and how they have no social or religious presence or power. The paper paints the mikvah experience like some bloody obstacle course where knives are hurled at you at every turn and where the mikvah ladies interrogate you down to the point where you're crying or embarrassed or completely mortified -- essentially saying that the mikvah experience isn't an experience, that it's torture. The big tour de force of the paper (or at least, it was supposed to be) was that the mikvah experience is a men's game -- that women are merely the proxies for men (i.e. that the woman dips, is "touched" by G-d and that she goes home for the sole purpose of touching her husband who is then blessed, the end). Then there was the whole mikvah women are the spawn of satan and are the agents of the rabbis and live to make the mikvah experience hell on wheels argument. One girl at the talk actually made the comment that "I'm no expert, but in the Orthodox community women aren't trusted at all." I wanted to impale all these people (with the exception of one guy with outstanding questions -- if the mikvah experience is meant to oppress women and empower men, why'd the rabbis allow for women to be unavailable for sex so much of the month? -- and another guy with a kippah who managed to make some valid points and question the crux of the situation).
I just. I don't have words. I mean, firstly the author has a huge chip on her shoulder. Secondly, the paper isn't academic, it's personal. Thirdly, I don't get WHY she still goes to the mikvah if it's such a horrible, traumatizing experience and she thinks it's broken.
I'm just irritated! YARGH! It makes me want to get hitched and mikvah the hell out of the mikvah. I understand entirely that there are bad experiences, there are good experience. But the torture these people imply is just insanity. And then the guy in the room who said that the mikvah night is the worst night in any marriage, it's horrible, it's torture. What?
In sum, everything is what you make of it, nu? I mean, if people go into the mikvah thinking that what this woman has written is STANDARD, my G-d. There goes the mikvah.
Can those of you who go to mikvahs regularly share your sentiments about all this with me? I can't *in good conscious* send you the paper ... but if you want to read it, please let me know. I wouldn't feel *that* bad I guess sending it along. I'd remove the gal's name, anyhow. But let me know. You can reach me at the e-mail address in my profile, as well.
But if this is the competition I have among students in Judaic studies? Wow. Slap me silly and hand me lots of money, book deals, and grants, because I'm floored at the lack of integrity, research, attention to detail, etc. Yowzah!