Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quiet to Captivating

The things that I don't write about on this blog could fill the largest spaces of the grandest libraries of the world. When I started blogging, eons ago back in the days of LiveJournal, I managed a very public, honest, and forthcoming image for myself. When I started this specific blog in March 2006, I decided that I would continue my public face in order to build a narrative on my journey to and through Judaism.

Did I anticipate it would garner as much readership as it has now? No. Way. Jose. I'm blown away every day by the hits, the emails, the comments: You guys have made it all worthwhile. But the things I really want or even need to write about -- this blog is my therapy, a voice for the voiceless neshama -- I can't. Why? Because I'm a public blogger. Anonymity, in my point of view, is more harmful than helpful and despite not being able to write about some things that would be worked out through the therapy of word-sharing, I still couldn't imagine doing this any differently. (Remember that rant against anonymous bloggers I wrote?)

Okay, back up, is that really true? Back on March 11, 2006, I wrote,
This is top secret. 
And just in case google does take over the world. I want to be prepared for the changeover when all other blog hosts go defunk. I respect you, LiveJournal, and you've had my love for the past 6 or 7 years, but there comes a time, you know. A time when google waves it's hand over the land and everything disappears.
Ridiculous, I know. So I'm only remembering it the way I want to remember. Or am I? On March 26, 2006, I wrote,
OK. So I lied. I'm moving over. I've decided to be more anonymous. More liberal. But more anonymous. LiveJournal, I love you so, but quite frankly, maybe the fact that I've been around there since the late 1990s has made me ... not grow. I want to write more meaningful things. I want to post about Judaism and what I'm learning and my mundane activities should be no part of that. I need to grow and mature in my writing and my faith. 
So I'll start over. I'm tired of trying to find mantras and phrases that should define how we should be and how we aren't. I can't put words to anything but my emotions. You can't put words to the future, only to the past. So there's no point in trying to express what future I could find, when I should just be writing and creating a chronology for the past. 
Well, and that's where we begin.
Oops. Wrong again. I wanted to be anonymous? I don't remember it that way. In fact, I remember feeling like this blog was a new beginning, a liberation, a place where I could really be the big, bad Jewish me that I was -- something that didn't fit in fluidly with my LiveJournal persona of angst and anger and, well, language. Lots of language. I was a sailor once upon a time, evidently.

It's funny to me, going back and reading this. I was inspired to do so because a friend back in Nebraska (Thanks, Sarah!) sent me an article from the July 2010 College English journal, "A Virtual Veibershul: Blogging and the Blurring of Public and Private among Orthodox Jewish Women" by Andrea Lieber. 

The article is based on research from 2006-2008, a time period in which I was still a mere puddle in the Jewish Blogosphere, let alone an Orthodox Jewish Woman blogger. The author suggests that "blogging is better understood as a technology that enables an expansion of the private sphere for the Orthodox Jewish women who write them" (622), which I can partially agree with, but then she says things like "Blogs are usually, but not always, anonymous" (629), which I wholly disagree with. 

The article is interesting because it focuses on several anonymous, frum women bloggers who tell Lieber that their blog is their place "to vent," "to shout out to the entire world," or to utter a "primal scream" (629). One of the women goes so far as to describe herself as completely orthopraxic but living the life because that's just what you do. To be honest, her case studies are, in my opinion, an incredibly poor glimpse at the amazingly broad tapestry of Orthodox Jewish Women bloggers. She cites 50 OJW blogs discovered between November 2006 and March 2007. Really?

My question is: Did those of us out there who are Orthodox Jewish Women bloggers just hit the scene with force in the past three years? Most of the OJW bloggers I know wouldn't describe their blogs as some place for them to scream out in a way that they can't traditionally in the "traditional" community. 

I also don't feel like most of the OJW bloggers I know would agree that their "public writing does subvert certain aspects of traditional Jewish gender roles" (622). The women that Lieber interviewed were quick to point out that their blogging had no feminist ambitions, and I would agree with that point for most of the OJW bloggers I've encountered. Then again, I suppose one can argue what Orthodoxy and Feminism even mean together for the OJW blogger. If anything, I would urge Ms. Lieber to reexamine her data, search out the powerful OJW bloggers out there who serve as a PSA (public service announcement) for Orthodoxy and strong women, and reconsider some of her conclusions.

I may not have started this blog out with some grand plan that has led me to this point, but one thing was always certain, and that was that I wanted to "post about Judaism." I never wanted my posting to be forceful or even educational -- I just wanted to write, to put words down because for me it was therapeutic. Pen to paper, soul to words. That's how I view blogging. I'm not writing a guide to live by, and I'm not telling others how to be or do Judaism. I'm not liberating myself or other Orthodox Jewish Women by blogging. What am I doing?

I'm telling a story -- to what has turned into a beautiful, captivated audience.