Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists For Choice. We interview feminist activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we’re talking to Talia bat Pessi bat Feige bat Ita bat Gittel, who blogs over at Star of Davida. Talia describes herself as a loudmouth, opinionated teenage Femidox (feminist Orthodox) Jew with a love of unadulterated Judaism, a fascination with her people’s historical women, and way too much time on her hands. She can’t wait to get out of school and into the real world, where she hopes to become a labor lawyer specializing in workplace discrimination and sexual harassment to help out her sisters in need.
1. How long have you been blogging, and what was your inspiration for starting the Star of Davida website?
I’ve been blogging since July 2010. I followed several feminist blogs for a really long time before that, and my writing was even featured on some of the pretty big ones, but it wasn’t enough for me – I needed a forum where I could rant about feminism. After playing with several titles and layouts, I settled on Star of Davida and the current design and began ranting.
2. When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what contributed to your decision?
I began actively calling myself a feminist last summer, when I was going into my freshperson year of high school. I had written several papers in middle school about the suffrage movement, and while I agreed with the First Wave wholeheartedly, it was hard to strongly identify with it, as women have had the right to vote for almost a century. Last summer I wrote a paper about Second-Wave Feminism, whose goals are still unmet, and that’s when I really found my calling.
3. What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me is all about giving women choices – the choice to be a doctor or teacher, the choice to keep an unexpected pregnancy or to terminate it, the choice to be a rabbi or layperson. It means that I can decide what I want to do with my life and not be held back or discouraged simply because I have ovaries.
4. Your series about women in prayer is really interesting. I like how you reclaim prayer as a woman-centered spiritual practice. Why is this such an important issue to you?
The Jews’ weapon is the mouth rather than physical artillery, and so Jews pray to God for help before reacting to a situation. As a result, prayer is an integral part of Judaism, and no Jew can reach full success without appealing to God for assistance. The male rabbis in power have been influenced by the sexist secular mores for centuries, and made women exempt from praying as often as men do (once a day vs. three times a day), effectively taking their connection to God away. Without God on their side, Jewish women have remained powerless facing the sexism that surrounded them. It is imperative for Jewish women to reclaim prayer and our connection to God, since without it, we will never reach true equality.
5. What advice would you give other women who are trying to reconcile their faith and feminism?
There are so many ways to make feminism mesh with faith. It can get hard and seem futile at times, but nobody has to choose between God and feminism – it is so easy to combine the two. There are religious feminist organizations for every denomination, and religious feminists are getting more rights every day. Never lose hope, and always remember that you have God on your side.