Category Archives: Holidays

The Truth About “Witches”

About a week or so ago, my daughter H- had attempted to read one of the junior Goosebumps books that they have in class…and found out that she’s not quite ready for books of that nature. She was upset by it and said it would give her bad dreams. So I told her to just avoid those types of books. She did have an interest in thrilling, spooky stories, but that, apparently, was biting off more than she could chew.

witches

Yesterday, she came home somewhat upset about a book that’s now being read for storytime to her class, about “witches”.  (Roald Dahl’s “The Witches”) Among the points brought up in the book was that “witches” could be anywhere – her teacher could be one, (her mother could be one – and what fun that was trying to explain to her that I was NOT a “witch”.)

I tried to set her straight on some of the common myths and misconceptions that are usually being spread about early feminists and women skilled in herbal medicine, or who did not comply with the restrictive social mores of the past regarding how women were to behave under the rule of male-dominated, sexist and misogynistic society, and yes – the minority of actual Wiccans/witches who were caught up in that.

In fact, if you substitute the letter “b” for the “w” in the word “witches”, the sexism and misogyny that was aimed at women who did not conform, becomes quite clear – and we can still see evidence today that that has continued.

bbc pye

Watching a movie like the classic “Bell, Book & Candle” (starring Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon) as a child is a lot different than watching it as an adult and viewing it through the eyes of understanding that the myths perpetuated about such women were attacks on feminism – a woman choosing not to marry or not making a man the center of her existence somehow equates to being a cold-hearted, manipulative “witch” (and you can substitute the “b” there), and when she finally does fall in love (or get married), she *loses her power*. Because yes, women were not allowed by men, for much of human history, to have any real personal autonomy or “power”, or be able to vote, own property, be credited as inventors, have ownership over her own sexuality, reproductive freedom, etc…

bi

Calling a woman a “bi—“ is a way of setting society against her, a way of pushing her down, making her ashamed (or scared) of being independent, of being a leader, not falling in line with misogynistic/sexist ideals of the stereotypical subservient woman who would never *dream* of disagreeing with or challenging a man’s domination, and justifying all sorts of bullying, harassment, and criminal behavior against such women. “The bi— had it coming to her!” How many times have women been raped (which is an act of domination and power more than it is sexual), and been blamed for somehow “deserving” or “inviting” it, due to the misogyny and sexism that is still rampant in our society today? How many women have even been killed for being thought of as somehow thwarting a man’s “rightful” entitlement to do with her as he pleases?

‘I will slaughter every single blonde s*** I see’: Lonely killer posted chilling video warning of ‘retribution’ because he was still a virgin at age 22

I’m sure that if you’ve heard anything about the Salem witch trials, you know that the majority of women targeted, tortured and killed were the victims of false accusations – no “witchcraft” or anything even resembling it was even involved in many cases.

The trials were unfairly rigged against them and have horrifying similarities to methods employed in the Spanish Inquisition. A lot of people were unfairly targeted by false accusation in that as well, mostly so the church/state could seize assets and property.

salem

For example: the myth that a witch can “float” (swim) on water. How many women faced the Catch-22 of that: be thrown into a lake to drown (and be posthumously deemed innocent), or swim (or actually float, depending on their water skills or bodily fat content) thereby “proving” their supposed guilt. And the myth that a “witch” can’t bleed in certain areas of her body if pricked? Pricking devices with retractable pins insured that everyone so tested would fail, other professional “witch prickers” would gleefully prick away with actual pins – when a non-bleeding “witchmark” couldn’t be found, it was claimed that the devil had removed it to hide the “fact” that the woman was a “witch”.

hansel

Even in fairy tales, women with no “magical” powers whatsoever were lumped into the category of “witches”, even some with obvious mental disorders – the “witch” in Hansel and Gretel, for example. Yes, she was severely disordered – cannibalism is a horrible thing…but so is abandoning two children in the woods to leave them to either starve to death or become the prey of wild animals. Hansel and Gretel’s parents, however, are viewed in a tragic/sympathetic light, and not as the actual monsters they were. (One wonders if the origin of that story even had a cannibalistic woman in it anyway – that might just have been taking poetic license to turn a predatory animal attack (which places the abuse squarely on the heads of the parents who exposed the children to that situation) to an attack by a cannibalistic “witch” (thereby deflecting the accusation of “monster” away from the parents and onto that “witch”, and even adding a little victim-blaming by suggesting it is the childrens’ own greed for treats (or food in this case, as the children were starving) that led to their predicament.)

witch-cauldron-cooler

And of course, the Halloween season is absolutely rife with misconceptions of the Wiccan religion and modern real-life witches. Yes, there may be some practitioners among them that may be involved in dark things, but just as not every Christian is an active member of the KKK, most Wiccans/Pagans/modern-day witches are not involved in that end of their religion’s/practice’s spectrum.

“Yes,” I explained to H-, her teacher or anyone else could very well be a “witch”, or rather what sexists and misogynists would view as a “bi—“, or she could even be a Wiccan – but there is NOTHING wrong with being either of those!

Essentially, the book that is being read to the children in class, is perpetuating harmful and untrue myths, stereotypes and intolerance about strong, capable women, modern-day witches and Wiccans.

To extrapolate, during the winter season, I’m wondering will there also be a book perpetuating the harmful and untrue myths, stereotypes and intolerance toward Jews? Like the old bit about Jews eating Christian babies? (I remember when I was a child getting physically assaulted by Christian kids (in NJ) for being Jewish because of crap their parents were telling them at home.)

Or at Thanksgiving, will there be books calling Native Americans, “Indians” and perpetuating the dehumanizing myths about Native Americans being “savages” that conveniently leaves out the Trail of Tears, or that the U.S. government (being truly savage themselves) supplied them with blankets that were deliberately infected with smallpox?

trail-of-tears

I would like to respectfully implore anyone out there who is in charge of picking books to read to impressionable children to consider choosing a book that does not promote religious intolerance, sexism, misogyny and harmful stereotypes that have continued to be spread for way too long.

It gave H- bad dreams about “witches” that even my talk with her could not dispel.

To make things simple on her, as an 8 yr old third-grader, I told her to just read another book during storytime. If the teacher objected, she could tell the teacher “I don’t agree with the message in that book.” If the teacher needs further explanation, she can add: “Just switch the “w” with a “b” in “witches”, and you’ll understand why.”

**UPDATE: After emailing H-‘s teacher to ask about the book being read in class, I received a reply from her stating that she would not continue reading it to the class.**

Thoughts?

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**Author’s note: after writing the above article, which can be a touchy subject for many, I sought feedback from modern-day witches, Wiccans, feminists and other moms. A slight tweaking was needed, but otherwise the general consensus was that the subject matter was being treated respectfully and fairly.  If you feel this is not the case, please let me know and I will take your views under consideration.

It’s National Kale Day on Oct. 1st!

From the National Kale Day website

Be a Kale Hero:

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  • How Can You Help?

    #1 – Join Team Kale and downloadthe Kale Hero Kit, giving you the tools, facts and infographics to become a kale ambassador.

    #2 – Become a part of the National Kale Day community, sharing your tips, photos, recipes and insights on ourTwitter, Facebook, Pinterest andInstagram pages.

    #3 – Help spread the word about National Kale Day with hashtags#nationalkaleday and #kaleday2014(click to tweet)

    #4 – Send in your photos planting, growing, cooking and eating kale… click here to upload your images and announce your events.

    #5 – Sign the National Kale Day petition at Change.org, asking Congress and the President to declare the first Wednesday of every October the official National Kale Day!

The Tiny Terror of 1st Grade

Seems like I’m having to write a number of emails to the counselor of the elementary school my twins attend.

Here’s the latest one:

(*”Nellie’s” name has been changed and is not her real one.)

Hi Mrs. S,

I’m pretty steamed about this.

For awhile there, I thought we were doing pretty well with the “Nellie”* situation, Halle even received an invite to “Nellie’s” birthday party!

But today Halle informed me that “Nellie has reminded her once AGAIN (the last time was a few months ago) that she intends to travel to our apartment, break in and break all of Halle’s Dora the Explorer DVDs and the DVDs of any other show that “Nellie” thinks are “for babies”. (and yes, I’ve told Halle how improbable it is that “Nellie” could actually carry out such a thing, but Halle is afraid, nonetheless.)

Halle also has been letting me know on an almost weekly basis for the past month that “Nellie” has been telling her that The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and Easter Bunny aren’t real, that it’s the mom that puts out all the presents and lies about it to the kids.

I told Halle to just tell “Nellie” to stop trying to ruin her fun, but “Nellie” is not so easily dissuaded. Since Halle has done her best to deal with this situation on her own, and the situation has once again devolved into “Nellie” threatening Halle, I’m now escalating it to you.

Look, I don’t know who ruined a big part of the fun of childhood for “Nellie, but that does not give her the right to try and undermine what I tell my kids.

I’ve done my best to circle around the issue because I do not want to lie to Halle if she ever, of her own volition, asks me if those characters are real or not, but I do not count this as Halle excercising her agency, but being coerced by peer pressure/bullying.

And I really resent being constantly put in this position!

I’ve mentioned it to you before and I’ll say it again – someone should seriously look into “Nellie’s” homelife. It seems like she’s having such a miserable experience of childhood that she’s acting out by trying to make other children miserable by crushing any innocent happy enjoyment of childhood experiences for them. “Nellie” is obviously not dealing too well with something in her life and is taking it out on Halle. Some kind of intervention is needed for “Nellie”. Is it really appropriate for a threat-making child like this who so resents others’ happiness to be placed in a class without additional supervision?

I would prefer to avoid confronting “Nellie’s” parents, or having to tell Halle that “Nellie” is dealing with unresolved emotional/mental issues, but this child does not have the right to ruin things for Halle, Zanna, my husband and I, the twins’ grandparents (all five of them), 14 uncles/aunts, 1 godmother, and 1 grand-aunt, and a number of older cousins (we’re not counting the Japanese grandaunts/granduncles).

The entire family is pretty upset by this! This will spoil a lot of the fun of family holidays. I even have a friend that sometimes calls the girls up pretending to be one of the characters, and my brother D. calls up all his nieces pretending to be Santa Claus every year!

I would really like for this to be substantially resolved before March 21st, which is the RSVP date for “Nellie’s” birthday party.

Short notice, I know, but the repeated threat was made today.

Like I said, I, and many others in my family are pretty steamed by this situation.

I appreciate your taking the time to read all of this. I know that you will give it the time and attention it needs so that my children are not further traumatized by this unhappy child and that “Nellie” can get the help and support she obviously is in desperate need of.

Sincerely,
Lara N

 

 

Vashti gets the short end of the stick on #Purim

happyPurim

This weekend we’ve been celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Part costume party, part holy day, Purim commemorates the time way back when some nasty bad guy decided to decimate the entirety of Jews living in the land. (as nasty bad guys are prone to doing)

In a plot twist worthy of Disney, a brave young girl (Esther – aka Hadassah) braves the odds,  becomes Queen, and with her faithful companion Mordecai (her uncle), she turns the tables on the wicked Haman (boo!) and the Jews are safe once again until the next baddie takes a crack at ’em.  Oh yeah, somewhere in there is Esther’s tool of a husband – King Ahasureus (aka Xerxes).

But before sweet, virginal Esther happened upon the scene to turn the King’s head, there was Vashti, a beautiful Queen.

That is, until her husband demanded that she parade around in front of his buddies at his drunken stag party so that he and his homies could have a good gawk at her beauty.

Vashti, like any confident, self-respecting woman, of course is turned off by the notion that she – the QUEEN – is to be shown off and objectified in front of drunken partygoers – by her HUSBAND, of all people, so she respectfully declines the ‘honor’.

The drunken King flies into a rage and divorces her and has her cast out of the palace. Right after that he’s ‘testing out’ all the virgins in the land until he finds the most biddable one – Esther.

Yeah, hooray for Esther saving the Jews because of the mess her foolish husband got them into by pandering to the overblown ego of his cruel advisor.

Whatever.

But what really fries my turkey bacon is that now and forevermore, every Jew on the planet is loudly proclaiming (in front of their impressionable young daughters, sisters, female children of whatever relation) that Vashti was a bee-yotch of the highest order for not agreeing to parade around in front of drunkards to be treated as though her only worth is her physical looks.  How dare she say anything against the disrespect of her husband toward her!

“Oy Vey!” we say, shaking our heads in disgust at her “stupidity”, when we should all really be on our feet cheering “You go, girl!”

Because the dream of every parent is for their daughter to grow up someday and be paraded in front of cat-calling drunks who only view her as being good for one thing – being pretty.

So why the heck are we wasting so much time, money and energy on getting more girls interested in S.T.E.M. (Science, Tech, Engineering & Math)?

God was the one foolish enough to put a functioning brain inside females, but we humans know better than God Almighty, am I right, or am I right?

So obviously the lesson to be learned from Vashti on Purim is that the highest a woman can aspire to is being objectified by drunks, with her own husband (such a good catch!) at the head of the slavering pack.

Oy flipping Vey!

 

 

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