Religion, Sex & Gender

Why Latkes Win Over Hamentaschen

or, Why I Like Hanukah More Than Purim.
Because parading your wife in public as a sex object isn’t funny.
Because getting mad when your wife doesn’t want to comply isn’t funny.
Because governmental fearmongering with wild speculations about women isn’t funny.
Because turfing out your wife in a fit of pique isn’t funny.
Because government legitimising intimidation in domestic relationships isn’t funny.
Because abduction isn’t funny.
Because fetishising virgins isn’t funny.
Because rape isn’t funny.
Because imprisonment in a harem isn’t funny.
Because your husband being allowed to kill you isn’t funny.
Don’t tell me I’m wrong in reacting to the text in a way that disturbs you.
Don’t tell me I’m reading it wrong.
Don’t tell me what the Midrash says.
Don’t tell me to lighten up.
Don’t tell me it’s all just a joke.
Don’t tell me it’s parody.
Don’t tell me that if I read it like you read it I wouldn’t get upset.
ETA. For instance, “Did you not notice that none of these things you complain of are supposed to be good or wise?” is telling me I’m reading it wrong. This comment fails. Yes, I did notice. Pipe down and think.

29 thoughts on “Why Latkes Win Over Hamentaschen

  1. Chanuakah is any better? Oh, please. It was the first Middle Eastern fundamentalist uprising.
    Forced conversions, forced circumcisions, checks and balance system scuttled in favor of tyranny of Hasmoneans, death to all “collaborators,” etc.

  2. I don’t know, DK. Esther actually quantifies the slaughter: the Jews kill 75,000 at the end.
    “Oh, Haman he was swingin’ while Mordechai was singin’ in Shu-shu-shu-shu-shushan long ago.”
    Woo hoo!

  3. Writing a post declaring that you won’t accept criticism doesn’t make that criticism invalid.
    Texts have genres. Many (but not all) of your complaints are the Biblical equivalent of saying you don’t like West Side Story because real gang members don’t sing and dance. Well, if that’s how you feel, fine, but kindly don’t act like it’s everyone else’s fault when they suggest you’re missing the point.

  4. Out of curiosity, do you think you would react differently if you thought it had been written by women as a parody?

  5. are you saying we should throw the holiday out? Use it as a spring board for discussing contemporary issues of sexuality and women in society? Why does the fact that this is in the style of parody and farce not make it more acceptable? Do you feel the same way about all comedies in carious media that have violence and sexism?
    And, miri, great question.

  6. What is truly bizarre about this post is that the examples (a more indelicate soul than myself might even claim propaganda) detailed by the Megillah as proof of the depravity of Persia are erroneously accepted as somehow an endorsement or acceptance of such behaviors.

  7. Forget the story and celebrate the holiday.
    By that I don’t mean get dressed up, go to shul, get drunk, and bring a grogger.
    Purim is a holiday that is part of our Jewishness no matter what we think of the story. Our community celebrate it and our ancestors once did. It’s your, our, responsibility to reinterpret and recreate how you see fit. That’s progress and it beats rejection.
    Example: My friend’s mother used to make her be Vashti every Purim. Her friends were all Esther and at the time she may have hated it, but 10+ years later she’s an avid (excuse my word choice) feminist with an exceptional understanding of social issues, discrimination, and civil rights.
    A little learning goes a long way. A holiday like Purim is whatever WE make of it… not what some man or woman might have told us to make of it 2000+ years ago.

  8. I agree with a lot of your points. i don’t find it funny, and the endless midrashim about why vashti deserved what she got, and got gave her a tail are pretty nasty.
    this year i leyned the decree against the women in eicha trop (last line of chap 1) to highlight that the jews aren’t the only group to have horrible and capricious decrees issued against them.
    i think esther reads best as an exile story. there are no good options for the jews. when esther acts the subservient wife, using her feminine mystique for power, it reminds me that she was living in a scary, oppressive world. and the king’s fixing of the genocide against the jews is pretty scary too: permission to defend yourselves. umm, they needed permission? what a mess. ok, lets go drink.

  9. Sarah: I didn’t hear it amidst the (albeit farcical) catcalls.
    I always took Vashti’s “feminist fuck you” defiance to the King’s order as the norm. When I discovered that Chabad and Artscroll endorse the “disobedient wife with poxmarks” position, I was aghast. Yes, DK, the “traditional” frummies take the misogynistic positions outlined in Jen’s post. But you knew that already.

  10. Not quite sure what you’re looking for here Soferet…. Endorsement? Validation? Commiseration?
    Since you’ve made disagreement and alternative perspectives off-limits, there doesn’t seem to be anything left for anyone to contribute except for “attagirl!” OK, none shall disagree. You are hereby validated.
    Unless I’m missing something, that’s about all you’ve left room to say.

  11. Yes, DK, the “traditional” frummies take the misogynistic positions outlined in Jen’s post.
    No, they don’t. None of the behaviors outlined at that party were ever considered acceptable.
    I would note that the Megillah is somewhat quite modern in a western sense, and with Esther, do suggest it’s okay for a woman to sleep her way to the top, even if there needs to be some caveat of Tikkun Olam/Save the Jews as well.

  12. This was literally the most sophomoric post I’ve ever read on the internet. What’s worse is you commanding commenters not to mount the ridicule you apparently knew this post deserves.

  13. Erm… so let me get this straight – the “traditional position” is that not only the king’s hedonistic partying was wrong… but also Vashti was wrong for wanting to have none of it (and in doing so violating a bad order)?

  14. In other words, Mordechai was tzaddiq for defying what he thought was a bad order, but for doing the same Vashti was rash`a?

  15. B.BarNavi and others:
    Achasverus is NOT the protagonist in the Megillat Esther. Do you really not understand this? He is presented as a complete buffoon, and not a lovable one.

  16. I agree with all your points… and IMO, JCADA’s use of the story as an opportunity to instruct people about domestic violence is Awesome…and the story isn’t really about people, it’s really about israel and the nations – still not funny, and up there with several prophetic narratives in which God (baal) abuses Israel (ishto), but still… it’s not IMO meant to be taken as a story about real people – and the end result is probably supposed to be… you will no longer call me baali, but ishi…..

  17. I NEVER SAID that Ahashverosh was “the protagonist” or anything near it. I always understood him as rasha`, and the midrash confirms my thoughts. I’m still reeling over the double standard treatment given to VASHTI by HaZa”L. Why do you constantly refuse to see this, and claim I say something else entirely?

  18. First of all, all those things actually are funny. Even rape – cf. Sara Silverman, “Blazing Saddles.”
    And really? Chanukah fits better with our modern morals than Purim does? With the whole religious war, and whatnot? Just say you like to drink more than you like presents. Not only is that a sound argument founded on a logical premise, but it doesn’t compel a round of “someone’s out of Midol!” jokes. Which haven’t been made by the respectful folk here in the Jewschool, but that’s more a testament to their restraint rather than the thoughtfulness of your post.
    Shouldn’t you be upset that the only woman anywhere near the dominant Chanukah narrative is the mother who killed herself and her children rather than bowing down to idols?
    Why perpetuate the “angry feminist” stereotype when your point could have been made so much more effectively in just about any other form?
    Meh, I say. You want to represent your gender? Root for the holiday that offers the single strongest female character in Judaism, who used all of her wit and skill – yes, even the sexy sexy bits – to save her people. Root for Esther and Vashti too, who both refused to be held back by the repressive male authorities in their lives.
    Geez, I would be the best feminist EVER. Too bad I have testicles.

  19. Young-sounding feminists insisting, “That’s not funny!” is itself an ongoing joke.
    And angry feminists do not yet determine what is and isn’t funny, and will never have that power as a group. That is one industry that definitely has an inherent glass. The fact is, victimologists just aren’t usually intentionally funny.

  20. >>”I’m still reeling over the double standard treatment given to VASHTI by HaZa”L. Why do you constantly refuse to see this, and claim I say something else entirely?”
    That’s untrue and I don’t understand where this complaint comes from. The Midrash says nothing about the morality of Vashti’s refusal to appear (possibly naked) in front of the king.
    At least one opinion, however, is that Vashti had little problem with exhibitionism except that she abruptly fell ill and became “entailed” — as a sudden Divine punishment for her gleeful malice in forcing her harem of Jewish women slaves to work on Shabbat.
    The Midrash is obviously encrypting something here, but there’s no hostility against Vashti because of her simple refusal to obey Achasverosh’s command (which is also seen as a multilayered order driven by several motives on Achashverosh’s part). She;s simply seen as a person of foul character. Not sure why you thought otherwise.
    (Also read what Malbim says about Achashverosh issuing such an order to his wife: “Could there be any grander insanity than this?!”)

  21. News Flash: DK Announces “Feminists aren’t funny!” Unless they’re young and saying, “That isn’t funny!”
    BY the way, Chanukah does have a strong female character – Judith.
    Wait for it: beheadings aren’t funny!

  22. KRG, haven’t you heard the joke about, “How many feminists does it take to put in a lightbulb?”
    Answer: “That’s not funny!”

  23. Yay!! Let’s be Jewish but throw out everything that being Jewish means. I don’t like what it says in Esther. Throw it out! I don’t like what it says in the Torah. Throw it out! But don’t call me an inauthentic Jew. My choices are just as valid as those traditional Jews. Don’t impose your definition of what Jewish means on me!

  24. Thank you, Jen.
    This year I was asked “What’s your favorite part of Purim?” and the ONLY thing I could think of that I particularly like about the holiday is its endorsement of the committed but assimilated Jew.
    Your post helped to center some of my thoughts on it.

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