The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
Among many other exciting offerings at the JOFA conference evening of the arts, we’re excited to host Monologues from the Makom. This event is like The Vagina Monologues but with a Jewish twist – the name is based on the word makom, a common Talmudic euphemism for vagina (though it literally means “place” in Hebrew). Like The Vagina Monologues, Monologues from the Makom will offer a stage for frank discussion of sexuality, but from the unique perspectives of Jewish women. The event will be an all women’s** safe space to share and listen to stories about sexuality, body image, gender, and Jewish identity.
A version of Monologues from the Makom was organized privately last year. After a brief period of advertisement on Facebook, the event took place in a living room in Washington Heights (in Manhattan) and attracted over 60 women, 17 of whom volunteered to share their own monologues. The monologues took varied forms and addressed a range of topics, from poems about body image to stories about masturbation, from slam poems about gender norms to snarky demonstrations of the proper use of period cups. One woman even brought in a painting of a vagina she had done for an art class. The event was full of warmth and sex-positivity, and provided an honest, open, supportive space to talk about the huge parts of ourselves that often go unsaid. We’re excited to be hosting the second iteration of Monologues from the Makom at the conference, to open up this space to even more women.
To give you a better idea of what to expect at the event, here is an excerpt from anonymous monologue (reproduced here with permission):
The first time I heard it was on a school bus. My seven-year-old feet in their Mary Janes bumped against the seat in front of me as the clattering mini bus took the turn too fast. I wanted to ignore them. But I was in second grade and they were in fifth, and they were boys, and social order dictated that I listen to them. So I did.
“Say X three times!” their ringleader shouted at me. The boys behind him sniggered.
“X. X. X.” I conceded quietly as they burst into laughter, my cheeks burning with embarrassment that I didn’t know how to name.
“She said sex! She said sex!” they chanted, whooping at my bewilderment. I wanted to shrink in on myself, disappear.
“That’s so disgusting, I can’t believe you would say something like that,” one of them said, mock-lecturing me.
“I bet she doesn’t even know what it means!” shouted another gleefully, shoving his index finger through the hole made of the thumb and index finger on his other hand. In and out. In and out. The other boys whooped again, laughing at this bold illustration of something that I didn’t yet understand, but that was definitely very bad.
A few weeks later, I am at the sleepover birthday party of a girl in my class. She was much taller than I was, and already putting on shiny lipgloss and blue eyeshadow on the weekends. She was the coolest girl in my class, and she had an older sister, so she knew about stuff. Girl stuff. Grownup stuff.
After a movie with kissing (which I wasn’t allowed to watch at home) and a nail polish activity, we all went to sit on her bed and whisper with her older sister. I felt out of place, too naive to understand what they were talking about, not sure how to pretend to be cool enough for them, so mostly keeping quiet.
“Do you know about sex?” the older sister asked us in hushed tones. “I’m not even supposed to tell you about it cuz it’s really dirty…”
“Uch come on Leah, we already know about that stuff,” huffed the eight-year-old birthday girl.
“Yeah Leah, it’s what happens after kissing, where they take their clothes off and stuff. We’re not stupid!” her best friend said. I felt confused, my cheeks turning red again in the dark. Taking your clothes off? After kissing? Who does that? Is it like you do for a bath?
“Fine!” said Leah, annoyed that her information wasn’t valuable. “So I guess you know where he sticks his thing–”
“Uch, stop Leah, you’re so disgusting! Get out!” screamed the birthday girl, amid giggles and little shrieks from the other girls. The big sister, bearer of secrets, ran out of the room in a huff.
While the girls around me giggled and cuddled with each other, I tried to stay quiet, in a corner where no one would notice me. I didn’t know where he sticks his thing, or even what his thing might be. But whatever it was, it was clear to me by now that it was disgusting.
If you want to submit your own monologue to share at the event, you may do so here. There is a five minute time limit on pieces, but no limit on content and form! Everyone has a different story to share, and we welcome you to do so in whatever form makes most sense to you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submission has been extended to January 5th before midnight!
This is a safe space event, and we ask that all participants come with an attitude of respect, openness, and appreciation toward our peers for being brave enough to talk about this potentially sensitive topic.
**This event is open to anyone who identifies as female, regardless of gender expression.