Teaching Naama

It isn’t that we’re horrible; it isn’t that we’re mean—
That outfit that she’s wearing, though, we’ve noticed it’s obscene!
It stimulates! It irritates! It positively rankles!
A skirt so short that anyone can clearly see her ankles!
An outfit so immodest, you can tell just what it’s for,
So we’re only being honest when we tell her she’s a whore
We’re protectors of morality, the keepers of the locks,
We’re honor-bound to spit at her; we’re justly throwing rocks
Not even shameless prostitutes should dare to be so bold
So we’re teaching her a lesson… After all, she’s eight years old.

A bit of a wandering thought, after the jump:

Via CBS News this morning, yet another clash between ultra-orthodox Jews and reality. This time, the battlefield is the sidewalk on the way to a girls’ school in Israel, where ultra-orthodox men have taunted, harassed, and spat on the girls, for not dressing modestly enough.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”

Her plight has drawn new attention to the simmering issue of religious coercion in Israel, and the increasing brazenness of extremists in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

“When I walk to school in the morning I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared … that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting,” the pale, blue-eyed girl said softly in an interview with The Associated Press Monday. “They were scary. They don’t want us to go to the school.”

The story is worth reading, but I won’t really talk about it here. It reminds me, though, of something a non-traditional student once told me. She had been involved in a string of abusive relationships, and thought she had finally figured out her part in the problem.

A relationship is a bit like a dance, she said. As a child, she had learned a particular dance; she knew the steps, knew the music, had learned it from her abusive father. She did not like this dance, but she knew it. And for the longest time, it was the only dance she really knew. In her teenage years and young adulthood, she would occasionally hear that music–and while she did not like that dance, she did know those steps, and she would find herself dancing. It took her until her 30’s to really see what was happening, and to take the time to teach herself some new dances.

One is tempted to ask why women would remain in religious societies that treat them so badly. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, it’s not even worth my taking time to link to examples; the front page of FreethoughtBlogs will, on any given day, have a handful to choose among. But of course, asking that question is tantamount to blaming the victims; it is the society, bound inextricably with religion, that plays the music, and this is the dance these women know.

We need new music.



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