I am a terrible rebbetzin because I have fabulous lingerie. FABULOUS. Pink silk, black lace, some even with polka dots — the works. And before you say, “well that’s probably okay, provided you don’t show it to anyone” — think about the implications of a rebbetzin having fabulous lingerie for a minute.
I wash my lingerie, and then I let it dry on a laundry line. (You have to let lingerie air dry because otherwise it gets messed up. No seriously. Also I like the environment.) WHAT IF a congregant came over and saw my lingerie hanging out to dry? They would think, “gosh, what fabulous lingerie!” And then, being an intelligent person, they would wonder who it belonged to. They would probably realize that it belonged to me. And then they would think of all kinds of unsavory things, including maybe the idea that I have sex once in a while.
Oh. My. Goodness.
Rebbetzins can’t have sex! It is completely not allowed! Of all the insane thoughts one could dream up about a rebbetzin, it is perhaps the worst. What kind of a nutcase thinks that the rabbi’s spouse is a sexual being? Not okay.
Rebbetzins are the perfect blend of the Mammy stereotype and angels (and not those Tony Kushner angels who have sex either — the real asexual ones). Of course they can’t be sexual human beings with bodies and needs and orgasms and everything! Good rebbetzins actually have boring underwear on all the time as a fundamental part of their bodies, just like those dolls when you’re a kid who actually physically CAN’T be naked.
Good rebbetzins don’t need to do unseemly things like burp or fart either. And sleep? Psh. SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK! Ask any good rebbetzin on Thursday night when she or he is preparing for shabbos and thinking about her or his responsibilities over the next 48 hours. Good rebbetzins do not sleep.
I’m not sure why we can’t think of rebbetzins as having fabulous lingerie. Perhaps the rebbetzin is something of a replacement for our parental authority figures? In any case, they are NOT allowed to have fabulous lingerie.
So, I’m a bad rebbetzin. And if the world is going to fall apart because I’m a human being with needs, I’d rather be wearing polka dots on my tush.
Bad Rebbetzin Blog #3.
Note: I don’t actually think I’m going to be the world’s worst rebbetzin. However, I want to draw attention to rebbetzins and the expectations we as a community have for this anachronistic yet still relevant role. I think it’s important to problematize our unquestioned notions of gender, tradition, and perhaps even the very concept of spiritual “leaders” (e.g. the way we tend to think of clergy as superhuman). I want to think about exactly what I’m not allowed to do and why I’m not supposed to do it. This is the third part in a ten part series (the “Bad Rebbetzin Blog” within my Jewish Boston blog) exploring the themes of humanity and gender as they relate to our expectations for rebbetzins.
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