liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
Someone in my circle asked me if I know of any material about Kabbalah by / for women. And I really really don't, but I bet I know people who do; any offers?

I feel like this is the kind of thing I ought to know, I am usually able to suggest resources when people ask me Judaism questions. The thing is that I'm really not drawn to mysticism. I sort of jokingly call myself a Litvak or a 'snag, which is a bit ridiculous, it's taking a position on 18th century religious and cultural issues I have only the vaguest idea of (a bit like trying to decide whether I'm a "Mod" or a "Rocker", I suppose). But most of what I love about Judaism intellectually is the legal detail, the formal logic and systematic stuff, everything intellectually rigorous in the way that's considered prestigious in academia in my secular culture. And most of what I love about it as a practice is almost exclusively exoteric, I like fixed ritual and common observance, I like communities that do practical things and provide support to their members, organized religion, in short. Not really inward spiritual stuff, I'm quite the opposite of all those people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.

So I have absolutely no time for the kind of new-agey magic type approach to Kabbalah; very often it's fairly culturally appropriative anyway, but even when it's authentically Jewish I'm completely put off. I am somewhat interested in a more scholarly approach to the mystical tradition, the kind that's based on detailed text study, but nearly always when I get that kind of opportunity for learning I'll gravitate towards something more Halachic and less mystical. I've learned a bit from R' Mark Solomon who is nothing if not intellectually rigorous, enough to convince me that there's something in this mystical tradition. But not enough that I can really talk usefully about the gender stuff.

I mean, there's the sexism of the context, where the tradition was that only men over the age of 40 could study Kabbalah at all. Which is mostly the kind of restriction that happens with mysticism, it's considered dangerous and only the most highly responsible people are allowed to engage with it – there are other restrictions, I think you are also supposed to be observant and knowledgeable and generally a steady and virtuous sort of person – but the thing is that at the time this was formulated women were automatically excluded from the category who might be safe in dealing with the esoteric bits of religion. And I know there is historical evidence for women's spiritual practice but most of it never got written down, what we have of it is fragments like Tzenarena and disapproving mentions in male-focused legal codes.

And there's also the sexism of the metaphorical structures of Kabbalah itself. There's this idea that the act of creation separated Godness into "masculine" and "feminine" aspects, and that mystics can contribute to reuniting God into one in a mystical-sexual sense and end the disharmony which is responsible for suffering and evil. (I haven't explained that at all well, as I said, I suck at mysticism.) But unsurprisingly there are lots of horrible gender-essentialist expansions on this, I mean, some of them are slantwise to twentieth century Anglo gender essentialism, like the aspect of Heroism / Justice / Virility (!) being classified as "feminine", but still annoyingly binary. And that's before you get to the interpretations which imply that God's "feminine" nature (rather than the disharmony between the aspects) is the source of evil.

So does anyone know of any good resources dealing with these things? And probably lots of other stuff that I haven't thought to ask about, given how little I know about Kabbalah or feminist scholarship in this area.

People who have no idea what I'm babbling on about, or indeed people who happen to be knowledgeable about two widely contrasting areas: can anyone help bring me up to speed on My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic? I'm making friends with two small children who are hugely into the series and I could do with a primer, enough to be able to talk to them usefully or at least understand the stories they very earnestly tell me.

I may just have to sit and watch some episodes, but I'm not inclined to consume the whole thing; any eps you'd recommend to give me a good sense for how the 'verse works? I mean, these kids are better at abstract thought than my informants when I was trying to get a sense of Power Rangers fandom in the 90s (in order to include them in the script of the panto I was commissioned to write), but even they tend to get a little bogged down in detail when I ask for explanations. Apparently I'm a bit like Pinkie Pie, but that might just be the extrovert thing.

I do find it a little disturbing how the pastel coloured but still basically ponies of my childhood are a lot more like sexy young women in the reboot. The huge eyes, the very thin long-legged body types which seem to allude to conventionally attractive post-pubescent women. And the way they so often stand on hind legs and use their forelegs as hands, in many of the glimpses I've seen of the animation, kind of grosses me out a little. However being prudish about this kind of thing isn't going to help, I'd much rather be positive about getting a sense of other people's fandom.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 01:16 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
I have some people I can probably poke on Facebook, but I also have the misnagdish hands-off approach to mysticism. I remember recently reading a book review on a book about archaeological research into Jewish amulet jars or something, that seemed to suggest this was a partially female-driven mystic tradition? But I can't track it down.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 01:44 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 06:58 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Yeah, I offered it up because I don't have anything else off the top of my head. To be honest, I don't even know what Kabbbalah by/for men there is.

The most in depth reading I've done on Kabbalah has been several chapters of Gershom Scholem's academic overview of the subject, after which I got bored of trying to parse out the difference between various versions of Merkabah traditions.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 02:25 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Amy is the person to ask about MLP, she managed to get across the basics of the central cast of 6 to me, even though I don't remember it all now :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 02:49 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Oh, right, sorry, yes, Amy who I dated briefly and is married to Kara and had the awesome birthday with the nametags and... And yes, not on DW, but I'm not sure if that's actually unique :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 02:26 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*sympathy* About mysticism, I often feel similarly.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 03:40 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
I'm quite the opposite of all those people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.

Heh - this applies to me too. There seems to be a mixture of people of both sorts in Quakerism, and I've heard similar of Judaism from others as well as you.

Yes, modern MLP - looks a bit scary, though I hear very good things about the setup and plots.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-24 07:02 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
MLP in a nutshell: A group of ponies with wildly different interests and personalities have adventures and conflicts and friendships. The basic message is that girls can be anything, and it's all good. You can be shy or smart or flaky or outgoing, you can be interested in business or books or fashion or sports, but everyone is special, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone needs friends.

The kids who watch MLP are watching the show, not looking at stills. What they take from it is completely different from what an adult who's completely unfamiliar with it takes by glancing at stills and brief clips, and comparing its purely visual elements divorced from context with a show from your own childhood that you watched in entirety.

It's been a while since I watched season one, but I recall enjoying "Sonic Rainboom," "Dragonshy," and "Party of One." The episodes are only 20 minutes long, and watching even one should give you a better sense of the show.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-25 01:32 am (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
While I haven't seen any Friendship Is Magic, hanging around the people that have suggests this is the main idea: A six-friend band composed of five distinct personality types headed up by Twilight Sparkle, bookish, and student of ruler Princess Celestia, have adventures and learn about the magical power of friendship. It turns out that each of the six is the embodiment of one of the main virtues of friendship.

Applejack is the farmer girl who is Hard Work personified, with the attendant headstrong-ness.
Pinkie Pie is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of endless energy and comedy.
Rarity is the fashion-conscious one with a perfectionist steak.
Rainbow Dash is the other endless-energy sport-obsessed pony.
Fluttershy is the timid one with the gift of talking to animals.

And then there are three young ponies who get used when the story demands something that the main cast won't be able to accomplish.

The main dragon antagonist, Discord, is voiced by John deLancie.

I hope that's a good grounding. There's a Wikia wiki if you need more information, but the show is starting Season Five, so there's a good chance the wiki will be a giant info dump.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-27 03:18 pm (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
You're welcome. At some point, I will probably actually watch the show...

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-30 11:53 am (UTC)
damerell: (ponies)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Dashie also has a truly enormous ego. "I prefer to think of them as everypony's trophies but with my name permanently etched onto them."

Discord is not a dragon but his own kind of beast, and is one of a series of antagonists - typically seasons start and end with some major threat, and the rest of the episodes are more ordinary in nature, especially in the earlier seasons. He's now a mostly-reformed character. He's still incredibly annoying (both to the other ponies and to the viewer).

Ponies are either unicorns (whose horns do telekinesis and maybe some other magic - Twilight, Rarity), pegasi (can fly - Dashie, Fluttershy), or earth ponies (neither - Applejack, Pinkie Pie) - save that the ruling caste, Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Cadence are "alicorns" with wings and horns, and Twilight recently turned into one and is now a princess.

There's some male supporting characters but essentially the Celestian Regime is a matriarchy. [personal profile] ceb and I have an extensive dissertation on how it's actually a failed Soviet state and Ponyville is a Potemkin village, but this may not be necessary to understand it from the point of view of tinies.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-01 01:35 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The children also confuse Discord with Eris.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-05 03:59 pm (UTC)
damerell: (ponies)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Discord is sort of semi-reformed at best. Suppose you live in a tiny flat full of breakable objects and don't like dogs much, and Discord was a rabid Great Dane. Now he's a non-rabid Great Dane who loves you - no longer rabid, but still a blasted nuisance, especially because he will turn rabid again if he doesn't live in your flat.

Ah, that was misphrased; the matriarchy bit and the Soviet bit are sort of independent of each other.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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