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.
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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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