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This is a book review for Book Hub.

In the introduction, Lister asks why man is obsessed with war, why man destroys the environment, and why man abuses woman. He ends the introduction with “This book is my attempt … to expose the workings of the subconscious mind of man… and, in the process, to reveal Man’s Greatest Fear.” I wanted to read this because I, too, wonder why men abuse women.

 The first chapter is literally mind blowing. Lister gathers well researched and documented information on abuse of woman, proving it is universal regardless of culture, religion or economic status. Men from all walks of life abuse women, from denying them rights over their bodies through covering them up, beating them, raping them and mutilating them. And the reason he gives – and that is Man’s Greatest Fear – is that man is afraid of women, as man knows that women have power over him. On the face of it, the question of the book is answered, and all is left is to suggest how to solve it.

 However, from the second chapter onwards his research deteriorates. Lister continues by stating that man destroys the environment and loves war. He claims typical women are nurturing and protective – and points out many women who aren’t and solves the paradox by calling them atypical. In the same way he claims that typical men are selfish and destructive, and all other men are atypical. This is like claiming that typical women are blond and all brunettes are atypical. In other words – nonsense.

 He defends these conclusions by overwhelming examples of destructive and selfish men. However, in the first chapter he points out that women are rarely allowed in positions of authority because of male domination, and ignores this skewing of the data. He doesn’t even bother to mention the matriarchal societies that exist in the world today (such as the Mosuo, Minangkabau, Akan and more, easily found in Google) and the fact that in some of them men can’t own property or have rights over their children, reversing the roles instead of promoting equality. In short, he doesn’t even consider that the actual cause of destruction can be ascribed to the simple truism that “power corrupts”. As he doesn’t apply the barest research to matriarchal societies, his proposed solution – that women rule the world – is illogical (not that I would mind trying, but I found no basis that women, given positions of power, are less bloodthirsty than men).

 At some point the book becomes a rant against the politics in America today. As a non-American, this had little interest for me. However, during ranting he states conspiracy theories as if they were proven fact (Rabin was assassinated by the Mossad; JFK was assassinated by the CIA; etc). And he also writes glaring inaccuracies such as claiming that the Jews started the 1947 Israeli war of independence, when in fact the Jews accepted the UN two state solution and the Palestinians didn’t, attacking the Jews and starting the war (though most of the rest of his anti-Israel claims are unfortunately legitimate, even if they are open to different interpretations).

 In addition to the factual deterioration, he repeats himself constantly, making for tedious reading, and he ascribes to gender stereotypes in a blatant way.

It is a pity that he let a well-researched and interesting book degrade into conspiracy theory and American politics. I wished I had stopped reading after the first chapter.

Overall: 1 star.

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Hidden Star (Stars of Mithra, #1)Captive Star (Stars of Mithra, #2)Secret Star (Stars of Mithra, #3)

I found the entire trilogy mildly annoying.

It would probably be a good read for someone who hasn’t read a lot of Nora Roberts, but for me it was like reading a hodge-podge of recycled Nora Roberts works. The amnesia gambit was used in the Cordina series. Reincarnation as a plot point was used much more effectively in Midnight Bayou. Poor-little-rich-girl was used in uncountable Nora Roberts books, most of them much better. The entire plot was done excellently in Hidden Riches, without the clutter.

To top it all, in the first two books the couple meet for the first time, sleep together, and get engaged over the course of one long weekend. The reason given for this utterly insane action is that they knew each other in previous lives, so that’s OK. The third book takes longer, but I think no more than two weeks. And part of the plot is when she gets angry at him for wanting to back off because he thinks it’s going to fast. News flash, lady: it is going too fast. Back off. But reincarnation steps in again, so that’s OK, too.

Sheesh.

So why am I still giving it some stars? Because most of these things don’t bother you while reading. You get caught up in the romance, and the suspense works most of the time. So overall: 2.5 stars.

Book I – Hidden Star: This is the best one of the lot. The suspense works here, and you’re really curious how they figure out who this beautiful woman is who can’t remember anything beyond this morning. I liked it. 4 stars.

Book II- Captive Star: This is the worst one of the lot, as it’s simply glorifying Stockholm Syndrome. Seriously. Yes, I know that the hero has a heart of gold, blah blah blah, but the heroine doesn’t know this, and he beats her up, kidnaps her, handcuffs her to a car and a bed, and blackmails her. How romantic. 😕

In addition, I’ve just finished the Impact Self Defence for Women course (highly recommended) and the fight between the athletic black-belt MJ and Jack is so misleading it’s criminal. First rule: if you can, run. Being upset that a guy is invading your privacy and wanting to kick his ass is commendable, but if you see the chance, run! Second thing, keep in mind that a man has more upper body strength than a woman (generally). Therefore, the woman is at a disadvantage in a hand to hand fight. As counter-intuitive as it seems, the best position for the woman is lying on the floor so she can kick (using her usually superior lower body strength) without losing balance. Third, don’t waste energy without a target. If he’s pinning you down and you can’t get a good punch or kick, wait. Struggling just tires you out without doing anything to him. The black belt kick-ass MJ does this all the time, struggling until she’s too tired to move. So the subtext of the book? A woman, even an athletic black belt, can’t win against a man. Way to go, Nora*. 😦 0 stars.

Book III- Secret Star: This was nice, but predictable and clichéd. 2 stars.

* To be fair, in The Search a woman does win against a man. But still.

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‘ “My daughters, My daughters, why do you deny My kingship?”
The women reply [to G-d]: “Our brothers, our leaders, have so instructed us.” ‘

-On Women and Judaism, p. 78.

Having a daughter really changed my perspective on life. Considering that I’ve been a woman all my life, it’s ironic that only when I have a daughter I really look around at where women are and what they can have. And I am not happy.

Judaism is only one of these areas. Not necessarily because G-d decreed so; mostly because we had over 2000 years of male Rabbis deciding what is good for women. To be fair, these Rabbis didn’t live in a vacuum and they took their cues from the surrounding social structure, which wasn’t equal for women. But now these directives they issued are like law. Changing the law, especially when you don’t have any right to complain about it according to the same law, is never an easy process. Women in Judaism have almost no religious obligations, are left out of communal prayer, cannot bear witness, have no Jewish ceremony for any part of their life (celebration of Bat-Mitzvah is relatively new, as is the celebration of a girl’s birth. Both these ceremonies are not religious, more of a party). And don’t get me started on the marriage laws.

That makes me furious. I was mildly religious before I married. I became more religious afterwards, and the idea that by doing so I did an injustice towards my daughter makes me see red.

So I started my journey towards greater understanding. There is JOFA, and the Kolech organization of orthodox Jewish women, which are very helpful in increasing knowledge and awareness, as well as offering possibilities of action. I’m going to a more egalitarian synagogue now, and I’m going more regularly. I have started praying every day (this is actually one of the few obligations of Jewish women, but it’s played down and not all women consider it necessary). And I read “On Women and Judaism“.

This is rightly considered a classic on orthodox feminism. This was, to my surprise, published in 1981 (when I was a year old). That fact alone made me feel better. Not only is it known there is a problem, but it was known 30 years ago, and the seeds of change started already then. The explanations are clear and touching, the spiritual journey of the author poignant. In many places it had me nodding as she expressed exactly my anger and sense of injustice. And though many of her suggestions for improvement have not yet been implemented or even addressed, many have been. It allowed me to see the entire process, and granted me the understanding that change takes time.

I have taken some of her suggestions for my own, and I am going to work to make the other changes happen. This book gave me hope. I am not alone in this feeling and this is not the end of the process of change.

Thank you.

If you are Jewish and/or interested in feminism and religion: 5 stars.

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I don’t usually make religious, political or social commentaries on this blog. I keep it for recipes and some child-related anecdotes. But something happened that pushed me too far, and I had to write about it. I will also actively spread this blog post, so I ask anyone who agrees with me to reblog, send it on, add whatever comments you wish.

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The Rabbi Aviner is considered to represent the Religious Zionist stream in Israel, of which I am a part. However, he published a detailed blog post, with the force of psak, the rule of the Rav, on modest garb for women. (You can Google his site and “modest garb” if you want; I don’t want to link it here so that I don’t increase traffic to his site). It shocked me.

Because someone who can sit down and write such detailed descriptions of modest garb for women, under guise of praise for the “modest Jewish woman”, is basically telling all women that it doesn’t matter if they learn Torah, if they give to the poor, if they try to be kind to all people they meet; their worth is measured by the number of centimetres their hemline is under the knee, and the colour and type of cloth they choose to wear. And at the same time he is telling all men that it doesn’t matter if they learn Torah, if they give to the poor, if they try to be kind to all people they meet; the minute they will see a woman’s naked elbow or see that women are shaped differently than men they will become rapacious sex fiends with no control. But don’t worry, he says to men while patting them on the head, I’ve taken care of that for you.

Well, I believe that both men and women are created in G-d’s image. I believe that we are here to make the world a better place, and therefore it does matter if you learn Torah, if you give to the poor, if you try to be kind to all people. I believe that we were all given a body to respect and take pride in, and we were all – men and women – given urges that can be controlled with guidance and practice.

So you do not represent me, Rabbi Aviner. You do not represent me.

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Update: I have also tried to write directly to the Rav Aviner, and got evasive answers. After some back-and-forth emails, I was given his phone number to talk to him directly. I will call in the next few days after I calm down a bit and get his side of this issue. I will update here when I have answers.

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