Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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But none o f these insights prevent Beatrix from continuing to
perpe tua te the patriarchal model o f mo thering her daugh ter,
Her Mothers
tells the patriarchal story o f women from the po­
sition o f a woman who is aware o f the need for change. One
change B roner makes is to provide details o f women’s bodies.
Her Mothers
relishes in details o f women’s bodies that masculine
discourse refrains from disclosing. Beatrix catalogues body
parts that give discomfort by not conform ing to patriarchal
standards o f beauty, and provokes masculine discomfort with
details about menstruation and birthing, female masturbation,
and lesbian sexuality. She claims she learned more about passion
from Emily Dickinson’s veiled references to self-pleasure than
she learned from male lovers who were interested in their plea­
sure alone. And she seems to have received most sexual sat­
isfaction from Israeli Naomi. But because these rep resen t im­
portan t but fleeting moments, they make the book’s ending ap ­
pear little more than a hope, with its promise o f “no more as­
sassinations” between Beatrix and her daugh te r Lena, and its
closing invocation to mothers and daugh ters to give b irth to
each o ther as a community o f women.
The achievement o f B roner’s
A Weave of Women,
is precisely that it does presen t that community o f women trying
to give b irth to and heal each other, and that it emphasizes
the richness o f the multiplicity o f d ifferen t voices that constitute
womanhood. But the single mutually pleasant relationship be­
tween a mo ther and daugh te r in this book is seen in the shared
cooking and embraces in Hepzibah’s weekly meetings with her
aged mo ther. Beyond this, m o th e r-d augh te r conflict and
mother-blame persist; in fact, their effect is one o f the aspects
o f patriarchy from which women try to help each o ther heal.
For instead o f helping their daugh ters deal with their sexuality,
mothers pass on patriarchal attitudes. Hepzibah’s own daugh te r
sides with he r father against her mother. Moreover, mothers
protect their sons, not their daughters. By depicting such mo th­
ers as Gentile as well as Jewish, B roner points to their behavior
as patriarchal ra th e r than specifically ethnic.
Both Shula and Rina, wayward girls who end up on the street,