Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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STRAUS / IDEOLOGICAL AGENDAS AND IMAGES OF WOMEN
3 7
received slaps from their Jewish mothers at the onset o f men­
struation, which is treated as the sign that the girls can sin and
bring shame. Two mothers helped create Irish Deedee’s wounds
which the community o f women helped heal and avenge.
Mother-blame is directed to Deedee’s unsympathetic Irish
mother, who, when she understood that Deedee had been raped
on her nineteenth birthday, slapped her and told her she was
o f no use to anyone. It is also directed to the hasidic mother
o f the man who stones Deedee as his “seductress” after in te r­
course. The pe rpe tra to r o f crimes against women is depicted
as the son o f a mo ther who shared a mattress with him until
he was bar mitzvah; who raised her voice and hand only against
his sister, not him; who begged the women to stone her, not
him, when they sought revenge; and who continued to defend
him against the women, when he was charged and taken away
for his crime. Similarly, the mo ther o f the Bedouin prince,
whose companion killed Simcha’s infant daugh te r accidentally,
instead o f the Jewish woman who “defiled” the prince by sleep­
ing with him, offers her bride-price to get Simcha’s mo ther to
testify for a lesser sentence for her son.
Again, as in Roth’s novels, ra th e r than endorsing these images
of patriarchal mo therhood and mo ther-daugh ter conflict,
A
Weave of Women
allows us to see the imprisoning na tu re o f these
images. In fact the book begins with the attemp t o f Simcha,
an unwed mother by choice, to provide a d ifferen t tradition
for mothers and daugh ters with the birth o f her daugh ter,
Hava. And the presentation o f that attempt, in which the birth
is completely en trusted to the community o f women, is instruc­
tive o f the difficulty and limitations o f creating what is truly
liberating and new. Hava’s birth contrasts sharply with the birth
o f Lena in
Her Mothers.
There , the birth is a sterile, medical
operation in which, despite Beatrix’s request, a male doctor,
considering the delivery
his,
excludes the mother from alert p a r ­
ticipation by overmedication. The community o f women, on the
o ther hand , provide comfort, support and attention to m o ther’s
and d augh te r’s needs at Hava’s birth, prohibiting the violent
birth-slap. T h e ir emphasis on birth as a natural
female
process,
however, allows the husband to be present, but alienated and
excluded from the activity.