Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
UNIQUE RITUAL
Similarly, the women create a ritual for daughters, paralleling
the circumcision o f sons — a ritual in which the fa ther is again
present, but excluded from participation. This hymenotomy —
ceremonial pricking o f the baby’s hymen -— is seen as a ritual
to liberate women from being ju d g ed by the state o f their hy­
men, ra the r than more im po rtan t qualities. But it is importan t
to question the na tu re and ex ten t o f such “liberation.” Women
taking charge o f their lives and trying to erase differences based
on masculine values involves a definite gain. But the substitution
o f woman-prescribed hymenotomy, paralleling circumcision,
for masculine sexual initiation, a substitution o f one kind o f
mutilation for another, would seem merely to pu t women, ra th ­
er than men, in charge o f a violent act against women. It does
not eliminate the violence, o r the basis o f the need to discrim­
inate amongst women on the basis o f their hymens. In fact,
the created ritual involves the same oversimplification as Selma
Zuckerman’s hope that erasing negative images o f Jews will
erase anti-Semitism.
Like Roth in
Zuckerman Bound,
B roner presents a complex
view o f the relationship between images in literature and life.
B roner’s list o f he r real-life “Daughters o f Jerusa lem ” in
A Weave
of Women,
like that o f her real-life “Mothers” in her earlier work,
extends those fictional characters, b lu rring the boundaries be­
tween literary images and life. But in
A Weave of Women,
the
na rra to r rem inds us not to oversimplify the relationship: “In
the legend there is relief from the enemy, sorrow is tu rned
into gladness, mourn ing into holiday. In life, only some o f this
is possible.” A more truly liberating image might depict a system
which would eliminate the need for violent initiation rites for
both men and women.
Finally then the images o f Roth and B roner are surprisingly
alike. For the most part, the gains in B rone r’s focus on women
are attained by reversing the emphasis on men in Roth. While
both depict the co-constitutive na tu re o f masculinity and fem ­
ininity, in neither is there to be found an emancipatory vision
o f the rewriting o f the co-constitutive relationship. The begin­
ning o f
A Weave of Women
lists seventeen main female characters,
“and the men they encoun ter .” B roner’s focus on a community
o f women often typically reduces the men to a secondary status