Sep 6, 2011

Quiet to Captivating

The things that I don't write about on this blog could fill the largest spaces of the grandest libraries of the world. When I started blogging, eons ago back in the days of LiveJournal, I managed a very public, honest, and forthcoming image for myself. When I started this specific blog in March 2006, I decided that I would continue my public face in order to build a narrative on my journey to and through Judaism.

Did I anticipate it would garner as much readership as it has now? No. Way. Jose. I'm blown away every day by the hits, the emails, the comments: You guys have made it all worthwhile. But the things I really want or even need to write about -- this blog is my therapy, a voice for the voiceless neshama -- I can't. Why? Because I'm a public blogger. Anonymity, in my point of view, is more harmful than helpful and despite not being able to write about some things that would be worked out through the therapy of word-sharing, I still couldn't imagine doing this any differently. (Remember that rant against anonymous bloggers I wrote?)

Okay, back up, is that really true? Back on March 11, 2006, I wrote,

This is top secret. 
And just in case google does take over the world. I want to be prepared for the changeover when all other blog hosts go defunk. I respect you, LiveJournal, and you've had my love for the past 6 or 7 years, but there comes a time, you know. A time when google waves it's hand over the land and everything disappears.
Ridiculous, I know. So I'm only remembering it the way I want to remember. Or am I? On March 26, 2006, I wrote,
OK. So I lied. I'm moving over. I've decided to be more anonymous. More liberal. But more anonymous. LiveJournal, I love you so, but quite frankly, maybe the fact that I've been around there since the late 1990s has made me ... not grow. I want to write more meaningful things. I want to post about Judaism and what I'm learning and my mundane activities should be no part of that. I need to grow and mature in my writing and my faith. 
So I'll start over. I'm tired of trying to find mantras and phrases that should define how we should be and how we aren't. I can't put words to anything but my emotions. You can't put words to the future, only to the past. So there's no point in trying to express what future I could find, when I should just be writing and creating a chronology for the past. 
Well, and that's where we begin.
Oops. Wrong again. I wanted to be anonymous? I don't remember it that way. In fact, I remember feeling like this blog was a new beginning, a liberation, a place where I could really be the big, bad Jewish me that I was -- something that didn't fit in fluidly with my LiveJournal persona of angst and anger and, well, language. Lots of language. I was a sailor once upon a time, evidently.

It's funny to me, going back and reading this. I was inspired to do so because a friend back in Nebraska (Thanks, Sarah!) sent me an article from the July 2010 College English journal, "A Virtual Veibershul: Blogging and the Blurring of Public and Private among Orthodox Jewish Women" by Andrea Lieber. 

The article is based on research from 2006-2008, a time period in which I was still a mere puddle in the Jewish Blogosphere, let alone an Orthodox Jewish Woman blogger. The author suggests that "blogging is better understood as a technology that enables an expansion of the private sphere for the Orthodox Jewish women who write them" (622), which I can partially agree with, but then she says things like "Blogs are usually, but not always, anonymous" (629), which I wholly disagree with. 

The article is interesting because it focuses on several anonymous, frum women bloggers who tell Lieber that their blog is their place "to vent," "to shout out to the entire world," or to utter a "primal scream" (629). One of the women goes so far as to describe herself as completely orthopraxic but living the life because that's just what you do. To be honest, her case studies are, in my opinion, an incredibly poor glimpse at the amazingly broad tapestry of Orthodox Jewish Women bloggers. She cites 50 OJW blogs discovered between November 2006 and March 2007. Really?

My question is: Did those of us out there who are Orthodox Jewish Women bloggers just hit the scene with force in the past three years? Most of the OJW bloggers I know wouldn't describe their blogs as some place for them to scream out in a way that they can't traditionally in the "traditional" community. 

I also don't feel like most of the OJW bloggers I know would agree that their "public writing does subvert certain aspects of traditional Jewish gender roles" (622). The women that Lieber interviewed were quick to point out that their blogging had no feminist ambitions, and I would agree with that point for most of the OJW bloggers I've encountered. Then again, I suppose one can argue what Orthodoxy and Feminism even mean together for the OJW blogger. If anything, I would urge Ms. Lieber to reexamine her data, search out the powerful OJW bloggers out there who serve as a PSA (public service announcement) for Orthodoxy and strong women, and reconsider some of her conclusions.

I may not have started this blog out with some grand plan that has led me to this point, but one thing was always certain, and that was that I wanted to "post about Judaism." I never wanted my posting to be forceful or even educational -- I just wanted to write, to put words down because for me it was therapeutic. Pen to paper, soul to words. That's how I view blogging. I'm not writing a guide to live by, and I'm not telling others how to be or do Judaism. I'm not liberating myself or other Orthodox Jewish Women by blogging. What am I doing?

I'm telling a story -- to what has turned into a beautiful, captivated audience. 


Elle said...

This is exactly why I have remained primarily anonymous. Not because I want to blast anyone, or have a free space to speak lashon hara - but because I want a place to talk about my thoughts freely. To delve into interests I like, at a pace I enjoy, and to the depth I prefer. I want a one sided conversation where I get to do all the speaking and everyone else gets to send and occasional nod or shake their head no and i can choose to listen or not listen as I deem appropriate or palatable. Therapy is a good word for that. And in return, I do the same thing for other bloggers like me.

Blogging has it's cons and pros. Being public if more fun because you get more props, more comments and more people meeting you in the street saying "hey! you're the one with the blog!". Plus of course you get free products sent to you for review, and payment for ad banners... it's a thrilling experience I would guess! But it comes at the price of journaling what you really want to say. It's just not a price thus far that I have been willing to pay.

...not that you asked for my thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chaviva,

I really enjoy your blog, it's such a mine for information and yes, it's personal and not anonymous. It's YOU, and that's what makes it so lovable.
Speaking of Judaism, what do you think of "Torah observant" Christians without any formal conversion? Especially if they still manage to believe in Jesus somehow? It's such a strange concept, but of course as a non-religious and especially non-Jewish person I don't know how accepted this practice is.
I'd appreciate your input.


Natalie Strobach said...

1) :::Blog love::: <3
2) (Kind of off topic) What if you started doing an "Ask Chaviva" thing? It could allow the same freedom you get from anonymous blog comments (the productive ones). You could even have a guest "Ask Whomever." I don't know why I thought of this when I read your post. Just a thought (not like you don't already have enough on your plate...). I was kind of thinking you might be able to throw your own stuff in there and get some feedback on something you want to be anon about...once in a while to get comments.
3) I need to stop commenting!

Ellew said...

just wondering if you got my comment or if blogger ate it.


Redacted said...

Blogger ate my comment yesterday and I was too sick to retype it, but here's the gist.

I blog anonymously for many of the reasons the blogger above shared. I try never to share anything in my blog I wouldn't want my friends, family, or Rabbi to read, but at the same time, I like the comfort of being anonymous, particularly since I'm still somewhere in the conversion process and I've heard horror stories.

I blog because it helps me feel less alone, both to blog and to read the blogs of others. I blog because I hope that maybe even one person will read my blog and not feel as alone, either. I don't really do it to make a statement. In fact, I do it without many expectations of people reading my words. After all, I don't have many illusions that what I have to say is all that profound or even unique. It's likely my thoughts and feelings have been expressed before by others in more eloquent ways.

Still, my blog is still my space to express what I'm going through. I think we each form our own boundaries between what is public and what is private and within those boundaries, we define our experiences. I think we're simply doing what women have always done, forming bonds and making sense of our experiences through sharing them with each other. We're just doing it in a new medium, with new challenges.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

The thing is, even if I had the space to write about the things that I need to, for therapy, I probably wouldn't. They're things about mental health, marriage, and so on -- those are things that, no matter how anonymous a space I could create, I'd never feel like tainting the goodness I have with blogging with those dark things.

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