Make Me A Jewish Man, 1999


View original Make Me A Jewish Man: An Alternative Masculinity via Sonya Rapoport’s website

In 1999, influenced by the book Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (1997) by Daniel Boyarin, Rapoport created Make Me A Jewish Man: An Alternative Masculinity, which she described as exploring the paradox of rabbinic masculinity.

In this, the rabbinic male seeks to usurp for himself the female’s characteristics, while at the same time, coupling these acquired feminine aspects with his dominant role as a male. This practice is what leads to the marginalization and exclusion of women. Although appropriations of “femaleness” are necessary in the production of the Jewish male “ideal”, strong gender biases are associated with both the blood of circumcision (which is associated with power) and the blood of childbirth (associated with impurity). Rapoport’s project addressed the question of a reversal of female penis envy, that is, how do men cope with the envy of birthing and nurturing? Her main goal was to provide an explanation for male “coping mechanisms” as related to male appropriations of “femaleness,” under Talmudic Law in the year 400 CE.

A secondary theme was the developing metaphor of the morphology of the Olive Tree for which the Lord named Israel. During interactive interruptions in the narrative, Olive Oyl, wife of macho Popeye, provided the feminist voice which objected to the gender imbalance of the material. For her research on the cultivation of olives, Rapoport used material from her daughter Hava Rapoport’s chapter in the book El Cultivo del Olivo (1997).