These days, Scientology is everywhere – three books are out this month alone, including Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, which has been featured everywhere from CNN to the New York Times Book Review. Yesterday, several ex-members filed a lawsuit against the Church, saying that Scientology kept asking them for more and more money for shadowy projects which were never completed, then had them blacklisted for asking questions about where the money went.
I believe in freedom of religion. But as a longtime religion reporter, I know enough about Scientology to think that the Church is dangerous and harmful. In particular, it’s terrible for the women who join it. It may be funny to watch the Xenu clip from South Park, but many of the labor violations and harsh punishments against women in the Church should give you a sense of why this religion isn’t amusing – it’s scary. Keep reading »
Megan Fox covers this month’s issue of Esquire, and she’d like you to know that she’s actually been religious this entire time.
“I’ve read the Book of Revelation a million times,” she told interviewer Stephen Marche. “It does not make sense, obviously. It needs to be decoded. What is the dragon? What is the prostitute? What are these things? What is this imagery? What was John seeing? And I was just thinking, What is the Antichrist? When war breaks out in the Holy Land, like it is right now, if that is a sign of the immediate end times, then where are the other signs? Is it possible that it’s the Internet or fame itself or celebrity?” Keep reading »
Telling people that you write about religion for a living always raises a couple of eyebrows. In the past, I’ve covered everything from fashion to pop culture, but no one ever questioned why someone might be interested in lipstick or TV.
However, religion is one of those things that can scare people just by being mentioned. I’ve been accused of promoting an agenda, of lecturing people, and of being boring – and that’s without putting a single word on a page. As a kid, I learned that you should never talk about religion, sex, or politics in polite company, but it’s only when I write about the first one that people start to clam up or get upset. So, why do I write about religion?
Keep reading »
In Brooklyn, a 17-year-old girl just testified against the man accused of sexually assaulting her. On the surface, this case is sadly too familiar: she and her accused rapist are both members of a strict right wing sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, known as the Satmar Hasidim.
Extreme groups exist in every religion, and Judaism is no exception. However, the Satmar Hasidim are a fringe group within a fringe group. Though they are ultra-Orthodox Jews (meaning that they keep kosher, observe the Sabbath, and follow all the other rules), they differ from other super-religious Jews in that they don’t support the nation of Israel. Like other ultra-Orthodox Jews (this isn’t really a thing in the more liberal branches of Judaism), they keep strict gender segregation, sending boys and girls to different schools that teach different subjects and keeping men and women separated in synagogue. But the rape case currently happening in Brooklyn could blow the roof of the place. Keep reading »
Pray Tell is The Frisky’s new biweekly column about the intersection of religion and women’s lives.
The third season of the TLC series “Sister Wives” premiered this week. The show is about the Brown family — Kody, and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. They have 17 kids, including three from Robyn’s previous marriage. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, aka the Mormons). Since the mainstream LDS church agreed to outlaw polygamy in exchange for Utah being granted U.S. statehood, the members who wanted to keep on practicing plural marriage joined groups like AUB. While plural marriage has been around for thousands of years (Jacob marrying both Rachel and Leah, anybody?), the appeal of “Sister Wives” is seeing how the practice works in modern times. Think of it as a real-life version of “Big Love.” Keep reading »
When most people think about street harassment, they think about what women wear or about how women should respond to catcalls. But there are other, more subtle, effects of street harassment and how it affects women’s existence in public space. Recently, The Wall Street Journal noted that only 11 percent of the participants in India’s Delhi Half Marathon were female and one of the reasons they gave for why women in India don’t run is the “stares and calls from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.” In other words, women don’t go outside to exercise when they live in fear of street harassment. Keep reading »
Living in New York City means getting used to street harassment. In the past few years, my name has been Baby, Sexy, Bitch, and Hey You, Why Don’t You Smile? I’ve learned when to give the finger and when to hide. My friend Jen Dziura, a life coaching columnist, advises women that the best way to counter street harassment is to walk calmly up to the whistler or catcaller in question and politely let him know that he needs to learn how to speak to women in a respectful way.
It’s because of her that I finally said something to the Hasidic men who harass me in my neighborhood. Keep reading »
Let’s say you’re having a problem. Say you’re a dude, and your vision is just too good. It’s so good that you can see attractive women, and those women turn you on. How will you solve your problem? Learn not to stare at people? Teach yourself that women’s bodies are not pieces of meat? Naaaah. Just buy a pair of blurry glasses!
Stores in Mea Sharim, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, are carrying special blurred glasses designed to help men avoid looking at women. These special glasses blur out anything that is more than ten feet away, which means that men can do things like cross the street safely, read the newspaper, and stare lasciviously at women who have the misfortune of only being nine and a half feet away. Keep reading »
For a period in 1995, women stopped calling men on the phone and approaching them in bars. The reason? The Rules, a bestselling dating advice book by Ellen Fein and Sherri Schneider. The book, which became a cultural flashpoint, encouraged women to adopt more old-fashioned rules about dating and relationships, like using an egg timer to limit phone calls to five minutes and never, ever sleeping with a guy on the first (or fifth) date. Though the book was popular enough to spawn several sequels, Fein and Schneider have mostly stayed out of the media in the new millennium. Until now. Their new book, Not Your Mother’s Rules, will be published in February 2013. Though the basic approach is still the same, they’ve updated their formula to include advice about texting, sexting, emailing, and (of course) online dating. Keep reading »
A few weeks ago, an article in the Orthodox Jewish newspaper The Jewish Press began to make waves in the religious community. Yitta Halberstam, a well-known Jewish author, wrote about the process of trying to find her son a wife. In her part of the Jewish community (a right-wing faction of Orthodoxy sometimes known as yeshivish), it’s not uncommon for a professional shadchan (matchmaker) to pair up young eligible men and women. A shadchan who makes a successful shidduch (match) can be paid well for their services. However, there has been a recent “shidduch crisis,” which is that there are more prospective brides than grooms. Orthodox boys are waiting longer to marry, while girls are essentially considered over the hill if they’re not married by 18 or 19.
One way that shadchanim (the plural of shadchan) have tried to solve this issue is by hosting events where mothers can meet and interview prospective daughters-in-law. Halberstam attended one of these events and she admitted that the whole process made her uncomfortable. However, as the mother of an eligible bachelor and therefore someone in a position of relative power, Halberstam could have called off the whole thing and pointed out how awkward and unfair it was to the young women involved.
Instead, she penned a long rant about how young women should wear more makeup and their families should be willing to pay for plastic surgery if that’s what it takes to land a husband. Keep reading »