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Jan 2 2014

Talking About Jewish Mama Burlesque with Performer Raven Snook

By at 12:02 pm copy

Raven Snook is a Jewish mother who acts, writes, edits… and periodically performs topless in an all-moms burlesque revue. She appeared in the original downtown run of Urinetown, portrayed a vampire on the ABC sitcom Talk to Me, guested as a “female female impersonator” on The Maury Povich Show, played a dominatrix-like self-help guru in the short film Slo-Mo, waxed poetic at The Moth and Heeb Storytelling, and was one of three female drag queens featured in the documentary, The Faux Real. And now she talks to Kveller about how that all fits with raising a daughter in NYC.

Alright, first things first: What exactly is burlesque?

Wow, how much time ya got? Back in the day, burlesque was a naughty offshoot of family-friendly vaudeville with bawdy comics and ladies disrobing, though often in a tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top way. But on the neo-burlesque scene, anything goes. Many acts are like sexy performance art without the pretensions but with pasties. Pretty much anything goes, but having a cheeky sense of humor and creative costuming and storytelling skills are much more important than having a perfect body.

You co-created an all-Jewish burlesque show called Kosher ChiXXX. Why the specifically Jewish angle? What is the history of Jews and burlesque, and where do we Jews fit into the scene today?

The Jewish Daily Forward recently did a whole article on the phenomenon of Jewish burlesque–the accompanying NC-17 video created quite a tizzy in the comments section, too. When Minnie Tonka and I originally founded that show in 2004, themed burlesque shows were just starting to take off. She worked for the 14th Street Y at the time and was asked to come up with Jewish-themed performances as part of the Howl! Festival. We were brainstorming and we thought, why not Jewish burlesque? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 1 2014

Confessions of a Fat Mom

By at 11:38 am

weight scale with measuring tape

This morning I read this piece about a woman who had a fat mother whose shame about her body changed her daughter’s ideas of beauty, and not for the better.

I am fat. I am fat enough that I notice that people stare at me and avert their eyes uncomfortably when I make eye contact with them. People cast their eyes downward at me on airplanes if they realize I have to sit next to them. Believe me, I am the uncomfortable one, having to somehow fit my plus-sized form into those tiny commuter plane seats and then have to fasten my seat belt while six pairs of eyes stare at me to see if I can.

I am also a mom.

My daughter tells me nearly every single day that I am beautiful.   Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2013

Momma’s First Girdle

By at 11:59 am

girdle illustrationMy father’s mother had two constants in her life. The first was coffee, several cups a day. The other was her girdle, which kept her looking as slim as she did when she was a nurse in the Navy, before she gave birth to four boys.

Exercise and diet fads came and went, but Bubbe had her girdle. We made fun, my sisters and I, until the unthinkable happened. I bought one, too.

It all happened so fast. It was a week before my younger sister’s wedding and I took a dress to be altered. As I adjusted the fabric around my hips, the dressmaker smiled and nodded at my mid-section, asking if I was pregnant. Nuh-uh. Nope.

Obviously, I sobbed when I got to my car.

It wasn’t so much that she misinterpreted the little pooch that’s stubbornly stuck with me after having two babies in two-and-a-half years. It was the swift blow to my confidence, previously on the upswing thanks to hitting the gym three times a week and on weekends.

So I did what any practical momma would do.  Read the rest of this entry →

May 13 2013

Let’s Stop Fat Shaming at the Bris

By at 12:40 pm

tray of home baked cookiesLast Monday morning, my family gathered for the bris of my new nephew. He’s the first in his generation, and after several rough years with many funerals, my family was really ready to celebrate. I had offered to bake for the bris, and my sister (the proud mama) accepted, so I spent Saturday night baking up a storm, making some classic family recipes that are delicious, and that would bring the memory of my mother and aunt into the celebration.

Standing around before we got started, the women of the family looked at the trays of goodies that I had baked, and immediately began the traditional recitation of guilt. “Uch, this is SO BAD. I should NOT eat any of this.” “Don’t let me have ANY of this.” “This isn’t going to help me stay good.” And on and on.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 29 2013

Overcoming My Eating Disorder & Raising a Healthy Daughter

By at 5:07 pm

scale on a plate with knife and forkI gave birth to my daughter six months ago, and, a few sleep-deprived weeks later, I realized it was right around the 10th “anniversary” of when I was admitted to a hospital for an eating disorders inpatient program.

When I try to reconcile the memory of my scared, enervated teen self with myself today, as a (somewhat) confident mother of two with visibly muscled biceps from lugging around a giant purse, a diaper bag, a breast pump, a baby, and sometimes a 38-pound 3-year-old, it’s difficult. But I still vividly remember the feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and physical weakness. As it turns out, you can be too thin after all. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 5 2013

The Spinning Instructor’s Post-Baby Body

By at 2:09 pm

spinning classLast week at my daughter’s gymnastics class, a friend introduced me to another mom as a “Spinning Instructor.” Before she could say anything, I blurted, “I am. I don’t look like it right now, but I am.”

Instead of saying, “Nice to meet you,” I went with that. Way to show self-confidence and make a good first impression. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 26 2012

My Husband Works for a Porn Site (And I’m Okay With It)

By at 4:25 pm

My husband works for a porn site.

There was some question when he was first considering working there whether it was really a porn site, as it bills itself as “a celebrity nudity site.” If you’ve ever seen the movie “Knocked Up,” Mr. Skin is the real life version of what Seth Rogen’s character had planned. So it’s a little classier than an actual porn site. But the site hosts porn advertisements and no matter how you slice it, the site promotes images of naked women.

And I am completely supportive. When my husband gave notice to his old job, his old co-workers wanted to know why his wife was okay with this. It actually had never occurred to me not to be. I don’t have a moral issue with porn. In many ways I think we are too repressed about bodies. In Europe it is completely acceptable to sunbathe topless. Maybe it’s all these months of breastfeeding, but breasts no longer seem like a big deal to me. I also recognize that life isn’t always easy: people may be lonely, have sexual problems, or some other issue. If images of naked women make them happier, then so be it. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 5 2012

Waxing Eloquent

By at 11:02 am

I don’t care if you shave or wax your legs or armpits or you don’t – but please, don’t tell me I’m less of a feminist because I do.

Maybe it’s because it’s summer, but my fellow Kveller editors seem to be waxing eloquent (ha!) as to the status of their hairy parts. Carla got waxed for the first time and hated it. Mayim disclosed that she not only has never waxed, but she also has never shaved her legs or armpits. I’m not sure why I needed to know either of these things, but hey, now I do! I found the discussion benignly entertaining.

Until, oh, Mayim, you had to go here:

And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave or not shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree. Feminism, to me, is about leveling the field, creating realistic and respectful expectations for all genders, and allowing the natural abilities and properties of all people to be accepted, appreciated, and treasured.

Mayim, you know I adore you, but it’s not really “respectfully disagreeing” when you say that feminism isn’t about choosing, and when you imply that creating respectful expectations for all genders somehow necessarily entails choosing to keep leg and armpit hair unshaven.

Let me reiterate: I really don’t care what you, or anyone for that matter, do or does with your hair, “down there” or anywhere else. It’s up to you, because it is YOUR HAIR.

Mayim made the argument that we should keep our own body hair so as to convey acceptance of it. I think that’s not necessary. As a general rule, I’d much rather tell my kids, if they comment with regard to anything, “Why is so-and-so doing X, Y or Z?”, simply that “Different people make different choices, and that’s fine.” I’m not going to dictate what my kids find attractive or not, because I can’t. They will come to their own conclusions, and that’s fine, because attractiveness is really pretty personal. In other words, let’s model acceptance of different standards of appearance and beauty – not judge people based on the state of their body hair.

Mayim doesn’t want other people to judge her because of hair on her legs or armpits. Well, similarly, I don’t want people to judge me. I don’t want people to make assumptions about my ideology/card-carrying feminism – and certainly not based on whether or not my legs or armpits are shaved or waxed.

People are far more complex than the state of their body hair, whether by their vaginas (listen, if we can’t say vaginas on Kveller, I quit) or their ankles. I don’t like judging people based on what shoes they wear, so I’m going to try not to judge them on whether or not they use a razor.

Tell you what: I won’t judge you on your hair – don’t judge me on (my lack of) mine.

Jul 2 2012

Waxing My Lady Parts for the Sake of My Kids

By at 12:26 pm
waxing supplies

They make the pain look so pretty.

I got waxed today. For the first time ever.

Yes, I will be 35 years old in just over a month, and I have never before had the pleasure of having a complete stranger (in adult braces, no less) rub hot wax frighteningly close to my lady bits before ripping it off with a huge grin on her face.

Now, you may be wondering what prompted me to engage in such masochistic behavior (or perhaps that part is obvious–I did have two kids in less than two years, after all, so I’m no stranger to self-inflicted pain and misery). It’s true, we are going to the beach next week, and my Jewish-Italian heritage presented itself in a rather hairy way after a long New England winter. I decided it was time to take decisive action. Read the rest of this entry →

May 4 2012

Week 25: I Am Not a Yoga Goddess

By at 2:02 pm

prenatal yoga classAmong the many things I’ve been learning about my temperament and my body from being pregnant, I’ve discovered that I enjoy yoga. I always knew in theory that yoga was challenging and rewarding, but in practice the classes made me sleepy and at the end I always felt like that hour would have been better spent working up a sweat on a run. But now running doesn’t make me feel very good or accomplished, just crampy and stressed that I may have deprived my future child of oxygen or proper blood flow. So… yoga. Read the rest of this entry →


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