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Jan 2 2014

Talking About Jewish Mama Burlesque with Performer Raven Snook

By at 12:02 pm

Raven.as.Mom 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 →

Sep 30 2013

How to Answer All Your Kids’ Crazy Questions About Sex

By at 2:23 pm

what makes a baby

Back in May, I interviewed Cory Silverberg, a sexuality educator and author of What Makes a Baby, a picture book “about where babies come from.” Below, Cory has taken the time to answer some more questions, this time from Kveller parents and readers. 

“How do you talk to your 3-year-old about where and when it’s ok to touch her vagina? And what’s the best way to explain why she can’t just touch it all day long?”

This is a great question! I know that we all have different relationships with our bodies but I hope most of us can appreciate that it’s perfectly reasonable for a 3-year-old to not only want to touch her vagina, but to do so all day. It’s not tenable, of course, but I think starting from a place of understanding instead of outrage or embarrassment goes a long way.

You may be feeling stuck because you are imagining one conversation to deal with this. But this needs much more than one conversation. You need to share with your 3-year-old your ideas about privacy, about bodies and touch, and about pleasure. I can’t tell you what to say because I’m not sure how you feel about any of these things, but I’ll offer you an example of how some parents I know talk about it. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2013

What My 10-Year-Old Son Knows About Rape So Far

By at 12:46 pm

college campusThe semester approaches. The students have all returned to our small town and the sun is out in Athens, Ohio, which means the students take their shirts off and stand around on their front lawns in their bathing suits. They blow up kiddie pools and fill them with water and rubber ducks, then they stand around some more, sometimes in the kiddie pool, drinking their alcohol and blasting their music.

We live in a pedestrian friendly town, so we walk by these students on our way to get ice cream or watch a dance performance on campus. My son, 10, watches them all very carefully. They’re like an alien species from a distant planet. And he knows that he will eventually visit this distant planet, and so he spends quite a bit of time wondering about himself in eight years. Sometimes he shares his thoughts; other times, I can see him having an intimate dialogue inside his head. I know enough to leave him alone at these moments, but other times, he wants to talk. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 21 2013

Please Don’t Ask My Kids if They Feel Sexy

By at 12:20 pm

face painting“Okay, kids–who here is SEXXXY!??” shouted the face painter as she hovered over my 3-year-old son and shook her booty. The DJ had just finished playing this summer’s hit and very grown-up song, “Blurred Lines”–apparently mistaking the community-wide carnival with numerous young children in attendance for a nightclub–and now, we were all being treated to LMFAO’s ubiquitous song about being sexy and knowing it. This woman was very excited.

My son didn’t really register the woman’s question, but the young girls assembled around the booth tittered and blushed like she had something illicit (which, to them, I think she had). “Me, me! I’m, um, sexy,” replied a girl, uncertainly. She couldn’t have been more than 7 years old. Read the rest of this entry →

May 22 2013

Interview with Interesting Jews: Author & Sexuality Educator Cory Silverberg

By at 3:15 pm

what makes a baby cory silverbergWhat Makes a Baby, a picture book “about where babies come from,” is written and illustrated in a way that is sensitive to children and parents who found one another via the traditional route (i.e. sex!), or those families which came to be via reproductive technologies, surrogacy, or adoption. The pictures and language are gender neutral and the message is one of inclusivity and openness.

I got a chance to catch up with author Cory Silverberg, who is also a sexuality educator, over email recently, and asked him a few of our–ahem–burning questions.

OK. So what, exactly, does your work as a sexuality educator entail?

I write about sexuality each week for About.com. Part of my time is spent teaching and leading workshops, mostly for professionals and sometimes for regular people who want to know more about some aspect of their sexuality. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2011

Streetwalker Barbie Has Invaded My Home

By at 1:21 pm

My daughter turned 3 on Sunday. She got a Barbie doll for a present.

She’s obsessed. I’m still reeling.

In the interest of full disclosure, we knew what it was, and we let her have it anyway. While she was napping, I carefully opened enough of the package to recognize that bright pink logo that was burned into my psyche decades ago. I paused for a moment as the voices of fellow hippie-progressive-feminist Mamas rang in my ears, warning me of all the dangers hidden in that box alongside the injection-molded-plastic threat to my daughter’s self esteem, body image, and future ability to establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships.

But those warnings were quickly replaced by memories of how much I enjoyed playing with Barbies as a young girl—my sister and I dressed our Barbies, combed their hair, and enjoyed tormenting each other by stealing and hiding each others’ dolls. And then I remembered my own daughter’s first encounter with a Barbie; she was about 14 months old, and there was one in the toy area of the local pediatric Emergency Room. Frieda was hopped up on inhaled steroids after a nasty bout of croup, and she fell in love with that doll with a passion I hadn’t previously seen. How could I deny her such love again? How bad could it be?

You have no idea. I had no idea.

This Barbie is a straight up streetwalker. Or at least she looks like one. I’m surprised she didn’t come with a tiny wad of cash. I was disgusted (but not shocked) by the bizarre proportions of her body, and stunned by how hyper-sexualized she is. I think that’s the hardest part about it for me. I don’t mind the pink and the sprinkles and the rhinestones that have captured my daughter’s imagination, but this Barbie isn’t about glitter and fairy wings. She’s wearing a low-cut halter top and a mini-skirt that is so short and tight that the tiny strip of Velcro barely holding it closed instantly rips open every time my daughter tries to get her to sit. Her hair is a long, tangled hive of peroxide, her makeup would rival Tammy Faye Baker’s any day, and her shoes are a bizarre mix of gladiator sandal and stiletto heel.

I’m horrified. My daughter is in heaven.

She’s not thinking about body-image and self-esteem and cultural norms and implicit messages about the value of women. She’s not worried about pre-marital sex and STDs and eating disorders and addiction and all of the dangers awaiting my daughters in just a few short years—threats that I like to pretend I can keep at bay if only I can keep the damn Barbies out of the house. She sees a pretty doll in shiny clothes. Barbie is her friend, she tells me.

And now Barbie is in our home. And my husband and I have to figure out what to do. Kicking her to the curb doesn’t seem like the answer, primarily because our experience with our feisty daughter (and the rest of humanity, for that matter) tells us that the more verboten Barbie is, the more desirable she becomes. So, instead of hiding Barbie and telling my daughter that she’s taking a really long nap, I’m trying to engage Frieda in an on-going dialogue about body shapes and clothing and sensible footwear. We’ll get to the body image and sexuality stuff soon enough.

We’ve had conversations about how Barbie is skinny and hard, which makes her uncomfortable to snuggle. We’re talking about how hard it must be for Barbie to walk in her high heels, and that she can’t run and play in those shoes. And although Frieda was willing to concede that Barbie might be cold and could use a sweatshirt, she refuses to let go of the slutty halter-top, arguing that it is a lot like a tank-top. My daughter’s obsession with sleeveless shirts predates Barbie’s arrival in our home by several months. She wants to wear a tank top every day (which is getting trickier as winter approaches), and feels an instant kinship with anyone (real or plastic) wearing anything that vaguely resembles a tank top. So, I decided to compromise on this one. Last night I went online and found some inexpensive, hand-made tank-top dresses that are fairly modest—no cleavage showing, the skirts are nice and long, and I suspect Barbie could run and play in comfort, assuming we could find some running shoes that will fit on her poor damaged feet.

I’m starting to feel better about the situation, but I also worry that a Pandora’s Box has been opened in our little home, one that we’ll never be able to fully contain it again. I suppose this is the nature of our children growing up, and of my husband and I growing into parenthood. We’re not raising our daughters in a vacuum, nor would I want to. I try to see these Barbie moments as grist for the mill, fodder for an ongoing dialogue about ourselves, our relationships, our belongings, and our values.

I still wish Barbie didn’t have to look like such a tramp, though.

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