Thursday, March 30, 2006

holy brothers, sisters, (and bristers)?

i was back at brown a few weeks ago to give a lecture of social variables impacting corporate governance. over shabbat a wonderful pair from Berkeley joined us, Jhos and Julie. I learned some wonderful new niggunim from them, including one especially rocking greek yedid nefesh that jhos adapted from some sort of folk song. jhos is a transgendered spiritual leader who uses the old-skool hassidic title of maggid. Jhos's story was quite compelling but i'll leave that for another time. When we had all finished eating shabbat dinner and had been singing, schmoozing, and telling stories for quite some time people began to wrap up and head home. Jhos and i hugged and i said good to sing with you holy brother. then i worried for a second that i had slipped. jhos said holy brother, holy sister, he didn't care much, the important part was the adjective and it was an honor.
gender binaries can be oppressive. i was re-writing the footer for Jews In The Woods (JITW) e-mails and had written something about "helping your holy brothers and sister". This is disrespectful of people towards the middle of the gender spectrum who don't feel comfortable with the stark distinction between brother and sister. perhaps they aren't identifying as either. how to change? The problem is that the alternatives all sound awkward to me as i say them. holy siblings: something about it just doesn't scan. holy family: maybe it makes me sound like a parent talking to children, maybe its just too Christian, dunno. i am sure why "holy brothers and sisters" is problematic; i just am not really sure what to do about it.



At 3/30/2006 , Anonymous alan said...

Holy siblings.

It only sounds funny because we rarely hear the word used. Say it enough and it becomes normal.

I also enjoyed it when the Southern-05 gathering was addressed as "Beautiful Souls"

At 3/30/2006 , Anonymous mimi said...

holy sparks
holy friends
holy mates
holy comrades (ok, that one's funny)
holy peers
holy partners

why the need for family-related vocabulary? I think sometimes the ways in which the family is upheld as an inherently holy unit are very much linked with heterosexist structures and ideologies. but that's another discussion.

At 3/31/2006 , Anonymous alan said...

Depends on your definition of family :)

But I think it's not necesarily heterosexist. Blood relationships have always been metaphors for love & respect because that's what we expect out of our blood relationships. As long as "family" isn't restricted in its definition to only include a nuclear unit, I think it's a good word to keep using.

PS: I like your suggestions, Mimi, but "comrade" is awesome :) That's always what I think when the word "chaver" comes up in historical Jewish sources.

At 4/06/2006 , Blogger Ilana said...

For JITW in particular,

I mostly use "Shalom, Fruits" - but I also like "Shalom, y'all"

Nice and gender-inclusive.

- Ilana

At 4/06/2006 , Blogger Ilana said...

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