Female, Jewish, and Middle-Class

I was privileged to lead the Middle Class Women’s Liberation Workshop.1 It was the first of its kind, and all of us were at the edge of our material.2 Here are a few of the things we did and talked about:

We put class and female oppression at the heart of the workshop, and each group of us worked from where we had experienced these two oppressions.

Class exploitation underlies all oppressions. Sexism and male domination have been a primary prop of class societies. Anti-Jewish oppression has served as the model diversion from ending class oppression.

Women’s work in the home, including reproduction, is unpaid. Jewish women have also been responsible for the survival of the Jewish people and under great pressure to get married and reproduce.

Women targeted by racism talked about how they’d become middle class to try to escape from the brutality of racism only to endure a different kind of racism, and were open about the compromises they’d had to make.

My white Jewish parents entered into the middle class for safety and security, to escape from the destructive patterns resulting from the Holocaust. The price our family paid was disconnection from who we really were, and a kind of isolation.

I had all the women be proud of their accomplishments as middle-class women (school, jobs, and so on). Many of the accomplishments had been made possible by the women’s movement and the fight of Jews to not be excluded from U.S., Canadian, Australian, and Mexican societies (the countries of the women who attended the workshop).

Most of the women were white Gentiles (a lot of them Protestants). They worked on their middle-agent female jobs3 as social workers, teachers, administrators. The pretense and patterned unreality were heavy. In one demonstration a woman had to scream, cry, and fight to pierce her way through the picture she’d had that she was “doing good” in her jobs, to see that in fact she had taken them to earn a decent salary for her family and that in doing them she was controlling and covering up society’s destruction of poor and working-class people and people targeted by racism.

Middle-class people, including middle-class women, are not supposed to rock the boat.4 Many Jewish middle-class women have become activists and stirred the pot5 and have thus been considered not truly female, as that is not what females are supposed to do.

Shabbat shalom,6

Diane Balser

International Liberation Reference Person for Women

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of women

1 A workshop held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in February 2015.
2 "Material" means distress.
3 "'Middle-agent' female jobs" means female jobs as visible agents of the oppressive society.
4 Rock the boat" means upset the status quo.
5 "Stirred the pot" means stirred things up.
Shabbat shalom means "may you have a peaceful Sabbath."


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00