A naked playboy model in Hasidic Williamsburg

This happened in Hasidic Williamsburg: playboy model Marisa Papen traipsed through the neighborhood, in the heart of its busiest areas, in the nude. For a photoshoot. There are a bunch of pictures on her website of this orchestrated photoshoot stroll.

According to this photographer’s post:

“Marisa’s goal is to raise awareness about the global suppression of women by the hand of religion.

“Inspired by the suppressed souls that we witnessed in the ‘One Of Us’ documentary on Netflix we decided to move forward on producing a fine art series about the community.”

I am trying to wrap my head around this. I’m not much interested in the drama that went down with this photoshoot. There is a video of Marisa and company getting chased by Hasidic men who are screaming hysterically and panting and reporting that she was walking around the streets nakkit (lol!!??) and we see the cops during the last few minutes. It’s a bad film with little to see, just a predictable clash between a provocateur and shocked-aroused Hasidic men. We hear that someone says titties with a Hasidic accent. It’s a panic. You can imagine, surreal if ever. Does life get more absurd?

What I cannot understand is how this is doing anything about the suppression of women by the hand of religion. I am trying to follow here. The lady playboy goes out with a camera crew and flashes the expertly trimmed down-there to young Hasidic men who are shocked and traumatized. Okay. So she did that. Now what? How do we get from this moment of pornographic sacrilege in March 2019 to the great liberation, wherein all Hasidic women proudly go about shopping on Lee Avenue with the bosom airing out? What’s the plan, pray tell? How will the cure come of this peculiar treatment involving a photoshoot, a good hat and fancy shoes, and presumably, pickles from Flaum’s?

Nutty people exist. But Marisa’s stunt isn’t the act of a crazed lunatic who forgot to get dressed before going out for appetizing. She is doing it to get attention and approval, and she’ll get it. Because there is an implicit okayness to such behavior when it is dressed up (ha ha) as concerned with women. It’s gets a sort of cultural stamp of approval. Or at least she won’t be criticized a la cancel culture. Because her cause is against the suppression of women.

Suppression of women my dressed-ass. She is concerned with selling her own photos and her own vanity. It’s faux, self-serving activism that is totally transparent//. We don’t dare say that we see right through it. We give tacit permission, because supposedly the cause is good.

Walking naked in Williamsburg for the liberation of women is the absurd example of a much more banal genre of profitable enterprises under the cloak of concern for women. There is a whole genre stories of the woman who “escapes”. Western culture loves these stories. In books, movies, tv shows, podcast, you name it. This includes the Netflix documentary ‘One of Us’, which is as skewed and dishonest and as concerned with women as an evangelical anti-abortion documentary. And the many books about religious women who heroically self-determined by throwing off the shackles and leaving. I’m thinking titles like ‘The Marrying of Chani Kaufman’, the Naomi Ragen series, Deborah Feldman’s self-flattering ‘Unorthodox’, Leah Vincent’s poorly told ‘Cut me Loose’, and probably a few others in my library. Even Judge Ruchy Frier, the ultra-Orthodox judge and something of a media favorite, is in this category. Her story is celebrated by the New York Times not because she is Orthodox, but because while she is Orthodox, she’s also bought into the modern idea that a woman’s value is found in her career accomplishments. In essence, the judge escaped while staying. Hurrah – we love her story.

What all these stories have in common is a complete and total disrespect for the life of the everyday religious woman as she values it. It tells us that the Hasidic woman is living life wrong. She isn’t living until she Escapes for the utopia (I kid) of twenty-first-century capitalist striving. In this narrative the secular culture is always by definition liberating, the religious culture always oppressive. The girl who leaves her faith and roots is always brave, the woman who gives her all to her children a sufferer of the patriarchy. Those who escape are accomplished, those who stay are nothings.

The story never considers that some women might not share in this hierarchy of importance. The hierarchy is already established. Up on the pyramid of valuable things is to walk with the cooter hanging about (forgive me) and self-congratulate yourself on a kind of zealous proselytizing of your beliefs. It’s March and you’re cold? Well, all the more heroic fight for the cause! The more you suffer to prove your feminist liberation, the more the suffering oppressed will be liberated. Everyone suffers, sure. But your suffering is noble. The suffering of women who live differently is not.

The “Her Escape” story arc is not feminist. It is the total erasure of women’s lives when they don’t match our modern values. It is to impose meaning on someone else’s life. It is to tell them what makes their lives worth living. That’s — er, that’s oppressive. Real support for women is to try to understand the nuances of the challenges and triumphs of a religious woman and to respect what she wants, not what we want.

The genre is profitable though. There is always an audience for a coming of age tale of heroic self-determination. It’s no surprise that Deborah Feldman’s book is being adapted as a TV show by Netflix. The story stells. And as long as it sells, there will be half-talents regaling them.

Audiences know that the motive behind these self proclaimed activists are bullshit, but they shrug, because — well, the story is still good. It makes secular society feel better and right. It makes secular society feel like it is emboldened, powerful, attractive, sure of itself. Look at us secular woman, strutting so free. Strutting so proud. Meanwhile, no one is aloud to say the obvious: that the empress has no clothes, and it’s goddamn crazy.

Yes, this playboy woman’s motives are baloney. But they are also not neutral. Pulling such stunts can do real harm. I feel sorry for these naive teenage boys. I know many people would comment about how lucky they are, (yuk) but I really think this could be traumatic. I also am bemused that we should further the liberation of women by introducing men on first occasion to the most unlikely female body — one that very few women will see in the mirror even at their best, nevermind after many children. Hasidic men and women very rarely get to see what normal female bodies look like. They see models and celebrities and porn personalities, but they don’t see the vibrant diversity of boobs and butts that make up my Orange Theory gym dressing room. It pains me that Hasidic people don’t realize what normal bodies look like. So to show as a model of female sexuality a body that is so unrealistic and creates so many insecurities among the rest of us plain-bodied… my feminism meteromator just went so high up, it exploded.

No Comments

Post A Comment