Leeds Limmud 2005:

A Personal Perspective

From the December 2005 JWN Newsletter - JWN at Leeds Limmud - a personal view:

I'd heard about the short film 'A Good Uplift', and was intrigued.  I'm also drawn to women-only sessions, especially anything to do with body image. The subject of women and our long-suffering bodies has been a passion of mine for many years!

So, after some introductory talk, we watched the film, which I loved (so interesting, so human.) and then broke up into smaller groups to talk about some of the questions raised by it: the way the women in the film perceived and talked about their bodies, the way the truly remarkable shop owner spoke
 with them, dealt with their bodies, was such an expert in her field - finding what she considered to be 'the perfect bra' for each woman...

I'm always so fascinated at what it's possible to share with strangers: often things that even those closest to us don't get to find out.  I felt this happened within the film and also in our discussion afterwards. Women talked about their feelings towards their bodies - very often feelings of dislike or even hatred (we didn't only talk about breasts, and the whole subject of how alienated so many of us are from our bodies was right there); the way even a word or look at a critical moment in the past could shape our  perceptions of ourselves for years after the event.

It was an inspiring and heart-warming session, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to see the film and have such honest and healing discussion after it. Judith Silver - JWN Member

This should go in the events section, but there should also be a heading saying JWN at Leeds Limmud a personal view which should link to the article in the newsletter section.

JWN provided workshops with 'A Good Uplift' at One Day Limmuds during 2005:
  a.. Leeds - 3 April 2005
  b.. Manchester - 18 September 2005
  c.. Thames Valley - 30 October 2005

Here are just some of the issues that came up in the workshops which were attended by a range of women from teenagers to  women in their 70s

- Memories of bra fittings as young women

-- Media portrayal of women's bodies influences how we feel about our own

- Anorexia is a big issue for younger women today

- Body image is important for us all - including teenagers

- Discussion on how best to buy a good fitting bra

- Bras used to all be white, now they come in many colours and are more
 pretty and fun

- As young women we needed better information to learn about menstruation,
bras, etc
- Breast reduction - one woman said she had done this to feel better about

We had a wider discussion as a whole group on how Jewish women's body shapes
 have sometimes become 'assimilated' over generations of women. A Sephardi
 woman responded that there seems to be less rigid pressure in her view to
 confirm to western gentile women's shape and size than for Ashkenazi women.

·         They felt more comfortable seeing the video without any male presence

·         A number of women were not happy with a man, and in particular an orthodox man, selling ladies' underwear.

·         Those with very small or no bust feel better with a bra - gave more confidence wearing one - made them feel more feminine
·         Felt shop appeared to be from another world

·         What is the purpose of a good bra ? Comfort? To be sexy ?

·         Magda is from a very orthodox back ground - what motivated her to have a bra shop?

·         Large women showing bodies at the Dead Sea - appear to be quite happy with their bodies but some felt they should be 'kept under wraps' as they found seeing these large women objectionable - but then what is large?

·         Feeling good about yourself and your body helps with your feeling of well-being.

Vicky Grosser (JWN Chairlady): "I liked listening to the responses of the women as they watched and listened to 'A Good Uplift'. Each time I see it I notice more aspects, and the women responded with giggles and even gasps. Discussion afterwards was very lively:

-         Memories of bra shops in London and Manchester

-         The need to have a well fitting bra - for health and lymph glands as well as for comfort or support

-         How bras have become fashion accessories - "some women wear little  over the top!"

-         Language changes about our breast - boobs, chest, breasts...

-         At different stages in our lives as women, our breasts changes shape or size. Breast-feeding, weight changes, exercise - all impact on our breasts. So our bra needs can change as well
-         Bras are linked for many women to how we relate to men, their expectations of women, and our own sexual expectations as women, which seem to have changed over generations

-         A young woman told us "I wear padded bras because I have small breasts. I wouldn't go out without one."

-         Another woman spoke about feeling "over endowed" - with bigger breasts than she felt comfortable with.

-         The contradictions of the images in The Jewish Chronicle  were considered. On the one hand slender women advertising stunning, close fitting gowns. Then alongside these adverts the message to orthodox women that you should have 4 inches of material spare on your body and be totally covered up.

-         Young Jewish women feel the need to be well groomed - to look the same with straightened, blond hair. What does this say about the traditional Jewish looks - thick, dark hair and bodies of varying sizes and shapes? Do some of us experience a pull to assimilate into non-Jewish culture through
 our bodies, whatever our age?

We were delighted with how we had used the documentary to open up such a wealth of discussion about being Jewish woman today.

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