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Matilda, Miriam & Jenni -- CHRONICLE Online/The WORD

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

August 31, 2023 14 Elul 5783 Ki TavoI always love finding out that there is a name for some phenomenon that I thought was unnamed. This week, I learned about the “Matilda Effect.” The term was coined by Margaret W. Rossiter—a historian of science at Cornell University. She came up with the phrase to describe how the discoveries and achievements of women scientists are downplayed and/or attributed to men. She named it after Matilda Gage, a 19th-century suffragist, abolitionist, and writer who wrote about how women inventors typically did not get credit for their inventions—such as Catherine Greene, who had more to do with the development of the cotton gin than Eli Whitney. This is a modern manifestation of a very old phenomenon. For example, in the Torah, some women characters don’t even have names—Noah’s wife, Noah’s three daughters-in-law and Lot’s wife to name a few. After the splitting of the Red Sea, Moses sings a song of 18 verses. Miriam’s song is relegated to a single verse. Some scholars actually believe that Miriam’s song was originally longer but eventually got shortened so as not to steal the spotlight from Moses’ song. I was thinking about all of this as I read about the conclusion of the Women’s World Cup. Many of us may have tuned out after the US Women’s National Team lost, but the tournament did go on, and Spain won for the first time. It should have been a joyous occasion for Spain—only the second country ever to win both the men’s and women’s competitions (Spain won the FIFA World Cup in 2010). Instead, this great moment was completely overshadowed by the inappropriate behavior of the Spanish Soccer Federation President Luis Rubiales, who inexplicable kissed one of the Spanish players—Jenni Hermoso—in “celebration” after the victory in the championship match. It was a very public display of sexual harassment. Then, ignoring pleas from around the world to step down, he has tried to find a way to blame Jenni Hermoso. It's sad that in 2023, a phenomenon that dates back to the time of the Torah, that was called out by women in the 19th century and that was given a cool name in the 20th century, persists. Some men simply cannot tolerate women’s success. They need to be center stage—even if it means pushing others out of the way to get there. In 1990, the Conservative movement officially changed our liturgy. Instead of referring to God as “The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” our prayerbooks added that God is also “The God of Sarah, of Rebecca, of Rachel, and of Leah.” It was a way of saying that the story of our people is incomplete when we only mention the actions of men. And if it’s true for our history, it must also be true for our present. It is far past time for men like Luis Rubiales to get out of the way so that we can all properly celebrate the accomplishments of women on the sports field, in the science lab, in the arts, and everyplace else. Shalom, RAF.

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