Photos & Analysis
“The Jewish woman is represented more frequentiy through her adorned body than through her passive one. Stereotypes multiply upon the foundational image of the adornedbody. Wealth,bargains,self- indulgence, designer clothes, and many forms of consumer excess are all associated with the Jewish woman,” — Riv Ellen Prell (4)
Greenfield, growing up was a stereotypical JAP: Jewish American Princess. In Riv-Ellen Prell’s essay, “Why Jewish Princesses Don’t Sweat?”, she closely examines the negative stereotypes of the American Jewish women as well as the emergence of the JAP. She claims that the Jewish American Princess emerged in post-war America as American Jewish people tried to embrace the middle-class consumer culture. The Jewish women’s representation embodies desire for the future. The American economy began to be dominated by consumers before 1935. Jews, like most of middle America, shared in the suburban opportunities post war. During this time, Jewish women were seen as “young, demeaning, and withholding,” (5). Understandably, after parents moved to the suburbs, their children had dramatically different lives than they did. Ultimately, Jews in California, a leisure city, accepted a, “halfway covenant,” (Dash Moore, location 4784) of Judaism. They accepted that they were born into Judaism and acknowledged some infrequent commitments and supported Israel but redefined what it meant to be Jewish.
I have grown up in a redefined Judaism. Similar to Greenfield, I attended a private school and lived in the suburbs of a major city but for me, that city was New York not Los Angeles. My family has always supported Israel, we have always gone to temple on the high holidays, and we have participated in all of the major Jewish life cycle events including confirmation. But, my mom has always considered herself more of a spiritual Jew than an observant one: she has never felt the need to go Temple on a regular basis. I have grown up understanding and appreciating Jewish values, culture, and teaching, not reading necessarily constantly reading Torah.
The photographs in my slide show are some of the photographs I have taken that I feel have specific relation and remind of specific Greenfield images, the ones they were paired with.
The first photo that I took I thought embodied all that Greenfield was photographing was the weekend my older sister got engaged. Her now fiancé surprised her after he had already proposed by having both his family and my family waiting for her in a restaurant for dinner. When she called my parents, she made them promise they would come into the city from Long Island for dessert so we could all celebrate together. This photograph I took shortly after my sister realized everyone was joining her for dinner. She is on the phone with her best friend from college who lives in LA. Instead of enjoying the moment, she had to report the moment to her friend who could not partake in it.
In the second photo you see my 24 year old sister’s nicely manicured hand with a diamond ring on her hand. Holding her hand is a worn looking hand ogling at her ring. A wedding is a beautiful Jewish life cycle but, shortly after her engagement, few people were concerned with her relationship or her happiness. We would run into people who knew she had become engaged and they would always say let me see the ring! I saw a comparison with Greenfield’s shot of Ruby’s Quinceanera court. With both, the religious essence behind them are lost.
The third photograph pairing are girls drinking beer at parties. In both photographs, the males are the ones who are pushing the girls to drink. In the first photograph, the boys asked my friends if she wanted to shot gun a beer, they got up on the elevated surface while she stayed on the ground. In the second photograph, the men ogle at the girl and watch as she drinks the alcohol.
The next photographs are of two girls at raves wearing outfits that are “typical”. In the photo I took, I was with Sam on that day. I differently than she, wore clothing where I felt covered. When discussing our outfits, Sam told me that she was going to wear a new bra top she bought for the occasion because that’s what people wore to raves and she wanted to fit in. In the picture, you can see by her pose, she was uncomfortable.
Following those photos, are two pictures of strewn around clothing. The first photo are all of the clothes I was donating after high school and the second is a girl getting ready throwing her clothing on the ground. I attended private school for high school, and we had a very strict dress code. Because of this, I had a lot of clothing that I knew I would never wear again or want to bring with me to college. In order to clean up my closet and make room for the new things I was to bring to college, I needed to clean out the old. Both photographs show a lack of respect of items that were and are quite nice.
Lastly, I show the image of a teens foot in a high heel compared to a similar photo of a model. That was an image I took of my friend while she was getting ready to go out. Her foot seems to not fit comfortably in her shoe similar to that of the model in Greenfield. Women feel pressure to wear shoes that do not fit properly or are uncomfortable in order to seem sexy and attractive. Both are of nice heels, the photo I took of a Pour La Vitour pump and the other of a Gucci heel and both have freshly pedicured toes. But, regardless of the price of the shoes, or the condition of the feet, the women are still forcing themselves into shoes to try and fit a mold.
The photos and conversations I have had to try to recreate Greenfield’s image challenge what defines a women. Although I unfortunately saw one side of the many she explored, I understand her overall goal. The photos, both her’s and mine, show an incessant problem in our modern culture that forces women to feel a need to assimilate. They feel a need to be perfect in whatever way that may be. An in the same sense, that is what makes them liberating. From an outsider’s perspective, her photo’s seem exaggerated. But the text proves them to be otherwise. She photographs what is seemingly extraordinary and extreme but in fact has become pathological and ordinary.