That’s right…everyone’s favorite pop culture rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, is back with a new book, Hating Women: America’s Hostile Campaign against the Fairer Sex, coming April 8 to a bookstore near you. (Media blitz undoubtedly to come, although, puzzlingly, the new book does not seem to be on his website.)
Boteach asserts that American culture is misogynist, and has formulated four vulgar archetypes of women which dominate the way men think about women:
The Greedy Gold Digger will choose riches over romance (think all of the women who were on reality television shows like Joe Millionaire and For Love or Money)
The Publicity-Seeking Prostitute will do anything to be on television and be famous. (Uh-oh.)
The Brainless Bimbo is an imbecile who is portrayed by the media to be deeply entertaining (“paging Paris Hilton…”)
The Backstabbing Bitch is the woman who “seeks to negate the age-old notion that women are maternal and nurturing, possessed of a softer, gentler nature than men.”
Somewhere, I see men high-fiving each other and yelling, “right on, man!” But Shmuley’s point is that these are unfair characterizations, foisted upon us by contemporary popular culture. And just you wait, there’s equal time coming for the men:
The Crotch-Scratcher is “the man utterly devoid of any human refinement.”
The Harem Gatherer is “the lecherous man who has made it his life’s goal to bed as many women as possible.”
The Selfish Spouse is “the all-too common disinterested and self-absorbed husband who has made his wife into the cleaning lady.”
And finally, the Porn Addict, who is only able to relate to fantasy women.
(Maybe it’s just the knowledge that Passover is approaching, but I’m somehow tempted to assign each archetype with one of the Four Children mentioned in the Haggadah: Hakham, Rasha, Tam and Sh’Aino Yodea Lish’ol. In my mind, Porn Addict is clearly The Child Who Doesn’t Know to Ask.)
Now, before we all start naming names and trying to slap archetypal labels on everyone we know, let’s just take a step back to acknowledge that reality television, the basis for many of the female archetypes listed above, is not, in and of itself, reality.
Even Donald Trump, whose show The Apprentice isn’t blatantly as misogynistic as others in the reality genre, is skewered by Boteach, who calls him “an inveterate womanizer and braggart who is known for his selfish and gaudy lifestyle rather than for any kind of philanthropy.” (He’s not wrong.)
I’m sure that, although the press release doesn’t contain any direct Jewish references, that the book itself uses Jewish principles to address these issues. I’m not always a Shmuley fan. But here, he’s got a point. Even a pop culture addict like me could become a self-hating woman if I subsisted solely on the unreal reality of shows like The Simple Life, Temptation Island and (especially) The Swan. In fact, there are days when I feel less than adequate because of the garbage that’s on TV. And just because I know logically that this kind of reaction is idiotic, it doesn’t stop me from feeling it. If I were to try to “learn a valuable lesson” from reality television, I would learn that money can buy love, that physical perfection is worth any emotional or financial price, and that cutthroat politics will get you everything you ever wanted. As I’ve said before, that emphasizes the wrong middot. And Boteach’s point is, pop culture is taking us into a future where these reality cliches become actual reality, and what kind of world would that be?
But something about the wording, where he advocates that women “band together and fight back for their rightful place of honor,” kind of gives me the wrong kind of chill. I hope he doesn’t mean to intimate that women should remain solely in more traditional, more modest, home-oriented roles. I just hope that not being bitchy doesn’t mean that we can’t be assertive; that not being whores for fame doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a little recognition now and again; and that not being bimbos doesn’t mean we all have to go back to school for graduate degrees. Because I don’t have that kind of money.