The ominous side effects of the latest trends in Barmitzvah entertainment

What were the parents thinking? The new shocking trends coming to a Barmitzvah near you

November 24, 2016 23:28

"And there was a woman in a swimming costume giving out sweets….", said my 12-year old-son on his return from one of the first of the merry-go-round of bar and batmitzvahs he's been invited to since leaving primary school.

What were the parents thinking? How can a mother or father of a 12-year-old child think that having scantily clad women serving drinks to prepubescent hormonal boys and body-conscious girls is appropriate? Do they hope their daughter will pursue this career path?

Do they think it's OK to encourage their son to pay women to dress in skimpy clothes and to perform for him? Condoning this behaviour teaches our children (and all the other adults in the room) that women should be valued for their bodies much more than for their brains and attitudes. And, yes, it's also wrong to have bare-chested male waiters flaunting their abs.

Bar- and batmitzvah celebrations can range from a simple afternoon tea at home to a mini-wedding at a central London venue - it seems that budget, peer pressure, familial and communal obligations all play their part in deciding the scope of the event.

It's becoming harder to work out how to pitch your celebration for a multitude of reasons, one of which is the endless choice, and therefore one-upmanship, available.

It seems that you can spend a huge amount of money and hire or buy almost anything for a party now, including A-list celebrities such as the recent appearance of Nicky Minaj at a barmitzvah party, resulting in photos of slightly-out-of-their-depth 13-year-old boys.

Long gone are the days of the '0s disco in a local scout hut - the quest for originality seems to have pushed into a corner the fact that these are coming of age ceremonies, religious rites of passage.

Batmitzvah girls and boys are 12 and 13 respectively - just entering their teenage years, at the start of their secondary school careers, and starting to find their own interests and personalities outside of the helicopter-parenting atmosphere of primary school. Yet, in Jewish law, they are becoming adults.

So… how to pitch the celebration? Do you therefore arrange an adult style party, with some entertainment on the side in case the young teenagers get bored with the multitude of speeches? Or do you arrange to take the kids paintballing?

I have no problem with throwing a party to mark the occasion, and each person's idea of what's appropriate will depend on factors such as their budget and where they sit religiously. I do wonder, though, what we are teaching our bar- and batmitzvah offspring. Surely the main focus should be that they are now Jewish adults, with responsibilities towards their family, community and religion - and this message is more likely to be lost in some of the more outlandish parties.

However exotic and original the party, the use of women as sexual objects as part of the celebrations is more than just upping the entertainment value - rather, it reflects a more worrying attitude suggesting that women are objects we can pay to dress up and perform for us.

It's the start of showing our children that objectification of women is OK, and that they can be bought and controlled, treated like animals, and not people. Why am I so incensed? Because this objectification of women is just one of the many behaviours characterising the domestic violence and abuse that Jewish Women's Aid works with each day. Yes, we do see physical abuse and, yes, Jewish men do hit women.

All of the women we work with are typically affected by multiple types of abuse. An abuser will use many tactics to gain control of his victim, and women tell us that money is often a powerful tool - her access to assets and money may be limited. She will often be kept on a tiny budget, and be accountable for every penny; she may have signed her assets over to her abuser, or have no access to benefits.

It is certainly a powerful method of keeping a woman trapped in what is already a coercive, manipulative, and imbalanced relationship.

Nobody wants to believe that Jewish women are abused, or that Jewish men are abusers. But we see too much of it at Jewish Women's Aid. We have no doubt that this is anything but a far-reaching issue across the breadth of our community.

We do a huge amount of work in schools trying to prevent abuse in the future. We can only effectively teach young people to respect women and their bodies if that message is being reinforced at home.

And that extends to parties, even ones where the hosts need someone to give out the sweets.

November 24, 2016 23:28

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