This summer, I was blown away after I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which tells the story of Dinah, biblical daughter of Jacob. This 336 page book stems from a single footnote in the Torah, which simply states that Dinah was raped. That is the only mention of the only daughter of a religious dynansty. I feel like I can never take the Torah too seriously because, like many old-school textbooks I have been assigned, half of history is omitted. This one beautifully-written novel seeks to redress this wrong by providing the reader with a detailed description of the women’s lives in the Red Tent, along with body acceptance woven into the descriptive words.
The physical red tent, which was the setting for the majority of the novel is where women went when menstruating or pregnant. By the sound of that, it seems as if that would be a gross display of sexism – shutting women up when “impure” or when society deems them unable to have sex. But the red tent described in this book is a symbol of empowerment, ritual, religion, and feminism. It is a place for celebrating womanhood, a place to rejoice over gender, sex, coming of age, and new life.
I propose that we create our own red tents. These do not have to be (and probably should not be) physical spaces women go to when they have their periods or are pregnant, but they should be meetings through which Jewish feminists gather to discuss and rewrite forgotten histories and acknowledge the women society forgets even now. Some synagogues have already created such groups and they make a tremendous impact in the attempt to equalize Judaism. This is just one way a book can transform history and one way we can hold ourselves accountable for remembering women.