"Haters, start your engines, I hear 'em gearin' up/
People talk so much sh*t about me at barbershops/
They forget to get their haircut"
"Damn, here we go again/
People talk sh*t but when sh*t hits the fan/
Everything I'm not made me everything I am"
~Excerpt from "Everything I Am," Written by: Kanye West.
About two weeks ago, I came across an article written by "Big Bang Theory" star Mayim Bialik about former adult film star Jenna Jameson's recent decision to convert to Judaism. The article, posted to Bialik's blog, Grok Nation, was written with what I can only hope were good intentions, as it is perplexing, trying to decipher with what forethought it was published. In the article, Bialik questions Jameson's intentions with regard to both her former career, and with regard to her foray into Judaism. I was immediately outraged for many reasons. I have a few questions for Mayim Bialik, and anyone else who doubts Ms. Jameson and her personal choices:
1. Why is it so hard to fathom that someone who used to celebrate and observe the Catholic faith, now wishes to join the mother of Catholicism: Judaism?
Several of the ways in which biblical exegesis are examined within the Jewish faith is through the employment of PaRDeS. Let me break it down for y'all (warning: the following may seem a little "Sesame Street"-esque, but I share it with the utmost respect):
P is for P'shat. The P'shat method of interpretation derives direct meaning from the text. It can also be construed as the "literal" meaning of a text.
R is for Remez. The Remez method goes beyond the P'shat meaning. It studies the allegorical aspects of the text and it is the form from which many midrashim can be written.
D is for Derash. This is a bit more complicated. It is the comparative or midrashic meaning as given through similar occurrences. The Derash phase or method often refers to the P'shat and especially the Remez for help.
S is for Sod. The Sod is the secret meaning, or the mystery behind the text. It is also the esoteric or mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
2. Many people would rush to judge and criticize you and your family for your collective decision to allow you to enter the spotlight a young age, where you were in a very vulnerable position. What Ms. Jameson did was of her own accord, at a point in her life where she could make informed decisions. Were you not, in your own way, (perhaps even more so) exploiting yourself to the public and for the public's consumption?
We all know the clichéd image of the former child star: the individual overwhelmed with extraordinary fame and fortune at a young age, a person whose family is often criticized for pushing a child to do things that he or she didn't necessarily want to. Certainly Ms. Bialik followed a different path than many former child stars. However, does that give her the right to judge Ms. Jameson? In her article Bialik describes her vision of what the pornography world must be like for women: a depraved place dominated by misogynistic men. Granted, for many women within the industry this might be the case. However, I felt as though credit was not given where it was due: In a male dominated industry, Ms. Jameson was able to overcome many obstacles, and through it all she built her own company. The company, ClubJenna, saw revenues of $30 Million, by 2005, only 5 years after the company's inception in 2000.
3. Many of the Jewish faith's heroines have emerged from backgrounds that culture had deemed, and continues to deem, subversive. These women, through circumstance, seem to foster closer and more intimate relations with the faith. Why then, do you find it appropriate to demonize the past career and actions of Ms. Jameson?
Let's look at an example!
In Rabbi Joesph Telushkin's book "Biblical Literacy," he discusses Esther as: "The Beauty Queen Who Saves The Jewish People" (BL, Section 137).
Esther emerges from a beauty contest for virgins. But she far surpasses the beauty for which she was originally chosen. After her marriage, she finds herself in an extraordinary position: she can help in changing the mind of her husband, the king. She finds herself at the helm of a ship filled with important decisions, and she finds herself in a position of power.
Telushkin ends with this statement: “One of the deeper meanings of the story is that the Jewish people should be careful before they write off any of their members. Esther would certainly have seemed an unlikely savior of her people…Yet when the crisis came, Esther was willing to risk her life for her people, and becomes one of their most famous heroines” (Telushkin 376). I ask this: is not that the crux of the Jewish faith: finally understanding your role and then accepting the faith?
One of the reasons Ms. Bialik's article struck me, in such a negative way, perhaps stems from traits of Jameson's that resonate with me as a human being. We all make mistakes and we all go through rough patches. Because of her status, Ms. Jameson's dark days were thrust into the tabloids. Sh*t happens. We make mistakes. That's what makes us human. I don't think that regret is necessarily the best course of action, as it often forces individuals to spiral out of control. I say this out of amassed experience. Somehow, through all of the negative attention, Ms. Jameson has been able to rise up time and time again. THAT'S what really struck a chord with me. Faith has long been a way to delve into your own soul, which is why it is so popular, and why so many observe it.
Whatever Mayim Bialik's intentions were with her article, they seemed to be masked with a lot of judgment and criticism, which saddened and disappointed me, as a fan of Bialik's work. I understand the innate irony (that I am criticizing somebody's criticism of another person), but I am laying it all on the table. Rabbi Telushkin's words of warning: "the Jewish people should be careful before they write off any of their members," and Kanye's verse, both certainly apply in the case of Ms. Jameson and her impending conversion to the Jewish faith.