For a community of women not typically known for or represented in the media as glamazonian, stunningly beautiful or even thin, this is progress. (As a 5'11" woman with blonde highlights who constantly hears "That's funny, you don't look Jewish!" -- generally, but sadly, uttered as a compliment -- I'm sure to catch flack for this. But nonetheless, my name is Leslie Goldman.)
I've written about Jewish girls and eating disorders for Huff Po before. Among the many reasons I listed to back up my assertion that to be Jewish is to have an eating disorder -- food used as love; undeniable cultural pressure to succeed; an emphasis on perfectionism; mothers constantly on the Grapefruit Diet or Weight Watchers or uching in the bedroom mirror; a complete and total lack of personal boundaries in our families -- I included the societal struggle to conform. As I blogged,
There's a reason Victoria's Secret is epitomized by long/lean-limbed Eastern Europeans and bedroom-eyed Frenchwomen; there's not much of a demand to see Mayim Bialik in a thong bikini. While Jewish fashion designers -- Calvin Klein, Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren (née Lipshitz), Anne Klein (née Hannah Golofski) -- rule the runways, try Googling "Famous Jewish models," and you practically hear e-crickets chirping. Shalom Harlow and Bar Rafaeli are pretty much it.
Since then, I've learned of the stunning Esti Mamo, a model of Ethiopian Jewish descent and a member of the Beta Israel community. Another sign of progress: In 2008, Heeb Magazine published its first-ever Jewish swimsuit issue, titled "The Ladies of '69" -- as in the Hebrew year of 5769 on the Hebrew calendar.
Please note, all my talk of "progress" is as sarcasm-soaked as a greasy potato latke. I don't truly believe that having a 0.15% dressed woman yanking her bikini bottoms down past her hipbones on the cover of a sports magazine is actual evolution, even if she does eat matzoh balls and can spin a dreidel. In fact, some could argue that it puts even more pressure on young Jewish women who look at Bar on the cover and think, "Oh, great. Yet another impossible-to-attain image for me to live up to: A tall, skinny, big-boobed Jewish girl dating Leonardo DiCaprio."
But for just a brief, shining moment, one of our sisters is front and center in a mainstream publication, one not called Jewlicious or Heeb. She's not completely covered up in a "modestkini"-type bathing suit. She's not making a total fool of herself, stumbling around in a red bra and beehive or pushing Jewish mysticism or killing the (US) national anthem with a cackling voice and a loogie. Bar is a 5'9" beacon of hope for petite, brunette, Hebrew-schooled girls everywhere. We should send her a pair of these and call it a Boker Tov.