We can't really blame New York City's political reporters for obsessively covering Mindy Meyer's every glittery move — the 22-year-old is 1/3 Elle Woods (soo much pink), 1/3 Sarah Palin (Meyer didn't know who NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was and was surprised to hear that the state had legalized gay marriage), and 1/3 Yentl.
The latter part is what The Daily Beast's Allison Yarrow finds notable about Meyer. "If the political stories about Meyer are painful...perhaps that's because she's less a political or pop culture story than a crash course on the complications of being a single young woman in the modern Orthodox world," Yarrow writes. She continues:
In New York, many bloggers and thinkers have been surprised by how little blowback Meyer seems to be getting from Orthodox leaders, who so far have been conspicuously silent about her run-perhaps as a way to ensure than any concerns about her particular campaign aren't taken as broader ones about Orthodox women entering the political sphere.
That no woman has emerged as a political candidate, despite the Orthodox community's growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one's perspective, to a domestic role-expected to dress modestly, live quietly and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world. Some women won't shake the hands of men. Others refuse to speak in gender-mixed company, be photographed, or wear a color as flashy as pink. Most put all work away from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
Yarrow asked a number of notable Jewish people what Meyer's campaign means for the Orthodox community. Unsurprisingly, male members of the "modern Orthodox intelligentsia" are unimpressed with her "Diva of the District" schtick:
Blogger Heshy Fried who pokes at his religious Orthodox world as it slouches toward modernity on his blog, Frum Satire, says his contemporaries are embarrassed by what they consider to be a mockery and a misrepresentation of who they are and what they're about. He called her campaign "outrageous. She sounds like a teenager. We have people who are bright."
"There are some idiots who think this is good because it ‘proves' that orthodox women do have jobs," he wrote on his blog, "but in reality it makes them look like idiots."
But the community's women, many of whom are used to staying out of the limelight when it comes to media attention — remember the recent anti-internet conference they were banned from attending? — are a bit more sympathetic. Shana Carp, a community manager for a venture capital website who was raised modern Orthodox, said Meyer's childishness is not her fault; most Orthodox women her age are already married and taking care of their husbands and families instead of running for political office. "You could be 50 and be called a girl if you're not married with a kid," she said. "[I'm] not surprised her photos are sexy and not serious because she still sees herself as a girl and not a woman."
Other Orthodox women are thrilled to see someone like them putting herself out there. Chaya Polonsky, who runs a clothing business for Orthodox women, is thankful to Meyer for "being who she is as opposed to throwing her heritage out the window."
"I can tell you one thing, I have no experience in corruption," Meyers says on her Web site. Clearly "corruption" is not the only area in which she lacks expertise. Maybe that's why she should wait a few (or many) years before running for office — it's only a matter of time before she tells reporters that she can see Israel from her backyard — but it's still admirable that she's trying to break down her community's gender divides.
The Unorthodox Candidate: Mindy Meyer's Sideshow Appeal [The Daily Beast]
(Image via Mindy Meyer 4 Senate)