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What the Torah says about sexual assault


By Sofia Heller

Content Note: Sexual assault, sexual violence, rape

“Dustin Hoffman accused of sexual assault.” “Mario Batali Tells Fans: Sorry for the Sexual Assault, Here’s a Cinnamon Roll Recipe.” “More Women Accuse Russell Simmons Of Rape, Sexual Assault.” “California Democratic Party official resigns after rape, misconduct allegations.” “Former Intern Accuses Wyoming’s Secretary of State of Sexual Assault.” “Houston firefighter arrested for sexual assault of teen.” “No charges for alleged sexual assault at Kansas basketball dorm.”

These headlines are only a few in the recent surge of coverage about sexual violence. The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape allegations over the past few months – catalysed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein – make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says, “If a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her, he can never have the right to divorce her.”

In other words, the Torah determines that a rapist must marry his victim, thus framing it as punishment for the rapist. The wording in the last sentence – “he can never have the right to divorce her” – makes it seem like we’re supposed to feel bad that the rapist is trapped in this marriage. No part of this passage recognises that the person truly being punished in this type of arrangement is the victim – a disturbing example of the Torah’s patriarchal views and authorship.

If the Torah had been written by women, I’m pretty certain that marriage between a rapist and victim wouldn’t be conveyed as punishment for the rapist, and this type of “punishment” probably wouldn’t have appeared at all. The text, as it is written, completely erases the woman’s victimhood and trauma, and, while framing it as a punishment, actually gives all of the power and privilege to the rapist. To add insult to injury, the text makes it seem like the woman benefits from this type of arrangement, when in reality, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

This text illustrates the great importance of being aware of who has a voice and who doesn’t; who gets to tell stories, and who isn’t given a voice. The recent flood of sexual violence allegations as well as the #MeToo movement represent women seizing control of the narrative, and that’s extremely significant. However, there remain those voices that sympathise with the predators because of how they’re being punished, just as the Torah does, when it’s the survivors who should finally be receiving the sympathy and support they deserve.

In the aforementioned headlines, there’s an emphasis on men in positions of power who have taken advantage of women beneath them in rank. These men seem to feel that they are invincible, and they have a basis for feeling so entitled. Companies and even whole industries often work to protect men who have been accused of sexual violence. Women are intimidated or threatened into staying quiet. We see this in the Torah as well. After all, since women are forced to marry their rapists, staying silent is theoretically a way to avoid that fate.

While these past few months are not, by any means, the first time women have come forward to speak out against their attackers, hopefully the mass media attention and the actual punishments we’re starting to see represent a positive shift in our society – a shift away from the type of male privilege we see in the Torah, privilege born of a patriarchal system that’s intentionally designed to benefit men and oppress women. These allegations, and subsequent repercussions, serve as a new message that sexual violence will no longer be tolerated and that sexual predators will no longer be protected.

This content has been provided by the Jewish Women’s Archive

The allegory behind Black Mirror’s “USS Callister”


By Stephanie Wang

WARNING: the below includes major plot spoilers for season 4 episode 1 of Black Mirror, “USS Callister”

Content note: Sexual violence, control

At first glance, “USS Callister” seemingly features some odd Star Trek-adjacent fantasy of a genius programmer, Robert Daly. And at first, viewers tend to sympathise with him – he’s clearly shy and used to being manipulated and walked all over by his co-workers at the company he co-founded. Despite coming up with the idea and code for the popular virtual reality game, Infinity, he receives little of the credit as the spotlight falls to James Walton, a man much more charismatic and likeable, but with no real knowledge of the technical side of the company.

While all the other workers treat Daly with as little respect as possible, the new hire Nanette treats him with the utmost respect, idolising his code and recognising him as the one who actually coded for Infinity. After being given even the slightest attention, Daly begins to stare at Nanette constantly during work, even eavesdropping on her conversations with other workers – basically, he’s giving off major stalker vibes.

And then, he digs through her trash and obtains a coffee cup and it’s revealed that with this DNA, he’s able to essentially create a digital clone of her. It turns out that this Star Trek-adjacent fantasy is not so fantastical – instead it features cloned copies of co-workers. These individuals still have the same personality and memories of their lives in the real world but are stuck on this ship, USS Callister, for Daly to control in the form of a modded Infinity game that looks like Daly’s favourite TV show.

In this game, he’s the one in charge and the one responsible for keeping peace in the galaxy, tracking down villains. On this ship, Daly can do whatever he’s too scared and timid to do in real life – whether that’s kissing the female members on his ship, choking or otherwise abusing everyone, or turning anyone on the ship who even slightly questions his leadership into a monster.

And it turns out, the smallest thing done in the office could land a worker into his controlling playground – whether it’s “insufficient smiling,” calling him out for “staring” at employees, or bringing him the wrong sandwich.

In these ways, “USS Callister” can be seen as a type of allegory for the abuses of power taken by the men in leadership roles in big tech companies. It’s no secret that in many of the big Silicon Valley companies, there’s a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that’s often just pushed under the rug by the companies. In many cases, these perpetrators are never brought to justice as there’s either not a human resources department or if there is one, victims are simply told by HR that nothing can be done. And then there’s the threat of unemployment or for their career to be defined as a whistleblower, giving those higher-up the ability to do anything they want without fearing any sort of backlash.

In 2017, several women in tech came forward with their stories about sexual misconduct of those in Silicon Valley, and while companies promised investigations women say that there have been few tangible changes made by those in power. And still, the simple fact remains that the tech industry on the aggregate has done little to none that would systematically support women in an industry dominated by men because there’s “too much power, too much money, and too few reasons to change.”

Robert Daly is the classic “misunderstood, bullied coder” who uses that to justify the actions he takes. This draws similarities to the way Silicon Valley’s big players wouldn’t try harassing women in the “real world,” but feel free to do so in the workplace where they reign as king, unchecked and knowing that there, their actions have no consequences. And of course, this problem isn’t just limited to the tech world – it’s also seen with the dozens of women who’ve stepped out to reveal the awful abuses of power taken by directors in Hollywood as well as the other silence breakers of varying races, income classes, and occupations. It’s a problem that’s unfortunately prevalent in all aspects of society.

While Black Mirror is infamous for sad endings, “USS Callister” ends on a bright, light-hearted note. The happy ending of the episode – namely the prevailing of the digital clones in escaping to a space universe without Daly and his abusive control – is brought by a woman (Nanette) who comes up with the ingenious plan despite being initially underestimated both by the other clones and Daly. And while this episode, like other Black Mirror episodes, does warn watchers of the dangers of technology (it is technology, after all, that allows Daly to create the digital clones and create this warped world), perhaps the even bigger point is to be even more wary of the human players behind the technology – to keep those with access to technology and power in check.

Whether this same happy ending – the ending of a culture of harassment in both Silicon Valley and on the aggregate level – will occur in the modern world remains to be seen. And it seems like a good step is being taken with this anti-harassment action plan signed by 300 prominent women in Hollywood.

PBG’s Alternative/Indie Albums to Look Forward to in 2018


By Stephanie Wang

2017 was a great year for music, but it’s looking like 2018 may be an even bigger year, especially for alternative and indie fans, with highly anticipated releases from artists like Fall Out Boy, the 1975 and the Arctic Monkeys. While many of these artists have remained silent on the titles and/or dates, they have, at the very least, confirmed that they will be releasing a full-length album in 2018. Here are some that I’m most excited for:

EDEN – vertigo, January 19th


Formerly releasing dance and electronic music under the alias The Eden Project, 22-year-old Jonathan Ng is now releasing music more subtlety electronic as EDEN. A sharp departure from other musicians, EDEN is a mult-instrumentalist who writes, plays, and produces all of his own music, writing and recording in his own bedroom and even going live on Periscope to play covers and original songs for fans.

Vertigo will mark his first full-length debut, after releasing his 2016 EP i think you think too much of me and his 2015 EP End Credits. EDEN has already released three singles from his full-length due January 19th, 2018 – “start//end,” “gold,” and “crash” – all three deeply personal and emotional songs tackling themes like heartbreak, change, death and new beginnings. EDEN has said, “Releasing this body of work is terrifying and overwhelming for me. A lot of it is so personal. This album is not a coming-of-age story, but it caused one.” In support of his album release, EDEN will also be touring the US and Europe in 2018, with many of the dates already sold out.

BØRNS – TBA, January


While Garrett Borns aka BØRNS hasn’t officially announced a date or name for his follow-up album to the breakout 2015 debut album Dopamine, in interviews he’s revealed that it’s set to release in January. Since releasing his debut album, BØRNS has gone platinum, sold out headlining theater shows, and performed at huge festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella. He’s released three singles from the album including “Faded Heart,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “I Don’t Want U Back.” About the sophomore album, BØRNS has said he’s tapped from a “futuristic Beach Boys register.” Typically drawing from older inspiration, namely 60s and 70s rock, he has said that this album is more orchestral and layered, and if the three singles he’s already released are anything to go by, it’s clear that his sophomore album will once again be filled with expressive indie jams.

Rhye – Blood, February 2nd


Beginning by releasing several singles online without giving any indication as to their identity, Rhye’s origins were defined by mystery, particularly given the androgynous-sounding vocals complemented by synths and piano. With the 2013 release of Woman and resulting tour, the identity of Rhye is no longer a secret, and now, their sophomore album Blood is set to release February 2nd after a pair of two summer singles in 2017, “Please” and “Summer Days.” Three singles from the LP – “Please,” “Taste,” and “Count to Five” – have already been released, and from these songs, it’s clear that the sultry, R&B influence that distinguished their first album is still there. In support of their album, Rhye will be touring throughout North America and Europe in the spring.

Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations, TBA


After teasing on social media that the name of her debut album was hidden in a picture, Hayley Kiyoko later revealed that her first album would be called Expectations and released in “#20GAYTEEN”. Formerly known as playing Stella in Disney’s Lemonade Mouth movie and Velma in the Scooby-Doo films, Hayley Kiyoko has since been releasing music determined to share her narrative as a gay woman.

What makes Hayley Kiyoko so different from other musicians is not just her background in acting- it’s also her portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters/relationships in several of her music videos and the authenticity of which she does this. She’s since released three EP’s – A Belle to Remember in 2013, This Side of Paradise in 2015, and Citrine in 2016. In 2017, she released three singles – “Sleepover,” “Glory Days” in collaboration with Sweater Beats (who opened for her on her One Bad Night tour in 2017), and “Feelings.” While she hasn’t revealed a specific date for which her full-length album will be released, one thing is sure: it’ll be an album to remember.

The Japanese House – TBA, TBA


After releasing a series of EP’s (2017’s Saw You in a Dream, 2016’s Swim Against the Tide, 2015’s Clean, and 2015’s Pools to Bathe In) and touring with the 1975, the English indie-pop act the Japanese House is finally releasing a debut full length due in 2018. Known for moody minimalist electronic pop some have described as a mix between Wet and the xx found in songs like “Clean” and “Cool Blue”, the Japanese House brings a unique sound. When first listening to the her, many thought that the Japanese House was another project of the 1975 featuring the vocals of Matty Healy – most are surprised to find out that the Japanese House consists only of 22-year-old Amber Bain.

Potentially teasing the release on social media, she posted 24 photos numerically labeling each one, leading fans to speculate that the album may include 24 songs. In interviews, Amber has revealed that the album will be mostly newer songs, with perhaps one or two songs pulled off of previous EP’s.

Other 2018 Releases: Porches – The House (January 19th), Fall Out Boy – MANIA (January 19th), Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending (February 9th), Vampire Weekend – Mitsubishi Macchiato (TBA), MGMT – Little Dark Age (TBA), the 1975 – Music for Cars (TBA)

Artists who Plan to Have 2018 Releases*: CHVRCHES, Pale Waves – TBA, Florence and the Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Courtney Barnett, Carly Rae Jepsen, Grimes, Arctic Monkeys, Bastille

*both name of album and date is unknown but band has said on social media/interviews that an album will be coming in 2018

PBG’s Top Queer/Feminist books 2017

1 we are never meeting in real life the militant baker samantha irby jes baker

By Anna Hill

Do you like feminist and queer books? I’ve read some really incredible stuff this year – some are just new to me in 2017 and some were published in 2017!

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samanth Irby

I read this at the very beginning of the summer and it was so enjoyable, incredibly funny and heart warming. It had me crying and laughing regularly. I also loved the honesty with which Samantha Irby talked about her life as a marginalised person – the book is a collection of personal essays basically talking informally about Irby’s life as a queer poor fat black woman and about life (lessons) in general. Some of it was so relatable! Some of it was a little heartbreaking and tender in this very self-depreciating voice.

Irby is so so funny and I would 100% recommend this to everyone but especially people who enjoy reading memoirs by women. There is some cissexism, especially in the first chapter and ableist slurs used throughout as well as some depictions of abuse, vomiting and drug/alcohol use.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

This is such an incredible book!! It’s a mix of memoir and queer theory and it focuses a lot on pregnancy and motherhood. Nelson’s style is really poetic and the work she does in making space for motherhood to realise its queer potential is really beautiful, and I personally found it pretty accessible.

Her work comes down to a discussion about caring, how we care, who cares for us – that’s something we all need to consider within our lives. Never to undermine or erase carers or care work but also to see the radical potential mothering has. I really think all feminists should read this and also all queer theorists – most of whom love to misogynistically disregard mothers as heteronormative and disregard people with wombs as irrelevant to true queer futures!! Which they aren’t!!

Sea-witch Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Never Angel North

Sea-Witch Volume 1: May She Lay us Waste is an experimental trans-memoir graphic novel about love, community, girl-ness and pain. It speaks to the experience of Sara and the time she spent living inside a witch god named Sea-Witch. It’s also about family and Sea-Witch’s community of sisters and the 78 Men Who Cause Pain (78MWCP) via making laws and being cops and fighting against so called monsters like Sea-Witch. The story is told through scribbles and sigils, words, quotes, drawings and photographs.

Sea-Witch Volume 2: Girldirt Angelfog is just as weird, interesting and beautiful as the first one! Both are so expansive and monstrous, creative and painful, confusing and challenging. The second volume continues Sara’s journey but linear narratives aren’t particularly important to Never Angel North, who is such a fearless breathless author.

These books are for all the freaks who love mythology and all the sapphic witches and lovers of the sea. Its for all the people invested in caring for one another and in creating and sharing hope even in the face of holding pain.

I was lucky enough to read the second volume via pdf because I support Never on patreon, I would just say its difficult to content warn for this series because it so tumultuous and open but there is definite discussion about trauma and pain laced throughout both volumes. I’m so excited for the third volume to come out in 2018!!!

Small Beauty by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang

Small Beauty is a short but poignant and affecting novel about grief, processing and ghosts. The book tells the soft and introspective story of Mei, a mixed race trans girl, whilst she is mourning and evolving, unearthing the lives and deaths of some of her relatives. Its also about this deep love and community, about support and identity, rage and, yes, sorrow too. The writing is subtle and quiet and lyrical – I marked so many of its pages because I found it so beautiful.

The novel is an own voices story and it consistently refuses to cater to cisgender people, Mei isn’t forced into narratives that eroticise or fetishise or simplify what being trans is like and Mei and all the other characters, including a transphobic dyke, are treated with forgiveness and represented with nuance. It’s a book for folks who are growing but not grown and for those who are new to adulthood. Content warnings for grief and death as well as a depiction of a transmisogynistic physical assault on pages 66-67.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

This year I became invested and interested in care and mothering in a way I never was before and as such I couldn’t resist listening (via audiobook) to this novel about a woman named Yejide and her husband, Akin, trying to get pregnant and have a family together.

This was on the shortlist for the baileys women prize for fiction and that’s how I became aware of it, and I’m glad I did! It’s a very readable book chronicling tragedies and peaks in Yejide’s attempts to create a family and its complex representations of the behaviours and wishes of people are interesting and emotional. The prose is animated and so is the dialogue – it’s a very enthralling if sorrowful read. 

Power And Magic : The Queer Witch Comic Anthology edited by Joamette Gil

I loved this comic anthology so much!! All the comics are centered around queer witches, were made by women, demigirls and bigender writers and illustrators of colour. The 15 different comics all vary in tone and size. Some are adorable and sweet and others are sad but powerful or healing and kind, they cover themes of love, community, family and recovery.

My favourites were Your Heart Is An Apple by Nivedita Sekar which was a fairytale inspired love story including an ex-mermaid who was now a cane user and a girl with an apple for a heart. I cried at its utter loveliness. I also really enjoyed As The Roots Undo by Joamette Gil, especially the line “They called her witch. I called her moon.” And lastly the tender and gorgeous Songbird for a vulture by Naomi Franquiz. There are content warnings for each story on the contents page.

Here’s to a 2018 filled with beautiful, educational and healing reading!! If you want to diversify your reading in the new year you could continue looking for suggestions via this list of books to be published in 2018 by women of colour!

PBG’s Best of 2017: Young Adult Fiction


By Sophia Simon-Bashall

The Young Adult (YA) community in particular has been blessed this year with some wonderful and diverse reads, though all we’ve really heard about is John Green’s latest (which, granted, is pretty fantastic). It seems a shame that many talented writers and their incredible stories may have been overlooked because a few of the big names had releases this year, so here’s a few in case you missed them.

Wing Jones – Katherine Webber


Wing Jones will warm your heart, and break it. It’s about a girl caught between worlds. It’s about a girl who loves to run. It’s about a girl who doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t entirely know what she wants to do sometimes. It’s about a family navigating a tragedy, navigating their differences, navigating love. It’s about brothers and sisters, about friendship, about passion, about race, about love, about growing up. It’s about everything.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas


No doubt you’ve at least heard in passing about The Hate U Give by now. Amandla Stenberg loves it and is set to star in the movie adaptation. Everyone who cares about YA has been talking about it. If you’re wondering why… well. It’s inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. It is relevant and important, particularly in Trump’s America. It manages to be funny, though the subject matter is not at all light. It’s excellently written. It will make you think. It’s incredible.

It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne


We love Holly Bourne. She brought the Spinster Club – our best friends – into our lives, made us feel angry and empowered and happy and sad and triumphant and vindicated and so many other things with that trilogy. Her latest book, It Only Happens in the Movies is equally wonderful, and deals with a whole range of issues such as mental health, addiction, divorce, and relationships. The main character, Audrey, navigates her parents’ separation and supporting her alcoholic mother alongside her own love life, school, and friendships. The book also examines romantic-comedies with a critical feminist eye, whilst also admitting its love for the genre and feeling incredibly cinematic in itself. Vivid writing, lovable or at least sympathetic characters, plenty of poignancy and laughter. A true treasure of a book.

A Change Is Gonna Come


A Change Is Gonna Come is an anthology featuring prominent YA authors alongside new voices, and all of them are BAME writers. It is filled with stories and poetry, and centres on the theme of ‘change’ – and it is certainly something which will spark change. In itself, it signposts a change – it is proof that there are people in publishing who genuinely care, who know not just what we want but what we need as a community of readers. There’s something for everyone in this collection, whether you’re into contemporary fiction, dystopian, or historical; whether you want to hear about love, anger, politics, or all of the above. This is a special book which will be well worth your time.

See our pick of the best music of 2017 here, and the best film and TV of 2017 here.

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