Famous picture - second thoughts.
As I looked at the picture over and over again, I felt used. I didn't see myself in it, nor my mother, nor the other women I knew. Instead I saw the photographer's projection of what women in tefillin must be like: angry.Rahel Lerner in Lilith, Fall 2007. The piece (not on-line) is well worth reading in its entirety, as is the companion essay by her mother in response to the same picture.
[. . .] We looked, to me, like a caricature of angry, scowling feminists. I called it the "Scary Amazon Women in Tefillin picture." [. . .]
For me, davening in tallit and tefillin has never been about women demanding the right to engage in rituals that had been limited to men. To me, the tallit and tefillin are how Jews should pray, and I had never, until I saw myself in that picture, seen them as an act of feminist defiance. [. . .]
But over time, something unforeseen began to happen. I started to get angry. I saw the female professors I admired in college not get tenure while their male counterparts were promoted. I saw the Jewish community blame highly educated working women for a declining birth rate. I saw women who had entered the Conservative rabbinate struggle for acceptance and for equality even 20 years after that historic decision. I saw my friends have babies and struggle to afford child care. [. . .]
I don't think [the photographer] was somehow prescient in his portrayal of us. I certainly don't think that he was predicting my own personal disillusionment. While I still think that his photo doesn't capture the essential love of Judaism, of prayer, of God, of ritual -- whatever it was that had brought each of the ten very different women in his picture to take on the mitzvot of tallit and tefillin, I now recognize myself in that minyan of defiant women, and that is a terrible disappointment.