Exploring Orthodox Jewish Masculinities with Eyes Wide Open

  • Author(s): Stefanie Knauss
  • When: 2013-10
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • Eyes Wide Open (Einayim Petukhoth), Haim Tabakman’s 2009 feature debut, explores the masculinity of strictly Orthodox Jewish men, carefully noting the various practices that shape it – work, religion, clothes, family, social context and community, sexual desire –, but also the fissures that emerge in their performances. Drawing on Judith Butler’s theory of the performativity of gender practices and R.W. Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity, this paper argues that the film explores the practices through which Haredi masculinity is performatively established, but it also shows that this hegemonic masculinity is never perfectly embodied by any man. It is precisely its protagonists’ “failures” to perfectly perform masculinity – most centrally with regard to bodily discipline and sensations, and their religious meaning – that open up a space in which a shift in Haredi masculinity might become possible that poses a challenge not only to religious, but also to secular hegemonic masculinity.

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