In the first episode of Real Women, Real Stories’ second season, we hear from writer and community organizer Leah Vincent. Vincent describes growing up in a Yeshivish family, and the strict gender roles under which she was raised. She describes the community as one in which male and female children were kept separate and how the female children were expected to be obedient to the men in their lives and grow up to become mothers.
“When I think about the story of my life, I often wish I had a different story to tell. Like, I wish that my story was that I was this bold, gutsy girl who pushed back on the patriarchy but that’s really not what it was like at all.”
In her Real Women, Real Stories vignette, Vincent says she adored her father and adored God, who, she admits, bore a “suspicious likeness to my father” and the other men telling her how to live her life, “this very male God.”
At the age of 16, Leah Vincent says she was in Israel at what she describes as a sort of finishing school where she was learning more about the philosophy and community of her Yeshiva culture. Her family discovered that she had used the small allowance she was sent to purchase a shirt that was deemed to not be sufficiently modest.
“…Modesty was the most important thing for a girl; it was the way a girl was judged. Her whole worth was about how modest she was.”
As a result of this immodest garment, Leah was effectively shunned. Vincent says her father stopped speaking to her and relationship with her mother was strained to the point that it consisted only of screaming matches. Her family stopped supporting her financially, and she found herself alone in New York City with “zero preparation for the secular world”; she had gone to Orthodox Jewish schools her entire life and had never befriended anyone outside of her culture.
“I had been pushed out of my family and the only life that I knew how to live, I suddenly wasn’t allowed to live,” Vincent says. “The financial part wasn’t nearly as hard as the emotional part.”
“I grew up in such a close-knit family and community and culture and suddenly I had nobody at all.”
Vincent continues her Real Women, Real Stories tale in a park in New York City, befriending and developing a relationship with a young man, one whose “primary occupation was selling weed.” But Leah didn’t care about his character; bereft of human warmth, having been cast out of her family and her life as a while, she cared only that there was someone in the world who knew her name and was happy to see her.
Despite setting clear boundaries with her boyfriend, one night, as their physical affection progressed beyond what she was comfortable with, she told him to stop. He did not. He kept going. He raped her.
“That was the end of the life I knew. I was changed on every level because of that.”
Leah Vincent says she had been taught that such an experience would destroy her, and that, in some ways, that was indeed the result. In some ways, it did destroy her. Vincent says she didn’t initially conceptualize it as rape.
“I knew I had told him to stop and I knew I didn’t want it. But I just thought that it was my fault; that’s what I’d been taught. That’s what I had been told.
Within a few months, Vincent was rushed to the emergency room with really bad stomach pains. With no clear diagnosis, she was rushed into surgery, only to find something shocking.
Hear more of Leah Vincent’s perseverance in her own words by watching her episode of Real Women, Real Stories.
About Real Women, Real Stories
After spending several years working in the fashion industry as a modeling agent, Real Women, Real Stories creator Matan Uziel says he had become jaded and disillusioned. Decrying a lack of regulation in certain aspects of the industry, leaving young models vulnerable to exploitation while, elsewhere in the industry, young factory-working women responsible for crafting the garments these women wore on the runway were likewise being taken advantage of. Additionally, in his role as modeling agent, he felt conflicted, given his role as an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association.
Real Women, Real Stories debuted on March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day. The next day, Uziel published a blog on Huffington Post, an entry that bore the title “The Beginning of a Change: Real Women, Real Stories (A Shocking Miniseries You Can’t Ignore).” He detailed the genesis of Real Women, Real Stories, discussing his motivation and the beginning of the series’s production.
“I did not see men standing up on women’s issues in a really creative way — and not just standing up, but standing alongside women on many issues. So I have decided to abandon the other project and create ‘Real Women, Real Stories.’ I wanted to create something special and decided to establish a project of embracing those who are silent in their pain but want to speak out. And so I did it.”
Uziel concedes that Real Women, Real Stories may not be the most obvious way to battle the issues women all over the world may face — among them rape, subjugation, discrimination — and that the name itself may invite controversy.
“[W]hat matters for me the most is to bring to light these issues and injustices with the hope that our project will help galvanize the masses to demand change.”
Stay tuned to the Inquisitr for more exclusive coverage of Season 2 of Real Women, Real Stories.