The Haim Sisters Led the Way for Jewish Women in 2020

The Grammy-nominated sisters know that being a Jewish woman means standing up to sexism and inequality wherever you see it.

As a Jewish girl with two sisters who occasionally parts her hair down the middle, I often daydream about being a Haim sister. I know I’m not the only one.

I first learned about the three Jewish sisters who make up the band Haim when they fired their agent a couple years back after finding out a male artist headlining the same festival as them was getting paid 10 times more. “It’s fucked up not even to be paid half the same amount, but to be paid a tenth of that amount of money? It was insane,” the youngest sister Alana stated at the time.

After that I started listening to them, eventually becoming a dedicated fan. In my family, they’ve become known as “the Jewish band that Sophie likes.”

This past summer, the sisters released their third studio album, Women In Music Part III, and it has since become one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. They masterfully blend together genres ranging from R&B to glam rock while hitting at the emotions everyone has been feeling in 2020 in their best lyrics yet. But the music itself isn’t the only thing the sisters serve, and I think what draws me to them more than anything else is their unabashed Jewish pride.

Take, for instance, the cover of Women In Music, where the sisters are photographed posing behind the counter of the iconic L.A. Jewish deli, Canter’s, surrounded by various sausages and other deli meats, the innuendo being made clear as glass.

Considering they actually played their first show at Canter’s Deli (and were literally paid in matzah ball soup), it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon for the Haim sisters to lean into their Jewish identity. In promotions for the album, they’ve done interviews laughing about their bat mitzvahs and discussing how they borrowed lyrics from Lo Yisa Goy, a Jewish camp song.

With this holiday season in the pandemic, they also put together Haimukkah to cheer up the spirits of people celebrating alone. So far, they’ve given me my favorite Hanukkah gift up to date: a collaboration on Taylor Swift’s surprise album Evermore.

But it’s not just details of their Jewish upbringing and holiday celebrations that makes the band so profoundly Jewish to me — it’s the underlying unapologetic feminism that my mother raised me on. While tackling the question of what it is like being women in the music industry on this album, the sisters also end up showing us exactly what it means to be Jewish women.

Like Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and countless other women before them, the Haim sisters know that being a Jewish woman means standing up to sexism and inequality wherever you see it.

“Man From the Magazine,” the 11th track on the album, aggressively confronts the sexism the sisters have faced. When compared to the production of the rest of the album, the song seems almost bland in comparison. However, it’s the lyrics that truly set the song apart:

Man from the magazine, what did you say?
“Do you make the same faces in bed?”
Hey man, what kind of question is that?
What do you really want me to say back
 
Man from the music shop, I drove too far
For you to hand me that starter guitar
“Hey girl, why don’t you play a few bars?”
Oh, what’s left to prove?

The music video accompanying the track features Danielle serving delicacies at Canter’s to various men and singing over them in a soliloquy-esque style.

Seemingly, their efforts to expose sexism in the music industry have not gone unnoticed: For the first time ever, all of the 2021 Grammy nominees for the Best Rock Performance category are composed of women, Haim included. The girls had clearly already foreseen the future, posing for Rolling Stone in July with their jeans pulled down at various lengths and the words “Women make the best rock music” scribbled across their underwear.

For the first time in their career, the Haim sisters are also up for the most prestigious Grammy award: Album of the Year. Upon hearing the news of their nomination, Alana marveled to Billboard, “The thing that’s really blowing our minds the most is we’re three Jews from the valley!”

While Este, Danielle, and Alana may be three Jews from the valley, they’re also so much more. They’ve provided me not only with the album that’s gotten me through this year (check out my Spotify wrapped, I’m somewhat impressively one of the top 0.005% of Haim’s listeners), but also the inspiration to confront my own experiences with sexism as a Jewish woman. So thank you, Este, Danielle, and Alana, for that.

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