Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feminism in Israel

When the idea for reviving Avast for NaBloPoMo came up, I thought it would be a great chance to write a post or two on feminism in Israel. My country tends to come up in conversations over lots of issues; feminism is not the first one to come to mind. I have spent the last few days trying to figure out what to write about.

In many ways women here are considered equal. From day one of the establishment of the state in 1948, women have been able to vote, we had a female prime minister in the 70’s, girls do a mandated military service same as boys, and we get the same education and health care. Still, there are so many ways that women here are not equal.

I could write about how the military has very few women in the upper ranks and serves as a network that women can’t get into.
I could write about how more girls that boys graduate high school and more women than men receive undergraduate and graduate degrees, yet the number of women who get tenured university positions is much lower and women make up only about a quarter of the faculty of universities and colleges.
I could write about how in 2008 women earned approximately 40% less then men.
I could write about the number of women who were murdered by their male partners or ex-partners.
I could write about the sex workers who are being brought here from other countries and held illegally, who can’t speak the language and can’t get help and when they are caught are sent back to where they come from with no help.
I could write about the former president who is now under trial for rape and sexual harassment.
I could tell you that it took six years to pass a law against sexual harassment.

Instead I am going to tell you about my colleague S.
S. has a master’s degree from a top university; she is bright and well read. She also thinks it ok that men make more than women; after all, they have a family to support. She thinks it’s ok that when she gets home from work, she looks after their child, cleans the apartment, cooks and does laundry. Her husband goes to the gym. If their child is sick, she will stay home even though she has used up her paid sick days at work.
She makes me sad and, unfortunately, I think she is a typical Israeli woman.


Most of the women I come in contact with, whether at work, at the gym, or through our kids, work outside their home, have careers, and are educated. Most of them would not call themselves feminists. I don’t know why they don’t identify with feminism. Maybe many of them do not realize that they lead the lives that they do because of feminists in the past. Maybe, because even though they have careers and are successful strong women, they are still usually the ones who do the majority of the housework and childcare and can’t fathom a world where that doesn’t happen?


*I have sources for my numbers but they are all in Hebrew.

by Yael - Ein Shem

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