Jewfem Blog

ABC Australia: Why misogyny and feminism are on the rise

Here is an excerpt of an essay I wrote for the ABC Religion and Ethics column in advance of my NCJW Scholar-in-Residence tour of Australia that commences next week:    There are some strange things happening around the world when it comes to gender. And I'm not just referring to the Queen of England driving around the Saudi prince in a Range Rover, just to prove that women can drive. I'm talking about the American presidential elections. The current American campaign is likely to be a race between the Neanderthal and the feminist, or between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In this bizarre reality, there currently seem to be roughly the same amount of people who believe that it is time for a woman to be president as there are those who believe that women are merely valued for the perkiness of their breasts. It is difficult to reconcile this dual reality, what I call the Clinton-Trump paradox. How can it possibly be that two completely oppositional views about the status of women have equal weight in the public mindset? Yet, this is the reality not just in the United States but in many places around the world. These two trends seem to coexist - one being a drive to advance women's economic and political opportunities, and the other a drive to send women back to the Playboy mansion. Inequality in Israel I see this paradox here in Israel, where I have been conducting research on gender issues in society for over a decade. On the one hand, there have been some interesting strides towards gender equality. The Knesset has a record 32 (out of 120) women legislators - a steady increase over the past 20 years - including many powerful feminists who are dedicated to advancing gender equality. Israel has had a female Supreme Court justice, a woman heads the Bank of Israel, and Israel was one of the first countries to have a female prime minister (although that was in 1969 and hasn't been repeated). The army, a notorious bastion of militaristic male machismo, has opened up many interesting roles for women - and in fact remains the only country in the world where all 18 year old young men and women have mandatory conscription. Israel has some of the most progressive feminist legislation in the world: mandatory 14 week parental leave, free state-funded child care from age three, a prohibition against firing pregnant women, and far reaching laws against sexual harassment. And interestingly, to its shame and credit, Israel is the only country in the world where a former president is sitting in jail for crimes of rape. It's a shame that a president can be a rapist, but enormous credit that he was caught, tried, convicted and treated just like every other sexual predator. On the other hand, many indicators show Israeli women falling behind. Women make a paltry 66% of what men make - a figure that hasn't moved significantly in over thirty years, placing Israel at seventy-first in...

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I'm going to Australia, as NCJWA Scholar-in-Residence

Well, it's official: I'm going to Australia, as the NCJWA Scholar-in-Residence!! I will be giving talks on topics related to the status of women in Israel to groups in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra, as well as participating in the Melbourne Jewish Writers' Festival! And visiting Shira, yay, as well as some of the schools..... I have not been back to Melbourne since we moved back to Israel in 2005. That is a long time..... Looking forward to catching up and reconnecting with family and friends. Thank you Shirley Krause Glance and Di Hirsh for believing in me and making this happen. And to those of you who want to catch up, send me a note -- looking forward! May 18-June 3. Really really excited

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C-SPAN: Watch NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman in conversation with Elana Sztokman about Women in Israel

Nancy Kaufman and Elana Sztokman

Watch NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman in conversation with Elana Sztokman about the topic of women in Israel. The event took place on February 4, 2015 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, and was aired on C-SPAN.      

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Historic news on women in decision-making in Israel: New 1325 resolution

(cross-posted from Lilith) Last month, the Israeli government announced that it is establishing a team to formulate a working plan to advance UN Resolution 1325 in Israel—the resolution that calls for women’s equal inclusion in all aspects of decision-making, especially around issues of peace and security. The team will be comprised of senior representatives from almost all government offices, including the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Ministry for Internal Security, and the perhaps more obvious Welfare Ministry and Education Ministry. It will be headed by Vered Swid, the Director of the Office for Gender Equality of the Prime Minister’s Office (until recently titled The Office on the Status of Women) and will also include academics, researchers, and representatives from NGOs working on issues of gender, equality and social justice. The purpose of the committee, according to the announcement, is to ensure that Israel complies with UN Resolution 1325. This means ensuring women’s representation in all areas of decision-making, promoting women’s safety and security, and redefining “security” to include a more holistic understanding of women’s lives. Women’s groups have been working tirelessly for seven years to reach this moment and have faced sometimes daunting obstacles. “This is the first time that the government has committed to an action plan on gender, a tangible working plan with timetables, targets, and measurable objectives that can be evaluated and followed up on,” said attorney Anat Thon Ashkenazy, Coordinator of 1325 Israel on behalf of Itach-Maaki Women Lawyers for Social Justice, which has spearheaded this initiative for the past seven years. “It is also the first time that all the various discussions on gender have been connected – women’s representation, women’s security, and gender mainstreaming. That’s the essence of Resolution 1325, that all these issues are tied together.” Also significant is the list of participants in the process. This is the first time that gender is seen not as an issue of concern to the ministries of welfare and education alone, but rather as demanding the attention of all ministries. Until very recently, these ministries did not believe that they are part of the gender problem. Member of the Knesset Aliza Lavie, who heads the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, which has been advancing this initiative, received a response from the Ministry of Defense earlier this year saying that they did not understand what their office has to do with gender. There is quite a lot for them to learn. The negotiations over the recent Gaza war, for example, took place with zero women around the table–not even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose official job title was to be head of negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu found a way to replace her with his own male representative. (Could this manipulation have anything to do with Livni’s powerful campaign to replace him in the upcoming elections? I wonder.) The gender problem cuts across the board in Israel. A 2014 state comptroller’s report found that women fill less than one third of all senior management positions...

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