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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68 facts about gender and equality in Israel

overall rankings
gender wage gap 1
cabinet versus oecd
high profile sexual abusers

Overview Israel was one of the first countries to elect a female head of state – Golda Meir – but that hasn’t happened again since 1969, the year I was born.Israel ranks 53rd in the world out of 135 on the Gender Index of the World Economic Forum – ahead of the Arab states, but way behind most Scandinavian and European countries. Other countries that might be of interest : (see chart on the right)Iceland is number 1Rwanda is 6Philippines is 7Nicaragua is 12France at 15Namibia is 16South Africa is 17UK at 18Latvia is 20US at 28Canada at 30Australia 36Israel’s ranking on gender has gone DOWN over the past decade – in 2004 Israel ranked 35… Motherhood and fertility Israel offers paid parental leave of up to 14 weeks, for men or women. Israel has free childcare above age of threeIt is illegal to fire pregnant women in Israel or to make pregnant workers do any liftingIsrael literally pays women to have babiesAbortion is legal under certain conditions, but all women who seek abortions have to be evaluated by a panel.A heterosexual married woman in her childbearing years usually cannot get a legal abortion without a medical reason unless the abortion panel declares her effectively insane.A woman who wants an abortion because she doesn’t want to have children also has to be declared by the panel mentally unwell.Abortion is free for secular teenage girls, but religious girls in national service have to pay for it. Economic equality On the rank of economic equality alone, Israel ranks 71st out of 135 countries.Women make, on average, 66% of what men make, a statistic that hasn’t significantly moved in over three decades.Arab women are on the bottom of Israel’s economic totem pole:  According to the Adva Center, the average Jewish man makes 11,833 NIS per month; the average Jewish woman makes 7,414 NIS per month; the average Arab man makes 6,383 NIS per month; the average Arab woman makes 4,956 NIS per month – less than half of what a Jewish man makes.The average monthly wage of women managers is 73% that of male managers.Even though 65% of state workers are women, less than a third reach the level of senior management.Of the 106 government authorities, only four have a woman director.Only 1 in five hi-tech workers are womenIn academia , 48.3 percent of Israeli women have 13 or more years of schooling compared to 45.4 percent of men.Only one in every five Israeli professors is a woman.Almost six times more men than women run their own businesses.Of the 100 top traded companies, only six are run by womenOf the top 500 companies, only 5.4% are run by women, down from 8% in 2010Only 4%  of boards chairs are women, down from 5% in 201018% of members of the boards are women.Women hi-tech entrepreneurs receive half the funding that men doWomen and men in Israel are still primarily consolidated in professions by gender. According to the Adva center, jobs such as builders, engineers, computer technicians and...

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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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Be inspired by 67 amazing women in Israel 2015 – TWICE

For Yom Ha’Atzmaut -- Israel’s 67th Independence Day – I decided to create a list of 67 inspiring women in Israel. To do this, I crowdsourced this assignment, with a simple Facebook status update, “Who are the most amazing Israel women that you know? The ones changing the world for good?” Well, the answers came fast, with the most beautiful, loving energy. I was so moved. And once I started collecting them into a list, the numbers far surpassed 67. In fact, the list became closer to TWICE 67. So actually, here is a list of 134 amazing Israeli women for you to get to know this Yom Ha’atzmaut – and at a certain point I really just had to stop (apologies in advance to those I left out who deserve a place here. There are many of you….). The women on this list are activists, educators, artists, scientists, rabbis, writers, and “firsts”, and leaders in a whole range of fields. Some of the women I know well and love, and some I am meeting myself for the first time in this list. They are all worth getting to know. Get ready to be inspired. [PS Feel free to leave comments with names of other women who should be on the list!] Social activists "Firsts" -- Breaking Glass Everythings Thought Leaders Artists Politicians Jewish educators and scholars Lawyer-Activists Rabbis Scientists Writers Miscellaneous  Social activists Linor Abargil. Israeli beauty queen who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, shortly after being raped. Since then, she has become a global advocate in the fight against sexual violence with the film “Brave Miss World”. Daphni Leef. Social activist, video artist, and editor. In July 2011 she was one of the organizers of a tent camp in central Tel Aviv, sparking the 2011 housing protests in Israel. Beth Steinberg. Executive Director and co-founder of Shutaf, Inclusion Programs for Children with Special Needs in Jerusalem. As a parent of a child with special needs, she struggled to find workable, appropriate activities for her child. Beth believes that a well-run inclusion program can help educate and change values, creating meaningful and lasting social change.Rachel Schitskovsky-Ivker. Founder of Hadadi, Breast Cancer support center, a comprehensive center that combines both emotional and material support for women coping with breast cancer – everything  beyond the medical - a supportive community, information, support for family members, specialty accessories for coping with the side-effects of treatment, and other services. Ilana Pinshaw. Director of Microfy, an Israeli based NGO that helps Israeli and asylum seeker entrepreneurs living in the Tel Aviv area become economically independent through loans, training and mentoring. Efrat Degani-Toperoff.  Programme Officer at Yad Hanadiv,  Co-Founder and Chair of Bema’aglei Tzedek and Co-Founder of the Good Neighbour Association and the Psifas Israeli Fund, and a member of the Youth Forum of President Shimon Peres. Avigail Sperber. Filmmaker and activist advocating for religious lesbian women. Founder of Bat Kol organization for religious LGBT community, and creator of award-winning film, “Probation time” about her adopted sister. Phyllis Heimowitz. Founder of “The...

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Shouldn't Zionism Prioritize the Rights of Women?

It’s hard to be a feminist in Israel today. You walk around thinking that it should be obvious that women are equal human beings, fully capable of living independent, free lives. But that belief is challenged in every corner of your life, every day. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Michal Patelle Sure, there are some signs in Israel that women are doing great. We have women pilots, women as heads of the Supreme Court, and even a woman Nobel Prize winnerin science. We once even had a woman prime minister, elected back in the sixties. Indeed, today more bachelor’s degrees are handed out to Israeli women than to men. All these are nice little snapshots of a country where there is a possibility of women to make real advances. But these snapshots are only part of the picture. Looking deeper, they do not reflect the reality on the ground. Take the issue of women in academia, for example. The bachelor’s level is where equality ends. There are more women than men in universities, but fewer female professors. In fact, as the professional level rises, men outnumber women in increasing proportions, like an inverted pyramid. Men are promoted more and more, despite a larger pool of women. This obnoxious pattern has persisted for decades. Or take women in politics. Although the number of women Knesset members has increased gradually over the past 15 years, we are still below 30% female representation. What’s worse, on the municipal level only two out of the 230 cities in Israel have women mayors. It is an appalling statistic. And by the way, even though we have had several women heading the Supreme Court, all told only 10 out of 64 Supreme Court justices. The issue of women in the army is also a problem. Although the army has also been slowly including more women in coveted positions many of the most elite units are still all male. Women’s positions are also under tremendous threat from the pressure to conscript more religious soldiers – whose first demand is always to remove women’s presence. The army is reportedly building an all-male base, and already a few weeks ago women soldiers were asked to leave the mess hall when religious soldiers needed to eat. Get ready for more of that. All of this somehow makes sense to the army establishment. And that’s because in general there is an entire sexist culture in the army which assumes women to be weaker, lesser, not serious. My daughter, a Captain in Intelligence in the IDF, constantly tells me stories of the grassroots sexist culture she experiences. Sure, women can rise to certain places, but the sexism remains ubiquitous. This in turn affects the entire culture of women in business. Israel is heralded as a hi-tech haven, and yet women are systematically excluded from that world, where business relationships are usually culled from those elite army units where women are usually absent. Women head fewer than 8% of top hi-tech companies in Israel and are a mere 16.6% of board members all told. Women are often just not seen, like in the bestselling book...

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Arutz Sheva: Listen to Talia Kohen interview Elana Sztokman about women in the upcoming elections in Israel

Talia Kohen interviews Elana Sztokman about women in Israeli politics in advance of the upcoming elections in Israel, Part 1 and Part 2 below. And please share your comments and feedback.      Part 1   Part 2

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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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Women shaking up elections in Israel

[Crossposted from Huffington Post] Israeli women are shaking up the political system in their country in some intriguing and even exciting ways. With national elections set for March, it seems that election fever has provoked a tsunami of women's readiness for change, especially around women's issues. Across parties, in groups with different religious and ethnic make-ups, bubbles are forming that indicate that finally women are fighting back against the all-boys' club that has characterized Israeli politics for so long. Energies are coming in from many new and exciting directions, and the language of social change for women is everywhere. The most obvious indication of change comes from the sheer number of women holding top spots in their parties. The Labor-Hatnua party, which is currently the only party with a realistic chance of overthrowing the Netanyahu government, has Tzipi Livni as co-chair and thus potential prime minister -- which would make her the first female prime minister in Israel since Golda Meir was elected, the only woman PM in Israel's history, in 1969. Moreover, three out of the top four slots are held by women. And even more exciting, two of them, Shelly Yachimovich and Stav Shaffir, have had careers as active feminists. The lesson from Golda is this: it's not enough to just aspire to have women in power. We need women with a feminist consciousness to bring change for women at large. Feminist women have been causing movement in several other parties as well. It goes without saying that Meretz, headed by the indomitable Zehava Galon, has been front and center on women's issues from the start, and the only party with 50-50 on gender on their lists. But other parties are starting to get the message. Deputy Jerusalem mayor Rachel Azaria, a staunch activist on behalf of women's rights, announced that she is joining the new Kulanu party of Moshe Cachlon, at number four on the list. The fact that Cachlon actively sought her out suggests that he is wooing the feminist vote. On the other side of the spectrum Aida Toma, an Arab feminist activist, is now number two on the Arab Hadash party list, indicating that there, too, feminism has become a selling point. Tensions still exist, though, feminist activist Batya Kahana Dror also announced that she was running for the Jewish Home party -- currently the only religious party that allows women on its list -- but she had to drop out following an interview in which she veered from the party's extreme right wing national agenda and suggested "practical solutions" to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Feminism, it seems, is not quite as averse to right-wing religious radicals as the idea of a diplomatic solution. The party now has two women in its top ten slots, one of whom, Shuli Muallem, has partnered with women in other parties on feminist legislation. (The top woman in the party holds positions on minorities in Israel that I do not view as having much social value, feminist or otherwise.) Still, in terms of actual female representation,...

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Women in business in Israel: Status report for Internation Women's Day

The Israeli media loves International Women's Day so much that they put women on the covers -- even in the business sections -- and have lots of advertisements for perfume and other things that will "make women in you life feel special". Yediot even blasts the exciting news that "Women are writing Yediot" for this special edition. This, of course, points out the problem with International Women's Day: There are 364 other days of the year when women ought to be writing and being featured for their work.... Perhaps more than a bottle of perfume, women would prefer equal pay for our work and for our writing to be featured regularly as regular staff, not just as a special "women's thing". So here are some sobering statistics about women in business and leadership in honor of Women's Day: * Out of the top 100 publically-traded companies in Israel, only 8 are headed by women (8%). Of the top 500 largest companies, 27 are headed by women (5.5%) * 89% of Boards of public companies have women on them -- sounds like progress? Well, put it this way: 11% of boards are are all-male. In total, only 17% of board members of the top 100 companies are women * Of the top 500 companies, only 22 (5%) have more than a quarter women on the Board of Directors * Only 2% of Boards have women at the helm * The entire financial industry has 19% of women in managerial positions * In Israeli-government owned companies, only 7% of managers are women * In Israeli hospitals, twice as many male doctors than female doctore have senior positions * Of the 19 Israeli billionaires, only one is a woman (Shari Aroson). These billionaires, by the way, own about 60% of the GDP of Israel. * Only 9% of women in Israel are satisfied with their salaries.   Yeah.... forget the perfume. And forget the celebrations.  All these media moguls are patting themselves on the back thinking that they've done a great thing by having women writers and women on the cover one day a year. There are 364 other days a year, and still a long way to go before we can really break out the champaign for Women's Day.  

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Why a religious feminist mourns Shulamit Aloni

In the previous elections, many religious feminists voted for Meretz. Why? In this op-ed in Tablet Magazine mourning the death of Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni, Elana explores the ways in which feminism crosses the political divide in Israel: "For me, as a religious Israeli feminist, I have found that this ideology, driven by a feminist desire to see and respect the other, transcends other political divides. Demarcations of left-right increasingly seem to fade amid a feminist discourse that lays out a larger vision for Israeli society. To wit, some of the most significant pieces of legislation in today’s Knesset have come from feminist legislators crossing some of those more “traditional” political fault lines. Feminists on the right and the left have found remarkable ways to collaborate on vital issues that their male counterparts do not. I think about Shulamit Aloni and about the ways in which she was so often delegitimized as “leftist” in many of the circles that I have dwelled in, and I can’t help but mourn that loss of opportunity for exploring a shared vision."   Read the rest at Tablet.

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