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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

 Thoughts from a feminist in a world still out of balance

[A guest post by my daughter, Ariella]

This week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Last week was the International Men’s Day.

On campus we have a group called the “Cell for gender equality”. They worked hard on both events, but I will get to the Men’s Day exhibit a little later.

In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the cell put up a fantastic exhibition with explanations and stalls from all sorts of organizations that help women who are victims of violence or who find themselves in potentially violent situations.


The highlights of the event were a 'Poetry Slam' by three students (two male and one female) who spoke beautifully about their feelings on gender and violence against women, and later that evening, a play.

But what really caught my eye were the posters with the names of the twenty three women who were murdered this year in Israel in gender based attacks. The hardest to see was the last one, which had been penned in (instead of printed like the rest), because she had been murdered only the previous day.

Names of Victims


Twenty three women who were attacked and killed in gender based violence... from different communities and backgrounds throughout the country.

And while reading their names it all came back to me, that these are more than just names!

I KNEW a name that appeared on the same list just a few years ago. I KNEW a woman who was murdered by her husband. She had been my adoptive family when I was in mechina (a pre-army academy). She’d invited me into her home after meeting me at a community holiday event and noticing that her son, who is autistic, not only allowed me to play with him, but that he enjoyed my company!  So she took me under her wing, had me over for coffee and even for Shabbat.

I read about her murder in a news article that reached me via WhatsApp two years later while I was serving in the army. From that moment, seeing the names of victims could never again be just names. Even though I didn't recognize any names this year, it’s not so disconnected from me; Ariella Bogner. Each one of those names was a person.  A woman.  Like me.

I think the understanding that it’s not so disconnected from any of us was the idea behind the #metoo movement. So many women came out and talked about their experiences. But even then, does it touch my life as well?

Earlier this year I was sitting with a group of my friends and we were talking about some of the most difficult times of our lives. I spoke about when I had been harassed a few years ago. The other two women in the group shared similar examples that had happened to them. All of the men in the group (who are the majority in that particular group of friends) where instantly outraged that such a thing could happen and couldn’t grasp the idea that all we could do in most of the cases was tell an authority figure… if there was even someone to tell. They kept asking what was done to whoever touched/pinched/etc. They are all respectful amazing men who I adore. They are all aware of how vast the problem is, and yet it never occurred to them that #metoo reached their “inner circle”. These are not just names in posts, but people we know and care about. 

There I was, standing in the hallway on campus, looking at the exhibit and freshly shook up over the wave of memory that flooded in. I decided to go see the play (חצאית כאן קודקוד), which was being performed that evening on campus. I had heard good things about it from friends and all the money from the ticket sale was going to the local woman’s shelter. The play used the army as a metaphor for Israeli society and studied specifically the way women are treated in the army by using old-time army band songs (and also chants that soldiers make up for moral etc.). I spent the whole play torn between enjoyment and the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that came from knowing exactly how true it all was.


After the play, the actresses came out to have an open discussion with the audience  (that's them ^).

We talked about the #metoo movement, the audience that the play is aimed at, and of course feminism was thrown around as well. But the most important thing to be said was by one brave man in the audience (it’s must be intimidating as a man to speak publicly after such a harsh play that points an accusing finger at “men”). He spoke about how, as a man who considers himself a feminist, he finds that whenever he tries to join the feminist discussion he is met with accusing statements, suspicion and hostility. 

Sometimes I feel that we forget that feminism isn’t supposed to mean man hating, or that woman should be more than men. Feminism is supposed to free both men and women from gender bias and create equal opportunities for both.

In today’s society (at least the circles in which I run), feminism and gender equality are very talked about. But we might have lost sight of some of our original goal.

Which brings me to the exhibit that was set up on campus last week for the International Men’s Day.

As part of the exhibit, there was a video of men from all parts of society talking about what it means to them to be a man.

I was floored!

It was the first time I had even heard this kind of expression. We have defined what it means to be a woman. We talk about it and examine where it meets us time and time again. But it had never occurred to me that men might want to talk about what it means to be a man. Which begs the question; Do we allow that kind of discourse in today’s society? Should men form groups to talk about and redefine manhood and what is masculine?   Can those discussions take place in proximity to ‘our’ discussions?

I feel that in order to create meaningful conversations between the genders we all need to start to talk about and clarify our roles, and the attributes associated with them. The question isn’t only ‘what does it mean in today’s day and age to be a woman?’, but also ‘what does it mean to be a man?’, as well.

I am tired of hearing hateful accusing statements thrown around. I am tired of the stigmas attached to being a feminist. I am tired of society accepting the way things are.

I do not accept that ‘this is the way things will always be’! I do not want my male friends/future partner/future sons/etc., to be afraid to express themselves! I do not accept how so many women (and men), are harassed every single day!

Next year I do not want to read a list of twenty names of victims of gender violence.

I invite us all to reject the status quo and to work to change it. Let us be active and create a society that allows discussion and acceptance, but most of all mutual respect.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (4)