Friday, January 18, 2008

This is Feminism?

According to an article over at the Forward, Ms Magazine has
refused to run the above advertisement, which features images of Israel’s top female political leaders, and the American Jewish Congress is not too happy about this.

The ad was submitted by the American Jewish Congress to Ms. Magazine, and spotlighted photographs of Dorit Beinisch, president of Israel’s Supreme Court; Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, and Dalia Itzik, speaker of the Knesset, over the text, “This is Israel.”

According to the AJCongress, Ms. initially approved the ad but then reversed course, saying that the ad would “set off a firestorm.”

Says AJCongress President Richard Gordon: “Since there is nothing about the ad itself that is offensive, it is obviously the nationality of the women pictured that the management of Ms. fears their readership would find objectionable. For a publication that holds itself out to be in the forefront of the women’s movement, this is nothing short of disgusting and despicable.”

But according to Ms. Magazine’s executive editor, Kathy Spillar, it's not "the women’s nationality but their party affiliation that was the problem. Two of the featured officials, Itzik and Livni, are both members of the Kadima political party," and thus, Spillar said, "the ad would leave Ms. Magazine open to the charge of political favoritism."

The AJCongress created the ad to highlight the fact that women now occupy leading positions in Israel’s executive, legislative and political branches. In response, a Ms. representative said that “we would love to have an ad from you on women’s empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this,” according to the AJCongress.

But, for me, this is the kicker:

“Not only could the ad be seen as favoring certain political parties within Israel over other parties, but also with its slogan, ‘This is Israel,’ the ad implied that women in Israel hold equal positions of power with men,” she said. “Israel, like every other country, has far to go to reach equality for women.”

Now, I don't think anyone is going to argue that the equality gap between men and women has completely closed in any nation. But it's hard to deny that there are some countries that have done a much better job of narrowing this gap than others. In particular, I can think of many countries in the same region as Israel (i.e. Saudi Arabia, where women can't even drive cars) that have done virtually nothing to rectify this situation. In my opinion, the position of women in Israel is one of the best in the world, and the fact that women can hold positions of political influence in Israel should be celebrated by a feminist magazine, especially when considered in contrast to other countries in the Middle and Near East.

I don't know that I agree with the political ideologies of all three of these Israeli women, but I do appreciate the fact that they have been given the opportunity, as women, to hold these positions of power, and I think that is something worth celebrating (or, at least, acknowledging). But the only thing worth acknowledging here is the ease with which Ms. Magazine is able to flaunt its own political and ideological biases at the expense of their own cause.

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