Posts Tagged With: Women in Media

Ynet Joins JPost for Jerusalem Bus Ad Fight Blooper Award

Ynet wins this month’s award for completely inappropriate pictures of women. Today, Ynet posted an update on the campaign to show the faces of modestly dressed Jerusalem women on Jerusalem bus ads. The picture accompanying the article shows the bottom half of a woman’s body (no face) and is focused on her crotch.

This is not a fight about advertisers wanting to put sexy women on buses, but rather a fight over whether serious public service advertisements including women can be displayed. The matter goes back to 2008 when Egged refused campaign advertisements that featured the face of Rachel Azaria, running for city council as head of the newly formed Yerusalmim party. They told her ‘No pictures of girls on buses in Jerusalem. Not a 3-year-old and not an 80-year-old.”

The battle heated up again last fall when Egged refused to display women on posters for a public service campaign to increase organ donors. Once again the pictures showed only faces. There were no exposed shoulders or any other form of provocative dress. None the less, Egged’s advertising agency asked the National Transplant Center (ADI), to replace the advertisements with ones showing only men. The advertising agency explained that a 2007 campaign which showed an organ donor and her son had been vandalized and the bus set on fire.

In November, Yerushalmim tried to place posters of the faces of women living in Jerusalem on buses. The campaign was titled “Women of Jerusalem, Nice to Meet You”. The women were fully dressed in “regular, completely modest, unrevealing and unoffending clothes.” None the less, they were told that they would have to deposit 50,000 NIS for any damages to the buses caused by the posters.

In December, Yerushalmim and several Jerusalem residents took the matter to the Supreme Court. This most recent article describes the Supreme Court’s request to the government to clarify two questions:

  • “why it [the government ] does not stipulate that licenses for operating public transportation will only be issued to companies that avoid activities that may include gender-based discrimination. “
  • “why it [the government] does not impose real sanctions on Egged when it goes against basic constitutional principles”

This is not the first time an update to this story has been posted with an inappropriate picture. At the beginning of March, the Jerusalem Post selected a picture of a woman licking a plate to accompany the article.

Jacob’s Bones asked Ynet how it chose the picture.  Ynet explained:

In this case, I assume we can both agree the photo used is that of a woman, and it very much looks like an ad. As such, it seems at least partly relevant to the story, and certainly to the story’s headline. I think that’s good enough.

Were there really no pictures that looked like a woman, looked like an ad, and showed her face? What about a breast cancer awareness ad?  Or the ADI organ donation ad featuring a woman that was rejected from Jerusalem buses?  Or one of the rejected pictures from the Yerushalmim campaign that triggered the supreme court case?

As unimaginable and as crazy as it sounds, the Haredim here aren’t complaining about sexy Jeans advertisements.  That might be understandable.

They are complaining and sometimes vandalizing buses with fully clothed women doing public service announcements.  What has women in Jerusalem upset is that even modest practical pictures of women can’t get on buses.

Haredim claim that women should not be displayed on buses because a picture of a woman is inherently sexual. Picture selections like these only serve to reinforce social attitudes that women in the media equals sex in the media.

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A Step Backwards: Kol BaRama allowed to limit women to 4 hr/wk

This morning HaAretz reported that the Sephardi Haredi radio station Kol BaRama will be broadcassting women’s voices for only four hours a week with the blessing of the the Second Authority for Television and Radio. The Second Authority is responsible for issuing radio station franchises and ensuring that radio station practices conform to Israeli law.

Orignally the Israeli Broadcasting Association was demanding that they have at least one hour a day of women’s programming (6 hr/wk). Civil rights groups believed that even this amount was too little and filed a suit in the Israeli Supreme Court alleging that the government was not doing enough to fight discrimination against women at Kol baRama.

Israeli law does not allow discrimination except in certain religious situations. However, last May former Sephardi Chief Rabbi and Shas spritual leader Ovadia Yosef ruled that there were no problems with listen to women’s speaking voices on the radio.

Kol baRama’s ownership has close ties with several coalition MKs. In Israel there is a very thin line between the legislative and executive branches of government. Members of the Knesset, the legislative branch, also run the ministries that form the executive branch. They therefore control the ability of the government to execute its laws. This often means that a law that is passed in the Knesset can be effectively nullified as a political favor by the MKs that run specific ministries.

Kol baRama insists that increasing the number of hours of women’s broadcasting would lead to an economic loss. The Second Authority run its own independent study and found that 20% of listeners would stop listening if there were more hours of women’s programming. Kol BaRama claims the potential loss is closer to 1/3 of their listeners.

If this statistic is indeed representative of the Sephardi Haredi population as a whole, it suggests that there is deep rooted prejudice in that community. Given Ovadia Yosef’s ruling one can’t simply claim that the exclusion of women is due to religiously mandated separate roles or some sort of special holiness that sets women apart.

However, it is quite possible that this statistic is not representative. It only reports on current listeners. Given an on-going policy of excluding women, it may be that Kol BaRama is creating a self-confirming illusion. By making women all but invisible it alienates people who want to hear women’s voices. The current listeners are those who already don’t mind exclusion rather than the general public. In that case all the statistic tells us is that 20% of people who don’t care about women’s voices actually dislike them enough to stop listening.

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority defends its decision saying that the differences are not that great and no one should be making a big deal of going down from six to four hours.

Kol BaRama broadcasts 24/6. Four hours a week of women’s voices represents 3% of airtime.

Previous articles on Jacob’s Bones:

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Haredim in the Secular Media Discussed Without Women

Meeting at Bar Ilan (click on picture to go to gallry)

This photo gallery says it all. On Sunday night, haredim and non-Haredim met at Bar Ilan for a seminar on the media portrayal of the relationship between haredi and non-Haredi Israelis.

Kikar haShabbat published a photo gallery of the meeting. Although Haredi attitudes towards women in the public space has been at the center of these relationships, not a single women was present to discuss the matter, neither on the speakers panel nor on in the audience. Picture after picture make it clear that only men were welcome to meet, study, and discuss the issue. There isn’t even evidence of an area set off by a mechitza so that female journalists and others interested in the issue could attend.

The exclusion of women from matters that directly affect them is a continuing problem. At the beginning of January, Puah held its 12th annual conference “Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics & Halacha”. Although women scientists and doctors are among the leading innovators in gynecology and obstetrics no women were asked to speak at the conference.

For Haredim this exclusion means that they simply do not get exposure to all of the information needed to resolve their conflicts with non-Haredim. Women are so completely absent that their absence doesn’t even register as missing information. For both Haredi and non-Haredi women alike, it means that their voices are not heard. At best they are forced into a dependent position that makes them entirely dependent on sympathetic men to have their voices made known.

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Women Judge the Most Sexist Advertising Campaigns in 2012

On Tuesday at the Knesset the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) announced the winners of its annual sexist Israeli advertising booby prizes. First place went to the Israeli lingerie and sleepwear manufacturer Gibor. The four runner ups were campaigns run by Unilever (AXE Excite deodorant), Tempo (Goldstar Beer), Do It Kitchens, and Proportzia.

At the end of February WIZO announced a list of the ten most sexist advertising campaigns in 2011 published at the end of February. The winner and four runner ups were selected from this list by a panel of judges drawn from the media, academia, and activists made the selections. It included two judges from WIZO, two female journalists, two judges from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), and Dr. Roni Halpern, a feminist critic of literature and film who runs the Program of Gender Studies at Beit Berel college.

Gibor’s first place campaign encouraged women to upload pictures of themselves in bras in hopes of having their picture chosen as the “hottest” bra picture. Gibor was using the pictures to increase the “Like”count on its FIX brand Facebook page. Each “like” allows FIX to send posts advertising its products into the Facebook user’s news stream, so essentially they were using bra pictures donated by women to purchase advertising exposure.

According to HaAretz, WIZO disliked the advertising campaign because it “crossed a red line in objectifying women’s bodies and presenting them as sexual objects.”. The problem with the campaign wasn’t that it asked people to upload pictures of themselves in bras. They are after all a bra company. Rather it was their single minded focus on sex. There are many reasons women wear bras. Sex appeal is certainly one, but personal comfort and the desire for a aesthetic line to the body are also reasons. If the campaign really was about women’s needs as regards bras, then why not have pictures compete for “most relaxed and comfortable in a bra”, “cleanest lines in a bra”, “most athletic in a bra” (to promote sports bras) and so on?

On the other hand the reason for singling out some sexually oriented campaigns not clear. Continue reading

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Women Take Action Against Disrespectful Purim Advertising

This pre-Purim season was marked by two most interesting sets of Purim circulars. At one extreme were the Purim costume advertisements published by Hadash B’Beit Shemesh, a Haredi newspaper. At the other extreme were Purim costumes designed by Soshi Zohar.

As expected the Haredi newspaper blurred out the faces of all the little girls. They explained their actions to the press saying:

This is not a case of women’s exclusion or girls’ exclusion. The ads were blurred by the advertising company, at our request, out of respect to our readers – both men and women – who want to receive a paper which matches their worldview and lifestyle.

All that might be well and good if the newspaper’s advertising circular in fact was distributed only to Haredi homes. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The paper, or at least the circular in it, is targetted to a much wider audience. Parents in the non-Haredi neighborhoods also got the advertising circular. These parents do not hold to the idea that women’s faces are immodest and they resented the blurring out of girls’ faces.

At the other extreme was an advertisement for Purim costumes of Shoshi Zohar. Her costumes for toddlers and children under six were innocent enough. However, nearly every single costume worn by a pre-teen, teenager or adult woman looked like they had walked off the set of a Lady Gaga video.  Even the costumes for dressing up as a professional women or animals were sexualized. There was not one costume of a notable woman leader in history, nor even one of a notable woman in fiction. One might assume from Shoshi’s costume collection that either (a) women don’t want to imagine themselves as anything notable or (b) women can only imagine themselves as sex objects.

When confronted by the press about her over-sexualized all-but-prostitot costumes she was puzzled by the negative reaction. Like the publishers of the Haredi newspaper she asserted that she had done nothing wrong. She explained that ” her range of costumes provide something for both secular and religious communities”.

As a commenter on the Mother in Israel blog eloquently exclaimed:

Well, tell me: why should a sexy costume be considered secular? Do all secular women want to dress in a sexy costume? Do none of them want to dress in a non-sexy costume – you know, have fun at a costume party without being a sex object? What a ridiculous assumption. And do religious women not have sex or ever want to feel sexy? I guarantee you that many religious DO want to feel attractive and dress attractively. Finally, is it not possible to be sexy without being sleazy (fishnet stockings and a whip?!)? Of course it is!

All too often women see such portrayals of themselves and stay silent. However, not this time. It often happens that suffering from violence drives home the need to act. We can’t always prevent the crime that happened but we can work to make a better world. This is exactly what happened to Hadassah Margolese, the mother of Naama Margolese, who was traumatized this fall by adult Haredi males who spit and cursed at her. She writes in a Jerusalem Post op-ed about her reaction to the blurred faces in the Beit Shemesh Purim costume catalog:

A few weeks ago, an advertisement booklet from Ramat Beit Shemesh was put in my mailbox. I was not shocked to see that the girls’ faces were blurred, because we’ve become used to this. However, following my daughter’s experience, the phenomenon took on new meaning for me. Things seemed to click; they hide our faces in magazines, as well as trying to hide us in real life. This time would be different, I said to myself. I would actually do something about it, because I could not keep quiet any longer.

Hadassah then went to the facebook page of Red Pirate, the maker of the costumes advertised in the booklet, and complained. Several other women joined suit until Red Pirate was forced to respond. Red Pirate explained that they had not authorized the blurred photos:

The newspapers’ kashrut supervisor made the decision to publish the blurred ad… As this is the first time we encounter such a thing, which happened shortly before the newspaper was printed, we were unprepared. Therefore, we will prepare accordingly for the next ads directed at the haredi sector and put an end to this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the “end” did not involve showing the faces of young women. Instead the Haredi newspaper chose to blur both the little boys and the girls. Although it had complied with the Red Pirate’s demand not to discriminate against girls, it and possibly Red Pirate as well, had entirely missed the point: people don’t need to be hidden. Worse yet, the store had blurred girls faces on yet another set of toy advertisements and also put the blurred advertisements on Beit Shemesh buses. Not to be deterred, Hadassah Margolese took action again, this time writing an editorial in the Jerusalem Post, where she called out the store for yet again allowing faces to be blurred:

The store was apparently so desperate not to offend the extremists that it now allowed the blurring of all children’s faces. Did the store’s owners thinks this was some kind of compromise? I do not see it as a compromise. We pointed out a problem, they acknowledged it – and then decided to work around it rather than fix it. “Working around” a problem like this is unacceptable. Resolving the issue is what is necessary.

Meanwhile on the ground male and female Beit Shemesh community members protested the continued blurring by standing on the street in front of the store to educate potential customers about the store’s practices of blurring the pictures of women. Television cameras came in to cover the story, thus ramping up exposure of the issue.

The battle to convince stores and bus companies to stop allowing blurring of women’s faces is going to be a long one, but Israelis are used to fighting when they need to. Stores need to sell their product. Unless they risk losing more customers from bad publicity than they gain by using blurred photos they will likely continue the practice.

Women also took action over Shoshi Zohar’s oversexualized costumes. The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) condemned her costume collection and called for a boycott. Said chairwoman Gila Oshrat:

We have seen that the nation does have economic power and maybe it is time for parents to speak out about this. With only these kind of costumes available to women, it leaves them with little choice but to wear a near-pornographic outfit …. There is no need for a nurse costume to consist of a short mini-skirt and fishnet stockings. Why do all costumes, whether they are professional or an animal, need to be sexy?” Is this the message that we want to send our children? …. These kinds of sexist ads increase attacks against women and portray us as cheap.

The Israeli branch of WIZO has been actively involved in combating sexist and degrading images of women in the media. Each year it gives an “award” to the commercial that is the most sexist and degrading. The award for this year will be announced later today at the Knesset.

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Exclude the Excluders, Hiddush’s Visual Protest

by Hiddush staff, cross-posted with permission from the Hiddush Blog

Click image to go to Gallery

Recently, Israel has been facing a growing phenomenon of segregation and marginalization of women rooted in Jewish religious extremism. It has also taken the form of literally erasing women’s images from advertisements, news sites, and public posters. In protest, Hiddush has launched a campaign to “Exclude the Excluders”–Hiddush has blurred the images of Knesset members, ministers, and other ultra-Orthodox men who have supported and aided this exclusion. As women are being blotted out from the public sphere in the name of religious “modesty”, it is critical to protest the deep disrespect of this practice toward women, and toward the community at large.

Elected officials are furthering exclusion of women in the public sphere.

All politicians in the gallery promote the exclusion of women in the public sphere, either through segregated buses, banning women from singing in public, their role in political parties that will not include women as representatives, or activities that deny women selection for public positions. Politicos of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and its news outlets continuously further gender-segregated public bus lines. Their Knesset members leave the Knesset hall when women are singing. Shas’ most recent activity was to prevent representation of women on the nominations committee for religious judges. In the years since Shas has controlled the Ministry of Religious Affairs, not a single woman has been appointed to head a religious council..

Among the people that appear in the gallery:

Continue reading

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JPost Blooper Award : Women on Bus Stop Advert

Somebody needs to do some house cleaning in the Jerusalem Post photo department.

On Friday, the Jerusalem Post published an article reporting that the state had come out strongly in favor of women pictures on bus advertisements. The state had filed an opinion on a case before the Israeli Supreme Court against bus advertisers that are requiring exhorbitant deposits to cover any damage to pictures of women by Haredim.

It’s an open question how many people actually read the story, because the picture accompanying the story was so eye catching and offensive.

The Haredi line is that pictures of women are inherently sexual. For them it is black and white: either no pictures at all, or women as sex objects. The Jerusalem Post couldn’t have done a better job of playing into this dichotomy if it tried. There are so many worthy pictures of women in advertisements: women in business suits, mothers with children, women advocating for organ donation or breast cancer awareness. Or how about the Jerusalem city council campaign bus poster with Rachel Azaria that Egged refused to post on Jerusalem buses? All of those would have been newsworthy pictures associated with the very court case the article was about.

Did the Jerusalem Post pick any of those pictures? No. They chose a bus poster with a woman licking a plate in a sexual manner.

That photo is objectionable by any standards. It certainly is objectionable from the religious point of view that says that the public space should be asexual. Neither men nor women should be used to sell objects or ideas or themselves on the basis of sex appeal.

It is also objectionable to a great many secular feminists who very much want women in the media but object to degrading, violent and over-sexualized portrayals of women. The documentary “Miss Representation” focuses in on exactly this issue, but its solution is to have more women telling their stories in their own voice rather than through the filter of male desire. “You can’t be what you can’t see… the media can be an instrument of change” the film concludes.

There is however an open question about whether the photo selection department is even thinking through these pictures. A little over a month ago, they published an article on the Kaet Fellowship Program a Jewish social entrepreneurship program in Moscow sponsored by Present Tense and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The fellows include both men and women, and most are secular Jews. The one religious participant is a male rabbi. What picture does the Jerusalem Post use? An all female Haredi workspace in Israel. For pictures of the actual program participants, see here.

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Haredi Radio Station Kol BaRama: One Hour Per Week of Women Is Too Much

Making change in Israel take a lot of persistence.

At the end of February, the next chapter in the saga of Kol BaRama began. The story goes back just over a year ago to December 2010 when the LaDaat Right to Know complained to the the Second Authority for Television and Radio about Kol BaRama. The station didn’t have a single woman broadcaster or speaker. Even its women’s shows were hosted by men. Women couldn’t even call in and share their recipes. Instead they had to fax in the recipe so the male anouncer could read it over the air. Continue reading

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Belle Mode’s Provocative Haredi Bus Photoshoot

In the video below, the editor of Israeli fashion magazine Belle Mode, Maya Polack, and photographer Lior Nordman explain the intent behind the provocative photo shoot in .

The photoshoot express their belief that woman’s sexuality was something to adore rather than hide.  It is meant to be a counter argument to the Haredi belief that respect for sexuality means suppression rather than celebration.  To underscore that point it uses Haredi dress in a sexualized way. It is shot on an Egged bus .   In the last several months the Egged bus has become a symbol of exclusion of women.  Bus posters have omitted the faces of women.

The photographer, Lior Nordman, derided the notion that men can’t control themselves in the face of overt sexuality. He remarked that he spends many hours a day around sexy women and doesn’t have a problem controlling himself.

Note: this photoshoot may be offensive to some readers. Although the amount of skin is minimal by catwalk and fashion magazine standards, it is still well above the standards of most religious comunities. In certain parts of the video, religious dress is used as part of an outfit that is clearly intended to be sexually charged.

This video underscores a huge gap in perspective between the Belle Mode approach to sexuality and the Haredi approach. To the Haredi eyes it is almost certain that the models are licencious and lewd. How can this be respectful?

The answer lies in where one sees the locus of sexuality.

The logic of Haredi sexuality revolves around the notion that sexuality is inherent in particular body parts and acts. When those parts of the body are exposed one becomes sexual. When they are hidden one becomes asexual.

With the help of feminists, artists, philosphers, and rape survivors, non-Haredi society has been exploring a very different approach to sexuality.

In the non-Haredi view body parts and even sex acts are neutral when considered on their own.   Rather, our subjective relationship to them distinguishes between aesthetic enjoyment, sex, and assault. When the body is observed with a mental focus on beauty and aesthetics then it becomes an object of aethetic enjoyent. If it is probed for purposes of scientific knowledge or medical care, those same body parts become an object of dispassionate and asexual scientific interest. When partners touch and move together  with moment by moment mutual consent, only then does the body becomes an instrument of sexuality. When choice and mutuality are absent, touching and even looking, at best becomes a slow poison.  At worst the becomes a destructive assault on both body and soul.

In this view covering up can’t stop an interaction from being sexually charged or abusive. It is of little value when it comes to treating the body or its sexuality with respect. One can even gaze on a fully covered body and still see a sex object if one is mentally undressing the person. At the other extreme, two fully clothed individuals standing several feet apart can be erotic in a loving positive way so long as there is mutual interest and passion.

Rather sexual modesty is defined by mutuality. A modest sexual interaction is one where both parties share a mutual goal and do not demand or force more.

Paradoxically, the very things that Haredim believe are modest, can actually seem immodest and profoundly violating when sexuality is understood as our subjective response to another. In the most extreme segments of Haredi society men define what women can wear because only men can study Talmud and Halachah. A women’s options are to obey or not. She cannot chose a third alternative.

But in secular society, society laying out the choices for women means that someone other than the woman is controlling her body. If modest sexuality only interacts with another under conditions of mutual consent, then any one-sided attempt to define a woman’s dress or behavior is inherently immodest even if a certain percentage of women actually happen to like the choices laid out their society.

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Murder Victims, Modesty, and Memory

Less than a week before eleven months of mourning were complete, Ruth Fogel, who was murdered along with her husband and three kids, was blotted out again. Worse yet this blotting out was done in the name of religon.

A week before the memorial service for the eleven months, Ruth’s father took a picture of her and her family to Machon Meir and asked them to include an announcement of the memorial service in the weekly pamphlet they hand out to synagogues, “B’ahava u’vemuna” (In love and faith). The picture showed her beaming at her husband, her eyes full of joy and shared happiness.

The phamphet made its way to synagogues around the country. Her husband was there in the announcement of the memorial service. Her sons were there. But Ruth was gone and in the place of those joyful eyes was a smudge. When Ruth’s father saw the photo he was very upset.

It is typical of extremist halacha logic to focus on one principle above all others.

Machon Meir apologized, but not for smudging out her face. Rather they regretted publishing the picture at all. Their policy is to never publish the face of women. They say this is necessary because some of the synagogues on their pamphlet distribution list have modesty rules that forbid the publication of women’s pictures.

In fact, they viewed the smudging of her face as a sign of respect. What more could a woman want than modesty? Rabbi Schlomo Aviner explained in a video:

Had she been asked when she was alive – this is what she would have wanted,” he said about Ruti Fogel and her blurred people. “Just because a person a dead doesn’t mean their picture can be taken lightly. (Translation: Ynet).

Except we know she didn’t want to be blurred. We don’t need to guess.  Continue reading

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