The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good

Rachael from the Social Justice League does it again, with this brilliant post about why it is a mistake to confuse “niceness” with “social justice”.

Slightly abridged version here; you can read the whole post via the provided link.

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Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalisation and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.

Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?”. This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.

On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialisation of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.

How many more acts that reinforce kyriarchy have to be done nicely and politely before we stop giving people any credit for niceness? Does the niceness of these acts make them acceptable? It does not.

An even bigger issue is that if people think social justice is about niceness, it means they have fundamentally misunderstood privilege. Privilege does not mean you live in a world where people are nice to you and never insult you. It means you live in a world in which you, and people like you, are given systematic advantages over other people. Being marginalised does not mean people are always nasty to you, it means you live in a world in which many aspects of the cultural, social and economic systems are stacked against people like you. Some very privileged people have had awful experiences in life, but it does not erase their privilege. That is because privilege is about groups of people being given different rights and opportunities by the law and by socio-cultural norms. Incidentally, that is why you can have some forms of privilege and not others, and it doesn’t make sense to try to “tally up” one’s privilege into a sum total and compare it against others’.

The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)

Furthermore, I think the confusion of meanness with oppression is the root cause of why bigots feel that calling someone a “bigot” is as bad as calling someone a “tranny” or taking away their rights. You know, previously I thought they were just being willfully obtuse, but now I realise what is going on. For example, most racists appear to feel that calling POC a racist slur is a roughly equal moral harm to POC calling them a “racist fuckhead”. That’s because they do not understand that using a racist slur is bad in any sense other than it hurts someone’s feelings. And they know from experience that it hurts someone’s feelings to be called racist douche.

So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression.

Being good and being nice are totally unrelated. We need to get serious about debunking this myth, because the confusion between the two is obfuscating our message and handing our oppressors another tool with which to silence us. In some cases, this confusion is putting people (especially women) in real danger.

This social movement can’t achieve its goals if people think it’s essentially some kind of niceness revolution. And anyway, social justice is not about making the world a nicer place. It’s about taking back the rights and opportunities denied to us by law or by social and cultural norms – and breaking out of the toxic mindset that wants us to say please and thankyou when we do.

via » The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good Social Justice League.

How I Was Blocked From Facebook

This week, my friend Leehee Rothschild published a record of how she was detained by Israeli security, held, and questioned for hours. Her crime? Political activism on behalf of Palestinians and against Israel’s occupation of that nation. Not surprisingly, some of the responses she got were belittling ones, “boo hoo, you’re quite the martyr, having spent three whole hours in security!”, blatantly ignoring the fact that she was being intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed, her freedom curtailed… Also (as she alluded to in her article) she has had other more intrusive run-ins with Israeli security.

As a matter of fact, Leehee Rothschild is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her ardent and extensive activism, but as long as her politics are on the “wrong” side, she is to be belittled, and reduced to a whining little girl, rather than the powerful, intelligent, political woman she is. (Read more in her blog, Radically Blonde).

Well, Leehee’s story has moved me to do a little whining of my own.

I must admit that while I am also an outspoken, strong, intelligent, and political woman, I have never been arrested for it, or threatened, or tear gassed. I’ve had shouting matches with police, been shoved by them, threatened as part of a group… But so far, I’ve escaped their notice as a focal point. Until, that is, the dreaded FACEBOOK police.

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This week, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade campaign kicked off. Lo and behold, it is entirely based on nationalistic ideas and imagery. Homonationalism is a problematic concept anywhere, but in Israel it takes on special significance, given the sharp divides between Jews and Arabs (whether citizens or not) and the treatment of other marginalized groups.

The reproduction of hegemonic power structures into the “LGBT” community is an ongoing issue. I am fond of calling the LGBT center the “gay-white-man center”, that’s how obvious and blatant the marginalization is. All the men in positions of power there are quick to deny it, and point at the one or two women in the room (somehow, never named, never quoted, never heading up any important projects…). But even the two token white lesbians, does NOT an “LGBT” community make. Nor does it encourage any idea of commitment to equality when Ethiopians, Palestinians, any non-Jews (unless they are cute European gay guys), trans folk of any ethnicity, and others are continually made to feel unwelcome.

So back to the Pride campaign. Based on and inspired by the ultra-nationalist idea of celebrating Israel’s independence, just using the rainbow flag… A white-Jewish-male-gay-guy-spokesman felt obliged to note that “this is not meant to promote nationalist sentiments, and community members from minority sectors are included and invited to participate in the parade.

Well, um. Yeah. Minority sectors = Arabs, right? How kind of you!! I mean, it doesn’t really matter how unfriendly you make it for Arabs, as long as you then add a disclaimer in the small print.

(To put this in context, Arab supreme court justice Salim Joubran was excoriated by Knesset (parliament) members and the public recently for not singing the national anthem (which calls for the *Jewish* national state), and as this is being written, the latest outrage around Arabs (and other minorities) being entirely excluded from Israel’s upcoming Independence Day ceremonies.)

So, back to me, and Facebook. I made a poster/caricature of the Gay Center similar to this one:

It’s not about the WHITE, it’s about the PRIDE, dummy!

Israeli Gay Pride Welcomes Minorities!

Having gotten carried away with my own annoyance at the Center, and my desire to point out the ridiculousness in their assertions of inclusion, I disregarded the fact that Facebook runs bots on your pictures, and can pick out certain symbols. They immediately flagged the klansman, and blocked me indefinitely, putting a dent in my political activism as well as my social life!

So now I know what it feels like to be singled out by the police for my activism for social justice. And just for kicks, here is another draft of the idea.

Israel Gay Pride -- Minorities Welcom

Transphobia is NOT Feminist!

Until recently, I hadn’t encountered transphobia from feminists. Call me lucky :)

In my feminist community, a key part of our world view is a commitment to equality for all oppressed groups, according to the idea that there cannot be justice for only some — justice means justice for ALL. So there is a connection between oppression of women, oppression of Palestinians, oppression of queer folk… And so on.

Most of the women I know in this context use the term “radical” to some extent or another — in their feminism, politics, or elsewhere. Because we believe in changing societal power structures, from the root (the word radical is from the Latin radix (gen. radicis) “root”, meaning “going to the origin, essential”). On the face of it — Radical Feminism.

Contrast this with my newly found experience with North American radical feminism (sometimes called RadFem). If I understand their position correctly, they claim that gender — as a *whole* — is entirely a cultural construct, and therefore, there is no such thing as gender dysphoria, because your body, or chromosomes are the only thing that make you a man or a woman. Anything else is decoration. RadFems will often use dismissive and demeaning language saying things like “a man who puts on heels and make-up magically becomes a woman, yippee”, totally disregarding the trans experience and identity issues trans people describe.

In the past few months I have come across Facebook groups, blogs, and online warfare, carried out by RadFems, regarding trans women, especially on the topic of trans women’s acceptance in women’s spaces. While I had been generally aware that there is not universal acceptance of trans women in women’s spaces (take the well-known example of the Michigan Music Festival and the womyn-born womyn movement). What I did NOT expect was outright hatred and demeaning of trans women. Call me naive.

Examples include refusing to refer to trans women using female pronouns (to the extent of changing the text in blog responses), calling trans women “rapey men” who are all about the sex, and trying to get “into the panties” of (cis) lesbians, to terms such as “stealth men” trying to “take over”,  to horrible caricatures and jokes and demeaning representations in quotes and images, meant to denigrate and humiliate and erase the existence and legitimacy of trans women. Well, of all trans people, but particularly trans women. One site went so far as to troll the Internet for pornographic images of trans women and post them against the intention, desire, and permission of the women involved — once again, in an attempt to vilify, objectify, and humiliate. And promote hatred and bigotry, of course.

As an activist who deals daily with multiple forms of oppression against multiple groups, both outright direct oppression, and the hidden forms as well — I’m not generally surprised by the levels of hatred, bigotry, stupidity, meanness, violence, and other negatives humans are capable of. But I guess my naivete shows when people ostensibly committed to such ideas as equality and social justice do it.

I will do more research on this, because my experience with radical feminism in the US has more to do with ideas about sexual violence by men, and anti-pornography, than an obsession with gender identities per se, but then — when I left the US many many years ago, there was a whole lot I didn’t know about a lot of things. (And there still is :) ).

Also note that unlike my usual practice, I have intentionally avoided linking to RadFem blogs, sites, or discussions. Several of the most hateful among them have cleverly pushed their sites up in Google search through extensive cross linking. My goal here is to include several trans links explaining some of the key issues from a trans perspective, while avoiding giving more of a stage to the haters. I will be posting more about this topic, and am also happy to answer questions or point you in the “right” direction if you want to read more.

Meanwhile, here are some links that are must-reads if you want to understand more about the dialog between transgender women and cis-gender women:

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Pretty Queer is one of my favorite sites. It covers a range of issues from a frequently “heretical” perspective — such as calling out privilege and transphobia and transmisogyny within queer communities.

It was here I first discovered Savannah Garmon, who wrote this post:

Requiem for a Dialogue

In the post she discusses her experience in how she is accepted (or not accepted) by cis women, and how trans and cis women came together in a workshop called “No more apologies: Queer trans and cis women, coming/cumming together!”, in which the foundations were set for a wider dialogue about trans woman inclusion in queer women’s spaces/communities and social settings.

Her blog leftygirl is also on my blogroll. Check her out!

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Monica Maldonado — responding to the outlandish claims that trans women are demanding cis women “make themselves sexually available” to them:

The Cotton Ceiling Ain’t About You

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This blog post by Jade Pichette discusses identity erasure, cis-privilege, and consent:

Hey Lesbian Transphobes!

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This event in Ottawa — No More Apologies Ottawa/ Pas Plus d’Excuses Ottawa — has been drawing a LOT of transphobic attacks. See the event on Facebook.

Palestine-Israel Medley

Selected posts and articles from the Israel/Palestine frontier. Mostly about women, of course. 

Palestinian artist is removed from art competition

Larissa Sansour is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, who uses Middle-East politics in her work. Sansour was shortlisted for the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize, an art competition hosted by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée, with funding from the Lacoste clothing brand.

The theme of the competition this year was la joie de vivre, and participants were given free rein to interpret this any way they desired. Sansour’s project, Nation Estate, envisioned “a Palestinian state rising from the ashes of the peace process.” The project depicted a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population.

Sansour was then notified that Lacoste requested she be removed from the competition, as her work was too “pro-Palestinian”. Controversy ensued, with accusations of censorship against Lacoste and the Musée de l’Elysée. The museum eventually withdrew from hosting the competition. The museum and Lacoste stated that Sansour’s work did not fit the theme. The museum offered to do a separate exhibit of Sansour’s work.

♦ Larissa Sansour Speaks Out
 Detailed interview with Larissa Sansour
 Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate

Palestine: Women First / Photographic Exhibition

Photographed by Mati Milstein and curated by Saher Saman, the exhibition will open May 25th at Marji Gallery & Contemporary Projects, in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“This is the story of a new generation of radical Palestinian activists who stand out from their society in the most distinct way: they are women. These activists are on the front lines of West Bank protest, they are beaten and face arrest and sexual harassment for their bold role. “ Read more…

Palestine: Women First II from Mati Milstein on Vimeo.

Milstein was inspired to do this project by the following analysis by Gila Danino-Yona, on photographic documentation of women in the Arab Spring:

Women of the Revolution, or Revolutionary Women?

How have women been depicted in these Arab Spring uprisings? Danino-Yonah identified several typical categories.

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Category I – Weakened Femininity

Women crying, women frightened, women throwing up, women screaming….


.Category II – A Woman is Always a Woman

Women cleaning, women preening, women pretty in pink and chatting on the phone…

Category III – Thanks to Our Men

Women being grateful, women being worshipful, women swelling with maternal pride…

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Category IV – Female Gaddafi supporters beyond the consensus

The “good” women are represented according to the feminine stereotypes above. But when a woman supports, say, Gaddafi, she is shown ugly, angry, scary, crazed, violent…

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But – if you look for them – you will find revolutionary women, too.

Maybe not the typical image shown, but they were certainly there!

(You can see my personal take on some revolutionary women here)

Reflections of an Arab Jew

This article is by an American, but it relates directly to the Israeli-Arab conflict. One of the major casualties of this conflict is the identity of millions of Jews who are from Arab countries. In today’s political climate, “Arab” and “Jew” are deemed opposites. What does that do to someone who is both? Especially when the “Jew” in that equation is assumed to be European — related to via European literature, humor, art, food, music… That they have nothing to do with?

Ella Habiba Shohat is only the second person I have had the privilege to read on this greatly underrepresented topic, and I am so glad I found this short, but poignant article.

B’Tselem West Bank Video

B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched its camera distribution project, a video advocacy project, providing Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public.

In 2011, volunteers in the camera project filmed over 500 hours of footage in the West Bank. The video was edited into two minutes meant to sum up the passing year

Women, women, & women

I’m not a fan of hierarchical lists. I think there are millions of brave and inspiring women who are unknown and unrecognized, whose bravery is in standing up every day to oppressive cultures, governments, and families; who go to work, protect their children, survive violence, and more. I am publishing these lists to give recognition where I can, and to encourage more recognition, and more women to step up and step out – as much as they can. Because I firmly believe we are the ones who can, and will, bring the changes we want and need.

And because these women bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

Amnesty International’s 50 Bravest Women in the World

From every continent, from every walk of life – these are women who have stood up to oppression on various fronts: Rape, women’s rights, political oppression, war, the environment, poverty, disease…

At any place and for any issue that needs righting, you will find women fighting.

Check out this online magazine by and about Kashmiri people, with great focus on women

Nobel Women

+972 Magazine chose a list of women activists from the Arab world as Person of the Year

Huffington Posts list of the 50 Best Moments for Women in 2011

Free birth control, girl-on-girl sailor action, Elizabeth Warren, the indomitable Rachel Maddow, the British monarchy goes modern, dancers, comedians, and women heading companies… Fun slideshow.

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Standout performance here is Anne Marsen in Girl Walk All Day – if you don’t want to feel good, don’t watch this!

More info at http://girlwalkallday.com/

Forbes top 100 websites for women

Yes, it includes some mommy and lifestyle sites, but it also includes business/entrepreneurial websites, and feminist blogs (that are already on my blogroll! Check them out).

The Huff objects to how women are left off lists of the most important people of the year (noting that to even make the Times runner-up list, you need to be a princess. No other women were apparently outstanding this year. The Huff disagrees, and so do I). Here’s the Huffington list of top women.

Some additional women on MY list:

Daphne Leef and Stav Shafir are the two women leaders of Israel’s J14 social movement that was born when Leef staked a tent on a central Tel Aviv boulevard last summer, to protest out-of-control rent increases. The movement caught fire as Israelis from all walks of life joined to protest the cost of living, decreasing social rights, and increasing economic gaps. The protest wave brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the street in a way never seen before in the country.

What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn from Occupy Tel Aviv

Other links

Facebook page: Women Resisters to Authority

The Huff’s list of most ridiculous quotes about women in 2011, and who said them

Revolutionary women in this blog

Thursday Round-Up


There is far too much going on in the world, and much too little time to write about it…

But I have some good ones this week!

Culture & Media

The Worst Toys for Girls List

This Huffington Post list shows how toy manufacturers and retailers want your girl to aspire to: She can be a maid, or even a Hooter’s girl!

Pro-Virginity, Anti-Feminist Folks Make The Purity Myth Trailer Terrifying

Jezebel reviews the documentary The Purity Myth – based on feminist writer and Feministing founder Jessica  Valenti’s book of the same name.

“The film visits the places the book visited, but since the antics of pro-virginity culture were captured on camera this time around, it’s now infinitely more gif-able. From the creepy father-daughter “purity balls” where young women promise their dads that they won’t let anyone’s penis inside of them until God says it’s okay to the fearmongering but charismatic pro-virginity speakers who claim a link between female sexual activity and sterility, parts of the film (like parts of the book) would be hilarious if they weren’t so scary.”

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From the Queer Blogosphere:

A friend posted this on Facebook. Not sure where it originated. But it’s sooo true!

Is this what BDSM is to you?

Weekly Trope:

This week’s trope: In TV and movies, when a bit of salacious BDSM is desired, there is only one scenario… All Women Are Doms, All Men Are Subs

Why we should just leave Kim Kardashian alone:

My new favorite blogger, Rachael, from the Social Justice League, writes about what’s wrong with the backlash of hatred against Kardashian and Co. — namely, that it’s sexist.

Shakesville concurs — here’s their post on the Kardashians.

Women's Activism

Not news, but recently came across several really amazing photo albums from International Women’s Day back in March. Nice to see! (click pics to see albums)

Women raise their hands as they shout slogans during a protest on International Women’s Day in Ahmedabad

Lebanese women working at an advertising company in Beirut dress like men and pose for pictures to make a statement about gender inequalities

In Israel

Refusing to go to the back of the bus

Tanya Rosenblit is being hailed by some as the Israeli Rosa Parks. Last week, she got on a bus from the town of Ashdod to Jerusalem. An Ultra-Orthodox man insisted she move to the back of the bus. She refused. The bus was stopped, police were called… Read all about it here.

And here’s another way kowtowing to the Ultra-Orthodox misogyny endangers women’s lives:

(Or: How can you educate women about breast cancer if you can’t use the word “breast”?)

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Equal Rights for Renting Women’s Bodies?

Another hot topic causing me distress these days: The fight for equality for gay men under Israel’s surrogacy laws. Grrrrr, talk about a can of worms. I’ve already butted heads with people I usually like and agree with on this. Here’s why.

Most people I know – of liberal leanings – have this kneejerk reaction: Yes! Equality for gays! Enhanced rights and opportunity for parenthood for gay couples! Yay!

Have you figured out what’s missing in this scenario? Yes, indeed – the same person who is being stashed out of site on an increasingly frequent basis: The woman.

Who is providing these surrogacy services? Who is looking out for her interests? Is there even any discussion about it? Any medical, legal, ethical, financial, or psychological standards being adhered to? Or being crafted, if there aren’t any in place?

Surrogate Mothers, India

How many people know what is involved from a health perspective (physical and mental) for the woman providing her body as a service? Versus how many people are jumping in with both feet with accusations of “Homophobia!!” at even the hint that such a discussion should take place?

(And let’s be very clear: no one in the discussion I’m referring to is advocating that heterosexuals should be allowed to this, while homosexuals should not.)

Why is it so easy to ignore the woman?

Here’s some background:

Israel was the first country in the world to legalize surrogacy, in 1996. While some (liberal?) feminists celebrated this as a victory for a woman’s legal freedoms (for example, to enter contracts, and autonomy to determine what to do with her body), other (radical?) feminists immediately classified the practice in the context of a patriarchal society’s attempt to use women’s bodies to further patriarchal ends.

But maybe some more background about Israel and the issue of procreation is needed here.

Israel is unique in its pro-natal attitudes, especially compared to other Western countries, in the sense that having children (Jewish children) is considered an imperative. Not only a cultural imperative, not simply a religious imperative, it is also a political imperative. This is for several reasons:

In the aftermath of the holocaust, many believed that Jews must reproduce to replace the 6 million lost. Others, including the political leadership of the time, viewed child-bearing as a military imperative – women must produce soldiers for the army (first Israeli prime minister Ben-Gurion famously wrote that “Any Jewish woman who, as far as it depends on her, does not bring into the world at least four healthy children is shirking her duty to the nation, like a soldier who evades military service.”). Part of it is traditional – Judaism is family-centric. Part is purely religious – the ultra-orthodox in Israel have a birth rate that is twice that of Muslims, and four times that of secular Jews.

Over the past few decades, one of the most common themes has been the “demographic threat” – if Israel wants to maintain both its identity as a Jewish state and remain a democracy, it simply must maintain a Jewish majority in relation to the Arab population. (Or, for more right-wing sectors, simply “winning out” vs. the Palestinians is the point, without regard to the democratic nature of the country.)

Whatever the reasons, the imperative is deeply ingrained in the culture, which places pressure and socializes people to place child-bearing at the top of their life priorities. It also created a legal and medical system in which parenthood is encouraged and state-supported through:

  • Reproductive technologies. Israel is the leading country in the world in in-vitro fertilization, leads in development of reproductive technologies, and also provides financial support for the procedures.
    (I can (and maybe will) write entirely separate posts about the negative effects this has on women, and how many of the procedures are untested, how low a concern safety is, on the cultural impact on women of being state-sponsored wombs… But alas this post is on another topic which I shall promptly get back to.)
  • Support of single-parenthood, through various methods including sperm banks (artificial insemination, IVF), adoption (international) and of course –
  • Surrogacy.

Okay. So now you might be getting an inkling of what parenthood means to Israelis.

And of course, the fight for equality and recognition of LGBT people’s rights to become parents, and creating legal and societal mechanisms for parenthood to be a realistic possibility, is an important one.

So, what’s actually going on?

As I said, Israel legalized surrogacy in 1996, and was the first country to do so. There have been various judicial decisions along the way determining who can do it, where, how… The bottom line is that under the current rules, only heterosexual couples can hire a surrogate to carry a child for them. This can occur either in Israel or abroad. Homosexual couples or single people cannot (as far as I understand it) contract a surrogate in Israel.

Gay couples can hire a surrogate in the US or India, but a court decision last year regarding DNA tests for both fathers has created some hindrance even to this practice.

So recently, a campaign began to change the law – though a Facebook page (in Hebrew) and an Internet petition. This has brought the discussion back to the forefront in both LGBT and feminist circles, as well as to the broader media and legal communities.

Another Facebook page – Gays Against Surrogacy (in Hebrew) – soon followed. As I mentioned before, claims of homophobia quickly surfaced.

And hence my personal frustration:

First of all, the LGBT association – or Aguda – Israel’s main LGBT advocacy group, is strongly supporting this initiative, to the extent of overshadowing just about any other issue. So once again, the interests of a minority of men, who are primarily white, homonormative, and from a socioeconomically advantaged background are taking precedence over, say – teen prostitution in the LGBT community (which is on the rise), teen suicide, transgender rights, AIDS awareness, or a myriad of other LGBT issues. I’m pretty sick of this lack of wider representation. If it’s the white gay men’s association, they should just say so.

And once again, women are being submitted – physically, mentally, financially, and legally – to the needs of men (or at least to the patriarchal priorities of this society).

I want to support parenthood rights for gays. I *do* support all brands of equality. I cannot, by any stretch, get behind yet another initiative that subordinates women to anyone else’s agenda.

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Here are some resources on the topic for anyone who wants to read more:

From Isha L’Isha Feminist Center:


Old Patterns, New Ideas 
By Hedva Eyal
Council for Responsible Genetics

“There is plenty of scientific knowledge and understanding of health risks as a result of hormone treatments associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF). This raises questions about the widespread use of this procedure, especially when women are exposed to these health risks not for themselves but to conform to other people’s desires. Establishing surrogacy as a prevalent, accepted way of bringing children into the world entails significant risks to the surrogate mother herself, to the child, and to society”

Google Baby – a documentary on surrogate mothers in India:
Focused on a clinic in rural Anand where peasant women give birth to babies ordered over the Internet through an Israeli “pregnancy producer.” Western hetero and gay prospective parents click on the sperm and eggs of their choice, enter credit card details, and later travel to Anand to receive the newborn they couldn’t or wouldn’t conceive themselves.

Fertility policy in Israel: the politics of religion, gender, and nation, by Jacqueline Portugese

Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction, by Susan Markens

Explores how discourses about gender, family, race, genetics, rights, and choice have shaped US policies aimed at this issue.

Article: Homosexual Couples Fight for Right to Surrogate Pregnancy
(Note the complete lack of any reference to the legitimacy or risks of the practice)

Will Israeli Court Decision on Surrogacy Bring Changes for Gay Couples? Blog post, The Sisterhood
“In principle, I agree completely with the Court’s decision in favor of the petitioner who wants a fourth child. But there is also the reality of scarce resources to consider. I would have no issue with the Court’s decision if surrogacy were not a highly limited and regulated commodity in Israel.”
A commodity, indeed.

Israeli Feminists Slate Surrogacy, BioEdge, bioethics news

University of Technology, Sydney Law Review: Surrogacy in Israel: A Model of Comprehensive Regulation of New Technologies – [2005]

Anti-Woman Israel

I haven’t written as much as I planned in the past two weeks. I had a (too-long) list of topics to cover: Princess Culture, Why/how women are not taught to say NO, “Sitting at the table”, teaching girls to be smart rather than pretty, and more.

But while my sort of intro-level feminist posts were boiling in my head, things were happening around me that I just couldn’t deal with, and which affected my ability to focus on my planned posts. I live in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m not sure how much coverage there is internationally about what’s been going on here… The international press is famously inaccurate and biased (in all sorts of directions) in covering this region. So I’ll give a snapshot.

The (very) short version is that there are two related and very frightening trends happening here:

The first is a growing wave of nationalism, which includes increasing violence towards minorities, a surge of anti-democratic legislation designed to silence protest and opposition, curtail the activities of human rights groups, promote settlement in West Bank territories, giving enhanced rights to orthodox Jewish minorities at the expense of, well, everyone else…

The second is an increasing exclusionary and discriminatory attitude towards women. This has manifested in several ways, including government support for segregated buses and public transportation in Jerusalem, the removal of women from public images (such as billboards and posters) in response to orthodox pressure, separate sidewalks for men and women (as a matter of fact – even when the supreme court ordered this to be stopped, the municipality refused, and when the one woman on the city council protested this, she was fired)… Male soldiers walked out of a military ceremony because women were singing, behavior they were not punished for, and as a matter of fact they seem to be getting the support of the powers-that-be, meaning that women will be further silenced and segregated in the army. (One leading rabbi says soldiers should “choose death” rather than listen to women sing). Women are being excluded from judiciary committees, and several leading female news professionals are being fired from their jobs – based on age and appearance (keep in mind the female presence in Israeli news is minimal to begin with). Teachers’ faces are blotted out of educational campaigns. And more.

An ad in its original form (right), and cropped for publication in Jerusalem

(Well, there are also economic trends, with the government passing laws that put more money into the pockets of cartels/tycoons, and take more away from the rest of us. And more stuff. But how much can I possibly focus on? Or deal with, without just keeling over??)

I haven’t been covering any of this in my blog, keeping my activism to my local community and Facebook. Because I didn’t feel I could do the topic(s) justice in the amount of time I have to write. But the fact that I got as overwhelmed as I did made me realize that if I didn’t write something about it, I would never get back to my personal blog agenda – which also includes queer/LGBT topics, which are falling ever-further behind.

So for now, I’d like to share some of the actions that have come (primarily from women) in response to some of these anti-woman trends. (read more here)

1. Poster campaign:

Following the literal erasure of women from public advertising (including, by the way, from the entire campaign for organ donation), several women conceived a campaign consisting of a photo shoot of women, and printing posters that people could hang from their windows or balconies, creating a female presence in Jerusalem in spite of the religious pressure for erasure.

The campaign’s taglines were: Not Censored and Bringing Women Back to the Public Spaces

2. Photo Shoot

50 young women pose for nude photo in identification with, and support of, Egyptian blogger Aliaa El Mahdy

"Love Without Boundaries"

3. Women Sing!

A public singing event was coordinated in four different cities (including Jerusalem) where women declared in the most direct manner possible: We will not be silenced!

The Jewish proscription against women singing is based on the idea of “Kol B’Isha Erva” or, “the voice of a woman is nakedness”, where the word for nakedness actually means literally  “the pubic region”, and is used for “lewdness”. Therefore, immodest/impure/prohibited. The protest event was promoted as “This is not what “pubic” looks like”, and subtitled “Don’t Stop Singing!”.

(I looked but couldn’t find myself in any of the photos…)

4. Women journalist campaigns

(mostly In protest of the firing of Keren Neubach):

  • “Mute Protest” today, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (FB event is in Hebrew. Here is the Occupy Israel protest post. ) (The idea being, of course, that women’s voices are being silenced. Neubach is one of a very few women in journalism who actually has a POV)
  • Petitions: There are several. Here’s one (in Hebrew).
  • Return Women to the Screen campaign (on the Paucity of Women in Israeli News): http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/146101/

5. March and Rally for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

See photos here

How Many Slaves Work for YOU?

Seems like a worthy topic to kick this off.

Didn’t know you have slaves working for you?
Even in the so-called “free world”, a great many of the products we use are touched by slave or otherwise exploited labor at some point in the manufacture or supply chain.

Go to this site and take the survey to learn more about modern slavery, and to discover what your slave footprint is.

Slavery FootprintWhile the survey and results are likely depressing to read, there is a bit of good news. The Slavery Footprint organization gives you a range of tools to let companies know you want them to account for where and how they obtain their materials.

And of course, they make it easy to spread the word and compare your results to other people’s.

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My score was 28. This is a bit above the general average, but below the average for my age/sex/location.