On the 3rd episode of the current season of the Israeli franchise of The Voice, a contestant bragged about an incident in which he sexually assaulted Jennifer Lopez. He described how, after appearing on American Idol, during a hug goodbye he “accidentally on purpose” grabbed Ms. Lopez’ buttocks. The host, Michael Aloni, proceeded to joke about the incident, and comments were made (jokingly) about warning Sarit Hadad, the only female judge on the show, about the contestant. Aloni later, in commentary about an interaction between the contestant and Ms. Hadad, giggled that now he was “pulling a J Lo” on her.
This incident is extremely disturbing. Sexual assault is not a joking matter. The fact that some men see Jennifer Lopez – or any other woman – as a legitimate object for them to physically grab is not a joking matter. The fact that this was all viewed as a positive thing on a prime time show with top ratings is not a joking matter, and is in fact quite frightening.
And apparently, there are many who share this view. Since the incident, a growing wave of protest has been seen on Facebook, online publications, and blogs – objecting to the general “boys club” view of women as objects, the support this attitude is getting on Israeli prime time television, the glossing over an actual description of an attack (by the attacker)… And all of this occurring on your hit show, The Voice. But Reshet, the Israeli franchisee, has either ignored our objections, or informed us that “it was all in good fun”. We don’t know how Reshet defines good fun, but we feel that if a man grabs at a woman without her consent, that is not any kind of fun, but rather an extreme violation of her body, and also a criminal act.
Meanwhile, on last night’s episode, the “fun” continued, when special guest Mosh Ben Ari referred to a young contestant as “forbidden fruit” and cited this is a reason to promote her on the show. Forbidden fruit? A term hinting at lusting after a young contestant, while acknowledging that this is “forbidden” raises serious questions as to the general mindset of the show.
Our purposes in writing you this letter are as follows:
- To inform you what is being done in your name, namely creation of a sexist, sexually violent atmosphere and mindset on The Voice (Israel)
- To ask you to take action to ensure that The Voice is a safe place for both contestants and judges
- To make a statement that The Voice objects to sexual/gender violence, and is actively against it
- And to take action to back the statement up (for example, dedicating an episode to awareness of sexual violence).
Meanwhile, we have already been inspired to act on this subject. On Friday, January 18, we will be holding a singing event in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, to raise awareness of the endemic sexual violence women are subject to, whether on television or in the streets or even in their homes.
We, the undersigned organizers and supporters of the event, look forward to your support and cooperation in this endeavor.
Mitpakdot Feminist Lobby
Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel
The Feminist Forum of Meretz
Panorama – Bi and Pansexual Feminist Community
Nakum Project – Women and Community, College of Management Law School
Nimrod Ben Ze’ev
Lin Chalozin Dovrat
Hila Shemesh Coohen
Eshkar Eldan Cohen
Avital Agiv Sariel
Amnon Brownfield Stein
Avital Hedva Eshel
Giovanna C. Kleymerman
Erika Tamara Traubmann
Rachel E. Bell
Lilach Ben David
Roni Doron Matarasso
Iris Stern Levi
Orna Zaken Heler
Anat Ben Ezra
Osnat Ita Skoblinski
CC: Reshet, The 2nd Authority for Television and Radio (Israel), various Israeli government offices, the press.
PS – Attached as an addendum are copies and excerpted translations of responses we received (after the writing of this letter) to our complaints filed with Reshet (your franchisee) and with the 2nd Authority for Television and Radio – both the TV Broadcast Division and the Ombudsman (Public Complaints Department). You will see that Reshet, your franchisee, insists on treating the matter lightly, while both the Broadcast Authority and the Complaints Department have expressed their objections to the sexist nature of the show’s contents. While the Broadcast Authority has not taken any action other than stating the wrongful nature of what took place on The Voice, the Ombudsman has not yet ruled out action, which we are vigorously pursuing, of course.