Open letter to Talpa Productions (The Voice): The Israeli franchise of your show is promoting sexual violence

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.

Image2-MichaelJade
My hands “fell”

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.

 Image1-MichaelJade
I touched her ass.

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.

Sincerely,

Mitpakdot Feminist Lobby
Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel
The Feminist Forum of Meretz
WIZO Israel
Panorama – Bi and Pansexual Feminist Community
Nakum Project – Women and Community, College of Management Law School

Tsipi Erann
Lian Ram
Plia Chetner
Tal Gutman
Efrat Latman
Hadar Stav
Karen Zack
Zoya Pushnikov
Revital Madar
Sharon Zack
Daniella Azulay
Nimrod Ben Ze’ev
Lior Betzer
Gal Shargill
Lin Chalozin Dovrat
Julia Fermentto
Matat Eshet
Hila Shemesh Coohen
Roni Belinkov
Tami Dynes
Hannah Kehat
Sybil Goldfainer
Ronilla Zilberman
Lital Badra
Eshkar Eldan Cohen
Paz Tsoor
Mirit Barashi
Debbie Cohen
Liron Averbuch
Yael Zuck
Ronit Hyman
Shiri Eisner
Tal Amit
Shai Slomka
Atalia Israeli-Nevo
Tali Shapira
Rotem Cohen
Adi Stein
Yaara Liebermann-Callif
Dafna Inbar
Alice Grabois
Lital Weinbaum
Yana Yegorov
Ronna Karni
Avital Agiv Sariel
Lilac Shoshani
David Pond
Dorit Abramovitch
Yaara Shaham
Vered Doron
Ifat Mantel
Yaara Rozenblit
Amnon Brownfield Stein
Hilla Shahrabani
Avital Hedva Eshel
Giovanna C. Kleymerman
Erika Tamara Traubmann
Mirit Sharon
Chen Peter
Yifat Moas
Rachel Algazi
Reut Cohen
Yael Hochman
Rachel E. Bell
Liat Shaked
Roni Ment
Tamar Primak
Racheli Geffen
Shy Buba
Idit Shiloah
Sharon Orshalimy
Shoshi Shamir
Deborah Elhadad-Aroshas
Hamutal Erato
Lilach Ben David
Teddy Sariel
Tammy Riklis
Shira Hertzanu
Arnon Parenti
Daria Svet
David Kafri
Neria Biala
Dana Sharon
Shlomit Lir
Mary Nefo
Orit Dekel
Eyal Molchansky
Shai Abrahan
Shilhav Mayo
Hadar Sharir
Efrat Melter
Keshet Ori
Yonatan Betzer
Daniel Sigawi
Ilil Comay-Dror
Hemed Ben-Ze’ev
Yoav Edelist
Noam Gal
Keren Cohen
Hadas Amin
Noa Hoffner
Naama Cohen
Aviv Yahalom
Roni Doron Matarasso
Elana Kater
Ilan Tabak-Aviram
Grace Shenhar
Ayala Falk
Israel Hintayev
Maia Kalisch
Sefi Kuperman
Udi Neuman
Iris Stern Levi
Miri Rozmarin
Tal(y) Wozner
Yonadav Engelberg-Barbiro
Ayala Levinger
Chen Morad
Orna Zaken Heler
Hilit Vardin
Tamar Geva
Carmen Elmakiyes
Nabila Espanioly
Anat Ben Ezra
Orna Gross
Noa Greenberger
Asa Shemesh
Dana Moss
Naama Goldberg
Michal Goren
Daniella Muallem
Tohar Jacobson
Tal Brown
Amos Madar
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.

See Reshet’s response to complaint about sexual violence on The Voice

See the response from the TV Division of the 2nd Authority for Television & Radio

See the Ombudsman’s response, stating that the incident was “outrageous”

Indian Women Teach Us All Feminism

In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.

See more amazing pictures of protests and vigils

Protests with Police 121222042816-02-india-protest-1222-horizontal-gallery 121223120022-01-india-protest-police-tear-gas-1223-horizontal-gallery 121228052457-01-india-1228-horizontal-gallery india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 TOPSHOTS-INDIA-RAPE-PROTEST india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 (2)

Plus-Sized Lady Mocks American Apparel’s XL Model Contest – And WINS!

This post I’m reblogging was from about a year ago, but I just discovered it today, and now I’m in feminist love with Nancy Upton!!

Here is American Apparel’s sore loser response:

“It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language, and that “bootylicous” was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there?”

“Oh—and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.”

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After the story hit the blogosphere, Nancy and the friend who photographed her were invited to tour American Apparel’s plant and meet with the team who created the contest. You can read about it in her
Tumblr

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American Apparel’s XL modeling contest ended yesterday. There was a clear leader in the contest, but she was actually making fun of American Apparel’s belittling view of plus-sized models. Here are her entry photos.

American Apparel’s “THE NEXT BIG THING” (Emphasis on big, if you will.)

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?
Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up. Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL! Show us what you’re workin’ with!
 via Jezebel

From her tumblr: “My name is Nancy Upton. I’m a size 12 and wanted to show American Apparel my fresh face (and full figure). My good friend Shannon Skloss came over to take some “booty-ful” photos of me… but I just couldn’t stop eating.”

NancyUpton-A1

NancyUpton-A2

NancyUpton-A4

NancyUpton-A3

NancyUpton-A5

Plus-Sized Lady Mocks American Apparel’s XL Model Contest.

Fuck Your Good Intentions

Good intentions. I’m sick to death of good intentions.

Every time someone comes into one of the groups or blogs I manage, says something racist or sexist or transphobic or [fill in oppressive BS here], and they get called out on it, not only do I end up getting the whole offended “I’m the victim here” song and dance (“You are oppressing me by nullifying my right to express an opinion” “You are being violent to me by excoriating me in the group” “You are being a dictator!! [yeah, I’m Stalin])… Not only all that, but then come in the chorus of apologists: “He didn’t *mean* to offend anyone, he meant well!”. Oh, I guess the hurt he caused is now erased, then.

So here is what I have to say about good intentions: FUCK GOOD INTENTIONS.

If you have “good intentions” all that means is one or more of the following:

  1. You are trying to make yourself feel good by doing some patronizing BS. You don’t actually “see” the group you are thereby helping oppressing, you are actually maintaining the existing order (which is patriarchal, hierarchical, and based on unequal power relationships). You are probably white knighting, cookie seeking or mansplaining. Or just plain being a liberal asshat.
  2. You are being selfish and/or self-centered. We might try to follow the golden rule (treat other as we would want to be treated) or walk a mile in their shoes, or some other cliche on how to act towards others… But really – each of us thinks differently and processes information differently and has our own filter for actions and words. Especially if there are differences of gender, race, class… You don’t get points for enforcing your own ideas upon others, especially if you’re going to get offended when they don’t appreciate your take on things like you wanted them to.
  3. You are defining for others what is good, what is harm… If that isn’t oppressive, what is? If you’re trying to be an ally, find out what the group you’re allying yourself wants, for fuck’s sake. Find out what their pain points are. Don’t assume things. Don’t go barging in there with your good or bad baggage. Their activism is theirs, and you get to help. IF they want you to. HOW they want you to.
  4. You haven’t done your homework. Activism is first and foremost about awareness. You don’t go stomping in with your newly budding understanding of something, and spray it all over the place. Have you learned what the group is about? Does it have any rules or conventions you should be aware of? Do members of the group want to continually educate newbies — or are they trying to get their own stuff done? There are plenty of resources to learn from on pretty much any issue, and in any case I’m sure the group you’re trying to work with would appreciate your asking where you can learn – and therefore help – rather than assuming you already know more than you do, and gracing them with your ignorance. No excuse for stomping. Even if you’re dancing to make your cat happy, if you step on her, ya know, she’s gonna yowl. Maybe even scratch.

So remember:
RESULTS MATTER MORE THAN INTENTIONS, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND

Tribe of Women

ASGARDA
Amazons of the Ukraine

In the Ukraine, a country where females are victims of sexual trafficking and gender oppression, a new tribe of empowered women is emerging. Calling themselves the “Asgarda”, the women seek complete autonomy from men. Residing in the Carpathian Mountains, the tribe is comprised of 150 women of varying ages, primarily students, led by 30 year-old Katerina Tarnouska. Reviving the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons of ancient Greek mythology, the Asgarda train in martial arts, taught by former Soviet karate master, Volodymyr Stepanovytch, and learn life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women. Little physical documentation existed on the tribe, until recently, when renowned French photographer, Guillaume Herbaut, met the Asgarda back in 2004 in the midst of the Orange Revolution.

via Asgarda | PLANET°.

Facebook Campaign for Arab Women’s Rights Goes Global

The intifada, or uprising, of women in the Arab world is a campaign that truly excites me. I “made friends” with the group on Facebook via the Femina Invicta FB page a while ago, but truly became enamored of them when they kicked off their photo campaign, “I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…”, which has gone viral, and includes statements from women and men from Arab countries, as well as from supporters around the world.

Femina Invicta was invited to add to the campaign, but ultimately my picture was not included, I guess because the sensitivity of my posting from occupied Palestine, a decision I completely understand and respect. My support remains unwavering.

This is what it said:

See the Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2a

Scroll down for selected images…

And the following is an article on the page and campaign’s success via Facebook campaign for women’s rights goes global – Daily News Egypt.

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A women’s rights group has launched a social media campaign to promote women’s rights across the Arab world.

The Uprising of Women in the Arab World group launched the campaign on 1 October, encouraging Facebook and Twitter users (female and male) to upload photographs of themselves holding a sign reading “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…” followed by their reason to support the cause. Since the launch of the campaign, to mark the anniversary of the launch of the group, there have been over 200 replies with more being posted each day.

The group was started in October 2011 by four female activists, Yalda Younes, Diala Haidar from Lebanon, Farah Barqawi from Palestine and Sally Zohney from Egypt. They started the group to harness the social and political progress of the Arab spring. They believe that the calls that came from across the Arab world for freedom, justice and dignity cannot be fully achieved without the inclusion of women.

The group’s slogan is, “together for free, independent and fearless women in the Arab world.” Currently the main source of contact for the group is through their Facebook page and Twitter account. They receive posts from all over the Arab world, however support has also come from as far afield as Spain, Sweden, America, Brazil and Italy.

The group has many demands including, “absolute” freedom of thought, the right to autonomy, equality with men, the abolishment of all laws violating the Universal Declaration of Human rights and protection against domestic violence.

The campaign aims to “highlight the various kinds of discrimination against women in the Arab world” and to “re-open the debate in the social media on women’s conditions.” The group hopes to create a base for feminist activism and to highlight that despite the relative success of the Arab spring in many countries, the issues facing women are still present in society.

Responses have come from both women and men, all giving different reasons for why they support the campaign. Ragheed from Syria said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because my mother, my sister, my girlfriend, my daughter are independent human beings, they are not my followers.” Assil from Palestine said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s not fair that I have to be trapped at home [for] three months to prove to people that the baby in my womb is my late husband’s.”

The group’s Facebook page raises a number of issues affecting both men and women in the Arab world, including the issue of homosexuality. Mohammad from Oman posted his picture with the sign, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because all the religious, social, and sexual oppression I was subject to was directed towards the female inside of me.”

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Ahlam from Palestine

I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s the woman’s right
to stay single as long as she wants and not be labeled as defective.
And because it is my right to choose the type of education and career I want
irrespective of my future role as a wife or a mother

 ~*~

Sara from Yemen

I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
it is allowed by law to rape me when I am a child
in the name of marriage.

 ~*~

 

Walaa from Syria

I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
my mother should have chosen whom to marry
instead of whom I should marry

 ~*~

Abdulkareem from Saudi Arabia

I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
I am 16 years old and according to the law,
I am the guardian of my widowed mother.

Revolt mother!
You are strong, you are free!

The Lady Manes

A self-portrait series by Rhiannon Schneiderman

From Rhiannon Schneiderman's photography blog:

The Lady Manes is a series of eight self-portraits. In each image I’m standing in your typical feminine pose in an outfit or article of clothing, and I’ve accessorized each outfit with its own unique, stylized ‘Lady Mane.’ A ‘Lady Mane’ is just a somewhat empowering pseudonym for a bunch of pubes, a “bush,” your “hair down there”… And that’s what the series was about for me: empowerment. I can’t really pinpoint any one source of inspiration for the project because it really was a culmination of so many things going on at the time; I’d moved to and lived in Daytona Beach, the armpit of Florida and possibly all of civilization, for almost two years (for school) during which time I’d witnessed and been subject to some pretty amazingly sexist ordeals. I was moving more into my hardcore feminist phase, which I think every lesbian in their 20’s goes through, and just so happened to have a hardcore feminist, fine-arts-major professor who had been giving me a semester of the most intense and life-altering class critiques I’d ever experienced. I’d been introduced to Cass Bird’s “Rewilding”, an amazing body of work that continues to influence me. All of these things, and maybe a few Lady Gaga songs, were inspiration enough to create a series that kind of laughed at conventional gender norms. I wanted to tell people that they were ridiculous, makethem uncomfortable for a change. I wanted to challenge femininity and the objectification of women that is still so incredibly prevalent in society. I guess it was my way of saying, “Fuck you. Enough is enough.”

read more 

What If All Sports Were Shot Like Beach Volleyball

Although this Olympics required some extra covering up, beach volleyball is one of those sports that not everyone watches for the game. Nate Jones, over at the Metro, had the insight to ask the question, “What if every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball?” The results he found on getty images were entirely amusing. I guess it really takes a trained eye to take sports shots that look this good.

 Basketball

Diving

Gymnastics

Swimming

Track and Field

Wrestling

[Via Metro]

The Best Birth Control In The World Is For Men

So, why don’t women know about this? Who benefits from women continuing to carry the primary burden of birth control (or lack of it), even at the cost of their health?

The Best Birth Control In The World Is For Men

If I were going to describe the perfect contraceptive, it would go something like this: no babies, no latex, no daily pill to remember, no hormones to interfere with mood or sex drive, no negative health effects whatsoever, and 100 percent effectiveness. The funny thing is, something like that currently exists.

The procedure called RISUG in India (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) takes about 15 minutes with a doctor, is effective after about three days, and lasts for 10 or more years. A doctor applies some local anesthetic, makes a small pinhole in the base of the scrotum, reaches in with a pair of very thin forceps, and pulls out the small white vas deferens tube. Then, the doctor injects the polymer gel (called Vasalgel here in the US), pushes the vas deferens back inside, repeats the process for the other vas deferens, puts a Band-Aid over the small hole, and the man is on his way. If this all sounds incredibly simple and inexpensive, that’s because it is. The chemicals themselves cost less than the syringe used to administer them. But the science of what happens next is the really fascinating part.

The two common chemicals — styrene maleic anhydride and dimethyl sulfoxide — form a polymer that thickens over the next 72 hours, much like a pliable epoxy, but the purpose of these chemicals isn’t to harden and block the vas deferens. Instead, the polymer lines the wall of the vas deferens and allows sperm to flow freely down the middle (this prevents any pressure buildup),  and because of the polymer’s pattern of negative/positive polarization, the sperm are torn apart through the polyelectrolytic effect. On a molecular level, it’s what supervillains envision will happen when they stick the good guy between two huge magnets and flip the switch.

With one little injection, this non-toxic jelly will sit there for 10+ years without you having to do anything else to not have babies. Set it and forget it. Oh, and when you do decide you want those babies, it only takes one other injection of water and baking soda to flush out the gel, and within two to three months, you’ve got all your healthy sperm again.

The trouble is, most people don’t even know this exists. And if men only need one super-cheap shot every 10 years or more, that’s not something that gets big pharmaceutical companies all fired up, because they’ll make zero money on it (even if it might have the side benefit of, you know, destroying HIV).

If this sounds awesome for you or your loved one, get the word out. Share this article. Or link. Or this link. Or this one. Or this one. Sign this petition. Do something! A revolutionary contraceptive like this needs all the support it can get.

UPDATE: A lot of people are asking to be kept in the loop. So here’s the clinical trial/mailing list sign-up from the Parsemus Foundation to get further information about this procedure’s development. And again, please fill out the short non-spam petition to get the procedure funded and keep buzz going.

Israels politics of discrimination – Israel News

Israels politics of discrimination – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

Israel’s politics of discrimination

How an informal process of decision making keeps Ashkenazi men at the top, while women, Arabs and Mizrahim are denied their fair share of power and resources.

By Eva Illouz Apr.25, 2012 | 4:58 PM  10
Illouz - Alon Ron - April 27, 2012
Meeting of university heads, 2008: One woman, Prof. Rivka Carmi, third from right, no Arabs.Photo by Alon Ron
THIS STORY IS BY

Discrimination is the sophisticated, less blunt, distant cousin of racism. It has the same effects as racism − ranking people by birth − without, necessarily, the same intentions, which is why discrimination is mostly and most often an invisible mechanism. This is also the reason why some legal provisions suggest evaluating discrimination on the basis of facts. But facts alone do not scrutinize the mindset of people working in organizations. If, for example, women represent 50 percent of the population, Arabs and Mizrahim constitute 60 percent of the population and if all three groups have almost never been represented among the rectors, presidents and deans, or been recipients of scientific awards of Israeli universities, we need not enter the minds of the people who make these decisions to suspect discrimination. The proof is in the famous pudding.

What is interesting − sociologically − about discrimination is that it produces racist or sexist effects without being necessarily connected to racist beliefs, at least not explicit ones. Universities and many cultural institutions are particularly good places to examine this phenomenon because they are full of liberal, well-intentioned, broad-minded people who want to promote equality, yet fail at it. Therefore, the question of how places full of liberal and broad-minded people end up being full of Ashkenazi men is puzzling. Here, gender and ethnicity should be viewed in similar terms, because mechanisms of exclusion in both cases are often similar ‏(with the proviso that Ashkenazi women are doing much better in Ashkenazi cultural institutions than Mizrahim and Arab men or women). Even if women and Mizrahim constitute large groups, each of these groups – despite their increasing visibility and presence in Israeli society – are still “minorities,” because historically they have been deprived of rights, privileges and resources that men have enjoyed. ‏(For example, when you understand the importance of the army for networking in many Israeli institutions, you realize why women and Arabs have been kept outside many centers of power.‏) In fact, we may go further: the “majority” that now controls so many institutions is largely made up of Ashkenazis ‏(among them a majority of men‏), and close to 60 per cent ‏(Arabs and Mizrahim‏) are the minorities left outside many centers of power. The fact that this situation has improved over time should not prevent us from asking why it is not improving faster.

Cultural capital

Inbal Bitton ‏(a fictional name‏) was born and raised in Kiryat Shmona. She went to a very mediocre school, where she learned a lot about Jewish holidays, the Holocaust, Zionism and the Torah, but very little about Athenian democracy, the difference between idealism and materialism in philosophy, the comparative study of the rationality at work in the Guide for the Perplexed and Arab civilization’s contribution to modern sciences. Still, thanks to her hard work, she studied at university, earned a degree in social work and geography, and now works in the urban planning department in the municipality of a large Israeli city. She is hard-working, meticulous, intelligent, and after a few years has become very competent at her job.

One day, she arrives at a meeting with the director of an international philanthropic organization who wants to contribute to the construction of public projects in Israel. In addition to the director, two other men are present; one grew up in Rehavia, the other in Haifa. The meeting gets off to a good start: The three men tell each other army jokes and learn that they have mutual acquaintances among the officers. The meeting progresses and some important decisions are made. At the end of the meeting, the three men stay on to chat; Inbal feels a bit of an outsider, so she politely leaves. During that final informal chat, the director of the philanthropic organization learns that he shares musical tastes with one of the other men, and that they both have a subscription to the Israeli Opera. One week later, the director of that same large philanthropic organization is asked by the Minister of Infrastructure to recommend someone for a prestigious position at his ministry that requires a great deal of experience in urban planning. Who do you think he will remember from the meeting held a week ago?

This fictional, yet realistic, anecdote serves to illustrate many phenomena all at once: Men do not exclude this woman because she is a woman, but because they can bond naturally − they all shared the same military humor, learned in the barracks. They do not exclude her because she is Mizrahi, but rather because all three of them grew up in similar Ashkenazi neighborhoods and could recognize in each other a common and similar style. In no way did they hold the a priori racist opinion that Mizrahim or people who grew up in Kiryat Shmona are less worthy than people who grew up in large urban centers. They simply inferred from her clothes, accent perhaps, last name, and her discomfort that she is not “sophisticated,” “representative” or “well-groomed.” Finally, in evaluating her style, the men confused two things: how competent she is at her job, and her “cultural capital” – how much high culture she knows and displays. They viewed cultural knowledge or capital as a sign of professional competence, which it is not.

The one who got the phone call was the one who also had a subscription to the opera. He got the call not because he was more competent in urban planning, but because he had the same upbringing, the same army experiences, the same way of speaking, the same manners, the same physical appearance, and the same musical taste as the one who called him. ‏(It also turns out that this style is congruent in general with the style of many who make important decisions‏.) This is, in a nutshell, the story of discrimination.

This anecdote says something important: much discrimination does not feel like discrimination at all; in fact, most of the time it feels like something else. It feels like the trust and respect we have for some and not for others; it feels like the bonds of camaraderie we create with others through the army, the university, the kibbutz, the youth group or the tennis club. Mostly it feels like an honest, objective evaluation of someone else’s competence and personality.

The reason why discrimination is so hard to fight, even in ourselves, is that it is very hard to identify because it happens behind our backs, so to speak − it almost always comes in the form of something else, like trusting someone from our group, or evaluating “objectively” someone as more competent or sophisticated, or preventing a “difficult” person from being promoted. In fact, quite often discrimination comes subtly packaged with qualities that many people value − such as being loyal to old friends; recognizing in others what makes us feel comfortable and on familiar terrain; promoting only “nice people,” those who do not question the privileges and entitlements we have. In the example above, discrimination is not a nasty and brutal way to exclude. It feels, and in some ways it is, natural and friendly. Nothing could be more natural than to be friendly to those who are like us and gentle to us.

Let me thus make a blunt sociological statement: What makes us feel good as members of a group usually plays out very badly in the overall politics of equality. Group cohesion does not go along with a capacity to integrate people who differ. A truly meritocratic society cannot be based on groups, because groups demand first and foremost loyalty, and loyalty is not an egalitarian or meritocratic virtue.
Nor does discrimination mean that we dislike members of minority groups ‏(this is where it differs from racism‏). In fact, women are liked so much that they are regularly discriminated against through courtship and sexual harassment in the workplace. Discrimination is a set of invisible strategies, the effect of which is to exclude minorities from available resources. Discrimination is about sharing power, not about our capacity to have women or Mizrahim or Arabs as friends, as lovers, or as our domestic workers. We can love Mizrahi women and discriminate against them in the workplace. The question of discrimination arises only when a man and a woman, a Mizrahi and an Ashkenazi, an Arab and a Jew, a native and a foreigner, are competing for the same resources, such as power, money, prestige, leadership.

How egalitarian are we?

To what extent a society allows its minorities to truly compete for resources with its majority is the true measure of how egalitarian it is. In modern democracies, education is the main channel for minorities to achieve social mobility. Therefore, education is a very important resource. For this reason, let us examine the position of women, Arabs and Mizrahim ‏(WAM‏) inside the institutions of the university. If you ask yourself why such cultural institutions as the university matter ‏(beyond the fact that this is the one I am most familiar with‏), it is for four reasons: 1‏) This institution is supposed to be entirely based on merit and merit alone; 2‏) as a public institution, it should be exemplary of values the entire society holds dear; 3‏) in a society based on educational mobility ‏(mobility through education‏), cultural leadership indicates a deeper form of social integration than that achieved through money and market mechanisms; and 4‏) because the university is by and large a well-managed organization, its failures are instructive of larger and more general processes.

Let me thus ask a simple question: Who sits on the faculty of Israeli universities? Prof. Nina Toren, who did pioneering research on this topic at the Hebrew University, found that in 2008, the academic staff of Israeli universities could be divided into three groups: 90 percent Ashkenazim; 9 percent Mizrahim ‏(with less than 2 percent Mizrahi women‏); 1 percent Arabs. Women constituted 27 percent of the entire academic body. This composition indicates that a structural discrimination exists, demonstrating that society is incapable of bringing representatives of 60 percent of its population ‏(Mizrahim and Arabs combined‏) into its universities as lecturers. Instead, most of the power is concentrated in the hands of Ashkenazi men.

These findings also suggest that ethnic discrimination is deeper and vaster than gender discrimination. Please note: Structural discrimination is not an intention to discriminate. It is de facto discrimination. But if this were the only explanation, one would expect that once women, Arabs and Mizrahim entered the gates of the university, they would be proportionately represented in the university leadership. Yet this is far from being the case. Proof that their exclusion is not “only” the result of structural flaws in the education system, but also stems from attitudes and biases actively present in the university, can be found in the following fact: If we make a very rough estimate of all the WAM across all Israeli universities who are already inside the university, all three groups would constitute 36 percent of the total number of lecturers. And yet, all together, they probably do not represent even 5 percent of the heads of academic institutions, people in significant positions of power and prestige in universities or research institutes, presidents of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Israel Science Foundation, or national scientific committees. And this has been the case for many decades.
In the faculties of humanities and social sciences of many Israeli universities, even a middle-rank management position, like that of dean, has never been filled by a Mizrahi or an Arab, and almost never by a woman. The middle-rank position of director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University has never been filled by a woman, a Mizrahi or an Arab. And on, and on, and on. It is difficult to imagine that in 60 years, all these institutions did not find one single woman, one single Mizrahi, one single Arab among those who were already inside the university, who was worthy of filling these relatively middle-rank positions, let alone the high-ranking ones. This clearly indicates that an informal process of decision making keeps WAM outside power and away from resources.

Think about this: WAM represent approximately 80 percent of the population, yet they do not represent even 5 percent of our academic elites. WAM are excluded not by any formal or concerted decision, but by a series of informal evaluations that concern either their professional competence or their personality. Universities and many cultural institutions make a particularly fertile terrain for this precisely because being a leader in these institutions is based on informal evaluations by others. ‏(This is why Mizrahim enter the business sector in droves, because success there is established by tangible performance, rather than informal evaluation by a group of Ashkenazi peers.) As Dr. Yofi Tirosh, a leading scholar of discrimination at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law, put it in a conversation for this article, the politics of discrimination is most visible in the politics of “representativeness” – that is, those chosen and perceived as “representative of the institution.” It is in the process of choosing someone who will represent the entire body that biases are widely used. The question is thus: How do such politics of representativeness operate on the ground?

Minorities’ dilemma

If you build a country by viewing Arabs and Mizrahim as culturally inferior, it is not difficult to understand how conditions are created for the formation of stereotypes of Arabs and Mizrahim as “not cultured, sophisticated or educated enough.” Stereotypes are not just routine associations of certain groups with specific attributes; they are powerful tools of social control. Stereotypes create expectations that some groups are fit or “unfit” for certain positions or activities.

Here is an example: In my opinion, one of the most brilliant minds in the Israeli public sphere today is an Arab man, Sayed Kashua. But Sayed Kashua has been able to succeed because he does not threaten anyone’s position in that field. He is an Arab man who writes about the relationships between Arabs and Jews. This is acceptable to a society based on Jewish control. If, however, Sayed Kashua had wanted to do research on modern Jewish history ‏(in the same way as Jews study the history of Islam or Christianity‏), it is a safe bet that things would have been more difficult for him. Why? Not because he would have had more power as a researcher of Jewish history, but because he would have been stepping out of a stereotype − that an Arab man can be a specialist only on Arab issues.

The point about stereotypes is that they create expectations about the kind and amount of territory a member of a minority is allowed to possess. As tools of social control, stereotypes also create expectations about who has the right to speak authoritatively to others. Stereotypes make the power of some seem natural and self-evident, while associating minorities with leadership and power seems much less natural. ‏(See, for example, all the interest generated by Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University, precisely because it is very unusual for a woman to be president of an academic institution.‏) How comfortable do you think faculty members of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University or the Weizmann Institute would be in choosing as their rector or president a Mizrahi man or an Arab woman?

An Ashkenazi man has the greatest sense of entitlement to lead and represent others, which is why it goes unnoticed when he does so. ‏(After Ashkenazi men, next in line in the hierarchy of entitlement are Ashkenazi women, then Mizrahim, and Arabs at the bottom − with a woman always having an inferior status to a man in any group.) More specifically, members of minorities are faced with the following dilemma, which has been documented in numerous experiments conducted by social psychologists: conforming to the image others have of them and being perceived as weak, or being perceived as competent and not being liked. This is undoubtedly the most common dilemma faced by minorities in the workplace.

One famous experiment conducted by Prof. Laurie Rudman from Rutgers University runs like this: You give two different groups of people ‏(composed of both men and women‏) the exact same story, with only one difference. One group reads a story with a male protagonist, while the other reads the same story with a female one. The story describes a highly successful professional. You then ask the people who read the story to evaluate the successful man or woman on a scale of competence ‏(how good at his/her job is s/he?‏) and likability ‏(how nice/caring do you think this person is?‏). The results are striking: Twenty years ago, the woman would have been rated as far less competent than the man; but today she is rated as equally competent ‏(feminism managed to change stereotypes about competence‏).

However, though she was found to be as competent as the man, she was also found to be significantly less likable, both by men and women. That is, the groups evaluating the protagonist − a highly successful professional − have exactly the same information about the man and the woman, yet the successful woman is deemed much less likable than the man.

Laurie Rudman ‏(and many other researchers‏) have conducted many experiments centering on this theme and found overwhelming evidence that women pay a heavy price for being perceived as powerful and competent, self-confident, assertive and self-reliant. When they rank high on competence, they are far more likely to rank low on what we expect them to be – namely, caring and group-oriented. Even though the experiment was done with women, we may hypothesize that it is true for other minorities as well. Minorities working in many organizations are confronted with the same dilemma of being either liked or viewed as competent. If they are liked, their likability comes from the fact that they correspond to the stereotype that associates them with weakness; when they deviate from the stereotype, they are perceived as boastful, lacking in a communal orientation to others, uncaring. In both cases − ranking low in competence or low in likability − they are not perceived as “representative” of the institution.

Let me now give you examples I have witnessed personally in many Israeli universities, in which the competence or likability of a member of a minority is evaluated in such a way that they end up being seen as unworthy to represent the institution ‏(examples come from all Israeli universities, which will make it impossible to identify the university or the characters involved‏).

Evaluating competence

1‏) “Moroccan accent”: A highly respected academic working in an Israeli university, an Ashkenazi male, tells me in a conversation that even though he knows he is being racist, he cannot take seriously a colleague of his, another professor, because of his “thick Moroccan accent.” Arabs’ speech is also heavily accented, and this accent is often felt to be unrepresentative of the group. People and the institution they work in cannot feel represented adequately by someone speaking with an accent. Ashkenazis, it should be said, have no less an accent than Mizrahim, but theirs is “unmarked” − it is not heard, precisely because Ashkenazis have established the norm of speech, which in turn becomes neutral.

2‏) “He’s so cute”: In an entirely different setting with entirely different characters, an Ashkenazi female listens to a colleague of hers who is delivering a scientific paper in a heavy Moroccan accent. She looks at him, shakes her head, and says ‏(they are both well past their 40s‏), “He is so cute, he is so cute, ‏(hamoud‏).” She did not mean she found him sexy; she meant he was so unthreatening that she found in him the attributes of a child. It is difficult to imagine her using this word for a male who projects authority and power. When the word hamoud, “cute,” is said to and of women in the workplace, it is often viewed as an insult, because cuteness is an attribute of children, which defuses the capacity to display power.

3‏) “Her field is too narrow”: Social hierarchy is reflected in the hierarchy of scientific fields. Mathematics, perhaps the scientific field with the highest prestige, has almost no women, Arabs or Mizrahim in it. Arabs and Mizrahim are absent from classics and medieval history, both fields which are far more valued than the more “political” fields that attract WAM. WAM tend to enter fields that are ranked lower in intellectual prestige, such as education, social work, sociology, political science or international relations. It is not surprising to find that there are far fewer recipients of scientific awards and large grants in the latter fields than the former.

The hierarchy of scientific fields reflects social hierarchy and is an indirect way of keeping resources in the same place. This social hierarchy also exists within fields. For example, a woman who studies “the experience of Mizrahi women in synagogues” is likely to be perceived as dealing with a narrower topic than a man studying “Kantian Rationality in the writings of Rabbi Soloveitchik” The first topic is perceived as “lower” and more narrow in the hierarchy of topics, because of its clearer association with a minority group.

4‏) “He is so cultured”: A large number of sociologists have claimed that cultural competence − the knowledge of “high,” European culture one is able to display − is often associated with greater status or prestige in cultural organizations. It therefore contributes to the informal ranking of people inside these organizations – not according to expertise in their topic, but according to their capacity to display the right membership in a specific social/ethnic class. Cultural competence is not only knowledge of high culture, but also of a specific way of speaking and expertise in a variety of informal domains, such as wine-tasting, patronizing operas and concert halls, developing a gourmet taste and cooking culture, traveling far and wide.

Sociologists have shown that high culture is often used not as a way to extend wisdom and cultivate aesthetics, but rather to display prestige, which is then used informally to increase one’s status inside an organization. Conversely, those who do not know how to display these informal attributes of status, often implicitly receive a lower ranking.