Rocking the Tel Aviv SlutWalk!

Oh. My. Holy. Crap.

On Friday, April 5th, the Tel Aviv SlutWalk took place and we totally rocked this city! I am so proud of all the hundreds of women who showed up and marched, of the organizers who put their hearts and souls into making it a success, of those who got up on stage and spoke to the crowds about their experiences with rape culture and victim blaming.

I was hoping for the best, but was cautiously optimistic. Rain was expected. There was another organization trying to appropriate the SlutWalk while basing their activities on blatant slut-shaming. Historically, anti-sexual violence marches do not attract huge crowds here. As a matter of fact… This was the largest march I’ve seen! We got good coverage on TV, radio, newspapers, news sites and blogs… So surprising, so gratifying! I’m really just brimming over 🙂

Photos and videos are still being assembled – here is one from YouTube:

Photo gallery – credits to Claudia Levin, Lihi Barnoy, Aviv Aharon, Shimon Hashanki

Tel Aviv Slutwalk 2013

This year I decided to organize the Tel Aviv Slutwalk. Last year, the event was sabotaged by the police (and the weather), while this year a non-feminist organization tried to co-opt the Slutwalk to promote their own political agenda… All very vexing, and so I decided that the event would be safer in my radical little hands.

One of the added values my cohorts and I are trying to bring about in this year’s march is to underline how rape culture affects absolutely everyone, but also how voices that are often silenced anyway, are doubly or triply silenced when it comes to sexual violence. So we’ve invited women from all walks of life, from different ethnicities, refugees, trans* folk, people who are discriminated against for being deaf or in a wheelchair or for any other disability, fat women, lesbian and bisexual women, young and old women… And so on – to share a text saying why she needs the slutwalk. We make a poster of it, and put it on the event page. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The images are in Hebrew, so here is just one sample (though you can see the entire album here if you’d like):

As a teen, I need the Slutwalk because the fact that my breasts have developed does not mean that anyone has the right to mention it all the time, or to touch my breasts. Because I’m tired of all the adults around me interfering with my sexual life, and thinking that is legitimate. As a teen, I have not yet entirely learned how to say no, or to run away or protect myself, and I find myself just freezing in shock and waiting for someone to come by and help me.

As a teen, this is my opportunity to learn to say no, before I get used to being harassed.

I usually do not do any type of fundraising on this blog… But today I decided to make an exception. This event is just that important to me. I set up a page for anyone who want to buy a tank top for the event, or just make a donation. So I thought I’d open up the opportunity here as well, on the off-chance that someone here wants to support this effort. 

The funds will go towards signage and such, and any leftovers will be sent to our sister slutwalks in other cities.

  Donate here, or check out the page with the shirt for sale. Not sure what I would do with international orders for an actual shirt, I guess it depends on the amount of the donation 🙂 The shirt without shipping is about $8-10. So I guess I would send it to you for a donation of $20 and above. Just let me know!

The Invisible Elephant in the Room

There is a topic that is near and dear to me… Yet I haven’t written about it at all.
Femme Elephant

I’ve begun posts or articles many times…
I have dozens of bookmarks saved in my browser… Nothing to show for it. Yet.

Femme. Being Femme. Femme InVisibility. Femme Identity. 

Headings, tags, pieces of things.

It seems that when things get too personal for me, I cannot write a casual post… I want to write a dissertation (:
And who has time for that…

So.

This is not really a post. It is a note. It is a notice. It is a rant. It is a statement – that there is not enough written about what being a femme is all about. There are things I want to shout out, insist upon, inform… There are stances I want to take, and territory I want to stake. There are misconceptions I want to dispel and conceptions I want to eradicate. So much to say. So much emotion choking down the words. It won’t all be said here and now, but this is the opening shot, clumsy as it may be.

I AM A FEMME. I am not a femme because my girlfriend is a butch. I am not a femme because of internalized heteronormative oppression. I am not worth less because queer communities seem to idolize masculinity as much as – or more than! – straight communities. My identity is not subject to lesbian culture’s identity police. I AM A FEMME because this is the identity I choose, because this is the skin I am comfortable in, what fits, here and now. As a femme, I am the one who defines what it means to be a femme. It might be different than how someone else defines it for themselves. As a femme, I insist on my autonomy to conform or not to conform, to whichever standards I choose.

More than that, I believe that BEING FEMME IS ABOUT AS RADICAL AS IT GETS. Think about it: Being femme is a choice. As such, there is an element of gender transition involved. It also transcends hetero gender policing – by first rejecting the compulsory aspect of it, and then choosing the parts that please you. Wrapping yourself in the “weak” presentations of the hegemony, and using them to express and celebrate your strength and power. Sometimes taking them to the nth degree. That is deconstruction, and that is pretty radical. It is totally “in your face” to heteronormativity and queer normativity (yes, I just said that) alike.

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Obviously I have a lot more to say about this, but let me leave you with these rant bits:

BEING FEMME HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BUTCHES

We are not defined as the absence of, the opposite of, or the partner of. Period. We can be in a relationship with a butch, or with a femme, or with someone who defines themselves as something else entirely. OUR PARTNERS’ DEFINITIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR SELF-DEFINED IDENTITY. We may or may not even have a partner.

WE ARE TIRED OF BEING INVISIBLE

We are tired of being assumed to be straight, of being overlooked as not radical enough, of being tagged as “wanting to pass” or as being bound by heteronormative culture. THERE IS NOTHING NORMATIVE ABOUT BEING FEMME.

And personally, I am pretty sick of the hierarchies of the queer communities I know, where there is a very clear status ladder, at the top of which are FTMs and at the bottom of which are cis femmes, and in which female/feminine identities are always subordinate to equivalent male/masculine ones (FTMs are “better” then MTFs, and cis gay men are “better” than cis lesbian women, butch is “better” than femme, and so on).

WE DON’T HAVE TO BE LESBIANS

We can be bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, asexual, even hetero (there are queer heteros. seriously.), or have any other sexual orientation or lack thereof. Because, WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY OUR PARTNERS.

WE DON’T EVEN NEED TO BE WOMEN

Fuck the gender binary. Seriously. Some of my best femme friends are genderqueer. Which means they may or may not define themselves as women to any given degree, at any given time. Which is just one example. I find odd, to say the least, the notion that eliminating the binary must mean we go to a unary system of alikeness. Why not expand our possibilities to the infinite, rather than restricting and policing them?

More to come. Stay tuned.

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.

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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.

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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

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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
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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.”

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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