When some girls at the university tried to get me involved in a women’s advancement group, I didn’t even give them my email. “Women” has never seemed like a cause for me, just like I’d never join a “tall-people-club”.
But a panel I went to in honor of women’s day changed my perceptions, if only slightly. It was part of a broader plan To Maintain My Sanity While in Law School (which basically consists of saying “yes” to events instead of my standard “no”).
This is the part where you’re either going to stop reading because you hate feminists or will continue, because you love them. Disclosure: I have never called myself a feminist. I shave my armpits. I tell chauvinist jokes. With two older brothers who constantly make fun of my vegetarianism, naiveté and liberalist views, feminism always seemed like a little too much.
But these women not the usual, “go get ’em” girls cheering us to pursue our dreams. Adina Bar Shalom established the first college for charedi women. When she was six, she demanded to know why she had to clean the dishes and not her brothers. They were studying Torah, was the answer. When she protested, her father told her that one day she’d understand. She looked at us with a smile and shook her head, “I still don’t understand.”
Today, she gives hundreds of women the opportunity to study and learn and escape, if only momentarily, from an all-encompassing cycle of child-bearing and house-keeping
Lihi Lapid asked us why we have “career women” and not “career men”. A working woman is doing something radical (and of course, if her children have learning disabilities, the world will blame her). A man is just doing what men do.
When she was in charge of the Women’s section in the newspaper, Lapid filled it with different topics of interest. Her boss told her to include a recipe. She objected with a passion. “I can’t cook! I burn salad! Why does every women’s section need to have a recipe”?! But there would be recipe, or there would be no Lapid. “But,” she shared slyly, “even though the whole section was written in the female form (Hebrew is like French in that sense) – the recipe was written in the male form.”
Dalia Dorner, who was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, presented a long list of women’s rights legislation. “But the reality,” she said, “is a different story.” She was a part of the famous Alice Miller trial, and is partly to thank for there being women in the Israeli Air Force.
In a biography she’d read recently, the woman was asked how one could know that full equality had been achieved. “When mediocre women and below will have key roles in society – then we will have achieved equality,” she answered.
We aren’t there yet. Nor do I think “women” will be high on my list of causes in the near future. But more than before, I realize that that is a privilege. I don’t fight for women’s rights because so many already did, before me and for me. What feminism needs is for the word itself to disappear – not because of people like me who are too afraid to use it, but because the world won’t need it.