Humiliating women

Following her experience in Beit Shemesh on her way to school in December last year, Na’ama suffered nightmares, stomach aches and anxiety.

By HADASSAH MARGOLISE
February 21, 2012 23:27
3 minute read.
HADASSA MARGOLESE meets with Tzipi Livni

HADASSA MARGOLESE meets with Tzipi Livni_390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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My eight-year-old daughter, Na’ama, experienced firsthand the violence of men who think women should be excluded from the public sphere. According to these men, it is acceptable in the name of modesty to spit, yell, curse, throw objects and humiliate women and young girls. Ironically, their efforts to not think about women seem to require they think about nothing else. Following her experience in Beit Shemesh on her way to school in December last year, Na’ama suffered nightmares, stomach aches and anxiety.

A few weeks ago, an advertisement booklet from Ramat Beit Shemesh was put in my mailbox. I was not shocked to see that the girls’ faces were blurred, because we’ve become used to this. However, following my daughter’s experience, the phenomenon took on new meaning for me. Things seemed to click; they hide our faces in magazines, as well as trying to hide us in real life. This time would be different, I said to myself. I would actually do something about it, because I could not keep quiet any longer.

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So I went to the website of this specific store and posted the picture, telling them I found it shocking and that if the store agreed to have girls’ faces blurred in their advertisements, I would not shop there. The store responded by saying it was not them who made the decision but rather the advertising company, to suit the booklet’s target demographic. The store said it would not advertise that way again. I thanked them, and felt as though we accomplished something, and encouraged my friends to frequent the store and thank the owners.

But when I looked through this week’s booklet, not only girls’ faces but also boys’ faces were blurred in the store’s advertisement. The store was apparently so desperate not to offend the extremists that it now allowed the blurring of all children’s faces. Did the store’s owners thinks this was some kind of compromise? I do not see it as a compromise. We pointed out a problem, they acknowledged it – and then decided to work around it rather than fix it. “Working around” a problem like this is unacceptable. Resolving the issue is what is necessary. And as if that weren’t enough, this week’s issue included another toy store ad with girls’ faces blurred. The extremism was actually spreading.

In the past I ignored these pictures, thinking they were just idiotic, but I now see – all too well – how they affect me, my daughters and all women. This issue is at the core of the problems we face. It starts by blurring faces, which becomes acceptable and normal, continues slowly onto other things that become acceptable and “normal” and goes on and on until abnormal is the norm. We must stop this before it spirals out of control.

These men look at my sweet, innocent daughter in a sexual way. She is eight years old! She has gone through an experience no child (or adult) should have to ever go though. We have to stop this craze, and stopping it begins by not allowing the blurring out of faces. It starts by being normal, civilized, good human beings. We must speak out – through social organizations, political movements and even boycotts of those who cave in to extremist demands. We must fight this before we lose an entire segment of Jewish women to the idea that women have no value.

The writer is the mother of eight-year-old Na’ama, the Chicago-born girl whose fear of walking to school in Beit Shemesh after being harassed by haredi men sparked a furor in December last year.

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