You can’t be a feminist and not be a Zionist

In the same way Zionism necessarily demands that Jews become the masters of their own fate. So too, does feminism.

And Zionism, too. (photo credit: REUTERS)
And Zionism, too.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Zionism and feminism are both “dirty” words. Express an opinion in favor of either, and you’re bound to have a heated discussion whether online or in person. But Zionism and feminism are absolutely critical concepts for anyone who supports the fight for equality. So why is it that these two ideas are threatening to those who oppose them? Why is it that they invoke so much emotion on both sides? More interestingly, how is it that in 2020, it’s still permissible to be anti-Zionist or anti-feminist? At the end of the day, both of these movements boil down to the self-determination of two historically marginalized groups. As such, you cannot be a feminist today on the basis of supporting equality, and not be a Zionist.
It’s 2020, and we’d like to believe we are in a new era. We’ve had female prime ministers and world leaders in nearly every region, we’ve had marches and movements for women’s equality. We’ve fought for equal pay, the right to vote, we stood up to Hollywood rapists and said no more to sexual harassment with #MeToo. And yet, with every achievement we have had a common enemy fighting against us: the status quo, often protected by men. Is it simply that women demanding equality is really so threatening?
The mere concept of feminism invokes strong opinions on either side. From its inception, the movement for women’s liberation, and the women’s right to vote, was met with mockery and scorn. For example, the National Association Against Women’s Suffrage released a pamphlet explaining why we must fight this phenomena of women voting, listing “Because in some States more voting women than voting men will place the Government under petticoat rule.” Indeed, at every turning point in history, progress was only made by women standing up and saying no more. It wasn’t just handed to them.
This was the case with first wave feminism – demanding the right to vote, better working conditions, the right to education, etc., and again in the second wave of feminism with a rejection of societal expectations of women, the normalization of financial independence and family matters such as divorce. It continues today with the fight for equal pay, the rejection of rape culture, and the growing demand for men to take responsibility for their actions and sexually aggressive behaviors (past or present). In the Middle East, women are still fighting for the most basic of rights such as driving in Saudi Arabia, the right to education instead of child or teen marriage, and the right to dress as they choose without fear of imprisonment or torture as in the case of Iran. Simply put, at any time, and in any place, freedom for women isn’t free.
THROUGHOUT HISTORY, until today, the situation is no different for Jews. Jews have overcome horrific persecution of expulsion from our homeland; the Holocaust and pogroms throughout Europe; ethnic cleansing, torture and expulsion in Arab states; societal discrimination even in “progressive” countries where Jews were prohibited from joining clubs and entering certain businesses; multiple attempts of Arab states to wipe out the Jewish state; and waves of antisemitic violence all over the world that continue until today. Yet despite it all, we fought for a Jewish state.
Zionism was a radical social movement that by today’s standards was one of the first social justice causes. It’s the story of a people coming back to their homeland and refusing to settle for anything less than becoming the masters of their own fate. No longer would we depend on anyone else for our well-being. No longer will we rely on the “generosity” of our host nations. We have a state, and we demand to be treated as equals. Yet, over 70 years after Israel’s establishment, the world continues to be “threatened” by Jews daring to demand equality.
In the same way Zionism necessarily demands that Jews become the masters of their own fate. So too, does feminism. Feminism is the belief in the equality of the sexes, the notion that women too can be masters of their fate. That women need not be reliant on a man for their safety, success and happiness. It is for this reason that Zionism and feminism are upsetting to so many people: because equality is radical, indeed threatening, to those who hold power over others.
If the idea of a woman or a Jew being equal in society makes you feel uncomfortable, you should think twice about your own biases. If your “commitment” to the social order includes arranged marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, excusing or diminishing domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault (also covering it up), victim-blaming, disrespecting or demeaning women, a media that berates women (more than men) for their appearance, legal systems that prevent women from coming forward when they are attacked, unequal pay, or demonizing “feminists,” you are enabling bigotry.
Similarly, when you hold double standards against Jews, support or protect organizations or individuals who demonize the only Jewish state, or that call for terrorism against the Jewish state or Jews, you are, intentionally or not, aligning yourself with antisemites.
Someone who believes in equality, believes in equality for all. It is for that reason that you cannot be a feminist who believes in equality for all, and not be a Zionist as well. Feminism and Zionism are two sides of the same coin.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative, a boutique branding firm.