I hate to ruin the little party we seem to be having here, but the participants, it seems, are dancing in reverse. This is not the first time this has happened to us: Pseudo-drama, a nickel-and-dime tragedy, much ado about nothing and a horribly loud, Pavlovian reaction, drooling desperate cries into the public discourse: Once again the male junta is degrading women. And what could represent the male junta better than a duo comprised of the defense minister and the IDF chief, especially when that combination is joined by a muscled brigade commander in the background?
“Who are these girls?” Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz during a visit to a Golani exercise. “They sing during breaks,” the latter answered – a clear hint, far removed from the prevalent codes of professional discourse, to the ugly debate raging in the last few weeks over women singing in military events. That was followed by some reference to Dana, from a moshav, who can or cannot sing, and that was the end of that little mise-en-scene.
By the way, if there was one sentence worth dwelling upon in that entire conversation, it was the one when Gantz told the Army Radio correspondent that “this conversation stays inside the tape-recorder.” But that's all. No “maydalleh-schmaydalleh,” no sore evil – not any evil. Nothing but a little hot air.
As unfortunate as that conversation was, it had nothing to do with the shunning of women in Israeli society or the grueling, tenacious feminist struggle, that focuses on equality for women and bridging the gaps in a capitalistic, competitive, exploitative society; and it had nothing to do with the outcry that followed – shrieking, populist and unnecessary. To borrow a less than subtle expression from the other gender – excuse me, but you're pissing by the wrong tree.
Silence of the amazons
But the story doesn’t end there. The Health Ministry recently held a research excellence award ceremony. The list of winners included two women, who Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman sent to sit in the back of the hall and made sure they were not invited to the stage. That story got virtually no headlines. None. The brave warriors did not seek out the prime minister – who is the acting health minister – to ask him how such a thing was possible.
They will undoubtedly claim that the “didn't know.” But they are not those to address for these struggles anyway. Why? Because for some of the them this entire pseudo-feminist struggle is taking place under the banner of populism, where the limelight of TV cameras promises big, immediate headlines; a struggle that misses and sterilizes the true goals, that pushes the real, persistent, daily battles – like those bravely waged by women like Shulamit Aloni and Tamar Gozansky – that strive to correct perpetuated wrongs, into zany, delirious corners.
There is no need for a thought police, nor for a language police nor for ministers of bad humor or public discourse. Those who set countless red lines might as well set none at all, and those who fight all fronts simultaneously and with the same vigor and enthusiasm are not truly fighting on any front. This whole affair could have been summed up in one or two sentences and the truly heavy artillery should have been saved for where it is really needed.
Did we mention barring female researchers from the stage at an award ceremony? Did we mention the silence of the amazons on the matter? Than we've said it all.