In various workplaces around Israel, including mine, one may find the following poster depicting a woman demonstrating the safe way to manually lift items. These kind of workplace safety posters, issued by Israel’s Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene, can be found in most Israeli production plants and warehouses, and are supposed to eliminate work-related injuries.
Now let’s properly examine this image and try to determine whether it is sexist:
A young blond woman, wearing a pale blue sleeveless summer dress and flat white shoes, bends down in order to lift a rather large yellow box. The model’s attire seems totally out of place; Not only does it look unprofessional, it doesn’t seem to comply with safety regulations which require clothes that cover most of the body and steel-capped boots to protect the feet. Moreover, choosing a woman as the exemplary worker seems odd, as the vast majority of factory workers who lift heavy boxes are men. To top it all, the phrase ‘Proper Lifting’ (Hebrew: Harama Nehona) appears in the upper-right corner of the poster. In Hebrew, the word ‘lifting’ may be used as slang to describe sexual intercourse.
All and all, I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to assume that in all the production floors in which these posters hang for oh so many years, not once had a similarly dressed woman tried to lift such an object; And so, the only logical conclusion I can come up with for using this model in such a poster is good ol’ fashioned ‘sex sells’ chauvinism which claims that women sell cars and women sell men’s perfume, so women can ‘sell’ safety.
The good news?
In preparing this blog post, I tried to order this poster from the Israeli Institute for Occupational Safety, only to find out that while it does appear in the online catalog, it is no longer in stock and there are no plans to print additional posters.
I guess we can call that progress; Tiny, minuscule progress towards gender equality.