The pendulum swings and as far as sex segregation and marginalizing women, it seems Israel is at the very end of the swing: Surely it cannot get worse than forcing women to sit at the back of the bus or requesting women dress modestly when visiting a doctor. And so the silent majority is silent no more, protesting extremists pushing the country away from its founding principles. I am very hopeful we will soon experience again a sane and equal normalcy.
Having said that, I take issue with all the brouhaha about the exclusion of women from advertisements: leading Israeli companies have come under scrutiny (1, 2, 3) for print ads that did not include women in them. Essentially, these people are demanding that women will be returned to advertisements – and I think that’s laughable:
Until the day comes when ad agencies are no longer havens for misogynistic men, portraying women in their stereotypical positions as secretaries and housewives – or seductresses; Until the day comes when women in TV ads will try to persuade us to switch banks or buy car insurance, and not just as gratuitous eye candy to hold the product up against their naked, heaving bodies: Until the day comes when women are shown as equal to men – until that bright day arrives, getting rid of images of women in advertising might just be a breath of fresh air; An extreme measure to combat an unbearable situation that have been going on for far too long. To quote the fictional Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: “[We’ve] got some real honest-to-god battles to fight. [We] don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.”
To prove my point, here is an assortment of newspaper ads published this week:
|[singlepic id=322 w=160 h=240 float=center]
||[singlepic id=324 w=160 h=240 float=center]
||[singlepic id=323 w=160 h=240 float=center]
|[singlepic id=325 w=160 h=240 float=center]
||[singlepic id=327 w=160 h=240 float=center]
||[singlepic id=326 w=160 h=240 float=center]
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.
[singlepic id=278 w=283 h=400 float=right]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.
After covering WIZO’s newest annual tradition of giving out a most-chauvinistic-ad award (2008, 2009), I thought I’d one-up myself and actually suggest a couple of ads for next year’s shaming ceremony. Following are two TV spots that caught my eye, one is gratuitously sexual in a let’s-find-an-excuse-for-leering kinda way:
Israeli Lottery – Gitam BBDO
The other is much less overt, much more complex, filled with misogynistic messages about work, kids, shoes and dieting:
Osem’s Lachmit whole wheat cracker – Gitam BBDO
I should probably mention that I have discussed these ads with a couple of female friends who did not see anything particularly shocking with these ads. They did note the ads’ sexist nature, they just didn’t think it was any different from most other Israeli ads.
Obviously, I disagree.
There is a long history of ‘Visit Israel’ ads that seem to miss the mark. Various organizations want the world to visit our tiny country, but apparently good intentions are just not enough, and these often result in offensive adverts. The latest spot, by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), should get some kind of an award for bad taste:
Size Doesn’t Matter – CIJA – 2010
Following are a few more ‘Visit Israel’ ads you might find offensive. One thing I find common to all these ads is that they all probably started as funny jokes during a brainstorming session, but there were probably no adults in the room to say “Ha, ha… very funny, now let’s think harder”. Some of these were specifically aimed at quote-unquote going viral, hoping for a lot of FW: FW: FW: THIS IS FUNNY emails.
Un-holy Israel – Keta Keta – 2007
Indeed – Israel at Heart – 2005
The Israeli branch of WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization established in 1920, continues its annual tradition of announcing the most chauvinistic Israeli advertisements created during the past year. The worst ad will be announced during International Women’s Day, but the top ten finalists were revealed last week. Following are the most sexist TV spots of 2009 and while they are in Hebrew, sexism transcends language barriers:
Tempo’s Goldstar beer – McCann-Erickson Israel
Israel Post – Glickman-Nettler-Samsonov
Trima’s Postinor morning-after pill – Armoni BATES
Procter & Gamble’s Fairy liquid – Adler, Chomsky & Warshavsky
New Hamashbir Lazarchan – McCann-Erickson Israel
24 frames per seconds, sometimes more, and every one of those frames is absorbed by our bodies. If you agree with my premise, you might find the following TV ad as lame as I found it to be. It advertises a chicken and corn cutlet from the Israeli ‘Mama Of’ brand. Apparently the proper way to hold two cobs of corn is very close to your chest, pointing outwards, in a vegan twist on Madonna’s infamous cone brassiere.
My very first thoughts after seeing this ad were:
– What the hell is this?
– Would make a great post for my blog
– Nah… probably my oversexed mind
…but today my trusted female source on feminism and gender issues expressed the same disgust with this ad, honing in on the exact same disturbing posture without us discussing it in the past. This assured me I was not imagining: Someone from the ad agency must have thought instilling a nippely bosom in our minds would somehow make us buy their product.
Here’s the complete ad with Gimel Yafit and her corny daughter-in-law:
Update: You can read this post in Hebrew here.
I am having a philosophical discussion with a friend about what is and what isn’t worth writing about. Although I publish a comprehensive article now and then, I do not find it necessary to express my opinion every time and on every issue. I contend that in this day and age, pointing to things is service in itself – especially nowadays when things move so fast, and you need them to accumulate and percolate before you can be articulate.
I just watched this new video by Israeli singer Lior Narkis and all I can do is point to it and say: Hey people, watch this! You don’t need to know Hebrew or even like this kind of music in order to fathom the ideas expressed in it. As far as I know this is not a spoof, but the official video for Narkis’ song Metuka (sweetie). If every scale needs to be calibrated, I assume this is an unintentional calibration of the misogyny scale (Damnit, I let my initial reaction slip…)
Is marriage really something that should be incentivised? And where the hell are all the small government conservatives when we’re talking about Washington getting into the yenta business?
– – President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) – The West Wing s03e20
Sunday will be the last day for submitting your income tax report in Israel and this gives me an opportunity to point to the government’s annual act-like-a-Jewish-mother ceremony: On its form numbered 135, the government insists on referring to the person submitting it as ‘The Registered Spouse‘ (Ben HaZug HaRashum). This appears three times just on its initial page, with an additional footnote explaining this ‘registered spouse’ term includes unmarried and separated people.
Take a moment and meditate on that: Through its official form the State of Israel looks at its citizenry and only sees couples: a ‘registered spouse’ and his or her partner, or a ‘registered spouse’ with no partner. As far as my country is concerned, it’s not that I am single as much as I haven’t paired up yet.
Yes, just like The Simpsons’ Are we there yet routine, the Jewish state forces me to a yenta dialog that goes something like this:
– It’s 2008, are you married yet?
– It’s 2009 already, are you married yet?
– It’s 2010, are you married now?
– No! Stop asking me that!
[singlepic id=195 w=300 h=446 float=right]I watched a few of the first episodes of Israel’s first season of Survivor, but saw enough shots in which the female contestants’ backsides where filling up the entire screen, in order to determine this was no mistake, only another step closer to imitating the raunch culture oversees. When the Israeli media started referring to contestant Marina Kavisher as the “National Rump”, I noted to myself that this just might amount to sexual harrasment as defined by Israeli law – but kept my mouth (and keyboard) silent. As Israeli Survivor’s season 2 comes to a close, Maariv‘s fashion supplement Sig’non decided to commemorate this important event with “The Big Ass Quiz” which urges readers to match each backside with a face.
I don’t have anything particularly smart or funny to say about this. I just think this is another sign my countrymen are growing further apart from me – or vice versa.
Update: You can read this post in Hebrew here.
After years of raving like a lunatic, my prayers have finally been answered: I just read in the newspaper today that the Israeli branch of WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization established in 1920, will start an annual tradition of announcing the most chauvinistic Israeli advertisements created during the past year. The worst ad will be announced during International Women’s Day, but for now here are three of the top five candidates:
2008 – Mey Eden TV Ad – Bauman-Ber-Rivnay Advertising
Yes, we get it. It’s a Hebrew pun: an ad for a water dispenser which in Hebrew is called a water bar – so let’s book Bar Refaeli. We get it! Now, how do we get from here to the model’s crawling on the counter? Oh, yes, and let’s name it Easy, just to make sure everyone gets it.
2008 – ‘Free’ TV Ad – Lin & Lin Advertising
An ample bosom lady in the form of a snack bar tells a male snack that it is all natural so he can nosh freely. Also the Hebrew verb for nosh, Tenashnesh, is phonetically close to the Hebrew verb for fondling, Temashmesh.
2007 – Maxim Magazine Article – Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In its July 2007 issue, men’s magazine Maxim featured a section called The Women of the Israeli Defense Forces. Believe it or not, this was paid for by the Israeli government as a way of introducing the country to young males who may only know it from the news. While the general idea is not without merit, the very notion that the State of Israel is in the business of pimping women, well that is pretty hard to stomach.
The other top two candidates announced by WIZO were a TV ad for Axe deodorant and a print ad for R3 condoms. The Axe ad, in my opinion, should not have made it to the list as the ad was not created in Israel, and the R3 ad must not have made much of an impact as I couldn’t find any trace of it.
Happy Women’s Day!
My talented sister muses in Hebrew about misogynistic Israeli ads on her Motek2 blog.