Here it is once again, the same old song - as men in Israel continue to ask women "What do you mean?" after they are told "No." Say what we will, the truth of the matter is the situation for women in Israel remains terrible. An affair such as that involving the suspected sex crimes of a potential police chief apparently needs to happen for any public discussion to get under way. While it is true that we've come a long way, equally true is the fact that we have a comparably long way still to go.
Certain men, of course, are guilty, but women also bear a significant portion of the blame. The name of the game is solidarity and struggle - rare qualities in Israel, indeed.
Why is it that the latest complainant - "O." - must remain anonymous? Does someone filing a complaint about a robbery or break-in have to act this way? Can anyone imagine that others would say the plaintiff in a robbery "spreads his money around, anyway"? And if O. were a prostitute, what difference would that make? In acts of crime, the offenders covers their faces in shame; but when it comes to sexual harassment or rape, it seems it is the victims who should be embarrassed.
Men who commit misdeeds and defame others are to blame for any shame felt by the victims, but women are also guilty as they do not demonstrate alongside their aggrieved comrade in a show of solidarity. Women are apathetic, and men enjoy themselves: As long as the marginal feminist camp in Israel fails to strengthen and expand, O. and other complainants will continue to hide in shame.
Feminism in this country remains a synonym for an esoteric movement of zealots. And while all women generally benefit from the feminists' persistent campaigning, many keep a distance from the struggle.
"I do not define myself as a feminist, because the term has a negative connotation," the non-Israeli Baroness Ariane de Rothschild said in a recent interview with The Marker. What does it mean to not join a just cause because of its reputation? This "negative connotation," to be sure, has been fashioned by men, for their own purposes and uses.
Feminism does not have a bad name in all places, however. In egalitarian Scandinavia, for example, no political candidate has a chance of being elected without committing to feminism. It's the same as the need to be a Zionist to win an election in Israel. We remain quite far from such a situation regarding feminism. Who is really a feminist here?
Take a look, for instance, at the small screen. It's hard to find a female news presenter here older than 40; and no woman is allowed to read the news alone - certainly not a requirement for men. Most are blonde, covered in makeup and dressed in loud clothing which we men enjoy, particularly if it's revealing.
We men, on the other hand, wear black jackets, to pronounce our importance, while women are clothed in more color because that's the way we like them. The female newscasters are fortunate that we don't see their legs, and so they don't have to wear heels - another torturously imposed male whim. Television projects the state of the generation, illustrates what equality means in Israel.
As in other spheres, with sex crimes, the aggressor becomes the victim and the victim becomes the aggressor. It's a world turned upside down. O.'s activities are dealt with as though they are tantamount to those of her accused male assailant. Former police chief Assaf Hefetz whines, in an article published in Israel Today, whether the only appropriate candidate would be "someone who lived in a monastery?" No, there are many men who were never monks but who were never accused of sex crimes either; they simply know how to treat women.
The accusation that O. has chosen to lodge her complaint now for expedient reasons is ridiculous: She could have keep quiet, but she felt an obligation to come forward given the possibility that the accused could become police commissioner.
As opposed to a claim made by the current police chief, David Cohen, this affair clearly relates to the competition for the post. As well it should. From this point forward, every lower ranking member of the police force will know that illegal behavior could not only ruin their chances for promotion to higher ranks, but could also lead to indictment for criminal offenses.
The police internal affairs department will conduct its investigation into the present affair, and its inquiry will determine whether sex acts or sex crimes were committed. If we believed that the practice of evading guilt by posing the question "What do you mean, no?" was gone from power-oriented frameworks such as the Israel Defense Forces and the police, we were wrong. If we thought the struggle for equality was complete, we were mistaken.
Women should stand up, as should men, and behave like feminists. Should multitudes congregate around a complainant such as O. in a show of support, she would not need to cover her face in shame - or perhaps there would be not such anonymous victims anymore.
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