Portrait of an Israeli Woman: International Women's Day, 2011
For women, every day is Women's Day. The faces of 11 Israeli women tell their story.
For a woman, every day is Women's Day, both privately and universally. When she stands in front of the mirror, it's Women's Day. When she goes out into the street, when she's at work, whatever she might be doing. For men, too, every day is men's day. But no such international day has been dedicated to men. A revolt by female workers, on March 8, 1857, became a symbol. But it did not become Labor Day. That was set later and belongs to everyone, irrespective of gender. Women's Day is not Mother's Day or Family Day, in which a choice is implicit. Nor is it a day to remember an event, to stop time and remember what happened then, remember one person or many who are no longer with us, remember their deeds and their deaths. Women's Day is for everyone who was born a woman. Irrespective of religion or geographic location, and no matter how their lives evolved. Their feminine destiny demands a day.
More than 100 years have passed since its inception, yet there is no sign that we can dispense with this special day dedicated to that portion of humanity which is female. At least half of the world's population is not equal. The status of women and their rights have been enhanced in part of the world, but not all the elements of inequality have been erased. Women continue to be punished for actions for which men are not punished; they continue to be executed and murdered. Women are forced to marry against their will. They are subordinated to the will of the men around them and deprived of freedom of choice. They are restricted in their occupations, their attire, their freedom of movement. The road to equality is still long. Even if in certain places the differences seem to be meager and hidden from the eye, life as a woman - in Israel, too - is still different. It confronts obstacles that elude men. The law may attest to equality, but reality is triumphant. In wages, in personal safety, in media representation. The world thinks and runs like men, who happened to set aside a day for women, too.
It's a good thing we have Women's Day, despite the patronizing tenor, and despite the traps that come along with it - the benefits, the discounts, the flowers - and the mountains of statistics pulled out to quantify goals and estimate damages. All these detract from the real thing. Because discrimination is still here. And the struggle will continue until the moment when no such day will exist on the calendar, when a minority that is not a minority is called upon to fight for its rights. Until then, we live in a world of men, but also of women. And we have chosen to observe this day with some of those women, with an up-close look at those who are close to us.
All the women who took part in this photo project are well-known. Their faces and their names are familiar to everyone. They appear on the stage, on the screen, on the bookshelf or behind the scenes. They are present, influential, esteemed. In their actions, their achievements, their pain. They are all these things, in addition to being women. They are pictured here outside their usual settings, not in their traditional roles, without the clothes, the office, the implements, the children's room. Without a body. Without a body image. Nothing. The photographs are free of noises or distractions. Only faces. And amid this quiet, in the freeze that the camera imposes on time, their eyes are directed straight at us, enabling a bilateral gaze; the observer gazing inwardly into the subjects of the photographs, and the observer gazing inwardly into him or herself.
The photographs are clean, seemingly simple, life-size. But they are not life. They shake off routine, they shake off the habitual judgment of these women. There is nothing here of the automatic context in which we generally encounter them. The photographs leave the reality outside. And through their purity allow proximity. They move away from the self-evident in order to arrive at the connection which ought to be self-evident. Between gaze and gaze. Between woman and woman. Between human beings as such.
A chain of faces, of gazes. For Women's Day, Israel, 2011.