women - Avi Ofer - January 7 2011
Illustration. Photo by Avi Ofer
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Every so often invitations for activities whose declared purpose is "female empowerment" arrive in my inbox. The real significance of the word empowerment is usually commercial. Its willing victims are naive women who really believe that running around campfires or with wolves; participating in women's circles or journeys to the Far East to attend encounters with local feminists and/or low-caste impoverished women; belly dancing; going to fitness clubs for women only; or communicating with the spirits of outstanding women (the prophetess Deborah, for example ) - this is what will miraculously cause them to have feelings of self-worth of the type they didn't experience previously. The sense of inferiority that causes them to feel less worthy unless they manage to define themselves through others (usually a partner or children ) will ostensibly die down quickly by means of organized activities or perusal of texts about female power, unbreakable connections forged with Gaia the ancient earth goddess, a visit to a matrilineal tribe in China or close observance of women whose situation is far worse.

The company of women is a wonderful thing, I'm the last one to deny it. There's nothing like a collection of female friends to lift one's spirit and make us once again rejoice that we were born. In fact, sometimes even a phone conversation with a good girlfriend is enough to fight the darkest of moods. But does this change our sense of worth? It's not clear to me it does.

The truth is that in the context of my journalistic work, I have already attended several organized empowerment activities, and my urge after every one was to run home quickly, kiss the children, grab my partner - if there was one at the time - and then pick up the phone to every one of my closest girlfriends to make fun of the whole thing.

On the other hand, an excellent way to witness female empowerment is by observing the excellent work of Shelly Yachimovich, who is not only the most diligent female MK there is, but who has been of great importance in bringing the serial rapist Katsav to trial. Then there is the sacred work that Hannah Kehat and the women of the Takana forum are doing in handling rabbis who are sex offenders. And there are other women who are not afraid to express an opinion and stick to their guns, even if the price they pay is a wave of chauvinistic hatred on the part of men, but quite a number of women, too.

Without comparing myself to the women mentioned above, I must point out that every time I write something of a feminist nature in the newspaper, I am immediately condemned by the talkbackers who mention my ugly appearance, and by women who are tired of "this extreme feminism." Me? An extreme feminist?

Last weekend I turned on the television just when a very attractive woman, who turns out to be a singer, too, told the presenter of the show: "He shattered my heart so I smashed his car."

The man with the smashed car, it turns out, was her long-time partner and musical producer, who is many years older than she and unwilling to commit himself to a relationship. Other women, who appeared on little screens around her - also attractive and talented, and who like the singer are seeking love and participating in this documentary series - explained to her that she should end her relationship with the guy. If you ask me: That is quintessential female empowerment. I mean smashing the car. Well, all right, and also women who behave like true friends.

I also once tried to smash a car. It was after a particularly traumatic relationship with a guy for whom "zero" is too good a description; gripped by an intolerable hormonal surge, I had wanted to see him as a Latin lover. Anyway, I drove with a girlfriend to his place of work in order to carry out my plot. The friend tried to calm me down all the way there.

"Internalize, internalize. Don't externalize your anger," she told me.

"I'm tired of internalizing, it makes me fat and nervous. All my life I've been internalizing, let me externalize for once," I said to her.

We arrived at the street where the zero's car was parked. In the empty lot opposite I found quite a large stone, picked it up and threw it with great force, or so I thought, at the front windshield of the Volkswagen Golf, but the stone hit the windshield and came back and rolled at my feet. I tried again without success. From afar we heard a car approaching.

"Get into the car already," shouted my friend.

I got in and she started to drive while my door was still open. I started to cry.

"What every 10-year-old boy in the territories does with the greatest of ease every day, I can't manage to do," I told my friend, and for some reason I found that funny. Instead of crying we both started laughing hysterically. That was the moment when, after months of suffering, I was finally cured of him.

That, my friends, was a formative moment of female empowerment, and to this day, to my delight, that zero remains the only example of a partner of mine of the insulting and humiliating variety; only a situation of temporary insanity can explain how I decided to speak to him at all.

And that's what I want to say Gila Katsav: You don't have to smash his car, but it's very important that you drive away really fast from there, from that man who raped and humiliated and harassed and threatened. In the end, I promise you, you'll get yourself a life, too.