Introducing Israel’s Very Own 'Nasty Woman'

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Or Alterman. left, and Ayala Meromi Keinan of the Nasty Woman T-shirt initiative, August 2017.
Or Alterman, left, and Ayala Meromi Keinan of the Nasty Woman T-shirt initiative, August 2017.Credit: Moti Milrod

What do Donald Trump’s attempts to bully Hillary Clinton have to do with stricter dress codes for girls at Israeli public schools?

The short answer, according to a group of Israeli social entrepreneurs, is everything. That is, it’s all part of a global onslaught on women.

And now they’re striking back. Hoping to parlay Trump’s disdain and disrespect for his female opponent into a fundraising opportunity, these women are selling locally designed and produced “Nasty Woman” T-shirts and donating all the proceeds to Israeli organizations that empower women.

“Wear, Dare, B-aware!” is the slogan of their new campaign.

“Trump really broke all records with that remark,” says Ayala Meromi Keinan, a fashion designer and one of four women behind the initiative. “You could say we took it personally because as Israelis, we often feel that we’re the 51st state. It made all of us step back and think what we could do, as women and mothers of daughters here in Israel, to fight back.”

The campaign went live Sunday with a website for ordering the shirts and a Facebook page. The gray, sleeveless T-shirts, which have “Nasty Woman” written on them in either pink or black, were designed by Meromi Keinan and modeled after a popular item sold at her Tel Aviv women’s clothing shops.

When Trump used the phrase to attack Clinton during an election debate in October, it went viral overnight, becoming a feminist rallying cry. “Nasty woman” inspired T-shirts, art exhibits and a popular Twitter hashtag. It was also the title of a poem read by the actress Ashley Judd during the women’s protest march a day after Trump’s inauguration.

Or Alterman and Ayala Meromi Keinan of the Nasty Woman T-shirt initiative, August 2017.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Israeli Nasty Woman website features a video of Judd reciting that poem, as well as an Israeli take on it performed by singer songwriter Aya Korem.

“That night last November, we went to sleep thinking we would wake up to the sound of glass breaking in girls’ rooms around the world,” the website notes. “Instead, we woke up to discover that hatred of women had prevailed.”

Each Israeli-made “Nasty Woman” T-shirt costs 100 shekels ($28), which isn’t cheap. As Meromi Keinan explains, the campaign also aims to provide decent wages to society’s most disadvantaged women. All the cutting and sewing work is outsourced to Turning the Tables, an Israeli organization that helps break women out of the cycle of prostitution by providing them with marketable skills.

And all the proceeds from sales of the T-shirts will be donated to the Israel Women’s Network, a 30-year-old advocacy organization, and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.

The four women behind the campaign are old friends, and perhaps most significantly, as Meromi Keinan points out, all are mothers of daughters. It took them all these months to respond to Trump’s provocation, she says, “because we all have families and full-time careers and just needed to find time.”

Meromi Keinan recently founded a startup that provides a crowdfunding platform for fashion designers.

Or Alterman, one of her partners, is the founder of Mamazone, Israel’s largest online community for moms.

“America is not a bubble – what happens there affects all of us,” she says. “So we wanted to do something that would make a very strong statement, and at the same time, raise money for women’s causes. I can only hope that this is the opening shot in something much larger.”

The other partners in the venture are journalist Roni Singer and lobbyist Tamar Avramovich.

Trump’s use of the term “nasty woman,” in Alterman’s view, was a turning point in the campaign. “It proved that he was out on a witch hunt,” she says. “He had nothing of substance to say against Clinton, so he attacked her for being a woman. What we’re trying to do here is take ownership of this phrase and take it to a completely different place.”

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