Images of female soccer players that were put up on billboards in Jerusalem as part of a photo exhibition were defaced on Wednesday with black spray paint, following on the heels of a similar incident earlier this week.
The exhibition, “Stand Firm,” by photographer Alma Machness-Kass, was mounted late last month on billboards on Herzl Boulevard, at one of the entrances to the city, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The photos depict women’s soccer teams that Machness-Kass had accompanied over three and a half years.
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“It’s a shock,” said Machness-Kass. “It wasn’t as if we hung them in some neighborhood, this is a major road in the capital. They also sprayed the women in a violent and focused manner. We made sure that the players would be dressed and modestly so.”
“It’s painful to see this, because these women get on the field against all the odds, and the objective of the exhibition was to show that violence against women starts long before the cases we hear about. It begins when female soccer players don’t get a platform, when there aren’t any broadcasts [of their games] on the Sports Channel. The goal was to make room for them in the public space and just the opposite happened,” Machness-Kass said, adding that she plans to file a vandalism complaint with the police.
Advertisements featuring women are routinely defaced by radical ultra-Orthodox activists. Ad companies in Jerusalem have stopped accepting outdoor advertising featuring women and the Egged bus company no longer permits people to appear in its Jerusalem bus ads at all, so as to avoid vandalism on the one hand and discrimination against women on the other.
Many companies produce ads without women just for Jerusalem, separately from ads for the rest of the country. The Hadassah Medical Center, for example, advertises its labor rooms with images of beds, and the Jerusalem Municipality advertises the city’s marathon by way of a pair of running feet. Other companies ran ads featuring illustrated figures of women rather than photographs of them, which were also sprayed frequently.
The exclusion of images of women in the public space previously ranked high on the city’s agenda. In one campaign, posters hanging from balconies in the city featured photos of women alongside messages against omitting them, while City Councilor Rachel Azaria petitioned the High Court of Justice to force media companies to put her campaign ads on buses. Seven years ago, following the public outcry, there were advertisers that took pains to include women in their outdoor advertising, but in recent years that trend has been halted.