The chief of staff’s adviser on women’s affairs has urged all Israel Defense Forces soldiers to stop printing offensive and sexist T-shirts that demean women and others.
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In a letter sent to all IDF commanders and soldiers titled “On T-shirts and sexual harm,” Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel noted the sexual messages being printed on T-shirts designed to commemorate the end of Israeli army training courses – for instance, ones treating rape lightly or objectifying women.
“A shirt was printed for the Engineers Corps, showing a sexual act beneath the words ‘Disarming bombshells,’ which triggered a social media uproar,” she wrote. “Another shirt, printed more than three years ago by the Givati Brigade, showed a drawing of a woman and the words ‘Do you think you were raped?’”
Some argue that the T-shirts are “humorous” and harmless, Tevet-Wiesel wrote, “but messages that mock rape and treat women as objects subject them to debasement, mockery and can lead to sexual assault. Using expressions and images of this sort on T-shirts creates a troubled environment for women and men alike,” she added.
It is the responsibility of the commanders to ensure that such shirts are not printed anymore, Tevet-Wiesel noted, adding that when their existence is made public, the shirts damage the IDF’s image.
Under IDF procedures, printing any special T-shirt to mark an occasion requires the permission of the brigade commander. However, sometimes soldiers and officers of lower ranks print the shirts themselves, not asking for army funding or permission.
In 2009, following an article in Haaretz about soldiers’ T-shirts that showed, for instance, a rifle being aimed at a child, mosques being blown up and statements like “We shall not rest until we have confirmed the kill,” then-chief education officer Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister wrote a letter to IDF units, noting that “even humor has its limits.”