In the tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a boy pointed at the naked king and shouted what everyone saw but didn’t dare say. Two hundred years after Hans Christian Andersen the reverse is happening. Children, teenage girls, to be exact, are fighting “the shorts protest” for their right to wear a special garment with a miraculous quality – “stupid people cannot see it.”
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Anyone who doesn’t want to admit he’s stupid, or too old, has joined the campaign. Like the emperor’s advisers who were sent to watch the weavers’ sewing and report, the envoys of the feminist struggle, MKs Merav Michaeli and Michal Biran, went to the high school in which the protest began.
“The shorts are just a symbol. The girls’ struggle nationwide is against discrimination and education for inequality,” Michaeli reported. After this visit, woe to anyone who admits it’s not shorts but underwear, or says he sees exposed buttocks rather than the symbol of the new struggle against discrimination and inequality.
And woe to anyone who sees the ugliness and violence that have become part of the feminist campaign in recent years. Only here and there are voices hesitantly pointing at the problems. The ugly, violent responses follow immediately and they are always the same – men are aggressive by nature and women are victims who have adopted the aggressor’s position, trapped forever in false consciousness.
Lately it seems the only way feminism shows young girls to free themselves of false consciousness is by adopting it. The shorts protest, like the SlutWalk held last month, are good examples. In both cases the woman is doing to herself “by choice” what men do to her, in a bid to cancel the coercion effect. Instead of men objectifying women and using their body as a jumble of limbs that don’t add up to a subject, from now on women will objectify themselves. Did you think that a bottom sticking out of shorts is a woman’s bottom, associated with sexuality? Think again. From now on it’s a limb like any other – a man’s or a woman’s, it doesn’t matter – that needs airing (because it’s hot), just like an object.
Instead of men undressing women forcibly, let the women undress themselves. Instead of men calling them “sluts,” let women march naked in the city and call themselves sluts. The rationality behind these protests is reminiscent of the rationality behind eating disorders. There too the woman has the illusion that she has control of her body. Instead of society dictating to her regimented standards of beauty, the woman becomes her own drill sergeant and starves herself. Just like an eating disorder is not a solution but part of the disease, so are the shorts protest and SlutWalk.
A courageous feminist leadership is required to direct girls back to a healthy struggle, which respects its achievements and is loyal to its own values. A struggle that will remind us that female pioneers in Israel wore shorts and Israeli girls always went to school in shorts (but not in underwear). The undressing, the defiant sexuality and adoption of the language of pornography will lead to women’s liberation just as eating disorders led to freedom from the dictate to be thin. On the contrary, they will deepen the oppression and act as a banal PR campaign that uses buttocks and a bare chest to sell a struggle that has lost its way.