Protesting Pornography

On Friday morning, a group of feminist activists made their way through central Tel Aviv, collecting the free pornographic magazines handed out at several kiosks and newsstands. And this is just the beginning of a string of activities, the women say

At 10:30 A.M. on Friday, as the regular clientele of the cafes on Ben Yehuda Street were sipping their first cup of coffee of the day, Dorit Abramovitz, who manages campaigns for women's organizations, and some 30 feminist women and a handful of men jolted Tel Avivians awake with a thunderous, radical chant: "Indifferent residents of Tel Aviv: Trade in women must be prohibited."

"All the women's organizations decided to launch protests against the free distribution of pornographic magazines like 'Banana' and 'Seximo' in Tel Aviv, where they are handed out gratis at certain convenience stores and newsstands," says Abramovitz. "The decision to protest these magazines was taken within the framework of an ongoing campaign by the Women's International Zionist Organization, which was recently launched against pornographic advertisements that are harmful to women. The campaign will culminate on International Women's Day on March 8, with an event in Tel Aviv, where the advertisement that has been most harmful to women in 2008 will be announced and will be awarded a mark of shame by the organization."

The activists enter a nearby convenience store, gathering the magazines into a black garbage bag. The proprietor is stunned. "Take them, take them," he says. The owner of the next kiosk says he refuses to stock the "Banana" magazines. "You'll get a feminine seal of kashrut," the activists joke with him.

The activists spot pornographic DVDs, stocked at the entrance to Kiosk Tami. "You are not allowed to stock this," says attorney Tami Katsbian. "Get out of here," the owner shrieks. Tempers get heated. The convenience store proprietor starts cursing and threatening the women. After several minutes the police decide to intervene -- not before informing the women that they are disrupting public order. The group moves on to the next kiosk, near Allenby Street, continuously dumping magazines into the garbage bag.

"The public's indifference is saddening," says Ronit Ehrenfroind- Cohen, director of the department for the status of women at WIZO. "I am learning that people are not aware, that they are cynical and have no desire to take a stand and do something. They walk by and leaf through 'Banana,' and for a moment they might actually think that this isn't okay. That's why there is no alternative but to take to the streets, initiate campaigns and promote awareness of the issue."

In King George Street, the group comes to a halt. All of them have strained their vocal chords, but they know the action has been a success. "It is necessary to continue this activity and move on to other cities," they conclude.