This season’s elections brought a reduced number of women in parties across the political spectrum. Only one party had five women and five men in its top 10. One party had a woman at the helm, Yamina – a new party formed by Jewish Home, Ichud Haleumi and the New Right. Ayelet Shaked headed the list and worked hard for its success.
So it was jarring to see a poster for Yamina, that did not have Shaked’s name or face — even though it hung in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Rather, it showed two men from Jewish Home. Most of Yamina’s other posters do in fact show Shaked, as she is the head of the list.
Of course, her absence was noted on social media. Some were outraged; others brushed it off as no big deal.
At the same time, across the ocean, another set of posters was hung — to support a Bais Yaakov girls school in the face of the “spiritual Holocaust” that is sending one’s daughters to public school. The young girl gracing the poster has long blonde hair, a school bag, and no face.
That’s right. Her face has been blurred. Some pointed out the irony of erasing a young girl in the very poster that claims to worry about her extinction.
In response to this image, a woman wrote:
“I don’t love it, but I’ve heard worse. I wouldn’t fight against this idea… The idea & the point is modesty. Not showing women’s and girls’ faces is one way people are trying to stay modest. … Putting women and girls on billboards is just not modest. That’s what makes them into sexual objects.”
She is one of a handful of women who I have heard express similar statements.
“What’s the big deal?”
“I would never want to be on a poster.”
“Women are meant to be behind the scenes.”
Every woman has the right to choose not to be on a billboard, magazine or advertisement — for herself. Beyond that personal choice, this is my message to every woman who says she does not mind if her face isn’t on a poster: This isn’t about you.
It’s not about you and it’s not about me. It’s not even about faces on posters at all. It’s about women being seen and heard so that our needs are met, so that our concerns are heard, so that our diseases can be named, so that our health matters, so that when we are abused, it’s an outrage, so that when we voice issues, people listen, so that our opinions count. This doesn’t happen if we are invisible, if we are silenced.
Our daughters need a world where they matter. Where they are not blurred or erased.
Our sons needs a world where women are people, not just sexual objects, there to tempt them or slake their lust.
Our community needs both women and men working together towards the problems we face.
It’s not about you or me or any one of us, it’s about a healthy balanced community where women are seen and heard.
The erasure of women does damage. It creates a reality where women don’t count, where our opinions are not sought and not truly weighed. It creates a reality where it is okay not to consider women’s perspectives. It creates a reality where a woman cannot advertise her business effectively.
It creates a reality where women are not tzelem Elokim — dignified human beings made in the divine image, but rather, a face and a body that exists solely as a sexual object. This objectification has women protesting in Facebook groups, in letters to magazines, and in pleas to rabbinic leadership: “Do not erase us!”
In seeking the broadest base, and in aiming to be “culturally sensitive,” Yamina gave in to those who say women cannot be seen. They erased Ayelet Shaked, the woman at their helm, the woman who gets credit for their good showing in the polls.
Accepting the policy of erasing women as legitimate for those who do it is to give in to a warped and twisted notion of Judaism. I call on every woman to not allow herself to be erased. I call on every man to say that if his female colleagues are not visible in advertising that uses the men’s headshots, “Erase me too,” and insist that his image be removed as well.