I love the Olympics. My favorite athletes are always the Americans and the Israelis- I always root for both. One of my favorite sports to watch is gymnastics and I’m hoping to see the Israelis and Americans in action.
Last week, Reuters put out a photo of Linoy Ashram, an Israeli rhythmic gymnast. The photo was of the young woman during an event at the European Championships using the ball. It showed her legs, her torso, and her arms with the ball, but her head was completely unseen. My guess is that this move had her in a backbend and the angle of the photo just didn’t show her head. It’s a good photo (catching someone mid-leap is not easy) but it was a bit creepy.
However, what’s even more creepy was what came later. I had commented “where’s her face?” And a few people responded. One of them was someone who said that “the Israeli terror regime won’t show her face.”
What makes that even more creepy was my initial reaction (entirely in my head) to that. It was “there’s actually some truth to that. There are those among us Jews who don’t want women’s faces seen.”
It took me a minute to realize what that post actually was- an antisemitic smear. My actual response had me pointing out the terror regime that forces women to wear burqas and that executes rape victims and lesbians and of course that’s not Israel.
But the fact that my initial reaction actually gave some truth to that is something creepier than anything else. When we have our own Jewish publications that won’t use photos of women, when ads for children’s clothing replace girl faces with doll faces, when fundraising ads include photos of male honorees but not female honorees, when speaking events advertise the male speakers using their photos but won’t use photos for their female speakers, etc, that just gives fuel for the fire.
Do we really want to be Mechallel Hashem? Do we really want to empower our enemies? Do we really want our girls to be like the girls in the real terror regimes- faceless and powerless? Do we want our boys to learn that they have no power over themselves and cannot be mentschen? And all over something that has no basis in Halacha or Mesorah?
I don’t want any of that. It’s too scary a thought. Much scarier than a headless gymnast.