Faking Feminism

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The issue of the exclusion of women and their marginalization in Israeli society has dominated the media in Israel during the past few weeks. In this article, which was originally published in The Seventh Eye on December 25, 2011, Dr. Debora Lederman-Danieli argues that the media's struggle against the phenomenon of the degradation of women requires much more than disingenuous, populist outcries.

Overnight, the exclusion of women seems to have become the hottest news story in the media. The issue is at the center of primetime news broadcasts, news flashes, and calls for action just short of feminist civil-disobedience from women's magazines on the internet. "We will not be silenced!" scream the headlines in media aimed at women - the same media that usually sells itself through slogans like "Five steps to looking hot and sexy" or "How to buy a push up bra."

Relegating women to the back of the bus is indeed ugly. But is relating to women as superficial objects whose aspirations are limited to revealing Bar Raphaeli's beauty secrets not an ugly and degrading phenomenon as well?

In actual fact, media aimed at women, whether print media or the internet, usually excludes complex and weighty issues, distancing them from the headlines, and is careful not to be too heavy, too critical, or too feminist. It focuses mainly on compressing the world of women into a narrow and conformist women's zone, one that is driven primarily by gossipy curiosity and the overwhelming desire to purchase any product that appears on the pages of the magazine. This is how a well-disciplined population of female consumers is created, the kind whose vision is clouded and whose ability to think critically has been stifled.

Women's magazines shower us daily with pictures of scantily-clad women in provocative poses, through which we and our daughters are taught to adopt distorted models of objectified femininity. We learn that we must strive to be seductive and alluring like the models on the cover, and to display ourselves as objects, in accordance with the "user-friendly," desired standards.

So much evidence points to this educational process that it is as transparent as the infamous "glass ceiling." All one has to do is to examine the undisputed cultural heroines who appear frequently on the covers of women's magazines. In most cases, these are not strong minded women who are championing worthy causes; rather, they are women who have adopted and internalized the normative and objectifying standards of what is considered desirable feminine appearance, and little more.

Given the above, it would seem that the outraged feminist-media campaign against the exclusion of women is nothing more than a well-timed PR move. It is a reflection more of hypocrisy and fraud than of a real struggle against the exclusion and objectification of women.

A media campaign against the degradation of women requires much more than disingenuous, populist outcries. It needs deep introspection into the way in which the media relates to femininity and to the female body. The very same media outlets that are currently decrying the exclusion of women must take responsibility for their own degrading use of women in advertising, media, and commerce, which they employ as a matter of course. 

Dr. Debora Lederman-Danieli is an expert in existential philosophy.

This article was originally published in Hebrew in The Seventh Eye journal on December 25, 2012. The original article can be found here.