“The revolution of feminism wouldn’t have brought women this far if its leaders and supporters would have at any time heeded the “friendly” advise to refrain from identifying themselves with the cause.”
Dr Einat Wilf
Earlier this year I was invited to spend six days in Israel with Project Together* to meet the country’s most influential women and learn about their roles across Israeli society. From female politicians and journalists to athletes and activists – everyone was fighting for gender equality in their own way.
One woman particularly stood out to me; Israeli writer and former politician, Dr Einat Wilf. Sitting in an intimate circle, we listened to Einat’s theory on feminism and without sounding melodramatic, those 60 minutes changed everything for me. She spoke rationally and with enviable authority about the ideology of feminism and why some are so uncomfortable with it.
“Wanting equality is to demand a different distribution of power, and some find this difficult to accept – usually from those whose power is being 'taken'. That's when they start to realise that if you can get a woman to feel uncomfortable with their power, you can slow down the revolution.”
Well, fuck that.
We asked the million dollar question; should we be using the word ‘feminist’ to identify ourselves with? The word has become so stigmatised that even those who support its underlying political purpose feel at times uncomfortable to publicly identify as one (including myself). Here’s what Einat had to say:
“Nothing could be more dangerous to the cause of the empowerment of women than subscribing to the friendly advice of those who suggest that we abstain from using the word “feminism” to identify themselves. To give up the use of this word is to play into the hands of those who hope to see the revolution rolled back.”
From that point on, I was 100% committed to publicly identifying myself as a feminist – something I had always recoiled from. Einat and all the incredible women I met that week in Israel gave me the confidence boost I needed as a young, female business owner in the professional world that can often feel male-dominated and stifling.
Why we must continue the conversation in real life
Like most women, there have been a few incidents in my life where I’ve been treated ‘less than’ a man and I’ve experienced countless small but significant gestures to put me in my place. From the subtle behaviours to intimidate and harass to the violations of space you learn to shake off. It starts early on and it becomes the norm, and it happens a lot in the workplace. We want work to be a place we want to come to work, not continually looking over our shoulders for the sexist put down or innuendo, or be afraid of worse.
As I’ve followed #MeToo in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, it’s been encouraging to see the responses of men who have used this as an opportunity to discuss openly and commit to do better by the women in their lives.
To see global female solidarity take place online was empowering, but it’s so important to continue this conversation in real life to initiate the change women have been hoping for.
The solutions for these issues are complex but definitely within our grasp, and it starts with a common vision; we need to expose and reframe our deep held beliefs about girls and women’s worth and roles in society – to celebrate the feisty nature of girls and encourage them to express themselves fully and openly, just as we do with boys.
I count myself very fortunate to work with two males at If Not Now who not only support this common vision, but will whole-heartedly campaign alongside me for women's rights (in and outside of work) not because they have to, but because they want to. We'll continue to have these conversations online and offline and encourage others to do the same to initiate the change we want to see.
*Huge thank you to Project Together and the students at Ben Gurion
Project Together is run by a brilliant student group from the Ben Gurion University. They invited five women from around the world to come share their experience in female entrepreneurship and women’s rights, and to learn about female roles in Israeli society. Amazingly, my work for #SHEvotes through If Not Now caught their eye and I was one of the five women to take part.
Never have I been so impressed by a group of young people as I was with these amazing students. Intelligent, friendly, ambitious, (a little bonkers) and incredibly funny; their maturity and kindness was overwhelming. A huge thank you to everyone who welcomed me into their country and shared their complex history and culture so passionately.
Hanna is one of three directors and co-founders of If Not Now Digital. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or find her on LinkedIn.
With current world news focussed heavily on Israel and Palestine it would be inappropriate not to recognise the sensitivity of this post and the strong emotions that may conjure for some people. The team at If Not Now are very aware of the shortfalls of many governments, world leaders and individuals. However that should not stop us - or anyone - from encouraging and supporting the actions and views that we feel do work towards freedom, equality and justice.