Although I feel there are is a lot of information to discuss regarding my travels in Israel, both about feminism and spirituality, I don’t believe I can even begin to engage in the larger themes I encountered before I address a specific issue of concern.
Nothing can be done for feminism in Israel, the Middle East, or America so long as women continue to hate women. My trip to Israel was funded by Taglit Birthright Israel with 39 college age students. Over dinner, my women’s college education became the subject of discussion. It started with the usual: “Why did you choose an all girl’s school?”
I do not bring up the point that it’s a women’s college not an all girl’s school (though I wanted to). Instead, I tell the girl, “There is a huge difference in how women speak when they are assured that their voice will matter. I always knew I wanted a women’s college.”
Another girl chimes in. “I couldn’t go to an all girl’s school, I find girls too annoying. They’re so catty.”
The other three girls at the table agree with her. Some of the boys at the table pretend to be engaged in other conversation, but I know they’re all listening with great interest.
I ignore everyone else and focus on the one girl who spoke. “You do know you’re just hating women right? Women are not annoying, they are taught to behave a certain way and that’s the way they behave. It’s all social constructs.”
From across the table, another girl speaks. “I couldn’t go to an all girl’s school, I like looking at the men in my classes too much.” She and her friend laugh and their laughter drowns out the awkward clink of my fork against my plate.
Before I can respond the girl next to me joins the conversation. “I have a friend who graduated from your school last year, she said there were a lot of lesbians.”
The boys on the other end of the table are all clearly paying attention now. “No,” I explain clearly. “That is a stereotype that there are more lesbians at an all women’s college. I’m a tour guide for my school and we get that misconception a lot. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
“My friend graduated last year and she told me there are a lot of lesbians. I’m not talking about stereotypes. I’m talking about facts.”
The conversation goes off for a moment on how lesbians are more likely to choose all girl’s schools because there are more women there. I explain that it might seem like there are more lesbians because my college is very open about people’s sexuality and more people can express themselves in whatever way serves them best.
By the time the conversation ends, one of the boys makes a sweeping statement that if someone’s a lesbian it would be totally cool with him. I do not know if he is directing that comment to me and I ask him to clarify. He says he meant it generally to everyone. I wanted to laugh. He wouldn’t accept me as asexual. He wouldn’t accept me anything except straight and even that would be a stretch because I’m a feminist. I did not feel safe with the conversation.
I left the table soon after this.
I do not know where to begin. The majority of the sexist remarks came from other women! Sexism is frightening on so many fronts, but it’s never so terrifying as when women don’t even understand their own self-loathing. Women are taught to fear their sexuality, whether hetero- or homo- or somewhere in between or not at all. Women are taught to want to be men because women are annoying and catty. Who would want to be annoying and hated? Who would want to be a woman?
Not the women I met on my trip to Israel. Until women can wake up and understand that womanhood is not a lack, it’s not a disease and it’s not being subpar feminism cannot move forward. The patriarchy has women hating other women and fearing their sexuality because it divides us. Don’t let women hate women. Please, speak up in anyway you know how.