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Noga

What Israel's feminist journal thinks about "Sex and the City"

This page highlights Noga, Israel’s Hebrew-language feminist journal which has been publishing for more than 20 years. It is edited by Rachel Ostrowitz, Mira Ariel, Rachel Giora, Erela Daor and Miri Krasin and funded by US/Israel Women to Women. Lilith believes it’s important to hear about Israeli women’s views directly from their own feminist publication. From Noga’s Summer 2002 issue, #41, summarized and translated by Naomi Danis.

REFUSING TO BE ENEMIES: FEMINISTS IN THE GREAT WAR

Just as war is identified with “brotherhood,” so, writes Amira Gelblum, have women used their “sisterhood” to oppose it. Women saw opposition to World War I as integral to their feminism. Feminists demanded to have their voices heard on questions of peace and war, and went beyond the traditional role of women in wartime: uncomplainingly sacrificing their sons and husbands, maintaining the home front, giving birth to and raising cannon fodder for the next war, taking on extra responsibilities and relinquishing them the moment the soldiers return home. The author shares the strategies of the World Congress of Women for Peace in 1915 and gives thumbnail portraits of activists.

SEX AND THE CITY: A CRITIQUE

Every few years an American television series comes along that reflects cultural changes of that era. They say “Sex and the City” is such a cultural signpost today, but Yael Hacohen and Noa Shuval don’t agree.

It’s clear why this series which brings the female orgasm to prime time arouses this revolutionary expectation—it focuses on the sexuality of the single woman and assumes that women are interested in sex, and talk about sex no less than men.

“Sex and the City” deals with the lives of four single women friends in their 30s who live in New York—all are white, thin and success-oriented. Each episode is built around a central question that Carrie, the main character, is researching for her weekly column about relationships between the sexes in New York.

In each episode the heroines meet and discuss the topic of the week creating the illusion of the development of independent thinking about female sexuality, not dictated by a reaction to male sexuality.

And yet, for example, when Carrie asks her friends if women can have sex like men Charlotte, the Puritan among them, asks if she means using a dildo. Samantha, the one who loves sex the most says, “No, that would mean having sex without feelings.” Both attitudes are identical in assuming that active female sexuality is not possible with without male attributes, biological (a physical phallus) or gender (lack of feeling). Alternative options for active female sexuality are not offered.

Though the heroines have money, attractive looks and social status their power is neutralized in the face of masculine power which is always stronger

Carrie falls in love with the male archetype “Big,” who is rich, older and an enigma. At the end of the first episode Big collects Carrie who is stuck on the street with no way to get home, a classic example of the knight in shining armor rescuing a maiden in distress. On horseback (in the limousine) Big explains to her that she thinks she can have sex like a man only because she has never really been in love—the ultimate putdown.

The only character in the series who (perhaps) tries to subvert the familiar dichotomy is Miranda, who doesn’t rule out males with a lower status. And she chooses to keep her relative power in relation to them. However, because Miranda is “not willing to compromise,” she is punished. In the third episode her work partner mistakenly assumes she’s a lesbian. There is no place for active female heterosexuality.

The high expectations for the series don’t materialize. Mostly we see Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha in classic “single women” preoccupation—with their girlfriends, in hunting grounds where they catch men, or shopping for designer shoes. Hacohen and Shuval’s advice; Consider purchasing one pair of comfortable shoes.

GLOBALIZATION AND WORK IMMIGRATION IN ISRAEL

Adriana Camp discusses the long-term implications of short-term decisions made in the 90s by the Israeli government: Laborers were imported from overseas to do “dirty, dangerous, difficult” work that in the past had often been done by Palestinians. The government acted as if it could import labor without importing immigrants and has neglected the human rights of these workers and its responsibility to help them. “Indeed,” writes Camp, “it is the impossibility of .making this separation that locates the story of importing labor at the eye of the political storms in a large part of the Western world in the last fifty years.”