a superhero fight for Women’s rights in the Middle East
Wonder Woman is exactly that. She stands for justice and truth, compassion and kindness. Wonder Woman is so fabulous, even her accessories are indestructible and face it, who doesn’t love fashion that has truth wielding super powers?
It seems quite fitting that the bodacious Gal Gadot, one of the best Israeli exports since Waze and Mobileye, fills this iconic role. Beautiful, with Amazonian proportions and a deep love of her home country, Israel, Gadot is the perfect choice. While there are some who have sour grapes (yes you, BDS!) it hasn’t stopped her meteoric rise to the top and record-breaking box office takings. Talk about girl power in a rocking outfit!
Wonder Woman has super human strength, longevity and mind-blowing reflexes – well, what do you expect from someone who served in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)! She is a celebration of feminism and femininity and we Israelis are kvelling, we are so proud of our gal, Gal.
Neighbourhood of No’s
Women’s rights in the rest of the Middle East are not as wonder-ful. Often relegated to second class status, our sisters in our very volatile neighbourhood do not enjoy as many rights as their Israeli sisters do. Israel’s detractors (yes, you again BDS!) would have you believe that women in minority communities in Israel are oppressed and subject to racially discriminating laws. This is so untrue, in fact, the Israeli Justice Ministry just swore in its first Qadi – a female sharia judge.
For most women who live in the region, the Middle East is just a neighbourhood of no’s. No rights to vote; own property or a business; no rights to as lucrative an education as their male counterparts; no rights to the freedom of expression or sexual orientation.
In Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights are at an all-time low, women are not even allowed to drive a motor vehicle or go anywhere without a chaperone. In many Muslim countries women must cover their faces as well as their bodies and the message is one of being – silenced!
In some instances, women are subject to the most inhumane torture, such as genital mutilation, for fear that she may enjoy sexual pleasure.
Where women have been raped or fallen in love with someone who is not their chosen match, they are often blamed and face what is called “honour killings”. A hideous phenomenon, it has led to much ‘religiously sanctioned’ murder of young women or their severe disfigurement.
Most of these acts, mostly by members of the girl or woman’s family, go unpunished!
While women around the world celebrated International Woman’s Day on the 8th of March, not however the Palestinian women in Hamas-governed Gaza! There were prohibited from enjoying similar festivities. Hamas gave no reason reason, and the territory continues to become more and more “conservative” and have imposed a strict dress code on women and banned them from smoking in cafes.
It is not just Muslim women who suffer from inequality. Christian women have been raped and sold into slavery or killed as the Islamic State continues its march of destruction through the neighbourhood. Very little has entered the global consciousness about the situation facing Middle Eastern Christian women. There have been no marches, no protests and no vigils.
In some ultra-Orthodox sects in the Jewish community, women are also discriminated against. The horrendous trend of spitting on little girls who are not dressed “modest enough” or the relegation of women to sitting at the back of the bus has raised the ire of many women in Israel. While we enjoy considerably more rights than our sisters in much of the Middle East, like western women, we still need to continue the fight for the improvement of the status of women in areas like equal-pay-for-equal work, irrespective of gender.
The difference is that we can – we have a voice and will not be silenced.
Blazing a trail
In fact, Israel can boast about remarkable strides in women’s equality.
We can lay claim to one of the first female Prime Ministers in Golda Meir, Nobel Prize winners in science and other fields, Arab women who serve in the diplomatic corps, who are beauty queens and win cooking competitions like MasterChef. In Israel, women can be pilots, pioneers, entrepreneurs and home executives, ballerinas and superheroes. They can be anything they want to be. We can blaze a trail for our sisters across the region. Nobody is stopping us.
It is only fitting that we add Gal Gadot to the pantheon of Israeli Wonder Women.
The pursuit of justice and equal rights for women in the Middle East requires super human effort and dedication. It requires giving the voiceless a voice, uplifting the downtrodden and advocating for the powerless. Women in the Middle East have been wondering for a long time – who speaks on their behalf?
Perhaps Wonder Woman, with her dedication to the pursuit of justice and her exceptional longevity is the super hero women in the region have been waiting for. Some might say it is a Herculean task. I say it is a job perfect for Wonder Woman.