Op-Ed by Steph Black
Jewish Zionist women are a crucial aspect of the resistance to the patriarchy. Excluding us only harms the movement.
Since the first Women’s March on Washington on January 21st of 2017, the debate surrounding progressivism and Zionism–the struggle for Jewish self-determination–has increased but gotten nowhere. It is time to put down the litmus test for activists and welcome Zionist feminists into the struggle for women’s equality.
Both anti-Semitism and misogyny are on the rise and Jewish, Zionist women feel this tension acutely. Compared to the first two months of 2016 and the first two months of 2018, anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 30%. And in Trump’s first 100 days in office, there were over 100 incidents of the administration actively undoing and passing legislation that harms women, such as refusing to advocate for equal pay, slashing child-care assistance, and attacking Planned Parenthood.
And yet many celebrities and prominent activists often do not mention Jews as an oppressed people or challenge antisemitism in their advocacy. When invoking the spirit of intersectionality, it is not often that one will hear or see Jews and antisemitism mentioned.
Jews frequently face non-nuanced litmus tests about their views on Israel before being welcomed into progressive circles. Take the incidents surrounding the Chicago Dyke March and the Chicago SlutWalk. Jews, simply holding flags of Stars of David superimposed over the Pride Flag, were told they could not participate. The organizers defended their move by saying that the Stars of David represented the Zionist movement and were therefore not allowed in the march.
This exclusion has also been a common theme with other Women’s Marches. Various activists have made it clear that there is no room for Zionists of any kind–feminist, progressive or otherwise–in their March.
So where does this leave a Zionist feminist? Where does this leave a Jewish progressive?
I am struggling to find my place within the women’s rights movement as someone who identifies as all of these things. I am so passionate and driven in my strife for women’s equality and liberation, and yet because Zionism is a part of my Jewish identity, I have been deliberately excluded from progressive spaces. My work for the Jewish right to self-determination globally has barred me from participation.
My freshman year I roomed with another very progressive, feminist activist. She and I got along and agreed on pretty much every issue. But I was one of the first Jews she had ever met. And because of that, she would continually harass me about my views on Israel. She would not agree to disagree. Her constant harassment became anti-Semitic. Ultimately, I moved out.
It took a while before I was again able to proudly say that I am a Zionist and stand by my views. After the 2017 Women’s March left many other Zionist progressives out of the picture, I almost didn’t come to the 2018 March. I refused to compromise my identity to appease those who refuse to allow nuanced views and differences in their movement.
But when Zioness Movement reached out and asked for people to lead a contingent of progressive, Pro-Israel Jews to the march, I couldn’t refuse. Zioness, born out of dozens of Jewish activists being told to leave various Pride marches and parades in the summer of 2017 simply for being Jewish and Zionist, stood up and said: enough. This is an organization I am proud to work with. I organized a group whose values reflected my own and who also felt pushed out of the Women’s march. I marched with this group to show that Jews have always been on the front lines of social justice movements and that Jewish self-determination and progressive values go hand in hand. I marched to show that Zionism and progressivism, or Judaism and feminism are not mutually exclusive, and are in fact complements.
I am proud to have brought Jewish voices and values to the march with me this year and hope to do so again in the future. Zionist women belong in the struggle and we are part of this fight for women’s equality. I am proud to call myself a Zionist feminist.
Steph is a Women's Studies major at American University in DC, a city she loves. Steph can be found reading next to her cat Goose, writing about feminism and Judaism, or protesting around the city for basic human rights. Follow her on Twitter at @stephreflects, Instagram @stephrose1620, or check out her website at stephblack.blog.