Golda Meir's Reluctant Feminism: The Pre-State Years
Israel Studies, 19.3 (Fall 2014), pp. 108-133
33 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2014 Last revised: 24 Nov 2017
Date Written: May 14, 2014
This article examines Golda Meir’s troubled relationship with the Jewish women’s movement in the pre-state period. It shows that although feminist in many aspects of her own personal life, Meir felt strong ambivalence towards feminism. In addition, Meir had a complex approach towards the "feminine" component in her identity (both as felt by her, and as manifested by others in public representations of Meir). She kept stressing that being a woman had never been an obstacle for her (which was inaccurate); she nurtured a dual persona – both strong and devoid of sentiment in some contexts ("masculine") but at the same time emotional in other contexts ("feminine"). Considering feminism a separatist movement and thus potentially damaging to the Zionist cause, Meir aligned herself politically with men rather than with women, and failed to identify the ideological bias embedded in the Zionist mainstream notion that the struggle for women’s rights are contradictory to the Zionist nation building project. Meir’s reluctant feminism is a product of her biography as well as of the social demand of women to cover (their "femininity") in order to be able to succeed in the public sphere, and at the same time to reverse cover (to signal their "femininity" nevertheless) in order to remain "feminine", and thus not cross the strict borders between the genders in a patriarchal world.
Keywords: Golda Meir, feminism, equality, discrimination, women's rights, gender
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