pJewishMisanthropy announces "Kosher Camera" that erases women in real time
Yesterday eJewish Philanthropy released a special, satirical Purim edition of their usual newsletter called pJewishMisanthropy. The whole thing is absolutely hilarious--at least it should be to any of us working in the Jewish communal world who read often-vague articles about the future of "peoplehood," "Jewish innovation," "leadership," and "engagement" in the ever-changing Jewish American/Israeli landscape. Still, one story in particular caught my attention.
In a "sponsored advertisement," pJewishMisanthropy announced the world's first "Kosher Camera," a camera that lets you erase women from images as you take them. They even designed a whole website for the product.
To answer the need for images without the display of women and girls, our dedicated scientists have developed the Kosher Camera. Sophisticated, built-in facial recognition software analyzes a scene and detects all the faces within the frame. It then covers the feminine faces with one of several options: our Mehadrin Mask (brown paper bag), the Glatt Blot (pixilated face), or Modern Modesty (black bar obscuring the eyes).
So funny, and yet, it's the kind of funny that causes a slight twinge of pain in your gut at the end of each laugh. Why? Because it reminds us of the sad reality that ultra-Orthodox Jews are trying to erase women and girls form published or public images, including newspapers and advertisements.
Back in May, 2011, Brooklyn-based, ultra-Orthodox, Hasidic Jewish newspaper, Der Tzitung, photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of the photo of U.S. leaders receiving an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden. People were outraged, and thank goodness, since the incident was clearly symbolic of the denial that women have a place beside men in the "Situation Rooms" of our government, our communities, and our own lives.
In response, funny Jews, including those from Heeb, started an internet meme called Hasidic Photoshop. In the meme, people photoshopped women out of important or iconic images, with both hilarious and harrowing results. But now, with "Kosher Camera," you don't even need Hasidic Photoshop to erase women--you can do it in real time!
And therein lies the brilliance of this kind of satire; it puts into perspective just how ridiculous and outrageous this practice is, while at the same time lets us--the people hurt deeply, the people doing the work of making change--unload some tension and have a good, shared, laugh at the opposition's expense.
And now, the "Kosher Camera" provides some much-needed relief after recent months of challenging ultra-Orthodox efforts in Israel to ban women from advertisements and other images in public space. The idea of a camera that covers up women is absolutely ridiculous. And so is the idea that women should be absent from public space, in photos or in person.
In December, 2011, The New Israel Fund (NIF) launched a series of initiatives to address the issue and make sure women are not erased from the public eye. In one initiative, they collected photos of women holding this sign (Hebrew version) to demonstrate just how many people believe women should be seen and heard.
Last month, the Yerushalmi movement petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice against the exclusion of women from ads displayed on public buses traveling through the capital. The State Prosecution ruled that advertisements featuring pictures of women must be allowed in all parts of Jerusalem. In a statement, the State Prosecutor's Office said, “Erasing every hint of the female sex from outdoor advertisements deals a blow to women's honor, to their right to equality and to their freedom of expression."
This particular battle is far from over, but thanks to "Kosher Camera" we can enjoy a good laugh, even when the truth is not so funny.