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Thursday, February 14, 2013 

Managers of Philatelic Service are "culturally sensitive" cowards

The Philatelic Service is the company that makes postal stamps. Yehudit Ayalon, a veteran of the modern Israeli state's early days, was angered by their reluctance to use pictures of her in shorts - a fact about women toiling in factories in those early years - for anniversary stamps:
Yehudit Ayalon, one of Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael's founders, was very happy to receive a request several weeks ago from the postal service's Philatelic Service. She was informed that soon a new stamp would be issued to honor "100 years of industry in Israel" and was asked whether she might have old photographs from the Ayalon Institute, where she worked when she was young.

Ayalon, now 88, is exactly the person to turn to in this matter. She is named after the institute that was a secret ammunition factory that operated until the State of Israel was established, producing bullets for the Haganah underground.

She wrote in reply to the letter: "Indeed we have photos of the Ayalon Institute, including the production of bullets for the War of Independence." Together with Shaul Goldberg, director of the kibbutz's archives, Ayalon collected and sent to the Philatelic Service photos of young women - including herself - working in the factory and in the laundry built above it to conceal its real purpose.

Still, the response of the Philatelic Service shocked her: "Could you possibly find photos that feature less women with bare legs?"

Speaking to Haaretz on Tuesday, she said: "The nerve! I couldn't contain myself and wrote about it in the kibbutz leaflet." Ayalon recounted in her short piece her letter of response. "The words 'exclusion of women' and 'religious coercion' figured prominently in the letter - and that what the end of that. We didn't hear from them anymore."

Why does the Philatelic Service fear photos of women in shorts?

Yaron Ratzon, director of the Philatelic Service responded: "The Philatelic Service issues stamps dealing with various issues, while strictly observing that 50 percent of the figures on the stamps are women. It must be noted that the stamps, official symbols of the State of Israel, are sold in all post offices to all populations in a uniform fashion. Therefore we take special care that the issues, illustrations and photos do not insult the feelings of any segment of the population."

Ayalon sounded amused. She was happy to reminisce about the old times: "When we worked in the factory, in 1948, we wore working clothes of the time - short pants," explaining why the girls dared be photographed in such outlandish attire.
I can see what that stupid man is saying - in other words, he's preaching "cultural sensitivity" and claiming that they don't want to use simple statements of fact because they're afraid of offending Haredis and/or Muslims. Is that it? I guess so.

I see nothing pornographic about women wearing shorts any more than a picture of bikini babes in Sports Illustrated. And it was something that a lot of women at the time wore between the 30s and 70s. Is there something so wrong with history that they have to become such disgusting cowards? If the specific customers Ratzon doesn't have the courage to name don't want to buy the stamps, they don't have to. There's no need to go out of their way to be so insulting to the feelings of veterans like Mrs. Ayalon and the company she's named after. But that's what they did, exactly what they argue they don't want to do, by sexualizing her. Objectification, as I can guess, goes 2 ways: just like women wouldn't like being viewed as sex objects, and neither would they like being told they're "too sexy".

Now if they had just decided to use say, a picture of her face without making such a fuss, that would have been the way to go, and she wouldn't have had to feel so mad at them. Instead, they went miles out of their way to suggest they're a bunch of cowards who care more about money than offering a serious education about the history of the country's fashion trends.

The Philatelic Service owes Ayalon an apology for making a mountain out of a molehill and insulting her as a woman, and I think they'd do well to use the pictures provided, as I figure that's all the Ayalon Institute can really offer anyway. And they should stop providing otherwise worthless papers like Haaretz with something to use against them.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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