Salt in the wound

The iconic illustration of a woman sprinkling a pinch of salt was recently removed from Salit’s salt packaging. The company claimed the drawing was removed so as to specifically mark the products for Passover. But do we even really need a picture of a woman on a product like house salt? Why has this question not been asked during the public debate that followed the illustration’s removal? Why does a salt company need a depiction of a housewife sprinkling a pinch of salt?

Throughout history, women were considered home-makers, while men dominated the public sphere. Women were meant for the kitchen, and men were meant to use their strength to run all other matters. Let’s assume, as has been reported, that it was the ultra-Orthodox who pressured the company to remove the female logo from the product. Also, let’s assume Salit became much more conservative and decided to remove the logo itself. Is it really necessary to fight against exclusion of women? Well, the answer is no, because we don’t want the picture of a woman on the product in the first place. Women should be equal to men and not objects for advertising.

The majority shareholder of Salit salt is wealthy Israeli businesswoman Shari Arison. Why didn’t Arison ever wonder, as a thinking woman, why the company she owned relegated the woman to the kitchen? Arison in her position could have changed the modus operandi of the companies she owned, and this step could have been a stepping stone in changing gender perceptions in Israel (changing the image in foods, culture and overall). So why didn’t Salit remove the female logo from its products earlier? It seems there are some parts of the male outlook that are hard to part with, because of tradition, and also as a result of women entering the male-run world of business.

The media immediately responded with banter, outrage, and slandering of the ultra-Orthodox lobby that allegedly caused the image to be removed. But a quick verification proved that there was no threat of boycott by any haredi companies of any kind. On the contrary, it was Salit that called for the change in labeling specifically to differentiate the product for Passover. The banter in the media was based on the assumption that the ultra-Orthodox caused the logo to be removed itself revealed the media’s conservative outlook. It is very easy to jump to conclusions during a time when women are removed from billboards in haredi areas, ordered not to sing at army ceremonies, and told to sit in the back of the bus.

We could have found ourselves in agreement with feminists wishing to disrupt the gender association of women in the kitchen, and with conservatives who want to preserve gender exclusion in the public.

But it was the secular leftists who pushed for the image to remain on the label, the historic icon that symbolized the exclusion of women, while the haredi community did not weigh in on the issue. We need to stop shunning those who are different from us. It is easy to rally a public into hating the other, in this case the haredim, but taking a deeper look shows us that when it comes to the housewife on salt products, we need to be more like the ultra-Orthodox.

This opinion was first published on Israel Hayom newspaper.


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