ISRAEL: Zero Motivation (אפס ביחסי אנוש, 2014)

Zero Patience for Misogyny

by Maxwell Keiles

The country of Israel has always been controversial. While some decry its very existence, others see it as an economic and technological powerhouse that the Jewish people deserve as a God-given home. One unique aspect of the country is that all Jewish citizens are required to serve in the military: two years for women and 32 months for men. However, while Israel has made great strides towards gender equality in the military, there is still a lot of work to be done. Women were granted the ability to fight in combat roles in 1985 and artillery units in 2009. While these policies used to integrate women into the Israeli army are an important starting point, they fail to address the toxic masculinity that is prevalent in the culture. Most units in the army believe that gender integration is a fact rather than something up to debate, however, many new male recruits and high-ranking male officers show clear biases. “This of course does not imply that everything in mixed‐gender units is agreeable or accepted by all equally. We also heard the criticism, especially among male soldiers in the initial stages of their service, and among soldiers or commanders whose general opinion on gender integration is not a positive one.” (Organizational processes and gender integration in operational military units: An Israel Defense Forces case study, Ben-Shalom) This kind of sexism in Israel is not unique to the army, however. There is also an underlying problem of misogyny in Israeli cinema.

Much like the rest of the world, movies made in Israel are generally male-oriented. They are made by men, for men, about men. Also, when women are involved, they are the objects, not subjects of the story. They are seen as helpless damsels or a prize to be won by the male lead. Fortunately, there is a new wave of female-directed movies in Israel, most try to reshape how women are viewed in society. More specifically, trying to de-normalize the suffering of women and to show the existence of and the problems with the patriarchy.  While many male-directed movies “…present the horrors of rape, attempting to overwhelm the viewer into a sort of shock, a secondary trauma, or what E. Ann Kaplan calls ‘vicarious trauma,’ while women-directed films like “Aviad’s Invisible (2011) explores the trauma of rape from a feminist perspective, assuming a woman’s point of view.” (Conditions of Visibility: Trauma and Contemporary Israeli Women’s Cinema, Raz Yosef) There is a lot to be done about the sexism prevalent throughout Israeli culture, and the movie Zero Motivation tackles these topics beautifully.

The film Zero Motivation, directed by Talya Lavie, is a comedy of the journey of two women Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy) trying to just get through their mandatory two years of service with as little effort as possible. They are lazy screw-ups whose antics frequently land them in trouble with their commanding officer Rama (Shani Klen). However, it is clear throughout the movie that there is a multitude of systemic problems in the military. There is rampant sexism and misogyny, most of which is directed at these three characters. While they are usually, rightfully, disciplined for their sloth or ineptitude, they are also punished just for being women. They are seen as objects merely there to serve the men or are just there do to them demanding, in their mind, undeserved equal rights. This film’s genius is that shows how women are allowed to be deeply flawed or imperfect while still deserving to be treated as a human being. There is a prevalent mindset my many men that as long as women are their best selves they are deserving of respect. This movie shows that some women are allowed to be lazy or incompetent while still deserving the same dignity given to a man in the same position. What’s more, it also shows the cycle of abuse that leads to this system of oppression staying in place. Rama is constantly belittled by her commanding officers and must deal with the hijinks of her own subordinates. So when Zohar tells her that she was almost raped by one of the soldiers, she does not believe her, saying how this is probably just another lie for her to get out of doing more work. Zero motivation makes it clear that women are allowed to be less than perfect, have to learn and grow to overcome their faults, and not have to be punished simply for being a woman.


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