Israeli Conference Says Female Doctors Have No Business Talking About Vaginas

Illustration for article titled Israeli Conference Says Female Doctors Have No Business Talking About Vaginas

The issue of gender segregation has been growing more heated in Israel, and there's an ironic twist to the latest incident. A major conference on gynecology is only featuring male presenters, because really, what the hell do female researchers know about the functions of the wily vagina?

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The Globe and Mail reports that the conference taking place on Wednesday, titled "Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha [Jewish law]," will cover topics including "ovary implants," "how to choose a suitable contraceptive pill," and "dietary supplements for pregnant and nursing women." There's no shortage of female gynecologist who could speak at the event, but the Puah Institute, which is hosting the event, is refusing to let them speak. Though, women are allowed to sit in the audience (in a section separate from the men, of course) so they can soak in some male wisdom concerning women's reproductive organs.

The conference has provoked public outrage, and male Israeli doctors have already canceled their presentations. The Israel Medical Association also banned its member physicians from participating. Since the event is private, not public, it's legal for the Puah Institute to exclude female professionals. Human rights groups say it's still wrong because the institute is funded by the Health Ministry, but it's unlikely that anyone will challenge the policy. Since the United Torah Judaism party refused to join a coalition cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is technically the Health Minister as well. However, the department is actually run by a man from the ultra-Orthodox party.

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In response to the controversy, the institute announced that it will start holding a separate conference for women. It also issued this fauxpology attacking those who don't believe experts should be excluded from professional events solely due to their gender:

We are sorry that instead of appreciating the great advances we have merited to see in women's health in general, and in particular within the religious sector, as a result of our conferences, there are cynical, aggressive elements who try to block us by using the prevailing public ambiance ... These elements are riding on the back of the Puah Institute in order to advance their personal agenda.

And there's one more thing that makes the situation even more absurd: The institute's namesake, Puah, wouldn't be allowed to attend the conference. She's a midwife mentioned in the book of Exodus who helped prevent the genocide of Hebrew boys by the Egyptians.

In Jerusalem, Women Are Voiceless At A Decidedly Womanly Event
[The Globe And Mail]
12th Annual Puah Conference [Puah Online]
Doctors Ordered To Pull Out Of Gender-Separated Conference [JTA]

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Image via Kenneth Man /Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

Oh my Gawd. Listen, people. I'm all for de-segregating Israeli society and whatnot, and I hate the bus thing in Israel, but I think someone must be REALLY PISSED about Israel in general, and is just stirring up the pot.

Listen: Puah is a CHARITY ORGANIZATION. It raises money for infertility and does a few things related to such. Mostly, Puah events either invite BOTH SEXES, or actually exclusively invite women only, and have only women speakers. Why? Because, strangely, having a bunch of women in the room makes it easier for them to open up about sexual problems, infertility pain, and questions at large. Men in the audience would make them much more uncomfortable to share embarrassing things that come up in meetings. I've been to some, so here are some topics:

1) Having your period too often, too soon, too long. How thick does the blood have to be? How thick should your mucus lining be on fertile days?

2) Painful intercourse.

3) How soon can you have sex after ________ procedure?

4) Surrogate pregnancy

Etc.

So all of a sudden, Puah has ONE gathering (this is the first conference I've heard of) that invites only men to participate, and everyone has this huge tizzy over it. It didn't suddenly "announce" that it will have women only conferences. I've been to a whole bunch that's already happened. The real news is that Puah has finally started to include more men in its arsenal, and the men that need Puah (which deal with specific orthodox halachah problems that the non-orthodox don't care about) are also more comfortable talking about these specific sexual/fertile problems without women around, and that includes female doctors. Just like i"m not comfortable talking about my orgasms with a male doctor, and somehow I'm not sexist.

And already, in the comments, all I see are lame generalizations about Jews in general, and Orthodoxy in particular, and this fantastic organization that NO ONE knows anything about. I'm really sick of this kind of one-sided inflammatory headline that seems to crop up more and more as of late. Do some freaking homework next time.