Defining encounters: Who are the women entitled to join the Israeli collective?

Delila Amir, Orly Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Israeli abortion law informs the action taken by professionals dealing with women who come to define a pregnancy as “unwanted.” In this paper, we examine the discourse produced by such professionals in the light of the feminist suggestion that the complex link between women and the state involves a duality: a duality that simultaneously defines gender as irrelevent to issues of affiliation and acts as a powerful mechanism of exclusion. Secondary analysis of two previous studies in this area show that three distinct female national identities: the normative woman, the marginal, and the other, are embedded in the controlling practices of professionals involved in regulating pregnancy terminations. We show that the Israeli woman is defined as “responsible” (when using contraception); “committed” (when she contributes to the biological reproduction of the collective) and “sensible” (when avoiding the “trouble” of an unwanted pregnancy altogether). Our interviews with social workers and administrators reflect the role of professionals as the gatekeepers of the Israeli collective; only those women obeying the institutional imperatives for reproductive behaviour (i.e., who do not use abortion as a contraceptive) are entitled to admittance, that is, to be defined as an Israeli women and hence escape the labelling as “other.”
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)639-650
JournalWomen's studies international forum
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


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