The Shampoo Summit: Women as Peacemakers


Iris Zaki is an Israeli filmmaker based in London. She recently created an award-winning documentary called “Women in Sink” including a 7-minute segment called “The Shampoo Summit.”

Set in an Israeli hair salon called Fifi’s that is patronized by both Jewish and Arab women, the film is an intimate, fun, and revealing testament to the uncomplicated, natural harmonizing power of women, despite the neighborhood’s environment of racism and fear.

Zaki comments, “Fifi’s is remarkable. It draws women from all over the city, and inspires friendship, acceptance and respect between Arabs and Jews… a little island of sanity.”

Women have a natural tendency to connect and nourish. It is expressed at an early age when an innocent girl toddler chooses a doll instead of a plastic gun for her toy and it continues straight through adulthood where most women, whether mothers or not, spontaneously seek to console, uplift and love.

Women are comforted and uplifted by each other’s company. We connect with each other and provide support systems that help each other to deal with difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” supports production of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that aids in combatting depression and can create a general feeling of well-being. This tendency to gather together and to support each other indicates women’s potential to express a wider range of cooperation, compassion and camaraderie in worldly activities, such as in business and governmental arenas.

According to a Pew Research Center study published in 2014 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, women generally tend to be true to their ethical values even when it might be to their financial or career advantage to not. Other research studies have shown:

  • Women’s aversion to inequity is strong.
  • Women’s cooperation and contribution to their group is consistent and doesn’t need to be motivated by competition with other groups.
  • In the U.S. congress, women are less partisan, supporting the conventional wisdom that women are more likely to compromise.

In the documentary “Wise Women Speak,” Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Director of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Women and Public Policy Program, relates this story:

So I went to the U.N. and I said, “How come there aren’t any women on the negotiating teams in Africa in these various conflicts?” And the U.N. official said, “Well, that’s easy—the warlords refuse to have women… because they’re afraid the women will compromise.” And I thought, bingo!

And that says it all.

Of course there are moments, and sometimes long periods, in every woman’s life where she feels mean-spirited, angry, isolated or hostile. These negative psychological experiences are usually correlated with too much pressure: disease, stress and fatigue overcome and disallow the experience and expression of natural emotional capability. This profound capacity—as expressed in forgiveness, compassion and empathy—lie deep within every human being, and yet, somehow, are in general most easily accessed by women.

In schools, prisons, and businesses, Transcendental Meditation courses have shown significant benefits in reducing stress, insomnia, weariness, anxiety and behavioral discord. The TM practice removes the fatigue that is responsible for disconnecting us from the finer values of the mind and heart that constitute our deepest sense of self. When the toxic physical, mental, and emotional inhibiting factors start to dissolve, a meditator joyfully finds that the connectedness to herself and her world is restored. With her emotions becoming more harmonious and calm, she finds her most true and noble inner compass.

Women tend to cherish tender values of life most and find it highly satisfying to experience and share these gifts—because, being those who are born to give the first experience of love to humanity, the most nourishing value of life is within a woman’s nature. When our hearts are full and open, we feel liberated. And with that blessing, we liberate others.

Fifi’s beauty salon customers share food, conversation, laughter and personal stories. One of the ladies, head full of shampoo, said:

This is what you call true coexistence. Actually, no, not coexistence—this is life itself. Let me tell you, if women were running things around here, including the politics, we would have lived in peace with our neighbors ages ago.

About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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