Israel's Winning Eurovision Song Has An Empowering Message

Photo: Vyacheslav Prokofyev / Getty Images.
Update, 13th May: After entering as one of the favourites, Netta duly claimed victory for Israel at last night's Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon.
Her song "Toy" earned a combined total of 529 points from the international juries and televoting, comfortably ahead of Cyprus's runner-up song, "Fuego" by Eleni Foureira, which racked up 436 points.
"I’m so happy, thanks for choosing difference, thank you for celebrating diversity," Netta said as she came on stage to collect her winner's trophy.
The UK had to make do with 24th place and just 48 points, but entrant SuRie earned plenty of respect from the international audience for bravely carrying on with her performance of "Storms" after her microphone was grabbed by a stage invader.
Forutunately, SuRie wasn't harmed during the stage invasion and even managed to make light of the incident on Twitter afterwards.
Ireland's song, "Together" by Ryan O'Shaughnessy, whose staging featured a touching pro-LGBT message, finished in 16th place with 136 points.
This story was originally published on 12th May.
The Eurovision Song Contest has a reputation for being camp, spectacular and a little bit silly - three things it very often is. But over the years, the annual extravaganza has also been a force for good.
When drag queen Conchita Wurst snatched victory for Austria in 2014, it sent out an important message of LGBTQ acceptance all over Europe. In 1998, hundreds of millions of viewers saw Dana International, a singer from Israel who'ss trans, smashing it on stage andwinning the crown. She instantly became a positive role model to gender-questioning kids everywhere.
One of the favourites to win this year's contest is another singer from Israel, Netta Barzilai. Her incredibly catchy track "Toy", which she'll perform tonight at the Grand Final in Lisbon, can definitely be read as feminist.
"The song has an important message – the awakening of female power and social justice, wrapped in a colourful, happy vibe," Barzilai told Eurovision site wiwibloggs recently.
Now, no one's suggesting that "Toy" is is any way comparable to the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi or Gloria Steinem. It's a deliberately quirky pop ditty featuring chicken noises - yes, really - and lyrics like: "Wonder Woman don't you ever forget / You're divine and he's about to regret."
If it's feminist, it's feminist in the fun, poppy way that "girl power" was feminist.
Still, the very fact Barzilai is singing a song like "Toy" feels empowering in itself.
"I am a very poppy little girl. I wasn’t allowed to be poppy at first because y’know in my mind, pop stars are thin and beautiful and light, and I’ve never felt beautiful, skinny and light," Barzilai told The Independent last week.
"When you are a big girl you are told to think of yourself certain things: that if you are a musician you have to have a 'big mama' voice, you have to sing Adele or Aretha Franklin. People expect to be 'moved' by your voice in that way. I fell into that for a very long time."
Continuing, Barzilai explained that society told her to "dress like you have nothing to celebrate. Dress in black. Dress big. Short skirts are not for you. Short sleeves are not for you. You’re not sexy or beautiful. You’re funny - that’s what you are. And you are a good friend."
She then added, defiantly: "Well I am here to break that because this is a great evil that is done in the world to so many people."
Whether you find "Toy" catchy-amazing or catchy-annoying, it's hard not to be moved by Barzilai's attitude and willingness to call out society's damaging and misguided messages around body-image. You can cheer her on during BBC1's live coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest from 8pm this evening (12th May).
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