Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kisui Rosh (head covering)

On the one hand, I’m feeling increasingly uncomfortable wearing any kippah that isn’t clearly specifically designed for a woman and/or wasn't knitted or crocheted specifically for me by a friend. For the life of me, I can’t decide whether a kippah is or isn’t beged ish, a man’s garment. And even aside from the fact that wearing the clothing of the opposite sex is against Jewish law, why would I want to wear a man’s garment? As the old song says, “I enjoy being a girl.” I buy pants in the women’s department only.

On the other hand, I can’t find any other head covering that doesn’t feel like “false advertising.” The easiest thing to carry around, other than a kippah, is a snood, a kind of extra-thick crocheted hair net designed to be either completely opaque by itself or lined with woven cloth so as to be completely opaque. I have the same problem with a snood as I had with a scarf, which I gave up wearing to synagogue some years ago. They’re both female garments, all right, but they also scream “Orthodox.” I stopped wearing a scarf to shul because I felt as if I were wearing false advertising and/or choosing my head covering (kisui rosh) under false pretenses.

So I have a problem. I picked up a strong minhag from my years in an egalitarian synagogue: I won’t enter a synagogue or study sacred texts with my head uncovered. [Oops, major error: It was my parents' rabbi who insisted that all women and girls, married and single, cover their heads in synagogue. By the time I was in my teens, the habit of covering my head for shul or for reading sacred texts was so ingrained that I would as soon have entered a synagogue with my head uncovered as I would have eaten a ham and cheese on rye during Pesach.] But exactly what the heck can I use as a head covering that isn’t either debatably beged ish or a garment that’s practically the uniform of a married woman who’s Orthodox? Two weeks ago, I was the only woman at the pre-Purim shiur at YCT who was wearing a snood. Boy, did I feel stupid! Sigh. What’s a non-frummie who wants to keep her head covered and doesn’t feel comfortable in a standard-issue kippah supposed to wear? What am I going to wear to tomorrow’s shiur?

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14 Comments:

Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

What about those hippie scarves that make a ring around your head but aren't nearly as covering as your standard "hair-covering married woman" scarf style?

Tue Mar 21, 02:22:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about wearing a woman's hat? That's what I do. I have a wonderful collection of fashionable hats. Wool felt ones, acrylic berets, warm snoods for winter, and cotton and straw ones for summer. It's fun matching hats to outfits, too. SImple scarves work, too. But to me, that smacks of being "a cancer patient." I now wear only hats.

Tue Mar 21, 02:37:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Jen Taylor Friedman said...

Steg - you mean like the ones I have? :)

My vote's with berets and baseball caps. They're not too horrendously frummie, and they don't get you weird looks. Bandana-type hairbands work but aren't as handy as berets.

Tue Mar 21, 08:58:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Steg, ages ago, when I had a temp. job at JTS, I asked one of the female rabbinical students to teach me how to tie a head scarf the way *she* did--it ended up in roughly the same shape, and covering roughly the same area, as a large kippah. But I gave it up after a few months, because, as I said, it still made me "look frum."

Blackherring, berets aren't too bad, but they do get hot after a while. Hmm, a baseball cap . . .

Helene, I think I'll look for a hat tomorrow on my lunch hour. Maybe I'll try a baseball cap (good idea, Helene) or a simple cloth sunhat--I've been known to stuff a sunhat into my backpack. I need something that can be packed and squashed, not something that needs a hatbox.

Tue Mar 21, 11:02:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an unmarried and not Orthodox anyway woman, when I want to cover my head, I wear a kerchief, arranged so that it doesn't cover all of my hair. Of course, this only works if you have long enough hair to come out of a kerchief.
One of my friends (also college-aged) wears a Bukharian-style kippah with really loud embroidered flowers, that's fairly obviously not a man's hat.
I've tried wearing the thin strip of cloth type scarves, the kind that I think Steg is referring to, and unless you have relatively thick hair, they just slip off and look ridiculous.
I've considered getting one of these: Belle Kipa in the large size, which would come down to my ears and look like a light women's knit hat, but not cover all of my hair.

Wed Mar 22, 12:07:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

Heh - my wife sells tichels ;)

Wed Mar 22, 06:57:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

I alternate between kippot (I don't have too much problem with regular ones as long as they look at least gender-neutral, since I've grown up in contexts where kippot were an equal-access item, so they don't Feel like beged ish to me) and scarves- usually I wear thinish ones, somestimes folded over so as to make soemthing more like a super-thick headband, with my hair coming out. My hair is definitely long enough that lots of it shows. I've still had people think I was married a few times- but not too many. (And one was when I was volunteering at JOFA- serves me right.)

I figure that there's a certain amount of "false advertising" you can avoid, and after that, it's everyone else's fault for assuming too much. So I do my best to send clear signals, and from there I decide that that's the end of my responsibility.

Wed Mar 22, 08:47:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miri-Rose, you're right about it being hard to keep some scarves on your head. Silk scarves are impossible--they just slide right off. And leaving some hair showing can be a trick for us short-hair women.

Bukharian kippot started out as beged ish, a man's garment, to the best of my knowledge. Acid test: Have you ever since an Orthodox woman in a Bukharian kippah? I would wear one if it were made of eyelet and/or trimmed with lace, some those are fabrics never worn by men.

I've seen plenty of women in those big knit caps, especially when we were in Israel last summer, but I'm just not bonkers about wearing a crocheted bathing cap. My hair's flat enough as it is. Also, they cover the bangs, and, for us short-haired types, the bangs are the only part of our hair worth showing.

Ezzie, what can I say? If I ever change my mind and become frum enough to move to Kew Gardens Hills, I'll talk to your wife after those tichlach.

Debka-notion, I grew up in a shul in which some women wore "chapel caps" (called "doilies" in New York), which were considered a bit Catholic in South Jersey, but are quite common in NY, and others took kippot, folded them in half, then pinned them on with a bobby pin. Why a folded kippah was considered more feminine than an unfolded one is beyond me. I never bothered folding my kippot.

It may very well be that hanging around in an office full of frummies since 2001 has forced me to change my approach to head covering. It's really only been within the past few years that I've begun to feel ambivalent about wearing a kippah. I'm sure that has something to do with knowing that my teacher and sister students in that women's shiur (study session) that we used to have (before the teacher was reassigned to another office) would have dropped dead of heart attacks if I'd showed up for class in a kippah.

Thu Mar 23, 01:30:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

The verdict is in. :)

On the one hand, I was looking for a "kisui rosh" (head covering) that was indisputably not "beged ish" (a man's garment) to replace a kippah.

On the one hand, I was looking for a head covering that didn't scream "Yeshivish" (right-wing Orthodox).

On the third hand (you should pardon the expression), the recommended baseball cap is, as far as I know, the only garment that a broad swath of the Orthodox community considers gender-neutral. The irony of shopping for a gender-neutral garment to replace an arguably "beged-ish" garment did not escape me. So when I went hat shopping during my lunch hour, the minute I saw this baseball cap, I just knew I had to buy it. It's "beged isha," a woman's garment, for sure: I don't think any male would be caught dead in a rose-pink baseball hat.

Thu Mar 23, 01:49:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Here's another irony: Blackherring's other favorite, the beret, is yet *another* type of hat that doesn't scream "Yeshivish" and that is, arguably, gender-neutral (although I think it was far more common for me to see men wearing berets in France 30 years ago when I was a student there).

For me, a baseball cap has a major advantage over a beret. I happen to have inherited my mother's small head. This makes buying hats a challenge, as most are too big. Given its druthers, the average beret will cover not all but half an inch of my hair in the back, it will actually fall over my glasses unless I push it up. So it takes a certain effort for me to show my bangs when wearing a beret. They also itch me a bit. And I've learned the hard way never to dance in a beret--it turns me into a hothead. :)

The other problem is that I prefer to keep my ears uncovered when I'm indoors. Well, given my short, thin, flat hair, a beret, and, especially a snood, when pushed behind the ears, looks like a pancake on me.

A baseball cap, especially an adjustable one, not only fits me a lot better, but is also designed to sit above the ears. It's not only more comfortable for me, but, it's also, since it's designed *not* to cover the whole head, less of a problem from a "no-false-advertising" perpective, as a short-haired person's hair automatically "shows" on the sides and in back.

My next goal is to figure out how to wear my baseball cap just far enough back on my head to show about a half inch of my bangs, but not far enough back to make me look like the Flying Nun. :)

Thu Mar 23, 09:12:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, the cotton berets (from Parkhurst and other companies) don't overheat your head as much as the felt ones do.

Tue Mar 25, 06:05:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, the cotton berets (from Parkhurst and other companies) don't overheat your head as much as the felt ones do.

Tue Mar 25, 06:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the tip. If I can figure out how to avoid the "pancake" look, maybe I'll try one of those cotton berets.

Tue Mar 25, 09:29:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

There is another option I am looking at. http://www.quakerjane.com/spirit.friends/plain_dress-caps.html

The top right picture is an Eastern Mennonite kapp, and it really does remind me of a kippah, except feminine. It has a nice bit of room at the back where it's pleated for a bun or ponytail to get tucked in. So far I can only find them to order in white. The conservadox in me would find it amusing to make a black velvet one.

Lots of women wear lace circles, usually folded once or twice and clipped on and some wear the newer wire and bead ones.

I hear you on the hairbands, it's really hard to find ones that will stay one. I have fine hair, so everything slides off the back.

Tue Sep 18, 11:24:00 PM 2012  

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