Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moderation in modesty

Some choices! :(

A Jew can be "holding" (maintaining standards in accordance with a particular hashkafah/religious perspective) in this manner. ("Shmirat einayim" means "the guarding of the eyes," done in the interest of avoiding temptation by the "yetzer hara" [evil inclination]. Sorry, but it would take half of this post for me to translate all the Hebrew in that one. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. ) Here's a sample from that post: ". . . the real place of milchama [war] is, b’avonoseinu harabim [in our many sins?], in our frum [Orthodox] communities where helige bnos Yisroel [holy daughters of Israel/Jewish daughters/Jewish women], try to walk the line between proper, unapologetic tzinus [tznius/tzniut/modesty], and “being fashionable”.

Or a Jew can be behaving in this manner. (I'm referring to the second paragraph and beyond, but feel free to follow the links in the first one.)

Either extreme—"nothing shows" or "anything goes"—results in shooting the knees-covered legs out from under those wishing to stake out a moderate position on the issue of modesty (tzniut) in dress.

In that post by A Simple Jew, he and his commenters seem to be positing that the only way for men to control their own sexual desires is, essentially, to avoid women like the plague. They don’t seem to have any understanding that this particular method of trying to improve their own behavior tends to lead them to insult half the human race, which one would think would be a violation of Judaism’s teachings on derech eretz (courtesy) and kavod habriyot (respect for [G-d’s] creatures). To me, some of them seem so concerned with protecting themselves from temptation that they don’t appear to care that their method of doing so may make some women feel like pariahs instead of respected human beings. As I commented on that post, “We are not a disease.”

(It could also be argued that the men writing and commenting on that post were insulting themselves, too, by implying that males have little self-control. That thought doesn't seem to have occurred to them, either. Their response to my comments was to ask why I was criticizing them for trying to improve their behavior. How could I explain that it wasn't necessary for them to act like cloistered monks for whom the presence of any female [except their wives and daughters, in this case] is a temptation to be avoided whenever possible?)

On the other hand, I’m also not too happy about, you should pardon the expression, the “boobs on the half-shell” look. (I’m copyrighting that one.) Call me a hypocrite, if you wish, since I wore mini-skirts as a young woman. But, even in my mini-skirt days, I had skirts that were on my “too-short-for-shul” list. Nowadays, it’s not unusual, in non-Orthodox synagogues, for women to show up in tops that show a bit more than they should. (I’m not too bonkers about guys, in the more informal synagogues, showing up in shorts, either.) And don’t even ask about how people dress at work. Even in the offices of the Orthodox organization that employs me, the manner of dress runs the full gamut, from ankle-length skirts and turtlenecks to mini-skirts and low-cut tops.

A while back, on a post on another blog (I forget which one), a commenter said that, where she lives, an outfit such as this one would be considered modest. I’ve seen just this sort of layered look at Israeli folk dancing sessions many times, when some of the younger women come in wearing low-rider jeans—and, every time they stand up, yank down the longer T-shirts that they’re wearing underneath their top T-shirts. Never let it be said that there’s no modesty among the non-Orthodox.

And never let it be said that all Orthodox Jews are slaves to the “tzniut police.” If you’d like to see an example of a moderate version of modesty among the frum folks, check out the photo of Safranit here. (Keep scrolling down—you’ll see her, eventually.) As Safranit said here, “I am very comfortable where I am religiously…this means I was not made uncomfortable by snide comments by non-religious family members, nor did I feel like I should leave wearing short sleeves and having hair showing in the Chareidi shops in the Catskills. (Yes, my parents really live year round in the Catskills)” You go!

Thursday, November 8, 2007 update: See my post "But when the shoe is on the other foot . . ."


Blogger Yehudi said...

Great site here! I enjoyed reading through the blog and I look forward to coming back and checking out your latest! L'Shalom, Yehudi

Thu Nov 01, 02:59:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I take it you advocate a modest approach to modesty...


Sun Nov 04, 01:32:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...


Sun Nov 04, 01:41:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well said!

Sun Nov 04, 03:49:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention...I don't know what to say...except for the spouses of the people in the picture are similarly moderate..or at least the ones I know are :)

Also..this is my moderate modesty while pregnant look :)

Sun Nov 04, 05:43:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shira - what is considered modest and immodest is relative, and can't be defined objectively. There are halachic "minimums", but these are just the starting points in Orthodox circles. It is also pointless to be insulted about how some Orthodox men are trying to follow what they have been taught it the correct path. What they are doing is NOT ABOUT YOU - they have no desire to hurt your feelings.

My son, who considers himself Charedi now, would take his glasses off when walking in town with me to take care of errands. The first time this happened I asked him if he got something in his eye. He said, "no Ima, don't worry". I then realized that it was because of the non-modesty of the women on the street. Suddenly I looked around and became aware that practically every woman on the street was wearing very low cut blouses/tank tops. This is a great problem for men (especially young ones). You cannot appreciate this problem because you are not male and do not have the same responses. Try to step back a bit and give them the same respect for their viewpoint that you expect to receive in return!

Sun Nov 04, 09:28:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Safranit, you're welcome.

I've seen pictures of Zahava Bogner on her husband David's Treppenwitz blog (readers, check my sidebar for a link to Trep's blog), and I've met Mark/PT's wife Ms. Balabusta in person, so I've seen that they both take a moderate approach. (Hmm, I don't suppose we'll have any better luck getting an undisguised photo of Jameel's wife than we have getting one of Jameel. :) )

"this is my moderate modesty while pregnant look :)" B'shaah tovah! (Literal translation: "In a good hour." Meaning [I think]: May all go well.")

Sun Nov 04, 12:32:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

WBM, I can understand a Chareidi man wanting to be careful about not looking at improperly-dressed women. What I find difficult to deal with is the idea, stated in A Simple Jew's post, that "the real place of milchama [war] is . . . in our frum [Orthodox] communities," the approach that it's better to duck out the shul's back door than to risk having to say hello even to modestly-dressed Chareidi women. "It is . . . pointless to be insulted about how some Orthodox men are trying to follow what they have been taught it the correct path. What they are doing is NOT ABOUT YOU - they have no desire to hurt your feelings." I understand, from my conversation with the gentlemen commenting on that post, that no insult is intended. I just have great difficulty seeing being avoided like the plague, *no matter how modestly I'm dressed,* as anything other than an insult, even though I understand that it's not intended as one. That's something I'm really going to have to think about.

Sun Nov 04, 12:54:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

This is a great problem for men (especially young ones).

Not a problem for me in the slightest, but I haven't any problem looking at women.

Some of them are attractive and some of them are not. I haven't any problem controlling my urges.

And frankly when sex was more of a mystery to me I found it far more challenging not to be distracted.

Sun Nov 04, 10:44:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Batya said...

In Israel, especially the yishuvim, tzniyut has gotten more creative. For women, and some aren't just the young ones, all sorts of pants combos are more accepted.
Rather ironic that during the 13 years I was the local girls gym teacher (ended 12 years ago) and had trouble getting the girls to wear sweat pants under their skirts for lessons, and now such things are normal dress.

Sun Nov 04, 11:19:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"frankly when sex was more of a mystery to me I found it far more challenging not to be distracted." Jack, that's precisely my concern: In my opinion, making sexuality so extremely taboo may create an unintentional "forbidden fruit" effect, aggravating the very attraction that one is trying to avoid. I discussed this previously here.

Muse, go figure. There seem to be differences of opinion even within the Orthodox community concerning the wearing of pants by women. As West Bank Mama wrote, "what is considered modest and immodest is relative," thought I'm not sure that the question of the permissibility (within Jewish law) of women wearing pants is what West Bank Mama had in mind when she wrote that.

Mon Nov 05, 10:45:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...


Wed Nov 07, 11:48:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...


Thu Nov 08, 12:28:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

If anyone’s still read this, see here.

Thu Nov 08, 04:00:00 PM 2007  

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