Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dancer gets stomped on by Tzniut Squad/Modesty Patrol

Slightly improved version of poem swiped from a comment of mine on this post by DovBear:

There was a folk dancer named Shira
whose dancing was deemed "lo tzanua"
"Immodest!" they said
'cause she wiggled her head
So why stay on YouTube and view-a?

They gave her a song
though her skirt was quite long
and her sleeve buttoned down to her hand
Her blouse buttoned high,
head covered, so why
do they think that her work should be banned?

Her hips she kept still
but if comments could kill
she'd be off with the Angel of Death
"No ladies go dancing
'fore men's eyes," no chancing
a thought of a good-looking Beth

And singing's for men,
"Kol Isha!," they said, then
they all wondered why she wouldn't stay
"It's no fun for women
I'd rather go davven
where females feel free to pray"

(from here:
This post is dedicated to all synagogues where women as well as men dance during the hakafot on Simchat Torah, including synagogues in which tables are placed in the middle of a room and the women dance on one side while the men dance on the other.

Friday, December 14, 2007 update:
I sent this post to another blogger, who replied that I was mocking Halachah (Jewish religious law) and those who observe it. I responded that this poem expressed the truth as I saw it and had personally experienced it: I was extremely upset about being publicly pilloried (in comments posted on YouTube) for my own hard work--the dances that I had choreographed--simply because I was a woman.

When I wrote this poem, I was just trying to take a light-hearted look at something that was--is--actually quite upsetting. Did I cross a line? What do you think and/or how do you feel about this poem?


Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Did I cross a line?

Not at all.

Sun Dec 16, 04:04:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Sheyna said...

If there was any line crossed, it was moving from just grin-and-bearing their comments to standing up for yourself. Which is a good thing.

I'm reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes' line, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

Do they have a right to their opinion? Yes. Do they have the right to publicly embarrass you or otherwise demean you? No. That is lashon hara, and specifically forbidden in Torah.

And while I'm at it, those who are making such hurtful statements do not have a monopoly on the interpretation of Halacha, and should not swing their interpretive fist towards anyone else's nose.

Did you identify them? No. You used only "they." Can they be identified? Only if "they" made themselves identifiable in their YouTube accounts and chose to leave a public comment.

You are the one who has been wronged.

Sun Dec 16, 04:26:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't think so at all. I completely agree with sheyna.

Sun Dec 16, 04:38:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Ezzie said...

What Jack said.

Sun Dec 16, 04:52:00 PM 2007  
Blogger AS said...

I've found that there are plenty of people who are quick to respond that what ever a blogger posted is loshon horah or against halacha without giving any reason as to why is flat out ridiculous. Most of these are small minded individuals who have nothing better to do and/or have no sense of humor and love bossing people around.

Sun Dec 16, 07:17:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Elie said...

I wasn't the least offended by the poem. I also have always felt that people who have no sense of humor about their religion and can't laugh at theie own foibles, are probably just insecure. I wouldn't let it bother you.

Sun Dec 16, 07:34:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

doesn't seem so offensive to me

Sun Dec 16, 09:24:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Eliyahu said...

oy! for some people, you crossed the line at birth, and anything you do will be a problem for them. i wonder why hashem made the world like this? carry on.

Sun Dec 16, 10:51:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original assertion that the YouTube video is "against halakhah" presumes a particular halakhic perspective is the one and only valid opinion. If that were true, we would have been finished 2,000 years ago.

As for the poem being offensive -- well, if we lose our ability to laugh, even and especially at ourselves, we equally done-for.

Laughter and dissent -- when both are respectful -- have beeen the keys to Jewish survival and growth. Y'shar koh.eikh.

Mon Dec 17, 02:12:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Aryeh said...

I think your poem was fine and in good taste.

Tue Dec 18, 09:21:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the poem goes, you are free to write what you want on your blog - and I don't think you said anything offensive.

As far as the issue of dancing in front of men - the whole issue of modesty is very complicated, and if you don't "live" it you won't understand it. Before I became Orthodox I couldn't for the life of my understand why wearing shorts and a halter top was wrong. After I became observant and I dressed modestly for awhile, I couldn't believe that I actually walked around like I did! There is a sensitivity that grows on you - and it doesn't happen without actually wearing modest clothes. It is experiential and not intellectual - so my words cannot adequately convey it.


Wed Dec 19, 05:53:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks to all those who've already commented, and thanks in advance to anyone who comments in the future. Sorry I haven't responded to everyone. It occurred to me that perhaps this conversation might take place more freely if I let people comment first, then responded later.

Jack and Ezzie, thanks for the encouraging comments.

Sheyna and Z, I guess it gets a bit tricky trying to tell someone that you think they've done something assur/forbidden *without* being offensive. That said, there is, first of all, the question of whether the opinion that it's prohibited for a woman to dance in the presence of a man is universal among Orthodox Jews. There's also the fact that I don't claim to be Orthodox, and said so in my YouTube comments. My fundamental premise is that no one has to watch me dance if they find it offense.

Jewish Blogmeister and Elie, thanks for your votes in favor of a good sense of humor.

Steg, glad to hear my poems don't give heart failure to rabbinical students. :)

Aryeh, thanks for the encouraging words.

Eliyahu, you said "for some people, you crossed the line at birth, and anything you do will be a problem for them." Oy, have I ever blogged about that before! Sometimes I feel that some of the more right-wing interpretations of halachah/Jewish religious law deal with women as if we're to be blamed for being women. This post illustrates my perspective pretty well.

DoveEphraim, you said "The original assertion that the YouTube video is "against halakhah" presumes a particular halakhic perspective is the one and only valid opinion. If that were true, we would have been finished 2,000 years ago." As the old saying goes, "two Jews, three opinions." :)

In the past, I've been taken to task for "blackening" the entire Orthodox community with a Chareidi brush. (See the comments to the post to which I just linked.) My understanding is that opinions on the permissibility of a woman singing in a man's presence range from "forbidden under all circumstances" to "permissible if she's singing zechach laShem (praises to G-d)" to "not forbidden under modern circumstances." I may be wrong, but I assume that there's a range of opinions on the permissibility of a woman dancing in a man's presence, as well. Especially since RivkaYael of (Orthodox) Ramat Orah has already said that the women there dance during the hakafot with only a few tables separating them from the men. (See the comments to this post). Which means that they're completely visible.

West Bank Mama, you said "the whole issue of modesty is very complicated, and if you don't "live" it you won't understand it. . .There is a sensitivity that grows on you - and it doesn't happen without actually wearing modest clothes. It is experiential and not intellectual. . ." Well, I'm working on the modest clothes. I gave up wearing shorts two summers ago. (Or tried to: The darned things shrank, and are now just above the knee. But they’re still the shortest pants that I currently wear.) I haven't worn a sleeveless top (other than a bathing suit--haven't figured out how to work around that one) in roughly 25 years, by choice. And I guess that working for an Orthodox organization and hanging around so many fine frum folks in the J-blogosphere has had an influence on me, as well: I find that I've wear my tops fastened higher than I did as recently as just a few years ago. (At a Chanuka party a few weeks ago, I got a bit of a song and dance from some of the women, who said that I should unbutton one more button. I refused.) But I still draw the line at other people drawing the line for me. I'm not willing to give up being creative--in public--just because I'm female. As far as I'm concerned, I'm a dancer because HaShem made me according to His will.

Thu Dec 20, 01:45:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

From Noam, via e-mail:

As usual, my net nanny refuses to let me post a comment, so feel free to post this:

women dancing has a long and honored tradition in Judaism. The gemara at the end of Ta'anit(both the last mishna and the last pages of the gemara) discuss the women of Israel going out to dance in the fields on Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av. The single men not only watch, but watch for the purposes of finding a wife.For more recent references of approval, Rabbi/Dr. Jeffrey Woolf(host of My Obiter Dicta) has discussed responsa from the middle ages in Italy where dancing was accepted. Those who criticize are either ignorant of the tradition or choose to ignore it. Of course lewd dancing(cf. Brittney Spears, Madonna et al) is an entirely different matter. However, women expressing authentic religious sentiments through dance should be praised, not vilified. If one doesn't want to watch it, feel free not to.

Kol Isha is another issue where the clear intent of the prohibition is toward lascivious singing and enticement. If Jewish women singing prayers or Jewish songs create sexual urges in someone, it probably means that there is something wrong with that person, rather than with the person singing. Of course if one wants to take on extra stringencies, it would be incumbent on that person to distance himself from the singing, rather than inflict his supranormative stringencies on the public.


Thu Dec 20, 07:55:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

From DovBear via e-mail:

Really don't worry about it.
> -DB

Thu Dec 20, 08:12:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Former blogger Out of Step Jew has temporarily resurfaced via e-mail. It's great to hear from you! (His blog is still on my blogroll, and I strongly recommend his archives to any newer bloggers who may not be acquainted with his writing, not to mention his sidebar, which is full of good links.) Here's his response:

"Crossed the line? I admit that I have not been reading Jewish blogs too often but you have not even come close to crossing the line. The absurdities of the modern interpretation of 'tzniut' just get worse and worse. My Purim ditties outdid yours in line crossing and irreverence."

I've suggested to OOS that he temporarily revive his blog for Purim so that we can read the fine frum fun writing of the Purim-Schpiel-meister of Kfar Saba. :)

Sun Dec 23, 12:01:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sadly, one of my Orthodox e-mail respondents did not give me permission to copy his/her response into the comments--I waited over a week--so I'll give you the highlights. That particular respondent felt that my poem was disrespectful because it appeared to group the "obnoxious" people with the "reasonable" ones. That was, indeed, a concern of mine, as well, which is why I added the line saluting *all* synagogues in which both women and men dance--together or separately--during the hakafot

Tue Dec 25, 08:28:00 AM 2007  

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