Monday, February 11, 2008

Mysteries of Conservative women's head-coverings

Our Orthodox brethren and sistren may argue that a kippah/yarmulkeh/skullcap is beged ish, a man's garment, and shouldn't be warn be a woman, but the women of my parents' Conservative synagogue had an alleged work-around: They would take a kippah, fold it in half, then bobby-pin it to their heads. Huh??? Exactly what was that little maneuver intended to accomplish?

Here's another favorite of mine (quoth she sarcastically): a kippah or doily/chapel cap (depending on your neighborhood) folded in half and pinned onto the back of the head, only inches above the neck, so that it's completely invisible from the front and covers next to nothing. What purpose does that serve?

Talk about mixed sartorial signals!

Personally, I'm not crazy about wire kippot (see some examples here, and here) because they don't cover much (which is true of many doilies, as well) and are more jewelry than clothing. But I'll say this in their favor: They have the major advantages of being clearly designed for females and designed to be highly visible.

If you haven't read the previous post, this might be a good time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 update:
Much to my surprise, this post seems to have been fruitful and multiplied. Here's the baby. :)



Blogger katrina said...

This is, in fact, a hard issue. I think that if we are talking about coverings that women are willing to wear in most Conservative shuls, there is little difference between the doilie and the wire kippah. The doilie, in its kippah incarnation, was also designed for women, and, as you said, neither of them covers much. I personally think that if married women want to cover their hair in Conservative shuls, they should go back to wearing hats, if only in shul--or tichels, although they probably won't do the latter, and I can understand their reasoning. I think that the folded kippah is meant to differentiate it from a regular kippah and thus avoid begged ish. I have no idea if that's halakhically valid.

Mon Feb 11, 08:12:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Katrina, I have a few thoughts, but I think I'd best respond when I'm awake and can say something reasonably intelligent.

Mon Feb 11, 11:39:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

“I think that the folded kippah is meant to differentiate it from a regular kippah and thus avoid begged ish.” I’ve always assumed that that was the alleged logic. “I have no idea if that's halakhically valid.” That depends. If you put on a man’s shirt but add a string of pearls, does that act so clearly differentiate the garment from a man’s garment as to make it not a man’s garment? Males never fold their kippot. So does a kippah become a female garment if folded? (Obviously, since I’m not even learned, much less a rabbi, I can’t give a halachicly-legitimate response/t'shuvah!)

I was going to post a longer comment, but I realized that the comment was rapidly developing into a tome. So I'm considering turning what would have been the rest of this comment into another post, instead. Stay tuned.

Tue Feb 12, 01:57:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

"According to R. Asher and Maimonides, women’s attire is determined by local fashion, not by rabbinic rule. The Talmud only outlaws cross dressing. Wearing one article of transgender clothing which does not call gender identity into question is in no way prohibited."--Rabbi Alan Yuter

Original post here

According to which, I don't think the kippa which you describe is a problem.

Tue Feb 12, 02:02:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RivkaYael, thanks for posting R. Yuter's point of view. It makes sense. A woman would to do a lot more than wear a kippah to pass for male.

Tue Feb 12, 05:44:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Go check up this awesome gemara in Nedarim 49b--R. Yehuda wore a cloak that his wife also wore--and he wore it for davening! Another argument for the "one article of transgender clothing is fine" :)

Mon Feb 18, 11:29:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"R. Yehuda wore a cloak that his wife also wore--and he wore it for davening!" Who would have thought?

Would that I had your learning--it would be nice to be able to look up things in the Gemara on my own.

Wed Feb 20, 05:46:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

2 things: artscroll gemara and daf yomi :). Shabbat shalom...

Fri Feb 22, 04:31:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Let's just say that my attitude toward ArtScroll is rather ambivalent. Is there a translation out there that I could read without wondering how much it's been slanted to reflect a chareidi hashkafah (fervently-Orthodox religious ideology)? I wouldn't touch their so-called "translation" of Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs with a ten-foot pole.

As for the Daf Yomi daily Talmud study program, I confess to lacking the self-discipline for daily study. A few years ago, I participated in the Conservative Movement's Chumash Yomi daily Bible study program, and found even that to be pretty tough to keep up with, due to sheer lack of self-discipline. Sigh. I suppose I can't keep complaining about my ignorance unless I intend to do something about it.

Sat Feb 23, 11:01:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Artscroll gemara is generally quite accurately translated. Though they do sneak in insiduous snark against people who work for a living and read translations (so ironic, no?). Soncino is also quite good. I think they are British. But I found Artscroll helpful for their line by line translation, which makes catching mistakes much easier. Soncino translates in entire pages. The really *GOOD* teaching aid is Steinstaltz but it is expensive, and the whole set is not out yet.

I agree that artscroll shir hashirim was hysterical. But that's quite typical of Artscroll's love affair with Rashi and Rashi's tendency to reinterpret everything or explain things away with midrashim. I managed to get a $9 copy of the mikraot gdolot 5 megillot (including SH"S") with the more p'shat commentators. Take that Artscroll! I agree--Artscroll makes me cringe but I am in favour of anyone who tries to make things accessible to everyone and unless someone is willing to do the job...JPS is good but they are really slow at coming up with Nakh commentaries.

Mon Feb 25, 10:53:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I suppose that, if I really want to get serious about studying, I should start with the five-volume S. R. Hirsch Chumash that my brother and his now-ex-wife got my husband and me as a wedding present.

Tue Feb 26, 08:22:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous JMorgie said...

I think that point that was missed in the entire 'kippah' konversation is that the kipah is supposed to cover the general top/crown of the head. the doily on the back of the neck clearly doesnt do what it is supposed to. And the hip guys who wear the tiny kipot rakishly angled off to the side also miss the boat. but then again, the kipah is only minhag, borrowed from the moslem cultures at that. so either the kipah is minhag and is optional [hey, i was raised in a reform household by a couple of atheists] or it is meaningful in which case, man or woman, wear it in the right way. Beged Ish or Beged Aravi is an irrelevency.

Thu Jul 16, 10:30:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JMorgie said, " . . . the kipah is only minhag, borrowed from the moslem cultures at that." For real? I always thought we'd borrowed the kipah from the red beenies wore by Roman Catholic cardinals. "Fascinating," as Spock would say. :) Thanks for the information. Now that I think about it, some of the larger kippot (seen mostly in Israel) do resemble the head-coverings worn by Muslim men.

Fri Jul 17, 02:54:00 PM 2009  

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