Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all: 2—Modesty, etc.

Those of us who grew up in the United States during the era of the fight for desegregation cringe at reports of women in Israel being beaten for refusing to move to the back of the bus. You may think that that doesn’t affect you because, after all, you’re here and they’re there, but it affects any female visiting or living in Israel and anyone with female relatives or friends visiting or living in Israel. I have two Israeli nieces who may, heaven forbid, fall victim someday to this fanatical approach to tzniut, modesty.

What about reports of women in Israel being sprayed with bleach for wearing clothes that weren’t considered modest enough? What about reports of boycotts organized against stores whose clothing doesn’t meet local rabbinical standards of tzniut?

What about tzniut demands in the United States? What about the recent communal and/or school demands requiring younger and younger girls to give up wearing pants—not to mention riding bicycles—and switch to skirts at all times? What about the young lady who asked how on earth she could go skiing in a skirt—and was asked, in return, what made her think that skiing was a permissible activity?

What about the store displaying slightly coquettish headshots of women wearing sheitelach/wigs that was hit with a boycott because the students at the yeshiva diagonally across the street had such a low tolerance for temptation that they complained about the display to their rosh yeshiva?

If you think that this doesn’t affect you, imagine this possible scenario, roughly ten years from now: You (or your wife, mother, sister, etc.) walk into a kosher store to stock up on kasher l’Pesach/kosher for Passover food, and get a major lecture at the check-out counter because you’re wearing blue jeans and a short-sleeved T-shirt. The fact that you’re concerned enough about Jewish tradition to have gone out of your way to buy kosher for Passover food seems to escape your lecturer’s attention. And, lest you think that men are exempt from pressure to conform to the “levush” (meaning, in practice, dress code or uniform), your husband (or your father, brother, etc.) gets a lecture for being bareheaded, or for wearing, heaven forbid, a baseball cap or multi-colored kippah instead of a proper black hat.


Blogger Tzipporah said...

While I agree that the new standards are ridiculous, those of us outside major metro areas don't have this problem, because there simply aren't any kosher stores.

We send our kids to Jewish preschool and public school thereafter. We have a small "kosher" section at the local grocery, and we order things online. None of these requires conforming to somebody else's standards because it is OUR community, and OUR standards.

Wed Mar 05, 02:01:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Tzipporah, I suppose there are some advantages to living in a smaller community--there are fewer people looking over your shoulder.

Wed Mar 05, 09:58:00 PM 2008  
Blogger RaggedyMom said...

I really commend you, Shira, on making some very cogent points in this series and outlining just how far-reaching this phenomena is. Good, albeit alarming reading.

Thu Mar 06, 12:08:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks, RaggedyMom. I wish this reading weren't so alarming.

Thu Mar 06, 12:50:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike the post on kashrut, this post didn't really seem very relevant to anything I see in the city where I live (which is probably bigger than Tzipporah's, since we have two K-8 day schools- but no Jewish high school).

Is any of this stuff common anyplace outside Israel and the hard-core haredi enclaves in NYC?

I go to a O shul with a more or less haredi rabbi in a city of 800,000 (though a much more mixed congregation) and even though the women pretty consistently wear skirts in shul, I see women wearing pants at non-shabbos events (e.g. classes during the week, assisting in the bingo games the shul runs).

Thu Mar 06, 10:14:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

It may be the case that this attitude is prevalent only in certain locations. But it's no fun for those who live in those locations who disagree with the stringent approach to the laws of tzniut of clothing.

Fri Mar 07, 10:48:00 AM 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>