Thursday, 12 January 2012

What do rabbis know about vaginal discharge that women don't?


And this is where I lose half my readership. I was going to save this post for later, after I explored niddah  a bit more, but a conversation in the comments section  here has prompted me to post it now.

I would love to be a fly on the wall on the day at Rabbi School, when the future rabbis are instructed on how to analyze vaginal discharge stains on underwear. What possible knowledge is imparted during this class that a woman could not decipher herself? If the analysis is based on dimension,  couldn't she use a transparent ruler with cutouts that indicate niddah in size? If it is based on colour, can't women use a paint chip that would let them evaluate the colour? We choose wall paint this way all the time! How different could it be? And although empowering women may not be a top priority in UO circles, surely "modesty" is. It is mind boggling to me that in a culture where showing ones knees/elbows is considered immodest, showing ones dirty underwear to a rabbi is OK.

I feel dirtier just having written that post. But it had to be said.

40 comments:

  1. The vast majority of women do this on their own. They only go to the rabbi in the very beginning of marriage in order to understand what to look for. So in affect, what you wish women did on their own, is actually done.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How do you know that? Is this something that is discussed openly with men? Some women also go when they are not sure if they can try to conceive yet. Hard for me to see this as anything but humiliating whenever it is.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know because I have a wife and I have asked the same question to her. Of course, she doesn't know EVERY woman out there, but if after the first couple of times she learned what to look for, it isn't a stretch to assume that other women have learned as well.

    Now, I am not a woman. I can't answer if its humiliating. But my guess is, if it is something important to you and you see it as a common practice within the value system of the community, it becomes no more humiliating than a woman going to a gyno and spreading wide open for him to see everything and touch everything.

    Now I am sure you lost your readership.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Women make better ob/gyn...you usually have a choice

      Delete
  4. Fair enough - my perception on this topic is based on hearsay too. (And it's reassuring to know you asked the same question). The obvious difference is that a gyno is for health reasons. Name me anything that men have to do that is similarly invasive in OJ, and that- to top it off - they need to show the Rebbzin (i.e. someone who is not of the same sex). It would be humiliating for me partially because the culture places high value on separating men and women in the name of tznius, and also because the rabbi is a frequent participant in one's social community. I've seen my gyno once at a deli, and that was super awkward. I presume you could bump into the rabbi socially more often.

    ReplyDelete
  5. >The obvious difference is that a gyno is for health reasons

    It doesn't matter. It's something of the utmost important. And everyone in the community knows it and expects it. There is no judgements.

    >Name me anything that men have to do that is similarly invasive in OJ, and that- to top it off - they need to show the Rebbzin

    And if there was, it would be less intrusive for you? BTW, if it helps, there is a growing effort to be "Yoetzot" to communities. These are women that are expert in any halachot that concern females that women can approach.


    >It would be humiliating for me partially because the culture places high value on separating men and women in the name of tznius

    I can assure you there is no fear of arrousal looking at some woman's dirty underwear ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only time I have fear of arousal is after a 6 pack and a flight of stairs.

      Delete
  6. >>>>growing effort to be

    Should read "growing effort to BRING..."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Apikorus al Ha'esh12 January 2012 at 12:21

    A few things:

    1. My rabbi told me what to look for, and I reported to him over the phone. He did mention, however, that women FedEx their underwear to him for rulings every day.

    I have since stopped asking questions of rabbis, by the way.

    2. At YU, and I assume other smicha yeshivot, they do use the Pantone color wheel to study stains and learn how to rule on their halachic status.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tarot cards in the hands...sometimes leave stains in the panties.

      Delete
  8. They only go to the rabbi in the very beginning of marriage in order to understand what to look for.

    Even longtime married women are required to ask the rabbi when the stain is amabiguous. And they teach you in bridal class that you cannot rely on a previous ruling if a stain is ambiguous.

    I do think, though, that couples who have been married longer and have several kids might not bother asking and just assume an ambiguous stain is "bad". Waiting an extra day might be torture for a 22 year old husband, but not an emergency for a 50 year old husband.

    I'm enjoying this blog, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The more I read this blog, the more I realize what a bunch of nutz are banging their heads against the wailing wall and wearing little boxes on their foreheads. Holy Mackal Andy. I thought the RC priests were bad.

      Delete
  9. >Even longtime married women are required to ask the rabbi when the stain is amabiguous.


    Right. They are there in those circumstances where you are not sure

    ReplyDelete
  10. > I can assure you there is no fear of arrousal looking at some woman's dirty underwear ;-)v

    Apparently you’ve never heard of the infamous used-panty vending machines in Japan.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Thank you for commenting everyone!

    @HH: re: GYN vs. rabbi
    The other thing I meant to mention as the difference is training. Only a GYN or physician can see what a GYN can see. I'm convinced that the training that either the rabbi or the "Yoetzot" have in panty stain analysis, is a skill that can be imparted to OJ women themselves.

    re: it's of utmost importance.
    (I'm playing dumb a little, but I'm interested in your response.) Why?

    @ Apikorus:
    Hi and welcome!!
    >I have since stopped asking questions of rabbis, by the way.
    Interesting - why?

    >2. At YU, and I assume other smicha yeshivot, they do use the Pantone color wheel to study stains and learn how to rule on their halachic status.

    No reason why women can't do this.

    @tesyaa
    Welcome and thank you for the compliment - much appreciated! It is a bit scary to put myself out here like this, even if it anonymously.

    G*3:
    LOL . . . That had actually crossed my mind. There may be a business in this for rabbis. Especially since they're getting the product at no cost. After factoring in shipping costs to Japan, it would be all profit. (I'm assuming rabbis don't return the panties, do they?) In any case, HH's statement is exactly why I think tznius as translated to modesty is a misnomer. Tznius really should be translated as "unarrousing".

    Are rabbis meant to go to the mikvah to cleanse after all this contact with niddah? I'm assuming they do, but just wanted to confirm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they go to the local confessor and say a rosary or two.

      Delete
  12. >I'm convinced that the training that either the rabbi or the "Yoetzot" have in panty stain analysis, is a skill that can be imparted to OJ women themselves.

    Which is why many women at a certain point do it on their own. If they have doubt, they know there is someone to help.

    ReplyDelete
  13. >re: it's of utmost importance.
    (I'm playing dumb a little, but I'm interested in your response.) Why?

    Why what?

    ReplyDelete
  14. IMO, this should not be something that a rabbi or other intermediary looks at. Not quite sure what's the mystery in the skill that they would need help.

    Why is the interpretation of the stain of utmost importance? How does it compare in importance to the kind of knowledge that a GYN could know, i.e. whether there's cancer/fertility issues etc. For me a GYN 's analysis is of utmost importance, a rabbi's - mneh.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Because a women bleeding is natural. Niddah is not natural. It's a ritual. So you need someone educated to explain how to tie the two together in order for you NOT to consider yourself ready for sex when you aren't, and not be strict when you shouldn't be.

    It's no different than any other halachic issues concerning the human body. Read up on Tzaarat (I think thats how you spell it). Blemishes on the body (both men and women) that can cause them to be ritually unclean. How would someone know if what they have is a Tzaarat, or a regular mole? The answer: You go to someone qualifying in knowing how these physical phenomena's tie into ritual realm.

    Again, for all practical consideration, this is no different than a Gyno. Physical health is important. Women know that. Gynos know that. So he checks her out every 10,000 miles or so. Kicks the tires to make sure everything is ok. :-) There is no judging. The exact same relationship exist here. Women know Niddah exist. Rabbis know niddah exist. One helps the other. Because in the context of orthodoxy, just as phyisical health is important, so is the "spiritual ritual" health important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This practice is enough to deter any non-Jew from conversion.

      Delete
  16. HH: The natural and the spiritual do get mixed up in the mystical, sometimes:
    I've heard of Rabbis in Jerusalem who are (supposedly) able to diagnose a woman with cervical cancer based on the stains.

    ...At first, in my own marriage, I bought the idea that you just have to get over the embarrassment, the same way you just close your eyes and grind your teeth and pretend it's all okay at the OBGYN. In Kallah (bridal) classes, and in some of the religious self-help-type literature, it's said that niddah is actually empowering because usually women do check themselves and their sole witness is accepted as proof of their cleanliness...it's only when there's an ambiguity that a woman has to call in an "expert".

    But now I think it's that "exception" which is really the rule -- women are NOT truly acceptable as witnesses in this paradigm, even when it comes to their own bodies. You'll probably see me in hell (i.e., eating ham on Yom Kippur) before you see me presenting a niddah cloth to a Rabbi again.

    Nevertheless, CL, I retain most of the other points of niddah rituals, because even though I don't believe that the recent "apologetics" are authentic to the origin of these practices, I still think that they *work* for me today.

    ReplyDelete
  17. >But now I think it's that "exception" which is really the rule. women are NOT truly acceptable as witnesses in this paradigm

    Fair enough. Everyone has their own experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  18. OK.I am an orthoprax woman and I can't believe that I used to take my panties to rabbis. Completely degrading, undignified, and disgusting...but I had no idea because I was brainwashed into thinking that it was totally normal. Did those rabbis have special eyes that made them more capable than mine? NO!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course the rabbis have special eyes...just ask them. They are given special powers and, of course, they hear from G-d...they can walk on water (frozen) and, for a small fee, they will even amputate and kiss your child's deedledoodle ... for a mere 10% of your annual income (with a special discount of .2% per panty). Oy vay.

      Delete
  19. Thank you for sharing Bluster and Anon. I can appreciate that I'm treading on very personal territory here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not personal unless you ask to see my underwear, lol. Since I don't have my own blog, I'd like to present a topic for you: The sexism of halachic adultery. It's actually what turned me from orthodox to orthoprax.

      Delete
  20. Anon - I know nothing about the topic, but - knowing me, if I did, I'd have an opinion! Would you be interested in writing about it as a Guest Post? If so, you can e-mail me at coinlaundryblog@gmail.com. Alternately, I could make it one of my "Question!" posts . . .i.e. "Question: Are halachic laws regarding adultery sexist?" Talk about a baited question!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Will I be able to write my opinion :P

    ReplyDelete
  22. Btw, now that I've posted a few times I guess I should get a screen name. I will now be known as Cali Girl

    ReplyDelete
  23. HH: Feel free - I have never censored you!

    Cali Girl: Like the name!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Funny Story:
    When I was studying in Israel, one of my rabbis was the son of a respected Rav. As a teenager, he was rather rebellious, and was is an openly non-shomer relationship with a girl. One time, the girl was going on vacation, and she wanted to leave my rabbi with something to remember her by for that week. So she and several of her friends recorded themselves on tape moaning orgasmicly "oh D, I miss you!" She called him to say she was going to drop it off by his front door.

    The doorbell rang. He saw a package left on the front door. Excitedly, he took the package to his room. But when he opened it, he found a dirty, bloodstained woman's underwear. Now he thought this was a cruel joke on his GF's part and simply put it away.

    Later that night, his father came in with a cassette tape. He said "D, I think this tape is for you." D said "thanks." His father then asked "Now, can I have the underwear?" D was appalled; his father, the respected Rav getting dirty underwear? He sheepishly answered "come on, Abba, you know my underwear doesn't fit you." His father grunted "D, give me the underwear, now!" So he complied.

    He figured the right thing to do was to tell his mother. So he did. His mother said "oh, you weren't supposed to see that..." And he was like "Imma, you know about this?" So his mother explained: this is what women do when they are in saffeq nidda. They inform the rabbi that they are going to drop off a sample of the bloodstain (usually on the underwear), so the rabbi can examine it...so they call in advance, say they're going to drop it off, they drop it off discretely, and after examining it calls them up...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my case, I'd have to leave him my jeans...

      Delete
  25. Fish - hilarious!! Thanks for sharing! Welcome :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Another story I remember from when I was younger, told by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky. In his story, there was a woman who wasn't sure if she was in nidah or not. So she went to a local posek to ask. The posek asked her to disrobe. He then started to touch her all over and ask "do you feel anything now?" Then after a while, he told her she was okay.

    Something didn't sit right with the woman. She asked her husband, who was a local yeshiva bochur. He wasn't sure either. So he asked Rabbi Orlofsky if what he did was okay. And Rabbi Orlosfky's answer was along the lines of 'what are you crazy? of course he had no right to do that! this man is a pervert, and you are reporting him now!' And this story actually had a happy ending, turned out this posek had been doing this for quite some time and eventually it caught up with him...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, I'm no posek but let me take a look.

      Delete
    2. Wasn't sure that this was wrong? Give me a break . . . How long did it take for the authorities to catch up with the perv? What damage did he do in the meantime? How long was he getting away with this?
      Just came across this site and I am amazed !!! Talk about debasing women. What possible benefit can there be TO WOMEN in this practice?

      Delete
  27. Have you ever heard the term "Yoetzet Halacha"?

    http://www.yoatzot.org/ask.php

    http://www.rinat.org/yoetzet_halacha

    http://www.lss.org/content.php?pg=Yoetzet_Halacha&ID=203

    ReplyDelete
  28. @Anon: Thank you for the links. I was vaguely familiar with the term. I'm not sure how much educating the Yoetzet's do vs. analyzing. Although going through a Yoetzet is a gentler way to do this, I'm not convinced an intermediary is necessary. We're talking about analyzing something concrete (the shade/ size of a stain), and any intelligent women should be able to do it herself. I just don't see what is so complex about this procedure that an intermediary would ever be required. If it doesn't already exist, I should make/market a self-analysis kit, and retire early! Anyway, the Yoetzet in the first link looks very approachable, I'll send her the link to this, and ask her to comment.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I do not approve of any sort of antisemitism nor, for that matter, any discrimination against a group of people based on religious or cultural beliefs. It is not hard to understand, however, why antisemitism is so widespread within a society when there are rules which speak to absurdity on this level of magnitude. Bringing dirty panties to a clergyman to determine menstrual status is so ridiculous that if one were writing fiction, he simply could not make this stuff up. That such rules exist is less of a mystery to me than why the persons involved actually comply with them, in the first place. Where is their common sense or critical thinking skills?

    Jewish persons are typically known for having high intellect. How can they possibly comply with something this absurd? My guess is that many persons actually do not but are not open about their non-compliance in the interest of not rocking the boat. To say such practice is incredible would be the understatement of the year.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...