Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I Like These Guys!

In my post The Country Club, I explained that besides not believing in God, I have ethical issues with the "Company Policy" towards certain marginalized groups in Orthodox Judaism. I also mentioned that there are some people from within who are actively evaluating and seeking to modify unfair policies. Today I read a few articles by these folks, and would like to share.

An excellent article in the NY Times by Rabbi Dov Linzer on the way tznius laws - as interpreted through the Ultra Orthodox lens - play out in practice .

Rabba Sara Hurwitz's perspective.

And the article by Rabbi Seth Winberg  that led me to both those pieces which addresses some of the critical responses to Rabbi Linzer's position.


  1. I LOVE the Dov Linzer article, but I disagree with how you phrase your sentence. It is not how tznius laws play out. It's the consequences of over-sexualizing the "neutral" that have caused these ultra orthodox to objectify women; the very thing they were setting out to protect their women from. Tznius done with common sense, in my opinion, is a beautiful thing and works.

    1. Do you think "tznuius done with common sense" has to be implemented through a religious framework? I consider most people around me (religious or not/ Jewish or not) to be generally modest in dress (maybe bc/I'm not as lucky as you to live in California!)

  2. I also thought it was a brilliant article. Thanks for the feedback. I agree - the article focusses on how the laws play out in an UO context, so I've changed the wording to reflect that.I'm interested to know, then, how the relationship between dress code and tznius differs - not on paper, but in life - in the Modern Orthodox interpretation. Anyone?

  3. It's hard to generalize about tznius in the more left-wing Modern Orthodox population, but for the right wing, there is definitely a dress code. A tight and/or shortish skirt is more socially acceptable than loose pants, while the latter is usually more modest. Interestingly, sleeves which cover the elbow seem to be even more necessary, from a social standpoint, than a knee-covering skirt. Necklines are usually modest (though I occasionally see Lubavitch women wearing lower necklines).

    Lubavitch tznius is another topic in itself. I don't spend enough time with Lubavitchers to make definitive statements, but standards seem more relaxed, shall we say, than other chareidi groups.

  4. To elaborate - short skirts are not officially allowed in RWMO. However, it's easy to accidentally or "accidentally on purpose" wear a skirt that is too short. Accidentally - if a woman gains a little weight, her skirt may ride up farther than it used to, and she may not even notice. "Accidentally on purpose" - a woman who wants to go a little shorter can get away with it, and no one will call her on it because it's awkward.

    Re sleeves: it's harder to claim your sleeves rode up above your elbow without your noticing.

    I am not judging anyone, obviously, my previous comments should make that clear.

  5. Thanks so much for the rundown tesyaa! Like kashrut, it's difficult to figure out who considers what tzniut in our family . . . so many subtle variations. On paper, i.e. when rabbis write about tznius, I hear a lot of "tznius is on the inside" rhetoric, but in practice, if you say tznius, it seems most Orthodox people (Modern or not) seem to automatically equate it with dress. Is there a broader definition of tznius that I am missing?

    What is considered short? above the knee? far above the knee?

    > Interestingly, sleeves which cover the elbow seem to be even more necessary, from a social standpoint, than a knee-covering skirt.

    Are arms then considered more sensual than legs? That would be a major inversion of secular sensual association.

    p.s. I found your comments descriptive/analytic - not judgmental.

    Since you are BT, I'm curious if you find that the attention drawn to dress via tzniut rules render those around you more judgmental of how others dress, than before you were in the world where codes were "official".

  6. Definitely, being aware of religious modesty laws makes one more judgmental. It's so easy to judge a person you don't even know, merely because her skirt rides up!

    When I was young and not "frum" (though my family was traditional), we didn't worry about exposed flesh in the proper context - e.g., a bathing suit was fine by the pool, but wouldn't be fine in the supermarket. My mother didn't approve of tasteless clothes (she's English and very proper), and she would never let a bra strap show because it was trashy. (We had little clips inside sleeveless dresses to keep the straps out of sight).

    So before I was frum I may have still been judgmental about modesty, but not to the same degree.

    I try very hard not to judge at all these days. And if someone feels more spiritual in long black clothing from head to toe, I try not to judge that either. (For you HH).

  7. No, arms are not more sensual, just more obvious. When I say "short", I'm thinking about a skirt that hits right at the knee, or an inch above. It's hard to tell sometimes whether the skirt is too short, and as I said, it could be construed as non-deliberate. So legs seem to get more latitude than elbows.


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