Thursday, November 02, 2006
Power, clothing, fanaticism and gender
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the problems I have with some Charedi. As if the pirate circumcisions weren't enough, now we have the hall monitors of Mea Shearim with spray bottles of bleach tracking down the sluts whose skirts aren't quite dragging through the streets cleaning the cobblestones of the Old City. How dare they wear orange! Or bright green!
Read the whole story here.

Ultimately, being a Jewess is not predicated on anything halachically except one's mother being Jewish or conversion. From there, the question of Jewish identity is open for interpretation -- and frankly, I have an issue with the first one. But I'm not going to get into that in this post.

How we dress is very powerful. To many, the concept of modesty it is understood as a means to keep women servile (think burqa). So much in our Western society have roots in the patriarchy though - unless you are a complete radical, most of us have gotten over the fact that marriage itself has its roots in servility and exchange of property. We have, for the most part, within each of our marriages, redefined this practice for ourselves.

I know I have.

One can say the same about traditions from every culture throughout the world that have been modified because it makes sense to modernize. Frankly, we don't say "bless you" to keep the spirits from entering through the nose anymore either.

The way one dresses, male or female, young, old, whatever, is our external language of self expression. If you wear primarily black with skull patches, you want people to know more about the inside you that is not necessarily chipper all the time and sees a darker side of life. When you wear business attire, you want people to understand that you are serious about your work. If you go on tv with your sleeves rolled up, it projects an image that you are willing to get your hands dirty - deceiving or not.

When I get dressed in the morning, I consider what I am doing that day and how I want people to perceive me. When I wear jeans and a sweatshirt to work, I am damn certain that I have no meetings. My office mate knows more about my inside (my intelligence, my sense of humor). He knows enough about me to look past the external statement I make with clothing. On days that I do have to meet the outside world, I present myself differently. None of y'all have seen me the way Michael has, at my most vulnerable.

Tsniut (modesty) is a powerful concept. The modern Jewish thought on tsniut, as I understand it, and how many Muslim women who wear hijab and orthodox feminists wish others would understand it is as a focus on the inner self. A focus on things more important than how we look on the outside. The tradition within these cultures to dress modestly varies (Muslim women can wear pants but should have the hijab under their chin while Jewish women should not wear pants and only need to cover up to their collarbone) but this is the way some women choose to express themselves.

Having said that, we get to the Bleach Boys of Jerusalem. The women they are spraying (not that it would be any better) are not wearing halter tops and short shorts or even pants (!). They are wearing clothing that qualifies as tsniut, just not tsniut enough for these men. Too short skirts, tops that are not baggy enough to hide the figure, colors too bright.

These boys/men should be in their beit midrash. How is it modest to go out into the streets with premeditation to judge the women running their errands in your neighborhood. Aren't there better things to do with their time? Study Torah? Do mitzvot? Or is it that they enjoy some power over women that they do not have elsewhere. That they must secret themselves on balconies and around corners to get across a point that women are the root of all sin.

Ultimately, it is violence against women. It is forcing women to hide in the home, to fear going out, and it leads directly to the burqa. Which is not a comparison that these men should be striving to maintain.

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Blogger Abby Hansen said...

These nutjobs are really the ones who should be wearing skulls and crossbones on their clothing if their 'insides' are what they want to project.

I'm proud to be Jewish, but truly ashamed of anyone who uses religion to justify misogyny, assault and arson.

I'd like to see what would happen to any woman who assaulted a man whose beard she didn't think was long enough...

Blogger dizzy von damn! said...

i think it's weird that modesty draws attention these days.

and any asshole who sprays someone with bleach is pretty much going against their religion, regardless of which religion it is.

Blogger WineGrrl said...

Don't these people have anything constructive to do????

Blogger WineGrrl said...

P.S. I like the new look!

Blogger Susan said...

Hear, hear!

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