Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Games Girls Play and Why I'm Not Married....

Over on Frum Satire's blog, discussions have heated up about tzniut, mostly skirt lengths. It started when the blog owner, Heshy Fried, had embedded a you tube video on his blog with an FFB couple from the five towns getting engaged. He called it "awkward shomer negiah moments" because it's a little weird to get engaged without any hand holding and a kallah who is putting on her own ring. I'll spare you all the link, because that's not my point.

The girl in the video was wearing rather SHORT skirt. I mean, it must have been at LEAST four inches above her knee, probably more. So, various discussion ensued in the comments over at FS that she probably wasn't REALLY shomer, after all, this was an "awkward shomer negiah moment." The fact of the matter is whether she is or isn't when it's just them two, she's still, "shomer when people are watching" and they were.

One of the mini discussions I want to hone is was when the men said repeatedly in the comments, as I've heard before, "if ONLY these women KNEW how hard they make it for us by dressing like that."  I'm sorry but these guys must be so stupid. These girls DO know. That's exactly WHY they do it. Even one of my rabbis told me, "you women have the power to marry any guy you want to because you women know what you're doing." Nevertheless, I don't see these men putting their money where their mouth is. Who are the men dating and marrying? The "frum" girls who dress provocatively. What does the community say? NOTHING.

I have discussed this people before. Most people just start trying to explain things to me because after all, I as a convert must know NOTHING. In reality, I'm steps ahead of them. As I explain to people, the rules are technically that you are to cover the knees and elbows but really the rules are that it's very important that the girl wears a skirt and NOT pants. It REALLY doesn't matter what length the skirt is or if it covers the knees or not. See, this is where people interrupt to me and start telling me what the halacha on the books is. What they don't realize is that I'm WAYYYY ahead of them. I understand full well that if you ask what you're supposed to wear as a Jewish woman, you will be told to cover your knees. However, I also know that women are usually asked if they wear skirts and no one stops to add that said skirt should cover the knees. A man will refuse to date girls who wear pants before he will refuse a girl with a high hemline. In Queens, a BT guy got engaged to a BT girl who wore pants and his entire group of friends tried to convince him to break it off or give her an ultimatum to stop wearing pants. When that didn't work, they STOPPED speaking to him. We're talking about a man over 40 and he's supposed to do what people tell him to?

NO WHERE in the Torah does Hashem say that women should only wear skirts. When you ask why women are supposed to wear skirts, you are told that either A) it emphasizes the butt too much, not tzanuah or B) it's man's clothing.

A) why do we care about emphasizing the butt but one must not DARE speak up about those who emphasize the knee? (Someone will undoubtedly get nasty at me for what I say.)
B) Women's pants are not men's clothing and many women are wearing skin tight stretch pants. The straight men are not exactly flocking to the stores for those. Now you can argue that stretch pants aren't tznius, but let's be fair. If want to attack them, you should attack the short skirts, as well. However, no one does, but people on the fringe like me. Furthermore, the argument is ludicrous because religious women (ok and Asian women) are really the only ones wearing skirts regularly these days. As such, pants are no longer exclusively man's clothing. In NYC, women wear skirts more because people are more shallow here than any place else but maybe LA and skirts are dressier. Nevertheless, that could be it's own post.

What this all boils down to is a desire for men to be macho and keep gender roles as close as possible as they were in the 1800's. Men aren't trying to keep women in skirts to keep them modest. If they REALLY were, then the community would react to slutty short skirts. In the Xtian community I used to be in, you would be pushed out if you wore a skirt above your knees. You would be asked to leave church and not to dress like that again. People claim this isn't done in the Jewish community because we don't want to lose these girls on the fringe. The fact of the matter is that we have no trouble doing it to women who wear pants. If you wore pants to my old church, you wouldn't be asked to leave, but no one would talk to you that day, not even your friends, or they would ask why you're wearing pants and give you a "look." At least, the reactions matched the order of preference of attire. We play games about in the Jewish world. Although, the xtians have other issues I'm not going to get into here.

In conclusion, if wearing a skirt above the knee is REALLY against the rules, then people need to act like it's wrong. The truth is that wearing pants is the absolute worst thing in the world an Orthodox woman is to do. It's better to go about in her panties than pants. In fact, a girl I once heard snap that she didn't own pants went on the "no pants subway ride" this year. She's not afraid of people knowing, either.


  1. Unfortunately, you do make many valid points. I do see many contradictions in tzniut as halacha and custom versus actual practice. I see many double standards. You didn’t mention the ‘tightness’ of clothes or necklines, but I see this even more troubling than skirt length. Especially when skirt length is close, but not exactly knee length, there’s a huge difference between close and wearing mini-skirt. Same for necklace, there’s showing a bit of collarbone, and just plain being revealing. At singles events and co-ed shuirim I often go to, the women that are approached are often the ones wearing shorter skirt lengths, more revealing necklines and clothes that are tighter.

    My friends and I wearing appropriate modest clothes are ignored or approached by very old men. To their credit, older men are often complimentary on our appearance, but we are not interested in a father figure. I’ve even been asked a few times why I’m wearing a nice dressy mid-calf length skirt as if I’m the one inappropriately dressed. Color is often frowned on as being too showy, but it seems anything goes as long as it is in black. By color, I don’t mean red or flashy day-glow, just normal pastel and jewel tones, light neutral colors which should be fine in a modern community. I’ve been criticized for having a beige winter coat, when ‘the’ color is black!

    A rebbetzin who’s shuir I use to go to frequent, offered me a shidduch if I agree to a ‘make-over,’ so I’d be ‘beautiful’—those exact words were used. An older married friend of the rebbetzin volunteered to help me-she wanted me to cut my long hair into a short style that wouldn’t suit my face well and went shopping for a few outfits. I normally buy at Marshall’s, Land’s End, and only shop department store on clearance-nice clothes, but not expensive as I’m a teacher. I was pressured to buy very pricey designer label tighter tops and skirts all in black with metallic accessories. Although the lengths were acceptable, there’s no way I’d wear such an outfit home to my family! My mother would have me immediately change and family would comment if I’m into some interesting activities. I didn’t get offered the shidduch when I didn’t agree to all this and I’ve never been back to the shuir after all that.

    I did wear loose fitting pants, skirts that hit just above the knee (not mini-skirts) and short sleeve shirts before I was frum. I consider any of my “old” clothes to be much more modest than tight, very shape revealing outfits that are considered technically tznuit because elbows are covered. I suggest showing off expensive designer label is also part of the catch to look like one has a lot $$$ (or more likely major credit card debt). Yet, like you, I feel I’m going to rot away and not get married if I don’t bend on halacha when I keep seeing this over and over at so many events.

  2. You seem a bit mixed up with what is halacha and what is tsnius. Halacha is it must be covered, meaning it should not be seen. You can wear what you like however figure hugging as long as no 'flesh' can be seen.
    tsnius is what you decide for yourself will not make men look at you. This is not just in dress but in actions as well. A woman has to be in a sense not seen and not heard. She is only there for her husband and no one else.

  3. For the record, I own one skirt that ends right at my knees and some more that come just past my knees. I live in them when it's warmer. People who meet me in the winter usually comment that I am a frummy or I can lighten up and wear something a little shorter. I'm just practical. I wear long skirts because I wear pants under them in the winter to stay warm.

    Anyway, the girl in the video that this whole thing started over was wearing a lose skirt (I meant to mention in post, but forgot). That's important because you can't even say it might have pulled up when she was sitting. It wasn't a little bit above her knee, it was a LOT above her knee. I'm not guessing 4 inches out of my butt. I took out the tape measure and put it next to my own knee and estimated MOST utterly conservatively from the TOP of my own knee. Since most people would count that the knee needs to be covered, the skirt was probably more like 8 inches shorter than it should have been. To me, a mini skirt is more like half way to the knee or higher.

    Yeah, well, look who got engaged in the video, the half naked girl.

  4. 4:13, did you read my post or you commented based on what you THOUGHT I said? I'm guessing the latter.

    I didn't even discuss tight. The jist of my post is that while no one is going to admit it, there aren't any negative reprucussions in the Jewish community to wearing a skirt that's way above your knee. In fact, it's probably a good idea since those are the women who get married.

    Somehow though, I feel extremely immodest in a really short skirt. However, it seems that the Jewish custom is to only wear skirts about 2 to 8 inches above the knee.

    Wow, I'm such a fool that I don't enjoy putting myself on display.

  5. Hey, where are there events? When I look up event listing, I see basically all listing for things like shiurim and they aren't singles events, they just take advantage to list there and get free advertising.

  6. Point you don't want to hear: The people who worry about skirt lengths are the frummies.

  7. I think maybe that was my point. Except why, then is it such a big deal if women wear pants?

  8. This is one of the areas where there is no connection between the Talmud and halacha (which is really pseudo halacha).

  9. Forgive me please if this sounds crude.

    Regarding pants, I think as you've indicated, pants-vs-skirt is seen as a tribal-identity thing; pants = "not mainstream frum"; how it got that way is a different question.

    If it helps, Rabbi Haimoff (of the Bukharian shul in Kew Gardens Hills) spoke at a community gathering a day or two after 9/11 and did say he wanted to faint whenever he walked in the street, as skirts were getting too high and too tight. A few people afterwards said they agreed, but were squeamish for it to be discussed. Do you want a rabbi who gets up from the pulpit and obsesses with women's clothes every week? There is a band of normalcy between dress-to-kill and obsess-about-tznius, but I fear it's elusive today.

    Also agreed that tznius means conspicuous consumption of ridiculously unaffordable stuff is a very bad idea.

    I think a lot of the tight/short/flashy thing is particular to New York, or people who come from there. (Visit Baltimore, for instance, and you can quickly tell the true original Baltimoreans from the NYC transplants.) I think two things have gone on here: one, as the generation shifted from the Modern Orthodoxy of their parents (1950s and 1960s) to the center-shading-right of today, they picked up all sorts of things; it's possible that no-short-skirts never came along with the package. Two, if your husband (or if you're single, the guy who you hope to meet at kiddush) works in Manhattan, he's going to see a lot of women, every day, dressed to kill. Now you want him to still have eyes for you, so well ... there's this pressure to go tighter/shorter. And then if all your neighbors at shul do it, it must be okay ...

  10. Re: the whole "pants are men's attire" thing--it depends on which mode of "traditional" dress you wish to emulate. For example, in the Middle East (our place of origin, NOT Eastern Europe), it was considered customary for men to wear ankle-length caftans and WOMEN to wear trousers. In Scotland, some men (very macho ones, we're not talking metrosexuals) still rock the kilt. In China, both sexes traditionally wore trousers, and in Japan, both sexes traditionally wore the kimono.
    Also, as a side note, guys, if you're so concerned about "beged ish"...lose the fedoras. Sorry fellows, those hats were made for us lady folks!

  11. In a related note, I know one rabbi in Israel who actually said that it was better for a married woman to have no hair covering than to wear "a sheitel that made her look like a Parisian streetwalker."

  12. I'm fairly sure that European styled pants are hardly a male Jewish fashion. Hello, kaftans? They are robes that look and awful lot like dresses.

    Mind you, I wouldn't wear pants in the first place, but I am agreeing with your statement. Pants are not a mans article of clothing, nor are they a womans: they are goyishe garments and that's what people forget. Not that that is bad, it's merely true. Moshe Rabbeinu was wearing dress slacks.

    (I am a frum convert so I understand what you mean when you say people try and explain it all to you since you are "new" to being Jewish and therefore wouldn't know.)

  13. As a modern orthodox Jew, I would like to say that your opinion on tzniut just made you really really attractive.

    Just getting it out there.