I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
“Paint it Black” – The Rolling Stones
It’s about 80 degrees here in Chicago, and people on campus are already dressing accordingly.
That’s if you can call it “dressing.”
It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to this before – I mean I did live in Washington Heights for a few years – but I spent most of my time in the YU library (surprise). I’ve also heard the rantings about how women are judged by men and thus are forced to dress accordingly. Even some Orthodox women find “tzniut” rules unfair, difficult, or just really annoying.
For Jews, most people would cite legal sources, and say that certain dress is mandated by Jewish law.1 For the general society non-observant Jews, or frustrated observant Jews, we have books covering the “inspirational” merits of modesty. Still, this doesn’t seem to do it for many women.
Based on my current situation at UC, I’d like to add one more reason for modest dress. To put it as tactfully as possible, many women just don’t have the figure to be dressing in certain ways.2
It’s not a typical “Rabbi” answer and it might seem misogynistic, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Odd as it sounds, dressing modestly can make a women more attractive3 and as bad as the shidduch system is now, without the rules of tzniut, I’m sure it would be much much worse.
Like it or not, we do judge people based on how they look and carry themselves. And I also realize that society has imposed unrealistic expectations for how women (and men for that matter) are supposed to look. There are many degrees and qualities of attractiveness even beyond physical appearence. We also have our flaws. There’s no reason to emphasize them in public.4
1. Maybe I’ll get to the details in a later serious post.
2. This isn’t to suggest that women who can dress certain ways should do so. I’m sure that most if not all women think they look good the way they dress. I’m just saying that far too frequently, they’re just wrong or blind.
3. I fully acknowledge that my perception of what is or is not attractive has been conditioned by my upbringing. Even so, I’m guessing that people will agree with me on this point.
4. This would also apply to other areas such as personality.