Covering Up Women Doesn’t Make Society Holier Because Male Desire Isn’t Dependent on Women

What’s the purpose of the constant focus on Tznius for women. You actually hear less about the women’s Mitzvos that were historically emphasized than you do about Tznius these days. Tznius shiurim and tapes have taken over.

From this you might imagine that there’s some sort of epidemic of frum women walking around dressed in immodest ways but there isn’t one! Frum women today dress far more ‘modestly’ than their mothers did back in the 70’s. Women’s clothing in the frum world is more standardized and bland than ever. But the Tznius obsession is now actually greater than ever.

How do you explain that?

Easy, take a look at the Muslim world where women are covered from head to toe and yet there’s entire industries dedicated to pursuing immodesty in women. You see the more you cover up, the worse it gets.

Covering up women doesn’t make a society holier. It doesn’t reduce immorality. Only teaching genuine character and values does.  Obsessively pushing new Tznius chumras and pushing the sexes further and further apart stops being a Geder Le’Arayot and becomes a cause for Arayot itself.

In Saudi Arabia, pornography use and homosexuality has exploded. The more the country has repressed and segregated women, the more men have found other outlets because MALE DESIRE IS NOT DEPENDENT ON WOMEN. Male desire exists regardless of women. Catholic Priests who segregate themselves from women will molest boys. Men isolated in the military and prison turn to Homosexuality. Covering up women doesn’t prevent perverted male behavior.

Men find it convenient to blame women for their own desire. But whether or not women walk around dressed or undressed, in bikinis or covered from head to toe, male desire doesn’t go anywhere. The sight of a woman can help bring out male desire in a particular moment but from day to day, men will nevertheless deal with the challenge of their desires. If you take women too far out of the equation, that desire won’t go away.

Religious conservatives treat desire as something that radiates from the female to the male. It isn’t. Desire radiates within us. The sight of an attractive person of the opposite sex can make it flare up but it isn’t creating anything that isn’t there and the other person isn’t responsible for it or to blame for it. Going too far in either direction perverts both men and women. Too much exposure and too much concealment and segregation both pervert the natures of men and women. The ideal is the balance of a golden mean. One that cannot be reached with escalating Tznius Chumras that hold women responsible for male desire.

Was Miriam HaNeviah Tzanuah?

The Gemara in Sotah yud beit: daf alef tells us that when Miriam HaNeviah was rejuvenated she became so beautiful that men would become aroused by her and rush home to their wives for the *ahem* obvious reason.

Now was Miriam HaNeviah not Tznius? Was she responsible for bitul zerah or aroyos? Surely we can assume she wasn’t dressed immodestly but she was nevertheless arousing men. The whole Tznius argument rests on women arousing men. The effect was therefore the same. Yet we don’t seem to view Miriam that way. Nor do we blame her for her effect on men.

Now I’m sure that there’s a dozen ways to wiggle out of this but the point is simply that Miriam was not held responsible for the reactions to her beauty. She wasn’t told to cover up her face because it was having an effect on men or hide out in her tent. Miriam was beautiful and that was something to be appreciated. She was not held responsible for how men saw her or how they reacted to her. She was a Tzanua through her own behavior. Why can’t we use that as a model?

Male Desire and Women

This stems from the discussion on the Harry Mayles post about the Tznius Beit Din. Elliot Pasik repeated a familiar argument

The child sex abuse problem has exploded in the past few decades, coinciding with the degeneration of moral values. Prior to World War II, when morality was at a higher level, this type and amount of child abuse did not exist.

As I said, if some zealous Jerusalem rabbis want to establish dress standards in a country which not only has a child sex abuse problem, but also a female slavery prostitution problem, let them be. I wish them Hatzlacha.

Elliot Pasik here is typically confusing a problem that wasn’t widely recognized or spoken about with one that doesn’t exist. This is a common mistake in the frum world. The problem certainly existed. There were just fewer outlets for addressing it.

A newspaper editor in 19th century England was actually jailed when he reported on the widespread practice of child prostitution and one of those calling for his imprisonment was none other than beloved pedophile, the Reverend Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carol, author of Alice in Wonderland, whose hobbies including taking naked photos of young girls.

But his bigger mistake is obscenely blaming women for pedophilia.

Pedophilia is directed at children, often sexually immature. Pedophiles prize their ability to control and destroy children’s innocence. Pedophilia is not a desire roused by women which when frustrated turns to children. This is an obscene distortion of the truth.

Finally male desire is not created by women BUT EXPRESSED TOWARD WOMEN. Here lies the fundamental difference which undermines frum tznius. Frum morality treats male desire as deriving from the sight of women. If women dress modestly, male desire is supposed to vanish. This kind of arbitrary view dates back to the Gemara which claimed that a man seeing one woman naked would not lead him to desire other women. The source of desire is supposedly the individual woman. This of course is simply not true as any man who is honest with himself knows.

Male desire is not created by women. Male desire can take many forms and it may be directed toward women, roused by women and expressed toward women but it is not created by them. It exists regardless of how the women are or aren’t dressed. That’s simply a fact. Blaming women for male desire is a slippery slope that leads to a failure to take responsibility for your own actions and desires.

The Tznius Obsession Reduces Women to their Bodies

Religious conservatives often go on about how modern society reduces women to their bodies and there’s certainly tons of sexually explicit advertising everywhere and women being treated as nothing but pieces of meat. But the frum world is better right?

Certainly girls going into their shidduch parsha aren’t set insane standards for dress sizes no normal adult female should be expected to wear. Nor do girls diet like crazy just for the shidduch. Nor do they make themselves anorexic for it. That’s Chukat HaGoyim. Doesn’t happen among us.

But let’s skip past the small stuff. Let’s go straight to Tznius. Tznius which all the Haredi Rabbis now tell us is a woman’s central mitzvah. It’s the one they dedicate endless lectures for women on.

Congratulations. The woman has now been reduced to her body. Dress it up all you like in Kevodah Bat Melech but that’s what we’re doing, no different than the crazy Yishmaelim with their hair rays and burkas and acid throwing. Oh no we’d never throw acid at a woman who isn’t wearing proper modest clothing. We use bleach.

The Tznius Obsession reduces women to their bodies worse than the modern sex obsessed society does. They leave room for women to be something more than their bodies. We tell women that their most important mitzvah is to cover themselves up, to neurotically study the endless guidelines of how much they need to cover up the evil flesh that is their bodies, which otherwise will corrupt klal yisroel and cause endless tragedies and wars.

Yes we’re so much better than the shkutzim who put half-naked women up on billboards and devalue them. We value our women. We value them so much that about the only torah we teach them involves the length of their skirts. We value them so much we send them off to work and tell them that we’ve invented a new mitzvah that has the woman working while the man sits and learns.

The Gemara tells us that Pharaoh sent the women to do men’s work while the men did woman’s work and kept the men apart at their labors in order to prevent Am Yisroel from reproducing. So the women went to their husbands who were toiling and made themselves attractive for them and slept with them there. Now the Haredi world has duplicated the work of Pharaoh. They’ve sent the women off to do men’s work and they’re not too crazy about the making themselves attractive part either. With Pharaoh gone, we’ve made our own Pharaohs.

Here’s an idea. Let’s get past the euphemisms for what we do and let’s give women a real role in the frum world. I don’t mean female Rabbis. I don’t mean tearing down the mechitzas. I don’t mean jettisoning halacha. But how about some real respect. And a function that’s more than being a housewife and a pile of ervah body parts meant to tempt men.

And if we’re going to reduce women to their bodies, let’s at least be honest about it and stop looking down at all those shkutzim.

The career woman in the secular world more than meets her match in the frum woman who has to raise a family and work at 2 jobs to make ends meet. The teenage girl dieting to fit into her scandalous clothing is little worse off than the frum girl dieting to fit into her perfectly modest dress which can only fit a store mannequin.

And the abused wife. The molested daughter. The forgotten women are all around us. Unlike the secular world, we lack a mechanism for even hearing their cries, when it would embarrass someone we go to shul with or do business with. Do you really think those women are worse off in the secular world?

We reduce women to their bodies, we blame them for their bodies and for being their bodies and then we congratulate ourselves for our superior values in comparison to the secular world which treats women as nothing more than pieces of meat. And then it’s time for another Tznius lecture. Because there’s nothing like telling a woman who works 2 jobs and raises 3 kids that she’s not acting like a princess. Her kavod had better be on the inside because we’ve certainly made sure there won’t be any outside.

IT’S TZNIUS MADNESS SEASON

Welcome to Israel. The bombs are falling. The rockets are falling and the Rabbis who are happy to keep this government in power have found a crucial issue to tackle— all those frum women walking around in bikinis!

Oh wait, they’re not actually walking around in bikinis. Maybe their blouses are only 3 inches longer than their waist or maybe they’ve had to let out their waist. Or maybe they’re actually wearing denim. Either way it’s the gravest threat to Kedushat Klal Yisroel since the Chet HaEigel.

Have we not all forgotten how we lost a Beis Hamikdash because of Sinas Chinam Tznius. Listen well.

Under the guidance and encouragement of maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel including Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, the Mishmar HaTorah Beis Din was set up to deliberate and to issue clear instructions regarding modest appearance for women. Benos Yisroel kesheiros vetzenuos yearn to hear dvar Hashem — zu halochoh in order to know how to conduct themselves, what attire the Torah permits and proper conduct in other matters of Torah and modesty.

Funny how Tznius was a Da’at Yehudit in the first place. Now we require an entire Beit Din to tell women how they can and can’t dress.

Hear the Dvar Hashem! Wow. Last time I checked you can open up a Tanach and hear the Dvar Hashem. You don’t need the Beit Din for a Dvar Hashem. You need a Beit Din to threaten people with Chumras that have nothing to do with Dvar Hashem.

Is this Beit Din going to stop the practice of the bleach squads? Is this Beit Din going to fight the torching of stores whose clothing doesn’t match their chumras or is going to encourage it. What does Dvar Hashem have to say about people who destroy the property of others, outright Gezeilah in the name of a Chumra?

“Although many of them are uninformed or inattentive [regarding these matters], they are dressed in a manner not in keeping with the ways of modesty according to halochoh.

Those stupid flighty women. They just can’t be trusted to pay attention when Rabbonim are speaking to them about the importance of not dressing in denim and making sure their skirts have no slits in them.

But we can’t blame them after all– they’re only stupid women. Since we can’t trust them with something important like the clothing they wear, just with minor stuff like taking care of children and earning a living for their families doing jobs Indians won’t do… while their husbands surf for porn on their not so Kosher cell phones– we’ll lecture them some more on how the evil power of their hair is driving frum men mad with crazed lust.

This issue is of the utmost importance to [Am Yisroel] and the future of kedushas Yisroel depends on upholding the modesty guidelines.

You’d think the war in Israel might be important to the future of Am Yisroel, yet some of these same rabbis will be backing Olmert’s government but who really cares if three millions Jews die in the flash of an atom so long as we can put out another tape on the importance of making sure hemlines aren’t too long and aren’t too short but are just darn right!

The beis din has already issued a letter noting the importance of not following the ways of the non-Jews in terms of clothing and hairstyles, which is brought down in halochoh, in order to remain distinct from them in terms of clothing and conduct

Bwaaaahaaaaaa. I knew Moshe Rabbeinu used to wear a black hat! And I bet he wore loafers too. Chukah HaGoyim? You people are talking about following non-Jews in clothing and hairstyles? All your bloody clothing and hairstyles came from Goyim in the first place. You think the black hat was a Jewish invention.

You want clothing that’s not Bechukas Hagoyim, ask an archeologist or an anthropologist for what Jews used to wear. And then watch as you aren’t allowed in a single Beis Medrash because you’re not dressed like a Polish Sheygetz of the 17th century.

The letter also says that girls’ schools and seminaries have an even stronger obligation to stand firm against breaches by the staff, the students and the students’ mothers, both at school and away from school, including at family celebrations.

Nothing will escape our grasp for we have X-Ray vision (which makes modest clothing pointless but who cares) if you wear denim at a family celebration, we know and then we’ll spray you with bleach! In your eyes!

“We are certain,” write gedolei Yisroel, “that acheinu bnei Yisroel hayerei’im ledevar Hashem will pledge to safeguard kedushas Yisroel and be cautious and exacting in all of the halochos and guidelines

I’d point out the irony of ACHEINU BNEI YISRAEL (yes I know it’s generic and includes women but it’s still ironic as hell that even when they’ve gotten through setting up a system for controlling women, they still can’t address or acknowledge the women themselves– maybe it would be too prust) but we’re dealing with people to whom that kind of irony is a closed book.