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.