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Really? We’re still talking about this?

The straight dope on modest dress and, no, it’s not so that women prevent men from being attracted to them

Okay, let’s do this, let’s talk about tznius. Here we go:

Let’s talk about why we follow the religious laws of modesty.

Just kidding! I am so not going there. I mean, I can talk about why I follow the laws of tzniut, but that’s not what this post is about. And I’m not going to talk about why you follow the laws of tzniut. (Get your own blog!) Everyone has different reasons why we connect or have a hard time connecting – to different halachot. But let’s agree that a basic, legitimate reason to follow the laws of tzniut is because we love Hashem and one way that we express that love is by following His laws.

What I can’t get behind is the idea that the main reason for women to dress modestly is so that men won’t be attracted to them.

I mean, you can say, “Please cover your knees, so that you don’t inadvertently put a stumbling block before the blind, as most normal, straight men find women’s thighs attractive.” And yet, you can just as easily say, “Please cover your ankles, so that you don’t inadvertently put a stumbling block before the blind, as most normal, straight men find women’s calves attractive.”

“Ahh,” you say, “but these are two different things. One of them is halacha, and the other is not.”

Well, yes. Exactly. Because Jewish law does not mandate that women prevent men from being attracted to them. That…would be ridiculous.

Let’s talk about whether there is a difference between objectification and lust.

(Yes. The answer is yes.)

I see this being mixed up a lot, but they’re really, really, really not the same. Lust is a normal human desire – that both men and women experience, by the way – sometimes inappropriate but not inherently dehumanizing or evil. Objectification is different.

Objectification is when you think that the crux of someone’s existence is their body, or their usefulness: what they can do for you or what you can do to them.

Straight dudes: You see a lady wearing not a lot of clothing and you feel lust? That makes sense; after all, clothing is generally removed in, um, intimate situations, and so an association between the two concepts is normal. However, in a situation where this lust is inappropriate, you tone it down. But hey, this applies whether the lady is wearing a swimsuit or a Snuggie.

The same straight dudes: You see a lady wearing not a lot of clothing and your mind turns her into a sexual object, removing her own thoughts and feelings from the equation? This is a problem, and saying that this is true about most men (and I don’t think it is!) does not paint a pretty picture of society. This would be completely counter-productive in regards to marriage, for one. If a husband respected his wife less the more he saw her unclothed… well, you can see how that would be a disaster.

Let’s talk about whether or not feminism is a dirty word.

Okay, listen up, because I’m talking to you, “Mr/Ms/Dr. I’m Not A Feminist But.”

Yes, you.

You’re the one reading an article or blog post, nodding along…

I believe that women are human beings who deserve just as much respect as men.

“Yeah, of course!”

I believe that everyone should be able to live their lives without the fear of harassment, rape, or abuse.


And that’s why I’m proud to call myself a feminist.

“Whoa whoa WHOA let’s not get ahead of ourselves here!”

Ouch. When I see people I like, decent people, use the word “feminist” like it’s an insult, it hurts my heart.

They probably don’t mean it how it sounds. They probably don’t mean to deride all people who think that women are human beings. But it still makes me wince.

True, there are some people with stricter criteria than “think that women are human beings,” but let’s not be clique-y and exclusive. Respect women as people? You’re a feminist. We may disagree over many topics, but we’re still on the same team.

One time, a few years ago, after some conversation that I don’t remember over Shabbat lunch, one of the guys at the table asked me if I was a feminist. I didn’t want to come off as combative (I know, “Yes” is a totally antagonistic sentence; let’s leave that for another time), and I wanted to maybe convert a potential ally, so I responded, “Well, I’m not not a feminist.”

He thought it over. “Okay,” he acquiesced. “I’m also not not a feminist.”

(By the way, if the person I was talking to remembers this and is reading this post, sorry I didn’t get your permission first! I totally would have! Except I forgot who the other person in this conversation was.)

Hey, Not-Not Feminists? Welcome aboard.

And that is all I have to say on the subject.

(Don’t worry, I can totally take it back; Kol Nidrei is coming up.)

About the Author
Tzippy grew up in the vicinity of Teaneck, "Ir HaKodesh." She made aliyah because there just wasn't enough kosher pizza.
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