Meira E. Schneider-Atik
marching to the beat of my own drummer

Taking Responsibility for Ourselves

A couple of months ago, I responded to an article that appeared in a local Jewish publication. The article was written by a rabbi whose stance was that erasing women from publications actually has a basis in Halacha and must not be dismissed. He cited several sources that state that men are not supposed to look at women. My response (in general) is that if men shouldn’t be looking at women, then they’re the ones who shouldn’t be looking.  

Not long before that, the question of women not being counted toward a minyan came up on my social media feed. I happen to love Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis’ answer to this. She taught that the concept of davening in a minyan came from the 10 Meraglim who brought back a bad report about Eretz Yisrael. They lost faith in Hashem and His promise that He would protect us there. To make up for that loss of faith, men are expected to daven in a minyan. We women didn’t lose faith in Hashem and we were never part of that sin. Thus, we’re not to be punished for it. 

There’s another answer to this and it’s simple. Men are obligated to daven three times a day. Women are not. Counting a woman in a minyan would allow men to fob their responsibility off onto someone who isn’t obligated.

Whichever answer you choose, it all boils down to the same thing: Women are NOT responsible for the men’s actions or transgressions. 

Today’s secular society is plagued by the issue of “I have a right to do this or that” with no one wanting to take responsibility. And as much as we want to protect our kids from harmful influences, those things do penetrate and this one certainly did. Judaism (along with most other religions) doesn’t agree with the idea of rights without responsibilities. However, there are people who do go that way and simply make excuses. In this case, they do it in the name of tzniut. 

There are those who believe that tzniut is the responsibility of the women and that it’s all about keeping men’s heads in the right place. Neither one of these is true. First, tzniut is just as incumbent on men as it is on women. Second, it is not about the men and their heads because we women are not responsible for that.  

Someone was once asking me about the issue of erasing women’s faces and he asked me “are you saying that you don’t think women should dress b’tzniut?” That’s actually a dodge but the truth is that yes, we do have a responsibility. We women do have to expect that men will notice us and that if we wear something revealing, they’ll notice our bodies and not pay attention to our persons. But as long as we’re dressing, behaving, and carrying ourselves with true tzniut, we’ve taken that responsibility and now the men have to do their part. If they can’t handle seeing the face of an Isha Tznuah, then they need to get whatever help they need to handle it. It’s not our responsibility to hide.

One of the very dangerous outcomes of erasing women is that it infantilizes men by directly implying that they cannot be mentschen and control themselves and take responsibility for their actions. That’s a whole new and terrible level of male bashing and I have no patience for it. Men can and should take responsibility for themselves and their actions and not fob that off onto anyone else. 

Women and men need to dress and behave and carry themselves with tzniut. Men who cannot handle seeing the face of an Isha Tznuah need to take responsibility for that. And we all need to take the responsibility of making sure our faces are seen and our voices are heard.

About the Author
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe stylist, personal shopper, and writer/blogger. Her goal is to help women feel good about themselves and to dispel the myths about tzniut and dressing well. Her heart is in Eretz Yisrael, but for now, she and her family live in Queens, NY.
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