You Do the Math

My father is a teacher of math by profession. He taught high school math for 30 years in public school before he retired. He also taught math and physics part-time in yeshiva high school and later in community college and is still doing so. My older son likes math and has been described by his teachers as a math genius. I was an advanced math student in school and I passed the AP Calculus exam in 12th grade but unlike my dad and my son, I don’t like math all that much.

Strangely enough, I find that the math I learned does come up relevant sometimes and in very unexpected places. One of these is the issue of erasing women from public view.

There’s a property in math called the Transitive Property. It goes as follows:

X = Y.

A = Y.

Therefore, A = X.

Here is how it relates to erasing women:

A sexual object is something that provokes impure thoughts.

A woman provokes impure thoughts.

Therefore, a woman is a sexual object.

This reasoning is often used to justify not using women’s faces in many publications in the frum world. The problem, however, is that true tzniut demands that we look at women (and men, for that matter) as real human beings and NOT as sexual objects. So we get back to the math:

Women are erased because they are seen as sexual objects.

Tzniut demands that we NOT see women as sexual objects.

Therefore, erasing women is NOT tzniut.

There are those who, instead of at least acknowledging this, will start justifying it by going into long explanations of tzniut using a lot of euphemisms and fancy language. But what they’re doing is the equivalent of “I don’t have a cold. I have acute nasopharyngitis.” Same thing, different language. If you strip it down (and in this case, stripping is not un-tzniut), it just comes down to the same thing.

That brings up another mathematical principle: state the problem in non-reducible terms. Regarding erasing women, it really is as simple as stated above with the Transitive Property.

So is erasing women really tzniut?

You do the math.

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.