A couple of my friends recently stopped covering their hair in public (as required by Jewish law, according to most Orthodox rabbis). I wasn’t privy to either one’s reasons for doing so, but I can imagine some possibilities:
- They don’t “believe” in it any longer or think that it’s halachically required.
- They find it uncomfortable, unattractive, or inconvenient.
- They don’t like the “stigma” of being obviously identified and/or stereotyped as a strictly Orthodox married woman and everything that goes with that.
I find such a decision fascinating mainly because I have never seriously considered going without a headcovering in public the entire time I have been married. In fact, except for showing a bit more elbow and hair, I dress by the same standards I did when I got married, and barring the headcovering, the same way I did during my year in Israel when I was taught (or “indoctrinated with” if you will) the halachot of women’s dress in Jewish law.
In a nutshell, I haven’t reexamined the halachic reasons for the way I have dressed in all these years. (You can retract my “thinking blogger” award and remove me from the JOFA list of blogs right now LOL.) I feel comfortable dressing this way. Partially because I’m not currently out in the working world, I enjoy more “benefit,” if you will, from dressing in a particular way than negative stereotyping. I dress more or less like thousands of other women in my community and in Israel, and while I don’t agree with every political or religious view generally expressed by this group, I can live with it.
I don’t find the clothing restrictions oppressive (except for a bit in the summer). In fact, in a way they allows me to focus less on my appearance and figure and more on my spirituality and religious observance, and as for labelling, I see few downsides in labelling myself as a religious Jewish woman. People feel comfortable asking me questions about Jewish observance, which I enjoy answering; they are less likely to question my kashrut standards (sad but true); they are less likely to put me in an uncomfortable situation, for instance men are unlikely to come on to me or touch me inappropriately (not that that was a big problem of mine at any age).
The main reason I haven’t revisited these halachot is that I have gotten used to them and they reflect who I am–were I to dress differently I would feel very exposed. Since the reasons for the way I dress are personal and don’t affect anyone else, I’ll stay more or less where I am on the tzniyut spectrum for the foreseeable future.
Now for the meme. I’m tagging some Orthodox female bloggers to hear about their reasons for their current standards of dress and why they may or may not have raised or lowered them (for lack of a better expression) through the years. I’m not so interested in the details of the dress, but answers to the following questions:
- For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?
- Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?
- Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?
- Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?
- If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks?
- How accepting is your community of women who “deviate” from the generally accepted mode of dress?
- If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?
- Any other comments you care to share on the topic.
I’m well aware that non-Orthodox and non-Jewish women also have standards for how modestly they dress and I would love to read any blogger or commenter who cares to share her opinion.