Friday, August 22, 2008

Jewish women & skirts


Holy Hyrax wrote a rather bizarre post today about how, although pants aren't really immodest, there's a case to be made for encouraging Jewish girls to wear only skirts. The rationale? That it can be a distinctively "Jewish" look that binds Jews together. My first reaction was "huh??". In my version of "out of town" Modern Orthodoxy, no one cares what someone wears, as long as it doesn't show inappropriate amounts of skin. My second reaction was this comment on his site:

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First of all, the ship has already sailed. Plenty of Jewish women wear pants including plenty of Orthodox, especially those not living in the more cloistered New York community. So if you're declaring skirts to be a distinctive Orthodox dress, you're effectively declaring that multitudes of women who keep shabbat, kashrut, and mikvah are not really to be considered Orthodox, since they don't wear the uniform.

As you pointed out, there's nothing immodest about pants. And the obsession of "does she wear pants or not" tends to be a juvenile obsession of those self-described Modern Orthodox who take more of their cues from the Yeshivish community than from anything truly modern and which is mostly unique to the greater NYC area.

Also, your comparing it to the outfits that other ethnic groups wear is faulty at best and gross stereotyping of those ethnic groups at worst. Most Asian women, for instance, dress in an entirely modern western manner.

And what about comfort? My sisters rode bikes for a little while as kids then eventually gave it up. I, on the other hand, continued riding on a regular basis till this day, despite the fact that I was stuck, as a teenager, in my all-boys yeshiva HS for far more hours than they spent in their schools. I suspect, therefore, that their reluctance to ride had something to do with being required to wear skirts. If you want to discourage a girl from playing sports or riding a bike, the best way to do it is insist that she wear only skirts.

Skirts, especially the tight outfits work by many frum girls today, are not exactly modest. Pants tend to be more modest, on average. And with pants, you don't have repressed yeshiva boys hoping to catch a glimpse under the girls skirts if they sit the wrong way.

I suspect that some part of you subconsciously is looking at what you may have been taught by the centrist/yeshivish community and trying to rationalize it in modern terms.

Sorry, it's not working.

Update, 12:30 PM:

Holy Hyrax feels that I misunderstood his post

I replied to him: Sorry if I misunderstood what you were writing and your motivation. But I still think that promoting skirts in any way is silly. I think that promoting pants wearing for those who feel like it but are afraid to buck frum society is a good thing. Let women be more comfortable and get more physical activity.

The whole reasoning for skirts in halacha is basically that it is inappropriate for men to see the split of a woman's legs so they won't be tempted by what that split hints at. That's relegating women to sex objects and the sooner the frum community leaves that behind, the healthier they would be.

But that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Please note that I have no objection to a woman wearing only skirts if she feels more comfortable that way for any reason. I just don't like the restriction on those who would prefer pants.

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