Friday, November 8, 2013

A defense and a minor apology to R Yair Hoffman

It's very easy to attack or make fun of people's writing on the internet without thinking about them as real human beings, only caricatures.

Rabbi Yair Hoffman wrote a piece on women's tzniyus the other day. He did put it out there, and he opened himself up to criticism. And cricize him many of us did. The piece certainly deserves strong criticism. I wrote a post myself, titled "Tziyus Fetish"

This morning, Rabbi Hoffman himself commented on the post:

"Actually I wikipedia-ed the information and never saw the issue of non-tzniyus drop-ffs myself. The information was brought to me by a number of women, a few of them. I wrote the correct halacha and do not appreciate the attacks on my character for simply writing halacha. I have been called a sexual pervert, a fetishist, and worse for this article - for simply writing halacha. I am not sure why people think that it is okay to do this. I am very disappointed."
I obviously hurt the feelings of Rabbi Hoffman. His article, in my opinion, was ridiculous and deserved deep criticism. But I should not have implied that he was a sexual fetishist. I obviously never believed that, I was just using hyperbole to make my point. Here is the reply I wrote to Rabbi Hoffman's comment, which contains a more balanced criticism and an apology:

I think there is something deeply wrong with the contemporary charedi obsession with and focus on tzniyus, which sexualizes women just as much as contemporary secular society. The way you and others elevate this to the main thing that girls and women should focus on, has, in my opinion, the unspoken purpose of shutting them up, hiding them, and stifling them.

The attention paid by rabbanim such as yourself to the minutae of women's clothing DOES appear to be highly disturbing to most people not in the charedi culture, and seems like the OPPOSITE of tzniyus, if anything.

And it is that obsession with the way women dress that makes men sensitive to every single accidental glimpse of a woman's leg, when more modern people would never even notice. The more that needs to be covered up, and the more focus on every single collarbone or knee is what sexualizes these parts. I have no doubt that Taliban men find women's faces arousing,. That is what you are doing here.

All that being said, it's easy to write a blog post impulsively, and to insult people. I deliberately chose the last words of my post to be "seem like fetishists", rather than "are fetishists". I should not have attacked you personally, and I apologize for that. I am deeply disturbed by the way the Charedi community as a whole deals with this issue, but I should not have implied fetishism to you personally. You are obviously also greater than this one issue, as your defense of R Dov Lipman in July indicates.

I will update my post pointing people to this apology in the comments.

Shabbat Shalom.

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