Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Women Should Not Be Seen Or Heard...

... or so some would have you believe.

There is going to be one Orthodox female competitor at the Beijing Olympics -- a young women named Bat-El Gaterer, who will be competing for Israel in the Taekwando competition.

Of course, the story has made the rounds of some of the "frum" news-blogs -- specifically Yeshiva World and Vos Iz Neias. While there are a fair number of commentators on those sites who are encouraging Ms. Gaterer in her Olympic quest, you also have your share of detractors. Examples include:

I suppose it’s all right for girls to learn martial arts to protect themselves, but, to perform in public in front of men (even dressed fully covered) is a breach in Tznius. I hope this sweet Jewish girl, who is concerned with keeping Shabbos and Kashrus, will grow in her Yiddishkeit and give up her competition in the Olympics one day and settle down to become a frum aidle aim b’Yisroel.

and

now this is something I'm sure all bais yakov and bais rochel girls can be proud of bravo! not.
or may i say it "a real cilul hashem"

and

STOP CALLING EVERYTHING A KIDDUSH HASHEM!!!
Hashem is NOT proud of her. A frum jewish girl does not belong performing on the world stage!!! KOL KVUDAH BAS MELECH PNIMAH!!!

It's when I see comments such as these (including the first one from someone with the moniker "basmelech" -- presumably a woman) that I have to wonder... is it simply there goal that women should never be seen or heard in a public forum at all? If all you can do is shout "KOL KVUDAH..." every time a woman dares to step out of the shadows and excells at something, then what message are we sending our girls? That there is nothing for them to strive for besides being wives and mothers?

Of course, the thing that I find interesting is this: the objecters don't seem to be objecting to the outfit that she has to wear during the competion... they seem to be objecting to the very fact that she is participating at all. My reading of their comments (and I could be wrong) suggests that they would have similar problems with a piano recital, a cooking contest or even a quilting bee. It's the very idea that she's competing and possibly drawing attention to herself that is untznius.

Well, in some respects, they are right. Drawing attention to yourself is, by definition, not tznius. But that has to apply equally to both men and women. When we were told hatzneah leches im Hashem... (walk humbly with God), the prophet wasn't only speaking to women... he was speaking to all of us. Humility and humbleness are positive virtues that apply equally to both genders. While there may be some differences in the practical halacha (especially with regard to dress) between men and women, the spirit of hatzneah leches applies to all Jews equally. Bat-El shouldn't be castigated for particpating in the Olympics any more than any man is. Yet, I have not heard anyone object to the men's basketball team participating in the Beijing games on the basis of tznius.*

So, why the hoopla? Why are some people getting all worked up over this? It's actually very simple... they don't understand what tznius is about. They think it's about keeping women in the house -- out of public sight, out of public mind. They think it's all about a myriad of rules about elbows, collarbones, the color red, and knees. They think that Kol K'vudah means that a woman has the inside of her home excel in and nowhere else. Of course, history shows us that that idea is false. Devorah was a judge. If you're going to call Ms. Geterer untznius because she's going to be in the spotlight for the few minutes that she's going to compete, what would you say about Devorah who was in the national spotlight for forty years? What would you say about Huldah who also served as a prophetess for the nation?

The point isn't that women have to be hidden away in their homes. The point is that everyone has a calling... and while fulfilling your calling, do it in the most humble way possible. If you're a talmid chochom, don't flaunt your Torah knowledge for personal aggrandizement. If you're a businessman, don't brag about your latest deal -- recognize that Hashem had a part in helping you with your success. If you're an athlete, be gracious and calm. Praise your competition, play honorably, and win or lose gracefully. Those actions are far more in the spirit of tznius than telling a woman that she can never have any public recognition of her deeds.

The Wolf

*I don't want anyone to think that I'm against Jewish athletes competing in the Olympics. I don't think that we aren't meant to compete and stand out above others where our skills allow. The point was that if you're going to say that Ms. Geterer's competing isn't tznius, one could also make the case for the basketball team.

16 comments:

Ezzie said...

While I agree to the main thrust of this post, I think it IS a valid question in specific whether what she is doing is okay or not. The Apple brought this up well at Jameel's (in the comments).

In addition, I think it is a valid question of where the line is drawn in terms of performing in public in general - there's a difference between serving as a judge and showcasing martial arts talents. While the second and third comments you quoted are off the wall, the first one is much closer to reasonable, if poorly stated.

aaron from L.A. said...

It drives me nuts when I see stuff like this from people who'd like to bring us back to the Middle Ages.Why can't people just be concerned with their own level of tzniut and leave others to their's.If these characters were really interested in Tzniut,they'd go out and work for a living and let their wives stay home....My B.S. detector just went off.

Joseph said...

I have to wonder... is it simply there goal that women should never be seen or heard in a public forum at all?

Never say never, but Shulchan Orach is very specific that a woman belongs in the home and should minimize to the extreme the time she spends outside.

Yes, Shulchan Orach.

what message are we sending our girls? That there is nothing for them to strive for besides being wives and mothers?

Now THAT is loaded. What better goal can a Jewish "strive for besides being wives and mothers?" NOTHING. That is the most lofty of lofties a woman can accomplish. She should be praised and complimented for such an endeavor!

Of course, the thing that I find interesting is this: the objecters don't seem to be objecting to the outfit that she has to wear during the competion...

That clearly is implicitly one of the commenter's criticisms.

Well, in some respects, they are right. Drawing attention to yourself is, by definition, not tznius. But that has to apply equally to both men and women.

True. But drawing attention to oneself is a bigger issue for women than men. I think this is obvious.

ProfK said...

Leaving aside the young lady and her Olympic aspirations for the moment, let me address "What better goal can a Jewish "strive for besides being wives and mothers?" NOTHING. That is the most lofty of lofties a woman can accomplish. She should be praised and complimented for such an endeavor!" This was preceded by "Never say never, but Shulchan Orach is very specific that a woman belongs in the home and should minimize to the extreme the time she spends outside."

Well then, all those who believe this to be one million percent true had best stop saying the Eyshis Chayil on Friday night. Go ahead and read the words, slowly and with understanding. That woman that you all praise so mightily is not a stay at home mom with no presence in the public sphere. She is the very epitome of the modern woman. She ran a household, took care of her workers, was busy in commerce and industry, met with merchants and basically took care of a lot of business that wasn't cooking and cleaning and being hidden from view. Do you think that Shlomo HaMelech (or whoever actually wrote Eyshis Chayil) made this picture up out of his imagination? This was what life was like for women then. Is someone seriously trying to promulgate the falsehood that Jewish women have been locked up behind closed doors in every other era except ours? That there have not been frum women of influence and prominence throughout the ages? That business, and thus the outside world, has been the sole province of men? It would be a kindness if the frummier boys yeshivas would institute the study of Jewish history, and maybe of Hebrew language courses, so that the boys would know what really went on and how to translate accurately the words that they mouth so readily. But if they want to stick to Gemorah, there's always the piece that starts out "When a woman owns a vineyard..."

Sorry for the digression Wolf but the type of blathering that goes on about how a woman's only place is in the home has become intolerable.

For more of a discussion of the eyshis chayil see
http://kankanchadash.blogspot.com/2008/02/fear-of-hashem-according-to-mishlei.html

aml said...

Aman ProfK and Wolf, you're right- its less about what you're doing and more about the humility you have while doing it.

-aml

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

It may very well state that in the Shulchan Aruch. However, it's also pretty clear that we don't pasken that way. If we did, more men would go out and work so their wives could stay home.

And, please note, I didn't say that striving toward motherhood wasn't the greatest goal that she could achieve. My objection was that this was sending the message that this was the ONLY goal she should strive for. In that, I strongly disagree. I think a woman can accomplish many things *in addition* to being a fine wife and mother.

The Wolf

Joseph2 said...

Great post, profk...

Anonymous said...

There must surely be a blogger's prize for "outstanding consistency in the field of sustained indignation."

I will be glad to submit the name of this site.

G said...

not the point of your post, i know, but...Kiddush Hashem? really?

-suitepotato- said...

I've seen the world of the woman chained to the house. Ultimately they have not even that as the man becomes the "man of the house" and they have nothing left but cleaning the bathroom and maybe getting her choice of curtains approved of.

I'm no feminist, but I'd rather my daughter took up prostitution in Nevada at a brothel than become chained to her home ruled over by some guy who treated her as property and gave her no love, support, or life. My own wife is a housewife, but she is amply encouraged to work as I do, have her friends, and to follow in her chosen interests which for her are crafting and makeup artistry.

Tznius is supposed to be more about modesty and humility in ways other than dress.

Lion of Zion said...

there are videos of her here:


Bat El Videos



G:

"not the point of your post, i know, but...Kiddush Hashem? really?"

she is demonstrating that people who have dreams can reconcile them with observance.

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

G:

"not the point of your post, i know, but...Kiddush Hashem? really?"

she is demonstrating that people who have dreams can reconcile them with observance.
----------------

A)That is debatable in this case.

B)That is your definition of a Kiddush Hashem?

Lion of Zion said...

G:

"That is your definition of a Kiddush Hashem?"

for this context, yes. please see what i wrote to you by jameel.

Anonymous said...

Related: http://www.vosizneias.com/19134/2008/08/10/pikesville-md-first-orthodox-jewish-fire-lt-elected/

chanie said...

I like your blog. Yasher koach.