Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Princess and the Prostitute

Eeees and I were walking back from shul one Yom Tov morning when we passed by another shul in the neighborhood which we do not attend. As we passed by, she told me that the rebbetzin of the shul gave a speech to the women in the shul about their manner of dress in shul. Apparently, the key note of the speech was this: do you want to look like a princess or a prostitute?

Now, I know that some people might have a problem with the way some of the women dress in my neighborhood. Some of them might wear clothing that some would consider too tight. And, as the rebbetzin in the shul, I suppose she sincerely thought that she had some say in the matter, especially when it came to how they came dressed to shul.

Let's even say, for the sake of argument, that she was right -- the women dress in clothing that is too tight, perhaps the skirt is slightly above the knee (which, knowing the shul, I doubt), or the sheitel is too attractive. Nonetheless, I'd be willing to bet dollars to donuts that the women in my neighborhood do not, in fact, dress like prostitutes. There are many degrees of dress between princess (which, from the context, I'm assuming is code for tznius*) and prostitute.

In fact, I think that by framing the question this way, the rebbetzin probably lost most of her audience. Had she framed it in terms of a laxity in the spirit of tznius, her audience might have been able to internalize the message, seen how it applied to them and made the adjustments the rebbetzin was aiming for. But by framing it as "dressing like a prostitute," she probably lost them completely. The ladies attending the speech probably said to themselves "Well, that doesn't apply to me. I don't dress like a hooker!" and then proceeded to dismiss the rest of what she said.

The Wolf

* Although most of the formal gowns worn by European princesses certainly wouldn't qualify as tznius...

29 comments:

ProfK said...

Yet another example of the logical fallacy of either/or. There's nothing between a princess and a prostitute? Those are the only two modes of dress available?

Some day I'd like to see one of those so concerned with the dressing issue speak plainly and to the point: "Ladies, the men in our midst have a real issue with yetzer ho'rah control. Let's cut out the tight skirts so they can can concentrate on something other than us."

robert said...

ProfK:

Unfortuanately, the "something other than us" the men would be concentrating on, is other women who are dressed untznius, which is another logical fallacy of laws of tzniut. Jewish women dress tzanua so as to not atrract attention, and all the men see are the other women who are not dressed tzanua. Its sort of like being punished for doing the right thing.

Mike S. said...

I notice that Nobel prize winning scientist wasn't on the list of choices. And has anyone who said that seen what modern princess actually dress like? I don't think they would want their daughters dressing that way.

Larry Lennhoff said...

all the men see are the other women who are not dressed tzanua. Its sort of like being punished for doing the right thing.

This assumes that women want to be looked at in a sexual fashion by random men. IME that is often not the case. For women who do not want men staring at them as though they were a piece of meat having men staring at other women is a reward(*) not a punishment.


(*) Many people would prefer men didn't stare at anyone at all as though they were a piece of meat. However I rarely hear mussar addressed to men in the form "I don't care how she's dressed - you look at her as though she was a bat melech, not a zonah". Any idea why not?

Garnel Ironheart said...

> There's nothing between a princess and a prostitute?

No, for some people there is. You're either exactly like them or you're a total goy-wanna-be. With guys it's the same thing. You either look like you're an Oreo cookie or you're not really Torah observant.

Small mind x small concept = big problem.

> And has anyone who said that seen what modern princess actually dress like?

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/04/28/article-1174612-04B7728F000005DC-902_468x703.jpg

Heh!

G*3 said...

Because it is a given that men aren't able to control themselves. And because men are incapable of controlling themselves, it becomes the women’s responsibility not to tempt them.

The question is what it is that men can’t control. If its an attraction to women, then yes, men can’t control their automatic instinctual responses when they see an attractive woman, but so what? What exactly is the harm in a guy thinking to himself, “hey, she’s pretty.”? If its an assumption that exposure to women (or improperly dressed women, or women singing, etc.) inevitably leads to affairs or even rape, then that is incredibly insulting towards men and is also obviously untrue.

The princess thing itself is kind of funny. I’m sure that it relies on the fairy-tale concept of princesses, not real-life royalty.

E-Man said...

The Rebbetzin probably just wanted a good heading for a fairy tale. The princess and the prostitute sounds like a good one. To bad the rebbetzin did not consider how the people hearing the speech would react, you always gotta know your audience.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one has referenced Jackie Mason.

As he put it, tell an Italian woman she looks like a hooker & her brother will kill you. Do the same to a Jewish woman and she'll say, "Do you really think so? I'm so hot?"

The rebbetzin can't influence women to change unless she gets them first to attend her lectures. I'd guess that she would do better with less harsh terminology.

Yossi Ginzberg

tesyaa said...

Thanks Yossi, I remember attending Jackie Mason's show around 1991 ... brought back memories.

robert said...

Larry Lennhoff said:

"...This assumes that women want to be looked at in a sexual fashion by random men. IME that is often not the case. For women who do not want men staring at them as though they were a piece of meat having men staring at other women is a reward(*) not a punishment."

Larry,

There can be a difference b/w not wanting to be viewed as merely a sexual object, and OTOH knowing that people appreciate how you look. This should be a subjective matter for each individual woman to decide how much of their bodies they want to display. Laws of tzniut take that possibility away from women. The "reward" of this being that men will naturally look at other women who take the liberty to display themselves in an appropriately attractive (or in a non appropriate) manner, albeit in a non halachic (laws of tzniut) manner .
--------------------------------

Larry Said:

"...I rarely hear mussar addressed to men in the form "I don't care how she's dressed - you look at her as though she was a bat melech, not a zonah". Any idea why not?"

Larry,

Yes. The laws of tzniut have as their basis that women are sexual objects. Thus, if a woman is dressed modestly (in accordance with the law), she covers up that which identifies her as a sexual object and can be related to as a "bat melech". But, if the woman does not dress in accordance with the laws of tzniut, she then goes back to the "default" status of being a sexual object. That explains why you would not hear your line. If your line were true, that a woman not dressed in accordance with the laws of tzniut should still be related to as a "bat melech", what would be the rationale of adhering to the laws of tzniut?
October 20, 2009 12:58 PM

JG said...

"The Princess and the Prostitute"...hmm...this sounds like a brilliant idea for a Disney movie...

Dave said...

The Rebbetzin's point was do you want ot dress closer to a Princess or closer to a prostitute.

Obviously> no one there dresses either like a Princess or like a prostitute.

The Rebbetzin was making an analogy.

The Bray of Fundie said...

The Rebitzen mussar is appropriate and is based on a healthy havdala consciousness. What for a shiksa might still be considred appropriate attire is for a kosher bas yisrael, completely innapropriate.

It's called being medaqdeq im khasidov k'khut ha'saarah. Frum woman coming to Shul in tight clothes, above-knee skirt and ultra glamorous wig = garden variety gentile woman coming to corporate office in hot pants, halter top and fishnet hose.

Unlike most of the commenters here the Rebitzen is innocent of the sin of marginalization through lowered standards and expectations.

BrooklynWolf said...

shiksa

Bray,

I find this term offensive. Please refrain from using it (or the masculine equivalent) on this blog unless you are referring to actual insects and rodents.

The Wolf

The Bray of Fundie said...

The Chazon Ish used to say "וואס זיי רופען "ליבע" רופען מיר כרת"= "Waht they call 'love' we call kah-ret".

Was he, too, guilty of hyperbole and losing his audience???

BrooklynWolf said...

Was he, too, guilty of hyperbole and losing his audience???

Perhaps. Perhaps not. I don't know the context in which is was said.

The Wolf

Batya said...

I just left a comment here and think it was "swallowed."

Today's lycra is more problematic than old woven cotton. And that fine line keeps moving the more tzniyusdik the women are. Since that makes it more problematic for some me, maybe the level should be held in place. Chumrot may be dangerous in the long run.

Anonymous said...

The whole notion that a woman who doesn't wear stockings or long sleeves or a wig in hot or humid weather or a woman who wears slacks is a slut is so troubling. Why can't it ever occur to some people that many women just want to be comfortable.

The Bray of Fundie said...

Never get comfortable in golus. Why be comfortable before the advent of Moshiakh? This is equally true for Jewsih men and women and equally true for physical and emotional comfort.

The Bray of Fundie said...

Physically whom do you think is more uncomfortable in Williamsburg in August, the men or the women?

Honestly Frum said...

you should teach the rebbitzen the proper term for these woman, Hot channies. Perhaps the woman all purchased the pretty woman sheitel that was being offered in a seitel store in Flatbush which was modeled after a prostitute (see my post on it here http://honestlyfrum.blogspot.com/2009/07/number-of-years-ago-all-of-outrage-was.html )

Mike S. said...

Bray: It gets hot in Israel, too.

More to the point, the rebbetzin's choice of words seems very poor. Most women these days do not look at "princess" as a desirable role. Rightly so. And the excess of disparagement of women who (judging by what Wolf said) are probably dressed at least within the letter of halacha is both couterproductive and probably (I don't know the exact circumstances so i can't say for sure) a violation of Ona'at Devarim.

Anonymous said...

Mike S. You are very correct. Unless you are speaking to your three year old or your puppy, being called a "princess" today means you are accusing someone of being a snob, spoiled, a prima donna or shallow. When I was in college, the worst insult was to call a young woman a "JAP."

David said...

Out of curiousity, where did the heilige rebbitzen get such good information on how prostitutes dress? Did she, maybe, have a previous career?

BrooklynWolf said...

David,

Unless you specifically know something about her, please don't suggest/imply that she actually was a prostitute.

Thanks,

The Wolf

Evelyn said...

Physically whom do you think is more uncomfortable in Williamsburg in August, the men or the women?

One difference is that men are taught that sweat in proper dress is earning points in shamayim, while women aren't given the pep talk to view the struggle with discomfort as an accomplishment. On the contrary we are told to look and smell like PRINCESSES!!!!

There's a mixed message to the women that hasn't been worked out yet.

Also, it's often said that in the most "tzanua" communities some men are more prone to problems with these issues - looking at women surreptitiously, getting themselves into real trouble. If the burden isn't put equally on the men to work on themselves, they don't. Leaving the root of the problem to exacerbate things.

So it's no wonder that the chumrot on tznius for women keep coming out.

Corrina said...

This is the thing.... when frum women dress to impress, they usually wear extremely tight clothing. This is because the clothing, of necessity, is long sleeved and long skirted... therefor the only way to look halfway "normal" and not like an old bubbie, is to wear it TIGHT.

This TIGHTness gives the impression that the woman is advertising her curves (and she is).
On top of this, add the sheitel, preferably long, to make up for the fact that her real hair is hidden....
Couple this with the 7 inch heels, and yes you do have a woman who looks a bit like a prostitute.

The only answer to this is for orthodox women to dress in potato-like sacks so that their curves cannot be seen. Very few young women are willing to do this, because they want to look "good" even if their sleeves are long and their natural hair is not visible.

There are no answers to this problem. And basically, who gives a rat's backside?
Dress as you wish, look wherever you want to look, and stop judging other people's behaviour.... just concentrate on your own.

megapixel said...

I didnt go to her speech but I venture to say, I dont think she meant it literally. She prob meant, do you want to emulate a princess - elegant and refined and classy or do you want to emulate a prostitute - lowest class of women.
I mean, really people, dont be so literal, and so sensitive.

kisarita said...

I think an honest response would go something like this...

Please, for those of us who are not so attractive... in the name of sisterhood, tone it down so we don't have to worry about our husbands comparing us to YOU

I'm not kidding, sexy women are a threat to other women most of all.