... 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.
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"
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.
*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.