Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stay OUT of my hair!

A Mother In Israel linked to this opinion in the Jerusalem Post and both are about 'objectifying women'. The gist of it is that the treatment of women in the public space is taken to extremes by two separate and diametrically opposed forces in Israel's society. On the one hand the charedim  would like women to just disappear, stay out of their face, so to speak. On the other side is the unabashed unrestrained exploitation of women, young girls and children in advertising on billboards, buildings, bus stops and other venues that can not be ignored. Like it or not, we are confronted by skinny come-hither females in provocative poses meant to grab our attention and focus it on some commercial product. Often I have nothing against the product, but the message about and to women and girls that comes through is objectionable and often disgusting.
Jews on the street in Tzfat
So instead of being able to just be out on the street and go about my business I am forced to be conscious of both these forces, the ones that exploit femininity and the ones who would just want it to go away. Aaargh!
The other day I was walking with my husband in a little southern town we frequently visit when we were approached by a leader of a Hassidic group associated with outreach who began asking us where we were from because we were speaking English to each other. After some chatty back and forth with David the guy asked him if he could ask him a 'personal' question. The question was if 'your wife' (I was standing there) had ever worn a sheitl (wig) and continued with the admonition that he encourage me to do so as my present hair covering is insufficient and 'everyone' knows that all the 'gedolim' (great rabbis) agree that the wig is the most modest hair covering. At that point I walked away leaving David to argue that many many contemporary rabbis do not consider wigs modest at all, blah, blah, blah and the black suit/hat guy blah, blah, blah back at him.
You'd think a person could just walk down the street and mind their own business?
You would be wrong. .

16 comments:

Rahel said...

I wish I'd been there. I would have looked the guy straight in the eye and told him: "Stop playing your stupid power games with me, and mind your own business!"

Risa said...

Rahel,
He wasn't even talking to ME!

Anonymous said...

sorry- it's a new world goldie
kt
amerbro

mother in israel said...

I guess he had a hard time finding a woman with a wig that he could pick on. Wrong neighborhood. It's actually pretty funny on some level. :(

Batya said...

I guess the quack never heard of derech eretz nor has any idea of the actual history of the halachot of covering hair. Wigs are far inferior halachikly. The controversy is an old one. I'm named after my paternal (x2, father's father's mother) great-grandmother who vowed to her father that she'd only cover her hair with a scarf/hat, never a wig. After his death and the family's decision to emigrate from Poland to NY, a special Beit Din was called which decided that my great-great grandfather would agree that NY is different. With every ounce of my being I have no doubt that he wouldn't have changed his mind.

Risa said...

MII,
It took me a while to calm down after it happened, although being busy helped me get over it.
I wanted to write about it (scribbletherapy?) and when your post came up it just seemed like the perfect time!

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Definite lack of derech eretz.
You're lucky your dh could defend your choices - or perhaps I am that my dh couldn't. As a relatively unlearned but polite person (he's Canadian!), he'd probably just thank the rude guy for his "advice," or tell him it was very interesting, and move on. I admire his ability to not get embroiled in things, and to let them go once they're over... :-)))

Risa said...

Batya,
Full disclosure: (you might even remember) I bought a wig around the time my eldest was bar mitzvah & I did wear it. It looked great (like my passport picture that I took when I was 18 only I was 40) but I was never 'comfortable' with the idea of it actually being a hair covering.
Jennifer,
Yes, my DH continued the discussion and in the end I think they 'agreed' to disagree.

Ima2seven said...

Great post! What about this overlying, general principle of "aseh l'cha rav". "This is the psak we receive from our rabbi" should be the beginning and end of such a conversation. We are all supposed to have a Rav we trust give us our psak and stick with it, right?

My Rav, in addressing the common practice of sheitels, once observed that women are not encouraged to wear shirts that look just like their bodies do underneath, right?

Risa said...

Ima2seven,
I really like that one!

Eli said...

All I can say is UGH! I have a sheitl - a fall really - and I like it and everything but I prefer tiechels to anything else these days. Can't WAIT until someone does that to DH when we're in EY!

Risa said...

Eli,
Looking forward to seeing you in Eretz Yisrael. I certainly hope this doesn't happen to you. It's not like it happens every day. I've been here 43 years!

Baila said...

Sigh. He, no doubt, thinks he's a great do-gooder who is just being mekarev people.

Shimshonit said...

Such a quintessentially Israeli experience: someone comes up to you and without knowing you or your hashkafa (religious, parenting, whatever) proceeds to tell you they know better than you do what's best for you. It shouldn't push my buttons but it does.

In a similar vein, my husband and I were at the zoo with our two kids and 15 minutes before closing time, when we were across the zoo from the exit, a haredi man came up to us and asked my husband if he would help make a mincha minyan. He was unfazed that the zoo was trying to close, and that we had four small children to shepherd out of the park, and when my husband looked at me to see what I thought, the haredi man looked and him and said, "You have to ask HER?"

Perhaps part of Hashem's plan for me is to challenge me to get over that annoyance.

Risa said...

Yeah Shimshonit, that's the idea!

Sara said...

I used to walk back and forth through Mea Shearim every day when I lived just beyond it's limits. This was in the days of red banning, bleach throwing and store burning just a few years ago. We're religious but it always made me uncomfortable. But then my all time favorite pashkevil appeared.

It described a novel way for men to travel abroad and blend seamlessly with the secular world by simply sending a hair sample and having "kippa pe'ar" created to match natural hair color and texture. Reading to the end you arrive at the punchline "Sounds odd? Why is your wife wearing a wig." Humor in Halachik debate? Love it.

What a woman decides to do with her hair is her own business.

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