Posts Tagged ‘modesty standards’

Is modesty subjective?

I really think that the answer to this one is, “Depends.”

If you are coming at modesty from the standpoint of strictly following say, the laws of tznius, or hijab, then no I don’t think it is. You’re following a law. There are guidelines. I guess there are probably areas where those guidelines are going to be a little different depending on if you are say, Conservative vs. Orthodox vs Chasid, or if you’re a Muslim living in a secular country vs. one that stipulates that women need to be in a burqa when they’re outside. But still, some hard and fast boundaries exist. Ditto if you’re Amish (and even there, different groups have different standards), and I know there are Christian sects that also dictate a certain standard of modesty to the women who belong.

If you are going from a purely personal interpretation of what is modest, then sure, it’s fairly subjective. You can pretty much figure out what it means to you.

I would have to say, I fall into the latter camp. “Modest” does not necessarily mean “covered from ankle to neck to wrist.” in my book. While I do go for some of the guidelines laid out by Jewish law, I don’t follow all of them. For example, while I prefer a 3/4 sleeve, I have no issues with wearing a short sleeve if the neckline is modest. Everything I’ve read on the subject is pretty clear that to be tznius you have to cover to the elbow, so, I’m not exactly in lock step there. I’m not going to worry if my clavicles are showing, I’m more worried about cleavage. I probably would not wear a tank top in public, that would feel immodest, but I wear them around the house and yard all the time. It’s hot here. Sue me.

I cover my hair in public, but that varies from bandannas, headbands, knit caps, hats or a tichel, depending on my mood and the outfit. Sometimes I don’t bundle it up so you can see my hair falling under the covering. S’fine. There’s something on my head. I’m not showing off my uncovered, unbound hair. That’s the point. I like long skirts, anything between the lower calf and the ankles is my preferred length. I also occasionally wear jeans and capri pants. Generally if I’m wearing jeans, they’re a really relaxed fit and if I’m taking them out of the house into public, I compensate for the fact that I’m wearing pants by putting a very modest, longer tunic length top over them. No high heels. If I’m dressing up, I’ll wear some pretty flats.

So there ya go. I know when I feel appropriately covered up. I have to say that I am sometimes a little flummoxed when I am looking for clothing on a modest clothing site, and I see some slinky jersey dress or skirt that accentuates every curve. Sure it’s technically covering. But it doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. I’m a curvy girl and I know how jersey drapes on me. It may be long, but it ain’t modest! That wearever stuff does the same thing. I can’t wear it. It is cheek defining and I am not talking about my face. Maybe it’s different if you’re a size 2 and have no tuchus.

I have to say that in doing some reading around various frummie sites, I’ve been a little appalled at the hostility. Women getting called sluts because they showed their knees while sitting??? Women referred to as whores for not being totally tznius according to the standards of the individuals viewing them? WOW. That is so not a segment of the Jewish population I would ever want to associate myself with. How about a little less hating and obsession with the bodies of others, and a little more focus on your own soul? If you are so het up that the sight of a woman’s knees or elbows fills you with this horrible burning desire and all you can think about is sex, then there’s really a problem. I would offer that the problem is not on the part of the woman who exposed her knees.

This is probably why I am… not affiliated yet. Because while I feel more drawn to very observant levels of practice, I’m so afraid of being judged or negative people, it freezes me.

This is probably why I don’t worry about short sleeves. There’s a part of me that will always want to poke the bear. Just a little.

I am modest for myself, and not to protect some schmuck from the burning sensation* he has while looking at a woman’s elbows or the back of her knees. Because, guys, I can’t help but think – that’s not the point, ya know? The onus should not be on women to protect the helpless poor widdle mens from their own urges. Feh. Grow up, get a grip, get over it. The prevailing attitude sort of implies that women are at fault if men can’t control themselves, and I’m sorry, that falls under the heading of Bacon Double Chicken Fried Stoopid, with a hefty side of WTF?? If tznius is supposed to focus women so that we’re reflecting on and developing stellar qualities within, then aren’t we ultimately doing it for ourselves?

Well, I only know why I do it. And it ain’t because I think men need to be protected from my elbows.

*I would also like to say that if there’s a burning sensation? They make a cream for that. Call your doctor. If the cream doesn’t help? Try a blindfold.


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