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The Catch 22 of Tznius


Tznius is one big Catch 22, if you dress tzniusly people will judge you by it and if you don’t dress tzniusly – people will judge you by it as well. While I like my women to be covered from head to toe and rarely leave the house, I do admit that the laws of tznius seem like a clever way to excuse men of being pigs and put the burden of our animal tendencies onto the shoulders, knees and elbows of women. Imagine if halacha was written by men for a moment, do you think that men would ever be allowed to leave the house? Sadly for many women, halacha was written by men and continues to be paskened by men, rarely does halacha blame man, it tends to be against the ladies.

Luckily, in modern times, some women can speak out and tell the world about the blessings of tznius. Chaya from XO Jane, recently had an article that bragged about tznius and how it’s amazing not to be judged by your looks, but it seems that tznius may be perpetuating this very stereotype. Dressing modestly does allow for women to travel more freely without everyone scrutinizing them wherever they go, except for in the frum community, where tznius becomes the very way that everyone judges a woman.

If dress too tzniusly you must be oppressed, if you show elbows you may be modern or going off the derech, if you cover your hair with that tichel your kids can’t get into that school and the list goes on. So while tznius may work for those nasty men, the women in our frum society are probably judging the F out of you whether you’re tznius or not.

The other problem with those who tout the brilliance of tznius is that many of them like to point fingers at the sex crazed secular society, yet the frum community is basically telling women that men who learn Torah 24/7 are also sex crazed and can’t control their thoughts as well. What makes our society so much better than the secular if we’re also a bunch of animals? I also tend to dislike it when people put down others to justify their decisions, fine, you like covering every inch of your body – this doesn’t make others who don’t share your view, bad.


{ 33 comments… add one }
  • tesyaa December 31, 2012, 10:48 AM

    What makes our society so much better than the secular if were also a bunch of animals?

    What makes you think it’s better, for God’s sake?

    • Anonymous December 31, 2012, 12:45 PM

      I don’t think he’s saying he thinks it’s better, I think he’s saying that we tend to think it’s better and somehow more moral.

      • Heshy Fried December 31, 2012, 12:57 PM

        Yes that is what I’m saying, we always hear about how much better it is to be frum than secular, how we have more meaning and how our women are modest and all about how non-modest women are bad and dressing naked…etc…

  • Moshe December 31, 2012, 11:38 AM

    Skirt=very revealing catches alot of attention

    Pants=commonplace and hardly noticed

    Alot of Halachas are more political than spiritual. (try explaining that one to your average sheep jew though)

    • this blog changed and it sucks December 31, 2012, 11:44 AM

      pants women wear usually leave very little imagination

      • Pants are more tznius than skirts December 31, 2012, 12:47 PM

        When I was a kid it used to be about begged ish and begged isha, they lost that battle and now they’ve tried to wage the “skirts are more modest than pants” war, which they are losing considering the amount of hot chani’s running around. Just go take a look at crown heights and tell me that skirts are so tznius.

        • this blog changed and it sucks December 31, 2012, 1:25 PM

          long skirts are more tznius than tight pants that women wear

          • Yochanan December 31, 2012, 4:11 PM

            Long skirts are more tznu’ot than tight pants. But are knee-length skirts with hooker boots more tznu’ot than pants a woman would wear to an NYC office?

    • Dan December 31, 2012, 12:31 PM

      Ah, the free thinkers have arrived. Enlighten us, oh wise one.

    • Travelling Jewess December 31, 2012, 8:23 PM

      Compare like with like: long skirts with baggy pants, tight skirts with tight pants, etc.

    • Anonymous December 31, 2012, 10:48 PM

      Moshe is your average sheep. Say baaaaaaa.

  • Telz Angel December 31, 2012, 11:58 AM

    Remember, 40 denier socks — halachicly mandated yesterday for girls aged 7 (preferably 3 and up). See: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4326091,00.html

    Dear 9 year old hotties with the thin socks, you should know that frum men are staring at your ankles. Not that this should creep you out, you are supposed to look up to these beacons of torah scholarship, who understand the value of keeping mitzvos, and obsess about your nubile pre-pubescent form.

    Bottom line: 2012 was an awful year to be associated with frummies.

    • Heshy Fried December 31, 2012, 12:57 PM

      I hope you can write a year in review about how it was a bad year to be frum…

      • Telz Angel December 31, 2012, 6:09 PM

        Post written and submitted for you to approve. Might be like eating a korban one day too late, but it’s a year in review. Enjoy, you get three extra hours since you are in the West Coast my friend.

  • Anonymous December 31, 2012, 12:43 PM

    “Dressing modestly does not mean safety. I wear “frumpy” sweatshirts as characterized by the author, and I still get hit on or stared at by dudes while I’m at work. I choose to wear modest, concealing clothing because it makes me feel safer, but I also have to realize that it’s just an illusion of safety. Women dressing modestly doesn’t do anything to fight misogyny or our Patriarchal culture that victimizes women, blames them for rape, or keep the modest woman safe from anything.”

    Quoted this from the other website which I agree with. If any of you heard about the gang rape in India just recently, I doubt people are asking if she was dressed modestly.

    It starts with the men. Control your damn selves.

    • Anonymous December 31, 2012, 12:48 PM

      Kind of like having bear spray in grizzly country.

    • Heshy Fried December 31, 2012, 12:58 PM

      Don’;t you realize that my theory is that tznius was created as a way to allow men to continue being animals at the expense of women.

      • Nate December 31, 2012, 8:15 PM

        Expense of women? Maybe for some who would feel persecuted no matter what, but not for all. Men aren’t being allowed to be animals, they ARE animals, and halacha recognizes that fact. You can’t walk into a lion’s den and complain if you get bitten. Men are pigs, beasts, children who think with their dicks, etc etc etc. Accept it and do what you have to do to avoid trouble. All this liberal attitude does is reinforce the absurd notion that a woman could, if she wanted, walk down the street buck naked, and if a man approached her, copped a feel or worse, it must be the man’s fault for not controlling himself. That’s a load of crap. Women share the responsibility in Judaism.

        • anon January 4, 2013, 11:29 AM

          If a woman walks down the street with terry cloth towel on her shaved head, dressed in a 20 year old housecoat and a guy touches her, it is the guy’s fault.If a woman walks down the street in a bikini and a guy cops a feel, still the guy’s fault.
          If a guy walks down the street dressed like a refugee from 18th century Eastern Europe in the middle of a snowstorm and a woman feels him up, yep, woman’s fault. If a guy walks down the street naked and a woman cops a feel, still the woman’s fault.

          See how it works?

      • Dan January 1, 2013, 11:33 AM

        You’ll have to elaborate on that one.

        Men who want to be animals usually like when women around them dress more risque. And when those women are always around them.

        So, not sure what you’re getting at.

    • A. Nuran January 1, 2013, 12:31 AM

      If someone has bad intentions you can never make yourself virtuous enough to make him good.

  • Bruce Godfrey December 31, 2012, 2:04 PM

    Isn’t it in a sense immodest per se to focus too much on what other people are wearing? Isn’t it a form of vanity, or some sort of sick game, to add yet more pressure to women’s lives? Isn’t your eye more immodest than her ____________ if that’s where your eye went, especially if it went their long enough to form a judgment about her? Isn’t your tongue or mine pritzus, ervah, whatever if it talks lashon harah about another woman’s appearance?

    If I love women, I will want to keep my foot off of their neck and leave them in peace. I will want to reduce, not heap upon, their burdens. If I love women, I will see that the woman in New Delhi who was just gang-raped and killed didn’t need a chaperone or a clothing cop; her six gang-rapists and crowbar murderers needed a jailer or an executioner. Do I love women? I don’t know but my conduct will betray the truth.

    In some ways, the typical random person – the 100th person on the 100th page of the phone book – may be more modest in attire and eye than a self-appointed guardian of other people’s modesty.

  • A. Nuran December 31, 2012, 4:23 PM

    Lord, I wish my middle-aged body was the rutting **xual tyrannosaur halacha insists it is.

  • Challah Maidel January 1, 2013, 1:55 AM

    There is more to a woman than what she wears. Honestly, I feel that tznius is overrated. While there is some wisdom behind the concept of not dressing like a whore, why should men decide whats considered appropriate attire for women? To a certain extend, I agree that these modesty laws can be degrading to both men and women. I wear pants, my skirts sometimes ride above my knees, and I don’t cover my hair completely. Who are people to classify me as a slut for not conforming to their stringent modesty standards? Should I have to worry everyday about being gang-raped by a bunched of sex-obsessed chasidim because I don’t want to wear a snood,housecoat, and thick stockings in public? The men don’t dress any better. I’ve seen men walking around topless in the summer (its a lot worse when they have burgeoning bellies hanging out). Some of them will wear tight pants that outline their crotches and buttocks. So when it comes to modesty, why does the attention mainly focused on women? The last time I checked, child molestation is more prevalent in the Orthodox communities than people visiting strips or sleeping with their neighbor’s wife/husband.

    • Anonymous January 3, 2013, 9:21 AM

      the rules of tznius is irrespective of whether people are obsessed

    • Yochanan January 3, 2013, 12:16 PM

      “Should I have to worry everyday about being gang-raped by a bunched of sex-obsessed chasidim because I dont want to wear a snood,housecoat, and thick stockings in public?”

      Remember, rape/sexual abuse is usually, if not always, about power. Burqa-wearing Afghans get raped. The medical student in India was Tznu’a.

  • Batya January 1, 2013, 9:18 PM

    I personally like dressing tzniusdik. What I don’t like is people who think they are more tzniusdik than everyone else or who think they’re the arbitrators of tznius.

  • challah back girl January 3, 2013, 6:53 PM

    Great post, Heshy. You hit it on the head that tznius can get ridiculously dissected and result in overt obsession over how one is dressed. People of that nature make me want to wear a strapless mini-dress to save everyone a little time; they can just call me a shiksa and get on with their day. In all seriousness, I’m happy that Chaya has found confidence in her choices, because every woman deserves that, but two things in her post annoy me: First, that she calls not wearing socks half-assed tznius, because that’s a stringency Chassidim have taken upon themselves. And second, that I have read about a zillion articles by women touting modesty as the best thing ever, along with the subsequent comments by women regurgitating the usual Bas Melech lines, but I have yet to read any articles by men who are wringing their hands over whether they are guarding their eyes enough, seeing women as spiritual beings, etc. I really do get the beauty behind tznius, but it is my impression that while it is an antidote, the Talmud ultimately places the burden on men. So can we please either drop the subject or put the pressure on the guys?

  • suprised January 6, 2013, 9:07 PM

    A. Nuran is a women?

  • Anonymous March 10, 2013, 12:03 AM


    AS The Torah states
    ???????? ?????? ?????? Holy You Should Be!

    By us wearing immodest clothing we distance the Shechina (Divine Presence) from us Chas Vesholom

    As the Torah states:
    ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?????? Immodesty should not be seen among you! Or Hashem will c”v withdraw his presence from you!

    “”If we cause the Shechina to departs, we are stripped of our protection ??””

    Maybe this is why we see so many Tzoros, illness, kids at risk, problems with Sholom Bayis, crushing poverty and unbearable tragedies, that have befallen us.

    In the words of the Holy Chofetz Chaim tz”l in a famous letter:
    A huge fire has broken out in many places through the despicable styles which the power of uncleanliness has unleashed. THIS IS WHY BLESSINGS AND PROSPERITY HAVE LEFT US. To a large degree this despicable style negates the statement of the Torah:
    Your camp should be holy and there should not be found therein erveh

    Tight-fitting, short, flashy clothing, low cut necklines, long and extravagant Sheitels, flashy jewelry, stylish hats, perfume etc. are contrary to Tznius standards. Besides being the cause of other peoples sins.

    My Dear Sisters!
    Please Let us wear clothes that are befitting for Jewish Daughters. This will cause the Shechina to reside in our midst. This will bring many blessings upon ourselves, and ultimately bring the Geulah Sheleima ???

    ????? ???? ??????? ?????? ?????! The key to our salvation is in your hands!

    Lets take advantage Now, and still bring the Geula this Chodesh Nissen, remember it’s up to us Yiddishe women who dress Tznius to bring Moshiach

  • Sarah April 9, 2013, 6:28 AM

    There is NOTHING WRONG with women wanting to dress modestly. I made a choice to become Orthodox and dress Tznius, it is not always oppressive.

    • Heshy Fried April 9, 2013, 8:45 AM

      You sound like my wife and I agree somewhat, unless you live in a community that judges you based on how tznius you are.

    • Shnorro park June 11, 2014, 4:28 PM

      That’s because you CHOSE to do so… Nobody obliged you, you made that choice. Nu, if you get married and have children, it stops being a choice and becomes a full time obligation.

      Also, since you became orthodox you probably aren’t yet aware of all te subtleties of the orthodox world. You’d be amazed!

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