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Topless and Tznius

hippie tzniusHippie Tznius

by Chaya Miriam Fried

With the torches-and-pitchforks rhetoric aimed at Pop Chossid’s article on tznius still hammering in our ears, The Husband and I entered into the anything-goes wonderland of Rainbow Gathering last Friday, several hours before shabbos came in. I now think of the moment we pulled up to the Welcome/Info booth (i.e. two punkers with horrid body odor and questionable sounding directions sitting under a tarp) as the last moment of innocence I can claim in my life. All I’d known about hippie events up until that point were from movies and TV shows, and all that included was vague references to marijuana, music, and bathing in public fountains when the moment called for it.

My background is not rich, but I do come from a neatly laundered and carefully pressed family, with a healthy amount of pride in our fairly modest appearance. Basically I come from 9-to-5 people; and we jobniks tend to keep our clothes in good shape and on our bodies. The same could not be said for our fellow Gatherers. Not just dirty clothes; rather, the lack thereof.

Baruch Hashem, I do not feel easily threatened by other women, even when their stuff is all out in the open, even if that stuff looks like our similarities parted 25 lbs. ago, but this nudity didn’t even register. At all. There was no blip on the scandal radar whatsoever, it was just natural. There was nothing titillating, nothing sexual about it.

Now this was interesting, what with the Modesty Article War still being fought everywhere, finding myself in a situation where the word “tznius” was a truly relative term. There was no ticky-tacky standard of how thick your stockings are; we’re talking “do you hold of wearing a bra?” and even that would go way over most Gatherers’ heads. By stark contrast though, the women in our Jewish camp were strict in their tznius. Not a knee, not an elbow, not a married woman’s hair in sight!

I only occupy my husband’s tent, so I don’t know if the readily offered skin sightings caused any man to sin that weekend. I didn’t see anyone or any group descend upon the camp on horseback with emergency blankets for women, nor did I hear any battle cry of “Cover up!” from the Jewish camp outward to the Gatherers passing by on the road, or even to the topless woman that lingered within our own camp for a short time one day. I actually asked myself at one point, “Why am I still dressed tzniusly? I don’t think anyone even in the Jewish camp would treat me any differently either way, so…?” but I maintained my standards, because the question isn’t that simple.

Some Jewish communities (albethey temporary communities) can handle nudity, or near-nudity, to roll right past their homes, maybe even stop in for a smoke, and the brush with the outside word doesn’t rattle anyone. Other communities do things like painting over bicycle lanes so that scantily clad summer cyclists will know they’re not welcome. Some families have a standard of modesty they like to see kept because they’re trying to protect their women; other families have a standard they employ to protect their men.

If the way you’re expected to dress makes you unhappy, maybe you’re in the wrong camp. Heck, maybe you’re at the wrong gathering altogether.

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Anon July 3, 2013, 10:11 PM

    pics or it didn’t happen

    • Heshy Fried July 3, 2013, 10:17 PM

      If breasts are shown in the forest, but no one takes a picture, did it actually happen? The age old shayala

      • A. Nuran July 4, 2013, 9:42 AM

        And if pictures are taken but not displayed will you still be thrashed within an inch of your life?

  • Anonymous July 3, 2013, 10:28 PM

    The great thing about these hipster events is that you can easily blend in both camps because people can’t tell if you’re hipster or chassidic.

    • The Mrs. July 3, 2013, 10:30 PM

      There we no hipsters there, only hippies.

      • Anonymous July 3, 2013, 10:34 PM

        Fudge. Well hippies have long beards too. If you get a long sleeved Burning Man t shirt and some blue jeans, then you should be good. Finding a recycled, non-GMO straw hat also helps.

        This applies to men only, that goes without saying.

  • Mark July 3, 2013, 10:29 PM

    Nothing TITillating, huh?

    • The Mrs. July 3, 2013, 10:32 PM

      Not among the women. The naked men were another story.

  • Shragi July 4, 2013, 5:06 AM

    ” If the way you’re expected to dress makes you unhappy, maybe you’re in the wrong camp. Heck, maybe you’re at the wrong gathering altogether.”
    Or, as Heshy said in his post yesterday, if the way everyone around you dresses makes you unhappy then you may just be in the wrong camp.

    • Heshy Fried July 4, 2013, 6:07 AM

      Wow someone is actually reading and comprehending what I’m trying to say, bravo.

  • A. Nuran July 4, 2013, 9:40 AM

    “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin”

    When people are obsessed with skin (and sin) it can be covered in six layers of cloth and cast iron undies and still be salacious. When it’s just skin and it’s not on display in order to excite it ceases to be exciting. And I’m guessing that anyone who drooled and leered at the women would have gotten more grief for it than the vaad ha’tznius gives to bochurim propositioning random Gentile women just outside of Brooklyn.

    It’s all context.

  • Baruch July 4, 2013, 10:26 AM

    Even at Rainbow (I’ve been to 5 Gatherings and focalized CALM for 5 summers) there are camps which will ask for people to dress more modestly, not to smoke, not to swear, etc. It’s not that anything goes at Rainbow but it’s that the social expectations are much lower unless stated.

    Interestingly, the only time a woman was disrespectful of Jerusalem Camp’s request to wear minimal amounts of clothing was when the “ALEPH:Jewish Renewal” folks came by. One of their women absolutely refused to put on a top, tho other women from other camps saw her and encouraged her to be respectful. After much discussion she finally left.

  • Michael K. July 5, 2013, 1:03 PM

    I like boobs.

  • Dan July 7, 2013, 6:57 AM

    Well, I’m sure glad to know that the Mrs. is not attracted to women. I’m not sure we know yet what Heshy’s reaction was, and I’m not sure I believe his statements of agreement knowing what the consequences would be.

    • The Mrs. July 7, 2013, 1:08 PM

      If you think there are consequences of Heshy voicing his opinion, then you just don’t understand our marriage.

      • Dan July 7, 2013, 1:50 PM

        Fair point, fair lady.

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