Monday, September 5, 2011

The Believer does Orthodox Judaism

In the most recent issue of The Believer, a West Coast based periodical read mostly by writers after they've finished The New Yorker and The Paris Review, has gotten in on the Orthodox game. By that I mean, they've written an article about the "strange" ways of observant Jews.

I guess they couldn't let The New York Times have all of the fun.

This particular article is about the tradition of married women covering their hair. This was frequently and very progressively explained to me in school like this: Hair is a core component of a women's beauty and by covering it, she demonstrates that she reserves her beauty for her husband.

On dozens of sites, women describe covering their hair as a “daily struggle.” Protected by anonymity, they leave comments that they’re understandably reluctant to voice in public: “I still hate covering my hair, and it does not help that I originally did so at my husband’s insistence, without having any say (i.e. guts to argue)”; when wearing scarves to work, women claim they “developed poor self-esteem and felt incredibly self-conscious.”

(You can read the rest of the available excerpt here.)

This is hardly shocking. While many women profess a great sense of fulfillment at performing this particular "mitzvah" (I put it into quotes because though it means "commandment," which is technically neutral, it is generally thought to mean "good deed," and obviously this is not a sentiment I agree with), at its core it is a fundamentally repressive act.

Ladies, I don't know about you but I'm not comfortable with wearing a sign of ownership. Unless we can come up with some male equivalent. Any suggestions? What can men cover upon marriage to show that their asses are owned by another?


elizabeth said...

just gotta say, pretty sloppy:
The author mentions a blog with the guest author's name. I googled the blog, and she misquotes her.
Author:In her post, she wrote that after her divorce she stopped wearing wigs because they’d always “felt like… shackles,” and once she was single she’d told herself: “I am doing what I want.”

It was never about “not married any more so who needs to cover their hair, I am doing what I want”.

Mitch said...

A male equivalent? Isn't that a wedding ring?

Dvora Meyers said...

Something specific to men. Both genders wear wedding rings.

Mitch said...

That's probably as it should be "ani l'dodi v. . . " But I guess your point is like the use of "ms." to conflate the unmarried and married, b/c there is no male equivalent to "mrs." Of course, creating such a term would have been another way to go.

In any event, the question recalls our Purim tribute to the Beyoncer Rebbe: All the Tsnius Ladies (Put A Wig on It). No, it hasn't gone platinum yet.

Dvora Meyers said...

I haven't seen that video and I'm almost afraid to.

My point in posting the link to the post and most of the points I make about halacha as it pertains to women is this -- no matter whatever apologetic reasons are given for the rules that restrict women based on their gender, whether it's for covering hair or niddah or not being counted in a minyan -- at their core, they're based in the inequalities between the genders.