Why I Don’t Regret My Latest Post

The reaction to my latest post has, surprisingly, only reenforced my belief in my blog, its goal, and the post itself.

What I saw yesterday was anger, vitriol, ugliness, from the commenters. From some people who I respect as well.

For a while, I was regretting the post. Should I take it down, I thought? Was it my place to say such things? Who am I? Maybe they’re right.

But as I saw the responses, it became more and more clear that the angriest, and most common, responses were not reading my post. They were imagining words, creating false realities… it was weird. Especially when people began to accuse me of excusing rape… I still shudder in pain to think that people would think such a thing.

And I realized that the whole reason I wrote this post is because I am sick and tired of this issue, and so many others, becoming political.

What do I mean by political? I mean an issue with clearly delineated boundaries, where people have a ready response because they have memorized their positions. Everything is black and white. There are good people and there are bad people. There are right positions and there are wrong positions.

That is why people call themselves “liberal” and why they call themselves “conservative”. To put it simply, it’s because they don’t want to think for themselves.

And so a post about modesty immediately becomes about “shaming women” and “rape culture”, etc. A post whose whole goal is not about forcing women to do a thing, not about shaming, and in fact was meant to make men responsible for their actions is seen as yet another article from a man who doesn’t get women trying to “force” them to do things his way.

I kept wondering to myself yesterday, did people not read what I wrote?

But I realized, no. The fact is that the post has become politicized.

And that is sad, because the post is meant to destroy politics. And I will write more posts with the same goal.

Why? Why should we aim to destroy politics?

Because they are our way of turning each other into enemies. When that happens, people on both ends of the spectrum lose. A discussion about modesty is simply off limits because to take it on means you are either are on the good side or the bad side.

As I said on a comment to another post: “It bothers me to no end that people continually say the same tired factoids, the same tropes, the same endless repeatable, political, regurgitated, facts that they have memorized because they haven’t taken the time to think for themselves. Being human and honest is not about removing responsibility, it is about saying that I refuse to fall into the same old paradigms and would rather work this out in a deep way, even if it is flawed, because I refuse to be a cog in the wheel of causes for which people do not think for themselves.”

Politics is laziness. Politics is silliness. Politics is a waste of time and it’s the reason we are so divided. It allows us to turn someone else into the “other” and ourselves into the blameless heroes. The truth is far more complicated and deep.

To be clear: I think the post could be worked on, could be improved. But that’s the entire point. Almost all my posts are put up quickly, because I want them to have a chance of failing. I create fallible things on my blog because I want to promote the idea that it’s okay to be wrong. Life is a process. You and I are growing, and for us to demonize each other because of whatever point of the process we’re in is just plain ridiculous. At the end of the day, we’re on the same journey.

If people cannot read my latest post without placing it into an easy-to-fit category, that is a sign there is something wrong.  If they can’t read it without demonizing me and other commenters, there is something even more wrong.

The post isn’t perfect, but it’s also not political. It doesn’t fit into a feminist paradigm and it also doesn’t fit into a conservative paradigm. People who are trying to make it into one or the other have completely missed the point of the post, and if they are regular readers, have missed the whole goal of my blog.

  • Asher Lovy

    I read your last post, and, to be honest, it sounded like every other article written by a man complaining about tznius, except yours was less demanding. You asked nicely. It still wasn’t any different than anyone else’s articles. It still followed the same trope. You were just far more polite about it.

    • Being in favor of tznius makes the post like any other article by a man in favor of tznius. Got it.

      “If people cannot read my latest post without placing it into an easy-to-fit category, that is a sign there is something wrong.”

      • Asher Lovy

        Be in favour of tznius all you want, but the way you framed it was objectionable. Ostensibly what you were saying was that you would like if women would be more careful in their adherence to the laws of tznius because they would be helping you overcome your own challenges. That’s a very polite way of putting it, but all the same, it’s not very different from someone saying that women are obligated to observe the laws of tznius because they cause men to sin. Had you said something more along the lines of “Kol kvoda bas melech pnima” I think people would have found it less objectionable.

        • “It’s not very different from someone saying that women are obligated to observe the laws of tznius because they cause men to sin”

          It’s actually completely different than that, which is exactly the point of this piece. What you are doing by saying that is literally putting the post in a box.

          • Asher Lovy

            Literally? (Never mind.)

            The difference between your piece and everyone else’s, as I said, was the way you approached it. The tone was very different from everyone else because everyone else usually just throws the responsibility completely at women and take none for themselves. You at least took responsibility for your challenges and obligation, so kudos.

            I don’t know if you intended this, or just didn’t think it would be an issue when you wrote the post (I don’t doubt that your intentions were pure), but you, as everyone else does when they campaign for tznius my citing the man’s challenge, objectified women. I know, you said you as a person really try not to but can’t help what that dark creature inside feels, but that still won’t make women feel any better about it. Regardless of how sincere you were, and how neutral you intended to be, that specific argument is always going to be found offensive. It makes women feel like men are incapable of seeing anything but a piece of meat no matter how hard they try. Admittedly, you did say you’re trying very hard, which was the point of the piece, but that only negligibly softens the sting.

          • “you, as everyone else does when they campaign for tznius my citing the man’s challenge, objectified women.”

            If that’s how you feel, then it is no wonder you think my post was the same as any other.

            I’m not citing anything except for my own experience. If it’s hard for people to hear, I totally understand that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

            And btw, the whole “taking responsibility” thing has nothing to do with tone. I could have said it in a nasty way. It was, in fact, half the point of this piece. To dismiss it and throw it aside because you want to focus on another aspect is, again, putting it in a box (metaphorically!).

          • Asher Lovy

            I suppose we have two very different ways of looking at tznius.

          • I suppose 🙂

          • Asher Lovy

            I was thinking about it last night, and, after reading the whole conversation, I’ve sort of had a change of heart. Sort of. Your point about previous men having ruined the conversation didn’t properly sink in. Let’s assume, I think correctly so, that you aren’t trying, in any way, to control women. You made it very clear that you are respectfully requesting, not demanding. Tznius is halacha anyway; you’re not asking for anything new. I don’t think you were asking women to “cover up” any more than they are halachically obligated to. Regardless of the reason for that obligation, be it to prevent men from sinning, or to preserve their own inner beauty, or what have you, the fact is that they have a halachic obligation to follow a certain baseline dress code.

            You also happen to have a vested interest in women fulfilling your obligation, because you have your own challenge you’re working on: Shmiras Enayim. That is entirely your responsibility–your challenge–but were women fulfilling their own obligations anyway, your job would be easier. Therefore, as I now understand it, you were asking women to be more careful about their baseline obligations because you would incidentally be helped with your obligations.

            Assuming I got it right this time, I actually agree now. There’s nothing wrong with telling a fellow Jew to follow the Torah as long as it isn’t done disrespectfully or judgmentally. That last bit being the key part for me. You were neither Judgmental nor disrespectful, you took responsibility for your own challenges, and respectfully asked a favour. Sorry it took me a while to get it, but now I actually agree.

          • Reading your comment meant more to me than you might realize. Thank you.

          • kweansmom

            Wait, was your post a request for fellow Jews to follow the Torah? Because I read it a few times and that’s not what I read at all. I read a general request for all women to help you in your struggle not to treat them as objects. Your post was read, and received very negatively, by women who are not Jewish. In fact had you phrased it in terms of halacha I would have had fewer objections to it.

          • Yehoishophot Oliver

            The principle of modesty is a Mitzvah sichlis, one applicable to non-Jewish women as well. It is part of the inherent makeup of humans, and we find numerous verses and rabbinic sources decrying some non-Jews for immodest behavior, and praising others for their modest behavior. So obviously it matters.

            In particular, there was one occasion on which the Rebbe said that he had been told that the recent fashion was towards much more modest dress, and the Rebbe praised that highly.

  • anonymous

    Personally (as a female), I appreciated that your blog post was coming from such an honest place. There’s really nothing more that I would want from the individuals in the community than honesty. The fact that you made yourself vulnerable by allowing the possibility of failure is, in my mind, extremely difficult to do- and extremely admirable.

  • Shandel Strasberg

    keep fighting the good fight!

  • Jessica Hoffman

    Thank you for re-examining your previous post. However, I think you’re still not taking culpability. Asking nicely, as another commenter pointed out you were doing, does not make your post any less difficult. And calling gut responses political, or designed to fit into a pre-conceived box, is lazy. Asking politely for women to dress more modestly so that men can work on themselves in the meantime is just a fancy way of avoiding responsibility for what you are really requesting. You want this to be a conversation about a 2-way street, but you, as a man, should never have thought of yourself as in a position to request this of women in the first place.
    I think both men and women should dress appropriately for the shuls, schools, and neighborhoods that might visit, if they know in advance they are going there, and if they know the sensitivities of the people they will meet. But that goes for any religion. However, asking women, as a blanket statement, to change the way they dress all of the time on the off chance a man might think of them in a sexual way…you may as well just ask them to wear burkas. The point I am making is that this is not politics, liberal or conservative. This is not religion, right wing or left wing. This is you projecting your personal growth needs on the entire population around you. This is emotional, not political.
    I think a follow-up post on our halachic responsibilities to each other would be a better way to go (with sources, of course).

    • Basya Feldman

      How about ” viahavta lirayacha kamocha zed klal gadol batorah” or “kol yisroel areivim zeh la zeh?” He said very clearly in the post that it is a mans responsibility. I personally think its obnoxious and disgusting when women dress provocatively, unconcerned about the effect they are having on people around them. When women are immodest, they are putting down all of women because they are sending society a message that women are objects. And he put it very nice and lightly- never putting any blame on anybody. He’s just trying to raise a higher sensitivity to modesty by explaining one of the reasons that it improves society when you are modest. He never even said it had to be a two way street just that it ultimately should be.

  • Basya Feldman

    Yes. I noticed that all of the negative comments on the post were people’s personal anger and disgust at their own experiences in life, and they were unrelated to the article. Most of them didn’t even contradict the article. People were just imagining a contradiction by creating their own idea in their heads about what you meant. And then arguing with “you” ( their conclusions on what you said.) So the comments basically consisted of people talking to themselves. Also, people that agree completely and don’t have anything to add usually don’t feel the need to comment. There is only one truth and deep down, if we could just grasp it, we would all agree. And hopefully your posts will continue helping us do so 🙂

    • Flavor Lounge

      Excellent post!

  • Rachel Ann

    OK, let’s put it this way. You asked for a favor, I’m turning you down. NOT because I want to dress immodestly, I already do dress modestly. I just don’t want to have dress “your modestly” because everyone has a different idea of what modest means. Your demons you need to conquer on your own. I’ve a different question to pose to you, what of those men who find it titillating to see women who are all covered up? (Yes, such men exist.) Or whose demons rage when a woman wears black? Girl next door look? Eats an ice cream cone? Should it be up to a manly vote about what turns men on as the deciding point, majority rule? Jewish law, and if so Jewish law charedi/dati leumi/what? I have an obligation that I must follow, and that I do. It isn’t dependent on what others feel or see. I can’t control someone else’s thoughts or emotions. I control me. I know that makes it hard, and yes, I understand, but I will not take your obligations onto my shoulders. Responsibilities are hard. That’s what makes them responsibilities. I also have a responsibility to myself, and that means standing up for my rights. So to return to your original post, do you a favor? I’m sorry, in this case, I will have to say no.

    • The beauty of the fact that it was a request as opposed to a demand is that I absolutely have no problem or qualms with you turning it down.

      • Rachel Ann

        That’s good. I’m glad you respect my no.The problem is the focus of the discussion normally boils down to some version of “woman’s issue”. The anger you are hearing is because this is a request that we keep hearing as women. It goes on and on and on. Women are told; nicely, beseechingly, by command, with lectures, promises of glory, through fire & brimstone tales, and actual stones. For me at least it is too much. I could be wrong but I think that is going to be the response & feeling of many women. Many of us are tired of it. Tired of the issue. Tired of being anything about it, except taught the issue and allowed to decide on our own.

        • That is a very good point, and something I wish I was more aware of when I wrote the post. The truth is I blame the men and others who have turned this into such a political issue on the “conservative” side just as much, if not more. The problem you are describing is exactly what bothers me so much. Because they are so stupid and one-sided, it becomes a taboo topic. I think that’s unfortunate. But I don’t think the answer is not to talk about it, but to talk about in a healthy way. To change the dialogue.

          • Rachel Ann

            I think you may have had better reception if you simply talked about your reactions and wondered about solutions. People still may have castigated you if they received an impression that you felt yourself helpless, but if you simply spoke about your emotional reactions, accepted that it was problematic for you, and wondered what the solutions might be that didn’t involve telling women how to dress, you may have received a different response. My answer to that is to teach men how to disassociate from what they are observing and to focus instead on the person as a whole. There are a number of videos/blogs/discussions on the idea of how ads objectify women by focusing on body parts instead of the woman as a whole. Perhaps start with those, and come up with your own ideas on how to teach boys that women are not there for them. How would you teach your sons to see a woman as a person first?

          • Yehoishophot Oliver

            Elad didn’t tell, he asked politely.

          • Rachel Ann

            Ok, I understand your reaction to the word “tell”. How about “…wondered what the solutions might be that didn’t involve asking women to dress in a certain manner…”

          • Yehoishophot Oliver

            If someone is doing something that has a negative effect on me and others, e.g., smoking, why am I not entitled to ask that person politely to change their behavior out of basic consideration–mentchlichkeit?

            Also, Elad specifically said again and again that men are equally responsible to avoid gazing at women and thinking about them and they are not helpless victims. It’s amazing how the commenters here keep ignoring that and insisting that that’s what he said.

            In any case, your approach is secular, ours is Jewish. Judaism says that women are held responsible for the negative effect they have on others (as are men). See here.

            There’s no reconciling the two approaches, no common ground, so there’s not really anything to discuss. We’re arguing at cross-purposes.

          • kweansmom

            “If someone is doing something that has a negative effect on me and others, e.g., smoking, why am I not entitled to ask that person politely to change their behavior out of basic consideration–mentchlichkeit?”

            That’s a good question. To me, the answer is because sometimes the request has a negative effect, and is in and of itself a lack of mentchlichkeit. In the smoking analogy, smoking is illegal in some places, but in others people have every right to light up and it is their choice. The person who is bothered by it, and asks them to stop, no matter how nicely, is intruding on their freedom to enjoy that choice. Would it be appropriate to ask someone smoking in a legal, public place to put out their cigarette because you happen to be nearby and you don’t want second-hand smoke? For all you know they’ve been wanting to smoke for the past 3 hours but had no opportunity because of all the No Smoking laws. No, the mentchlich thing would be to move away instead of imposing on them. And I myself do not smoke and I abhor the smell but that’s what I would do.

          • Yehoishophot Oliver

            Often that is not an option, especially if the woman wants to talk to you, or you need to talk to her, for whatever reason. She knows very well that she’s dressing provocatively, and she doesn’t care that the men around her really want to mind their own business and not be aroused by her.

            In particular, in the context of a Jewish community set up in order to create an environment of wholesomeness and fear of Heaven, such as Crown Heights, one who violates their standards and pulls out the “it’s my personal freedom” card is behaving very not mentchlich.

          • Milhouse

            Of course it is appropriate to ask someone not to smoke, even in a public place where they have the right to do so. Yes, maybe complying with your request would be too much of a burden for them, but maybe it wouldn’t. Too many people would demand that they not smoke; but there is no reason at all not to ask. A mentch who is bothered by someone else’s smoke asks them politely not to, and if they don’t comply then she moves away. (In fact a mentch does so even if the area is officially no smoking; ask politely for what the person ought to be doing anyway, and if that’s not successful then move away rather than cause a fuss. But that’s really being nice and nonconfrontational.)

          • kweansmom

            Have you seen this ad in Monsey Community Connections? http://dusiznies.blogspot.com/2011/03/ad-in-monsey-newsletter-wants-all-women.html

            Notice how nicely, pretty please, he asks all Jewish women to stay in their rooms on Purim. Please try not to laugh out loud. You’ll be doing a tremendous favor to the chosshuveh tzedakah collectors.

            I suppose you don’t have a problem with this very polite request to follow what this letter writer considers to be the laws of tznius.

      • Flavor Lounge

        You say “A” she wants to pretend she heard “B”.Elad.What can you do?

  • Rivki Silver

    You’re good at incendiary posts. I don’t have the stomach to tackle these subjects (usually), but I appreciate that you do! It was refreshing to hear a genuine perspective of a man struggling with, well, being a man.

    Sorry about the politicization of your post. It’s one of those topics. If you even made one person think about it differently, though, I would consider that progress. Hatzlacha, and thanks for giving me the courage to post about the topic of modesty.

  • s1234s

    As a Muslim woman who is an avid reader of your blog, the comments yesterday only reinforced one of your key statements – that we are human, limited and weak. That our own weakness reminds us of the Perfect of The Most High.

    Politics has divided us and made us forgot our common humanity, our connection and shared journey towards self improvement.

    I live with a scar the size of my fist from when my scarf was set on fire, I put up with taunts from family, and random people in the street. But I have never ever regretted my decision to cover, to let my Creator define my worth and not the creation, and to earn the respect of those whose respect is worth having.

    Thank you

    • Wow, what a beautiful comment. I’m glad to know my writing can reach you as well. Looking forward to reading more comments from you!

  • Avrohom Becker

    As I said in your previous post,I commend you for your honesty.
    Its great that you want an open and honest dialogue.
    I’m sure that there is a time and place for your message.

    Here is where I take issue with your post.

    I could see Woman who have not been abused in the name of modesty,who have grown up in an environment which viewed modesty in a positive light,who have,for the most part,not had many negative experiences of modesty to associate with,and attach themselves to,not taking any issue with your message..

    I could see those who have overcome those negative experiences being able to do the same.

    However,I believe it is safe to say,that many Women do not fit into this category.

    I’d like share my approach to shed further light onto this subject.

    If I come across Women who have been physically and emotionally abused in the name of modesty,who grew up without experiencing the beauty of the laws of modesty,the why and feeling,the meaning and purpose,who grew up in a system that doesn’t recognize,or allow room for individuality,for individual thoughts,ideas,and opinions,who through all that,have formed a very negative opinion of modesty,then I’ll start off by just allowing them to be.

    I’ll start off by not saying anything about their modesty,no matter how immodestly they are dressed. (Well,I suppose I might say something if they were downright naked.) I’ll accept them regardless. I’ll accept them for who they are.

    Oh,and by the way,this will be done genuinely and without an agenda,because I can relate to,and understand what they are going through. I understand the need to disassociate themselves from their previous state. I understand their need for unconditional love,faith,and acceptance. I also understand that it would only push them away further.

    Now since they currently associate modesty with their past experiences,I would have to address that past. I therefore,explain to them how and why it is wrong to treat people in such a manner. I go on to explain how these so-called religious people are going against their own religion,how these so-called religious people are a bunch of fakers. I then go on to explain how it should be done instead. I then go on to explain what modesty is truly about. I explain its inner beauty,depth,meaning,and purpose.

    I find that this is best done when the topic comes up,when they are discussing religious extremism,when they are discussing being abused in the name of modesty.

    However,once again,I do this genuinely and without an agenda. I truly mean what I’m saying. Going in with an agenda will only perpetuate a vicious cycle. If I find myself just trying fix them,bringing it up SOLELY to take advantage of the opportunity,then I end up not say anything at all. Better to keep silent then perpetuate the cycle. Besides,in the past,and even today at times,I find myself coming on way too strongly towards people,often resulting in negative consequences.

    I will then not press the issue. I understand the need for freedom of choice, I understand the need for authenticity.

    Even after introducing a new point of view into the system,it would still need to come from within. You could introduce a new point of view,chew the in’s and outs of how it works,digest it through someone’s individuality,but it will all be done under the sphere and influence of the system,it will all be done under the sphere of my influence.

    You would need to go above the system of influence and tap into the essence of that point. You would need to go above the system of influence,and access this new point of view through the power of choice.

    A true choice comes from choosing something regardless of influence. A true choice comes from your own free will. A true choice comes from choosing something because its authentic and true,because it’s the right thing to do. A true choice comes from choosing to do something because of you are.

    The power of choice will allow it to become their own.

    Allowing someone to internalize our point of view,requires us to separate and take ourselves out of the picture. It requires us to take ourselves outside the system and tap into the power of nothing,tap into our very essence. It requires us to now see that point of view through the power of choice upon which is it created and connected through,through its essential unbreakable bond and core,through unconditional love,faith,and acceptance.

    This will in turn,show them that they are connected to that point regardless. It will in turn,reveal that essence,through the power of choice,through them choosing to take part in it.

    We need to tap into the essence and show them unconditional love,faith,and acceptance. They will eventually come back on their own.

  • flywebguy

    On that original post, the fact that the #1 rated comment approaches it from such a selfish point of view is only proof that that women (generally) don’t do things for others in this regard – only for themselves (only one man up-voted that comment, the rest were women). However, no matter how deep of level they do it for themselves… there is still the selfish act.

    If women truly want to do their part in repairing this world then they wouldn’t worry about what men are “saying” – rather they would seriously explore the issues with an intense desire to do their part in bringing back Moshiach. Thus they would approach it from the angle of “what am I doing to better the world, or am I making it worse”?

    Don’t do it for men and don’t do it for yourself… do it for Hashem, the ushering in of Moshiach, and actually being a tikkun for this world.

    Suffice it to say that men have their own areas to work on… however, that’s not the topic of this post.

    • Asher Lovy

      How’s your marriage?

      • flywebguy

        Not sure if that was a childish dig or not, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and take it as a sincere question.

        My marriage is amazing! Our marriage was falling apart back when we use to be self centered and only did things for selfish reasons… however, a while ago we asked our rabbi if he could connect us with a professional marriage therapist. One of the most amazing things our therapist has taught us is that, if you choose to do something because you love the other person (even if you don’t particularly feel the need to do it) – then both people win, and win BIG. Instead of feeling like I’m caving into her demands and that I’m “loosing” because she isn’t strong enough, I see that I can help my wife as she grows into a stronger human being.

        It takes real love and a whole lot of work… but I can honestly say that we’ve got a better marriage than our parents have ever dreamed us.

        ps. and its not because our lives are perfect that we can do this – just 2 years ago we were below the poverty line, had 4 children ages 5 and under and only one car… that was being repo’d. So there was a million things that would cause stress, anger and resentment to build.

        A good marriage is the backbone of a healthy society, and a good marriage requires love, understand, Torah, and two people that are sensitive to the needs of each other.

        • Asher Lovy

          No, it was a childish dig.

          • flywebguy

            That was a rhetorical question – we already knew that…

          • Asher Lovy

            Just making sure.

    • Basya Feldman

      Agree 100% . My life is not supposed to be about me. Our entire purpose is to elevate the world and ourselves along with it. Ourselves because we are part of G-d. Being selfish is missing the entire point. “Viahavta lirayacha kamocha zeh klal gadol batorah!!!”

      • Flavor Lounge


      • flywebguy

        Very well stated!

  • MichelleK

    Here’s the thing you have to realize. Unfortunately, women have had a long history of subjugation, inequality, and lack of control over their own lives. No matter how much a woman wants to deny that this history isn’t part of the fiber of her being (it doesn’t really matter whether you’re religious or not), it would be hard for me to believe that she was speaking honestly. So, though you intended for this article to have nothing to do with controlling females, it smacks of all the hidden agendas that males have created over the course of our history. Again, I am not saying that you are guilty of writing such a piece, but women’s history is something that you need to keep in mind when you’re wondering why people got so angry.

    • Flavor Lounge

      Oh please.Should I grab my Kleenex.Hidden agendas?On what planet?

      • MichelleK

        You’re saying that men have never tried to control which rights women should or shouldn’t have?

        • Flavor Lounge

          But that was not Elad’s intent.

          • MichelleK

            Of course it wasn’t! That’s why I wrote he’s not guilty of anything like that. What I am saying is that the reason why people get defensive when reading an article like this is that it seems, on some levels, to be another one of those “women sacrificing for men/men controlling women” instances. History is chock full of stuff like this. I know that wasn’t his intent, but that’s probably a reason why people got angry.

          • Basya Feldman

            Whats funny though, is that Elad’s intentions seem to be that he is promoting the PROTECTION of women by encouraging modest dress to avoid objectification. And all the women are taking it the wrong way and getting all offended.

          • MichelleK

            See, here’s the thing, many women feel that they don’t need to be “protected”. We’re not kids and we’re not weak. Plus, we should be able to dress however we want to dress without thinking, “hmmm, is this choice going to keep me safe from rape(extreme example)?” I really liked that Elad spent some time writing that men need to work on themselves because I think that’s really the best solution. I’m writing this from the standpoint of an Orthodox woman who has spent MANY hours in women’s studies classes, so I’m trying to see this from both sides.

          • Basya Feldman

            He never said we needed to be protected, I’m just pointing out that is promoting something that is good for women. Everybody sees it like he’s asking us to do a favor for him. It’s good for us in the long run if we dress modestly. We will less likely be seen as objects to men who have no interest in working on themselves and we will think of ourselves in higher esteem. We are better than our physical bodies.

    • I hear that, and it’s a very good point. I hope to be more aware of that in future posts.

  • annonymousista

    i am a woman and i’ve been fighting with myself about modesty for a LONG time. i started dressing tznius (modest) when i first learned the laws, or rather the BASIC laws, cover elbows, knees and collarbone. it wasn’t until i got engaged did i really understand the laws of modesty and start to adhere to them. it was hard wearing loose skirts, i wore SKIN TIGHT skirts and SKIN TIGHT tops and my skirts ALWAYS came above my knees. and i found out that there are WHOLE books written about modesty. WHOLE BOOKS, and they’re amazing and beautiful and empowering. now i’m really learning about acting modesty as well. it’s a process and admitting where we are and actively trying to get there rather than stamping our feet and staying “I DON’T HAVE TO MOVE” is a sign of growth and is to be commended. yasher koach elad.

  • Sara Howson

    Hi I was going to comment yesterday, but it was to angry and confused to actually make a point.

    I really do think men need to be sensible to the fact that comments about women’s bodies and men’s desires are always going to take place against a back drop of men’s sexual violence against women and the horrific comments made by certain men that suggest women who do not dress modestly are “baiting” men who rape. Women who live in the constant shadow of violence and objectification are very, very sensitive to this and men really need to try hard to understand why this issue hits such a raw nerve.

    I don’t think anything you said was out of line. You certainly didn’t say anything that I haven’t heard many, many times before. I dress tsniusly and connect with the mitzvah of tsnius enormously partially because it gives me an opportunity to “do something for others” and go beyond myself.

    However, I think any man needs to seriously consider how and if he addresses this issue. There are lots of strong female voices making this plea and I think that on a whole women are more responsive to them, when men wade in, as you discovered it gets so murky that people like you, with only good intentions, are painted as monsters.

    All the best, I enjoy your blog, but please, a plea from a woman to a man, try to understand how difficult this issue is for us and how sensitively it needs to be treated.

  • Flavor Lounge

    Listen Elad. When you know you are speaking words of truth you don’t step back.I wasn’t shocked at that “rape culture” talk on Facebook.Not only that but the last post before the thread was vanished was a threat against me.Boohoo.I am scared.You have to be prepared for these trite parrots and disguard their phony arguments.The article was excellent! But instead of being understanding some women were saying that you plea for help was trying to control them or it is not their job. Nonsense needs to be ignored not debated.

  • Elissa

    I have so many thoughts about this post and the previous one- hopefully this comment will make some sort of sense by the end, even if it’s long. For the record, I’m a young Jewish woman, so that’s the perspective I’m speaking from.

    I have some conflicting feelings about this post. On one hand, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness in it, the recognition that men are responsible for their own thoughts, and the honest assessment of the difficulty in keeping one’s thoughts focused on the essence of person when a lot of his/her body is displayed.

    On the other hand, I chafe at the notion that I am responsible for helping you conquer this part of yourself. Maybe that’s selfish, and I just don’t have enough awareness or concern for how my actions affect other people. Or maybe it’s perfectly acceptable, because it’s your burden to carry and not mine (I’ve got my own version to worry about without taking on another person’s).

    If you had written something like “I cannot make you [a woman] do anything or ask you to take responsibility for this, but I want to explain how revealing female dress has an effect on me,” that would be more helpful. I know you wrote things like that, and maybe what I wrote will seem no different than what you posted above….but I see a slight nuance in that yours is asking women to help you with this difficulty, and my sentence would have you simply trying to share your experience of a situation; with nothing expected of the other party except to listen and have their perspective broadened.

    I think that some of the strong reaction, and any relation to “rape culture” (I didn’t read all of the comments, just skimmed, so this is in response to what you wrote above) has to do with the slippery slope of making Person B responsible for the thoughts/actions/reactions of Person A. And then, making Group B responsible for the thoughts/actions/reactions of Group A. Men are the “A” group, the primary focus. Women are the “B” group, the accessory involved (I mean that word like an accessory to a crime, not an accessory like a handbag). It’s a short jump from asking –> to requiring –> to looking down on/berating for not complying –> to using force to get compliance. And that progression may sound extreme, but in reality, it’s SO easy for people to jump from one to the other, especially when it’s something related to religion and/or morals.

    That’s why I chafe when I hear your request; I feel threatened by a man asking me, however nicely, to cover up more to help him conquer lustful thoughts. Even a small hint of putting any portion of that responsibility on me….it’s threatening, because what if that man asks for (or begins demanding) more? Where is the line?

    I loved when you wrote: “…the best way you can help them, help me, see past the external, straight to your soul, is by dressing modestly.” This helps me see your desire to relate to me as a person, and also says that THIS is the purpose of clothing. The purpose of modesty is not to help you control your thoughts, it’s to help reveal my essence. However, I did not like that that sentence was was followed by, “It’s a charity, a giving, a sacrifice.”…..This starts making it my problem to help you with your problem (this is the nuance I was talking about above- sharing perspective only vs. expecting someone to do something).

    In general, tzniut is complicated. One of the most insightful things I ever heard was someone describing the way you dress as how you want to express yourself, but also how you want other people to see you- it’s inherently about both you and other people, and that’s why it’s such a difficult thing.

    My view is that although I would like to wear whatever I want, people get distracted by skin (regardless of gender), and so we use clothing to cover the body. For some reason, God decided to put spiritual souls into physical bodies, and make the most profound, respectful way of relating to another person the spiritual way. So in order to truly “see” the essence of a person, you have to talk to them, get to know them…and, not quite ignore their bodies, but recognize that those bodies are simply vessels, and secondary to what’s inside. On a daily basis, it’s hard to get right to someone’s essence, because we live in a physical world. And things get fuzzier when you want to look nice- and you are allowed to look attractive and feel good about your appearance. But it’s hard to know when some aspect of your appearance crosses the line into something that will detract from being able to let your self shine through. This is where subjectivity comes in, because you’ll have a different idea than the person seeing you….hence, fuzziness.

    Overall, it’s a tough issue, and it takes some guts to tackle it, so props for doing that, and for continuing the discussion. As a side note, I read a different article today that seems to be in a similar vein to yours: http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/06/18/men-sex-and-modesty/. I think the author is Mormon.

    Alright, those are all the thoughts; I hope this comment wasn’t too rambling. Again, thank you for tackling a complicated issue, and good luck with your discussions here.

    • Wow, Elissa, thank you for that beautiful comment. You are totally right, of course, that it could have been better, and the comment you expressed perfectly explained why. I totally think you’re right in how I could have worded it better, and I plan to keep your comment and others in mind when I write about women’s issues in the future.

      I appreciate your openess, and I appreciate that you took the time to sort out your thoughts before commenting here. I hope you can forgive me for any screwups, and I hope I can write better in the future. It really is helpful to hear this sort of input from women on this site, and I appreciate the amount of thought that is put into them.

  • D.R.

    Did not read through all the comments, but I had to write this before Shabbos. My thoughts on the original essay based on my experience as an abused woman: http://thehighjewess.com/2013/06/28/please/

  • s(b.)
  • elanahope

    It’s very simple: My body is not your landscape. My body is my body. You are just so used to a world that treats women’s bodies as landscape that you can come up with a thousand justifications why you should be able to be so demanding about what all women should or shouldn’t do. It is just not your place to try and control women’s lives and choices. Get a grip on yourself and stop treating women like nothing more than objects in your visual life.

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