Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Tzniut Project 2: Making Snap Judgments

This is the second in a multi-part series called The Tzniut Project. Women from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of observances have volunteered to anonymously answer questions that I have written about their practices, people's assumptions, and more. For more information on the project, click here. Please continue to check back with The Tzniut Project to read more stories and comment abundantly!

Note: This post is contributed by a reader.

1. How do you affiliate Jewishly? Feel free to elaborate on the words people use to describe you and the words you use to describe yourself. 
Hard to put myself into a box. I guess people would call me yeshivish/frum/maybe even black hatter. But I think I am more of an MO [modern orthodox] orthofoxalicious chick, who borrows from right wing and left wing traditions ... to a certain extent.

2. Growing up, did your mother or grandmother dress modestly in any way? Do you think modesty was something instilled in you by your family? Did you dress modestly growing up? 
Growing up the women in my family wore pants, sleeveless shirts, shorts and didn't cover their heads. But there was a line you didn't cross. No micro-minis, no deep cleavage. I think it was instilled in me as a matter of self respect more than "modesty." Trashy girls wore miniskirts, not good girls.

3. Are you married? How does your spouse feel about your choices for modest dress? Is it a dialogue or does your partner leave the mitzvah to you?
It's very interesting. My husband couldn't care less if I covered my hair or not, but if I show my collarbone he's uncomfortable. Most of the time he says nothing because the argument isn't worth it.

4. What would you wear on a typical day? On Shabbos? If you dress differently on weekdays and Shabbos, why do you make this distinction and how? 
During the week I am in my denim skirts and T-shirts, on Shabbat I dress fancier -- out of respect for the holy day. If I go to shul I won't go bare-legged, but if I stay home I won't don panty hose.

5. What do you think other people infer from your clothing and hair covering choices? Has anyone ever said anything to you outright that expresses a judgment based on your appearance? (Ex: “You don’t cover your hair or wear skirts, so why do you keep kosher?”) 
I think when people see me they expect me to act a certain way -- not make a spectacle. They associate the wig and the modest dress with knowing how to behave in public. That being said, people do assume a certain way of thinking goes with the dress -- and I am somewhat of a feminist and that surprises people. Apparently if I wear a sheitel I am supposed to agree with everything my husband tells me, and do what I am told. The fact that I think for myself surprises those Jews who are much less observant.

6. Have you ever surprised someone by dressing more or less modestly and making them rethink their stereotypes about what it means to be an observant Jew? 
In the summer i tend to dress less modestly -- shorter sleeves, bare legs -- and there have been comments about being hypocritical.

7. When you see someone who observes tzniut differently than you, what are your initial thoughts? How do you deal with them? 
Honestly, Chaviva, this is a huge challenge for me. I judge. I see what I see, and I make snap judgments. This woman could be dressed the same way as I am, but I might look down on her for her bare legs, or hair showing under her bandanna. I might be envious of the trousers or the sleevless shirt, but there is always an initial feeling of superiority rearing its ugly head. I fight this daily.

8. I say modesty or tzniut … what does that mean to you? 
To me it's as much about behaving in an appropriate manner as it is about dressing modestly.

9. Anything else you’d like to add about your choices, experiences, and more!