Modesty

Jun. 11th, 2015 10:25 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
[personal profile] liv
Modesty is something that's valued in my religious tradition, and also something that's difficult for me personally as well as being politically fraught. Recently a friend was kind of vehement about modesty, specifically women's modest dress, and as it happens we didn't have time to have a proper conversation. So I've been turning the question over in my mind in anticipation of having the conversation, and I think it's enough thinky stuff for a blog post, so:

Jewishly, the idea of modesty comes from Micah 6:8: It has been told to you, human, what is good and what the Eternal requires from you, namely doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God. So the word for modesty might be better translated as humility, depending on context. It seems clear that in a theistic system everybody should be humble in relation to God, but rabbinic tradition has tended to extend this to the moral idea that people should be humble and modest in general behaviour as well.

So modesty is primarily about not demanding attention, not taking up other people's space, perhaps not boasting about how virtuous you are. This seems like a good moral value, and one that I'm quite bad at personally because I tend to be quite arrogant and noisy and liable to blunder around not noticing other people's needs. So it's something I put effort into as part of my general moral aims.

The problem is that although this idea of modesty isn't inherently gendered, it plays out in a sexist society. [personal profile] hatam_soferet had a brilliant insight some years ago, which has really stayed with me: a lot of Jewish law is based on the assumption that the target audience are people with a relatively secure position in society. So Torah says that "you" should protect widows, orphans and strangers, but has little to say about how you should behave if you yourself are in one of those subaltern groups. People who are already assumed to be the default, the sort of people society is built around, need lots of religious strictures to tell them to be more kind and more charitable and more modest (humble). But people who are already marginalized, who are always expected to serve others ahead of their own needs, generally don't need religion telling them to make even further sacrifices. Indeed, people who are in positions of power may end up using religion to consolidate their power, using it to control others and tell them that it's their duty to serve the powerful people.

Of course, in contemporary Anglo society, men are more likely to be in the category of assuming the world exists for their benefit, and women are more likely to be in the category of being heavily pushed towards sacrificing themselves to please and support others. I didn't notice this at all because in spite of being assigned and raised female, I have also spent most of my life in an environment where being female isn't really a disadvantage. I am definitely the sort of person who needs reminders to be more compassionate and modest, and part of that is that until [personal profile] hatam_soferet pointed it out, I hadn't really noticed that telling women to be even more modest and even less confident of their value is a way of controlling people who often already defer to others more than they should.

A relevant example I came across recently was [personal profile] legionseagle's rant on ill-advised admonitions in meta and connected discussion. The post referenced basically takes the tone of, thou shalt not write insensitively about rape! Be more considerate! Remember that there might be rape survivors consuming your stories! I think this is a microcosm of a lot of debate that's being going on at least since Racefail. People are setting up moral laws with an implicitly assumed audience of, well, default or we might even say privileged people. And they're good moral laws ('thou shalt not write racist dreck' is kind of a no-brainer), but the way they're being socially enforced is hurting a lot of people who have history of being controlled by being told they're selfish and morally bad people if they have any desires and needs of their own. To some extent that's many women within a sexist society, and as [personal profile] legionseagle very lucidly illustrates, on a different level it's survivors of certain kinds of emotional abuse.

This connects to the specific case of modesty which is about dressing in a way that's not perceived as sexual (which I'm pretty sure is what my friend was objecting to, not to the whole concept of having a modest demeanour in general). I am to some extent in favour of being considerate about how much you push your sexuality on other people, but also very conscious that treating sex as dirty and damaging is often used to control women. No matter how much in theory rules about modest dress apply to all genders, the discussion nearly always ends up being very much centred on how women should or shouldn't dress. I've read a lot of analysis suggesting that a lot of slut-shaming isn't really about sexual behaviour at all, it's about respectability; women with low social status are perceived as being "over-sexual", and therefore not deserving of protection from male violence.

I get very impatient with the kind of feminism that insists on a very narrow "right" amount of skin to show, because if your body is on display or you are read as sexy, you must be dressing like that for male sexual gratification, and if you cover up too much, you're being controlled by patriarchal ideas of modesty. It's just respectability politics under a different name, essentially the message is that the only way to be taken seriously is to dress like a fairly high status professional or business woman from an Anglo culture. That said, I do take seriously feminist critiques of using modesty requirements to control women, as long as they're not swinging in the other direction and forcing women to display their hair or breasts or legs in public when they may not feel comfortable with that, for any reason.

So I am not entirely happy about modest dress as part of my religious tradition. I've thought about it quite a lot, because my approach to religion is not about cherry-picking the stuff that's spiritually meaningful to me, it's about engaging thoughtfully with all the requirements and trying to apply them in a way that fits with me as a person and my ethical values. I also studied modest dress quite intensively (but only for a month) at Drisha back in 2006, with a bunch of passionate feminist women who were nearly all to the right of me religiously, and nearly all more modestly dressed. The upshot is that I am willing to dress more "modestly" than comes most naturally to me, partly because I don't want to make other people uncomfortable, I feel like I'm more prone to being self-centred than self-sacrificing so it's worth making an effort to correct that. And partly because it's something that my people do and (like many other things that I'm not personally passionate about, such as keeping kosher), I want to assert my identity as an observant Jew.

But I don't think it's really modest to cover yourself way beyond the social norm. That's the opposite of modest, that's wearing clothes that draw attention to you and how religious you are. Also restrictions being applied way more strictly to women than to men is sexist, and therefore not in keeping with my Reform values. So I generally try to cover collarbones to elbows to knees (not, say, throat to wrists to ankles), and I keep my hair tied back but I don't cover it. That last one is a bit complicated because my husband isn't Jewish, therefore I don't count as married in Jewish law, so it's unclear whether I even should be covering my hair anyway. I don't bother with wearing only dull and dark colours, I just like purples and reds too much for that, and also I think in a modern context, coloured dyes aren't showing off how rich you are, they're just as cheap as plain colours. And I do try to adapt my dress for circumstances; for example in Leipzig where the local norm was elaborate goths, many of whom were half-naked or in fetish gear, it was appropriate for me to display a lot more cleavage than I normally would in the street. Or if I go to a black tie party, it's appropriate to dress in a more sexy and revealing way than if I'm at work or synagogue. I have no issues with wearing a swimming costume at the beach or a park for sunbathing, but equally I'm happy to cover my hair and arms if I'm visiting a mosque, church or other shrine where that is expected. Again, the point is to be modest, to fit in and not try to make myself look better than others.

I'm also trying to dress a bit more revealingly around my friend who objects to modesty rules. Because the underlying value is consideration for other people, and if my relatively covering, conservative clothes are making her uncomfortable, that's the opposite of the point. But it's surprisingly hard; some of my clothing choices are just habits I've formed and not really expressions of the value of modesty. For example, I generally feel more comfortable in calf-length or longer skirts, so knee-length skirts are in principle fine but I'm not used to them. And shorter skirts than that are fine too, in a situation where in general that's appropriate and not outside social norms. At the weekend I wore a top that exposed part of my tummy, because I was at a summer barbecue where that sort of thing is well within the range of normal, and because I wanted to respect my friend's views. And I felt a little strange, not that I think it's wrong and most certainly not that I would judge anyone else for a bare midriff, but just that I'm not used to wearing that little.

I think my modesty is partly reflecting my moral and religious values, but also partly it's a protective habit. I was fat and ugly as a teenager; now I'm still fat but tolerably pretty, at least to people who don't expect that you have to follow fashion rules closely to count as pretty. But at some level I have the experience that if I dress sexily, I will get grief for daring to imagine that I'm the sort of person that others would want to look at in a sexual way. Unlike many women, I don't personally have the experience that if I dress sexily, I will be harassed and groped and molested (which I know isn't really about clothing choices, it's about bullies exerting power over women), but I do basically expect to be mocked. Not consciously, not if I actually stop and think about it, but I have a kind of visceral memory of it. Especially if what I'm showing off is my legs and bottom, which is one reason why when I am in an appropriate context to dress more revealingly, I default to low cut tops rather than short or tight skirts.

My personal experiences of feeling uncomfortable about uncovering more than I'm used to are therefore comparatively mild. But enough to give me empathy for women who, for religious or personal reasons, do prefer to cover up a lot more than the default for women in the societies they're part of. Muslim women who wear headscarves or veils or abayat, for example, but also women who for purely personal reasons feel uncomfortable wearing the amount of clothes expected for women of the culture they happen to live in.

Basically I'm one of those "choice" feminists, I do expect that people should make their own decisions about what they want to wear. And yes, I am aware that those choices carry messages which affect others, and take place in a social context, there are factors other than purely personal expression which determine how people dress. I believe that consideration for other people should in fact be one of the factors that go into clothing choice; for me that's the main point of modesty. Equally people don't have a right to ogle my body, much less to have access to it, and people do have a responsibility to control their own behaviours and behave in a civilized way if they happen to find me sexually attractive, it's not up to me to hide myself from view in case some hypothetical stranger finds me sexy and is offended by that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 09:34 pm (UTC)
angelofthenorth: Sooffocles with me in background (Default)
From: [personal profile] angelofthenorth
Really interesting. Not got much to say beyond that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 09:48 pm (UTC)
penlessej: (Books)
From: [personal profile] penlessej
You make a pretty significant jump in the fourth paragraph that you rest most of the rest of the post on. What you are saying with the observation made from your friend is that Torah, really, should only apply to people who are in a position of power. Because, as you pointed out, poor people, marginalized people, do not need to be told to be more humble. But the Torah traditionally was not written for just the well-off in society, it was written for society as a whole. If you justify a departure from the Torah on the grounds that it does not apply to you because of X Y and Z than really all you are doing is rationalizing the departure from your religious doctrine. Which is all well and good, just call a spade a spade. You do not agree that modesty should apply to woman in particular.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 11:13 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
But the Torah traditionally was not written for just the well-off in society, it was written for society as a whole.

That's rather a large assumption. The Torah is talking to men ("do not go near a woman," and so on), Tanakh is mostly talking to men (otherwise we wouldn't need to go around making all these lists of women in the bible, we don't bother making lists of men in the bible), and the Oral Law is largely framed, developed, and applied by men. Not well-off men necessarily; don't confuse well-off with powerful.

That's not to say that the Torah intends for non-men to be exempt from everything, but it does mean that it doesn't necessarily have the best interests of non-men at the forefront. Rabbinic Jews have always had to interpret the Torah through lenses which correct for time and place, that's what the history of halakha is, and marginal Jews (women, slaves and so on) also have to use lenses which correct for position in society. Elisheva Baumgarten's recent work explores this idea in the context of medieval Ashkenaz, talking about aspects of Jewish religion which are not the ones which make it into the pages of the Mishneh Torah or whatever, but which ought to be viewed as valid expressions of Jewish piety.

And when we don't use corrective lenses, sometimes the results are kind of toxic. You've heard about the chap who had, in one pocket, a paper with "Because of me the world was created," and in the other pocket a paper with "I am dust and ashes"--the idea was to preserve a balance between the two extremes--your average woman (or poor, or disabled, or enslaved, etc person) accumulates several kilos' worth of "I am dust and ashes" papers just by existing, so telling such a person that they need to put one of each paper in their pockets is a different message than telling that to a person with empty pockets. And it's ok to realise that the message is "balance" and interpret accordingly, even if that means that I personally don't put one of each paper into my pocket.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 10:14 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
1. Concept of micro- vs macroproblematic?

2. Twitching a bit at use of "civilised" particularly in this context?

3. Perhaps more later when not on auxiliary internet device.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 01:42 am (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
(from network) I use "decency".

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:54 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
I apologize if I was intrusive. ("If" included entirely because I genuinely can't tell if there's a rebuke embedded in your response.)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 05:31 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
*thumbs up!* No worries. I'm ASD enough that I miss cues and long experience has taught me that if I'm unsure, the worst case scenario if I acknowledge where I might have screwed up when I haven't is kind people apologizing at each other, whereas the worst case if I don't is me trampling over everyone's toes.

And yeah, language is . . . difficult. And sometimes there's almost no acceptable solution, because, well. The way-way-way back etymological root word for the English "bad" is "womanish man." When I look at that kind of thing I just end up having to laugh so I don't hide under the bed for the rest of time.

Which doesn't mean that trying to figure out how to use language in the least harmful way is pointless at all, it's just . . . sometimes one makes the best of a bad deal because there's no other option.

For me "decent" works because my experience of its use is pretty ungendered - even if it's used in a prudish way a man without his shirt on is no more "decent" than a woman is, if that makes sense, so that wherever the bar for "decent" is it's applying the same to everyone and it's a succinct way of saying "the bare minimum of acceptable and non-harmful behaviour that considers everyone as being basically human". But it's also flexibly relative, not absolute - sometimes the decent thing to do is A and sometimes it's B and that'll change with circumstance.

It's not perfect, but.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 12:45 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Re 1, honestly mostly handwaving sleepy memories of having seen the terms defined at least in part around discussion of modest dress, and I think it might do interesting things if you mash them up with the concept of propriety-in-context.

2. So my issue with "civilised" in this context is thaaaat it's got a really racist history (and I'm dubious about it in general for racism/classism reasons). I tend to use "minimum acceptable" or "polite" or similar?
lizcommotion: A black-and-white photo of a Victorian woman (victorian lady)
From: [personal profile] lizcommotion
I developed my super twitchy around the words "civilized", "progress" and of course "savage" and "barbaric" when I did a lot of historical research on colonialism and the U.S. Progressive Era in history at University.

All of the above words were used as measures for "what makes a person or society worthwhile or normal", with "white European society" being at the "civilized" end "progressing" towards some more advanced scientific thing, and pretty much everyone else from horrible tropes like "the Dark Continent" and everything Rudyard Kipling ever wrote being examples of the depths of human depravity.

It all ties in with Social Darwinism/Eugenics and this sort of white panic of "If science tells us we evolved from chimpanzees or something, then we must further differentiate our superiority as White People and also look we obviously evolved the most! Feel the bumps on my skull, it clearly shows what a superior being I am." (i.e. phrenology)

This is not to say that everyone who uses this words is horrible and bad and should be twitter-shamed or whatever, or that they never have an appropriate use in conversation. (For example, I like to tongue-in-cheek make comments occasionally to make a play on the language, but it has to be done carefully.) Plus "progress" as a verb totally has other uses ,and I do enjoy the game "Civilization." ;)

other thoughts/feels in another thread.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 10:35 pm (UTC)
403: A rack of test tubes with the caption "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate". (Solution or precipitate)
From: [personal profile] 403
The history of me and clothing is that whatever I select will be deemed "wrong" because I have an unacceptable body-type. So. Screw 'em.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:21 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
+1, there's people, including me, who are not going to be considered appropriate or able to fit in regardless of how we dress. These days, I don't think that's my fault, but it's still not going to stop other people behaving badly. And I count concern-trolling such as "Oh, you're *so brave* to be wearing a swimsuit and going swimming" to be part of that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-11 11:15 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I think you're the first person who believes in modesty who I've seen say that if the point is to not draw attention to oneself, ostentatiously covering up more skin than is typical in your culture or context is the opposite of modest.
So thank you for that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 12:54 am (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
I think in "choice" feminism, it's important that it be INFORMED choice. People need to think about why they are doing what they are doing.

In the instance of modest dress, for example, that is particularly important. Take that idea of wearing a tank top. One could be wearing a tank top because one has a great rack and has the intention of wearing one to the barbeque to outshine your ex's new girlfriend. One could be wearing a tank top because one is going hiking and it's 100 degrees. One could be wearing a tank-top because they have hellaciously sunburned shoulders and it's the only thing that doesn't hurt. Same action, different reasons. If one's society is operating off of the idea of intrinsic morality rather than extrinsic morality, those reasons become important because one is expected to self-police. And I have to admit, I'm a fan of intrinsically moral culture.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daharyn
But sometimes the choice is "because I want to," or "because I like [the chosen option/item]," or "because it feels good," or even just "because," and all of those ought to be enough. It's not cool to force other people to justify their choices to others. Sometimes there isn't a reason why.

Why did I wear this skirt today? I honestly don't know. There could be a million reasons, but nothing jumps out at me, and I don't give a fuck about how anyone interprets that choice, ya know?

Sometimes a tank top is just a tank top is just a tank top.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 03:50 am (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
(I'm a psychology professional :P )

Basically in this instance I'm using Kohlberg and Piaget's stages of moral development wherein a fully developed moral person will achieve some level of post-conventional morality, which is basically that you think about what you value and your morals and decide which thing are things that truly have value and letting those things inform your choices vs what your culture tells you has value and letting your culture force you to act in certain ways.

My general world-view (based on study, research, and experience working with people) is that people always do things for a reason. They may not know what the reason is, or think about why, but there's always a reason. Sometimes are reasons are entirely internal (I don't eat walnut brownies because I'm allergic to walnuts) but often society plays at least some part in people's reasons for doing things. Part of what one does, if one is interested in particular kinds of contemporary sociology, is to think about how society has acted on people to give them reasons to do or not do certain things.

So, as I'm a person who is interested in some of those particular kinds of contemporary sociology, and as a person who has an interest in why people do what they do, I think it's important for people to think about why they do what they do and, as a person who believes people should strive for post-conventional moral development (within certain bounds), I think people should act on their informed choice based on what they believe is right, rather than what society demands of them (this does not mean they won't necessarily do what societal pressures would otherwise dictate, but for their own reasons).

A tank top is always a piece of clothing that primarily covers a part of a person's chest, back, and stomach. There are reasons a person chooses that piece of clothing, however, even if it's just as simple as "everything else is dirty". I just believe people should consider their reasons for doing things.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:32 am (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
I mean, there are of course reasons why a camisole type tank top is a clothing option available to a woman/female presenting person living in certain geographical locations, eg. culturally, those locations consider it inappropriate for women to expose their chests, but okay to expose arms and shoulders; culturally, also they consider this set up the most "normal" way to do that. There also might be climate reasons (you see a lot more tank tops in the American South than in the northeast).

And then there are reasons why a specific person might buy the tank top, ranging from "it was on sale" to "I agree with these specific conditions for public decency" to "I liked the color."

But I think that suggesting that there's some sort of moral imperative to think about your deeper reasons for choosing clothing is falling into this trap where clothing of women in particular is seen as symbolic, often of their, their family's, or their society's morals. I mean, do you think that there's also a moral imperative for men to consider why they wear T shirts? The answer may be yes, and from what you've said it sounds like it would probably be yes, but for a lot of people it's going to be no, because women's clothing choices are much more likely to be "marked" morally speaking.

To give some examples of female clothing being symbolically marked, I'm reminded here of an essay I read a while ago by a Muslim woman about how every female Muslim blogger feels they HAVE to address their position on hijab eventually. I'm also reminded of one of my sisters telling the other she was dressed like a prostitute when they were teenagers in relation to going outside together. A tank top is never allowed to just be a tank top when it's worn by someone who's read as a woman, is it?

For some people, that kind of thought exercise is interesting and important, but for some people it's boring or irrelevant or a reminder of all the times they had to justify their clothing on moral grounds or had clothing rules enforced by other people on moral grounds. I'm much more concerned about whether someone's "thought about why they do things" when we're talking about things that have the potential to hurt other people.

Ultimately if I don't want to analyze all the complicated reasons why I wear a T shirt when it's hot out but don't expose my calves, I don't have to, and I don't think that negatively impacts either my morality or anyone else's state of being.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 05:32 am (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
Before I say anything else, I just want to make it clear that this is my opinion based on my experience with life. Other people have different experiences which may cause them to think differently.

It is MY OPINION that people (men/boys and women/girls) should think about their actions and why they make the choices they do because in MY experience, people who do not think about why they do things often inadvertently hurt to themselves and/or those around them.

Everyone, however, gets the option to do what they want to do. Their thoughts exist in their own heads and no one can FORCE someone else to sit on their beds and actually think about why they did what they've done. My thinking that people should make informed decisions is in no way actually going to force them to do that if they find doing so to be boring or irrelevant.

(and I would say that both men and women experience judgement on their presentation. In fact, I would say that men have simpler rules, but also a far narrower range of acceptable presentation than women do in most modern industrial powers)

(also, I'm not sure why the idea that people should consider their reasons for doing things seems to be hitting a sore spot)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 07:55 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
(also, I'm not sure why the idea that people should consider their reasons for doing things seems to be hitting a sore spot)

Because you aren't arguing that people should consider their reasons.

You are using the proposition "people should consider their reasons" as justification for the contention we might articulate as "women should think about moral rectitude of their clothing choices."

And the sentiment "women should think about moral rectitude of their clothing choices" is being taken as advancing the presumption that women's clothing choices have a moral rectitude to consider.

That's not going down well.

I think you're being somewhat disingenuous in your argument. When someone says, "Think about what you're doing", it doesn't mean, "being contemplative is good". It's idiomatic for "I think you're fucking up, and maybe if you think about it some more, you'll agree with me." I think you know that, and should stop pretending that it will be heard otherwise.

P.S. You aren't sharing your opinion. You are making normative value statements. Expect contention when you do that.
Edited Date: 2015-06-12 07:56 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 07:21 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
I think you are reading something that I'm not saying. Clothing is basically costume. A person can wear EXACTLY the same outfit in different colors and indicate they belong to two entirely different social groups. It's a piece of personal artistic expression, social expression, and gender presentation.

I think you are reading what I say and instead of the actual words being presented you are reading "I think women should dress more modestly" which is not, in fact, what I am saying. Clothing, in and of itself, is amoral. It has no moral value/immoral value in and of itself any more than furniture does. I could walk into my (conservative) grandmother's house in short-shorts and a tank top tomorrow (if I were in her city) with no moral judgement from my family (though going in nude would lift some eyebrows).

I am, in fact, saying that being contemplative (working to understand one's own reasons and not just accept external motivators without thinking about it) about all one's actions including clothing choice is good. You are reading a connotation into my words that isn't there.

However, here's my judgement on this point in the discussion: Using rude language and calling someone dishonest and deceptive in what appears to be an attempt to garner an unearned apology and to shut down a discussion is not acceptable in my opinion.

And here's my normative value statement: You should not go around calling people dishonest and deceptive. It's offensive and rude.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 11:20 am (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
I don't think much about my clothing choices (I mean, I won't wear a t-shirt with the work "Fuck" on to work or choir, but basically unless there's some specific occasion it's going to be t-shirt and trousers), but equally I don't have many options unless I want to draw attention to myself (and/or end up feeling self-conscious) - I could go a little smarter with a shirt, but if went smarter than that it would invite comment at work (or, indeed, with people that know me socially), or I could wear shorts while it's warm.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 05:09 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
Hoping I'm not being further intrusive: I find the presentation-policing for men, at least in North American/Western European culture and cultures heavily influenced thereby (I have no ability to speak to others) to actually simply be an offshoot of that for women, in that men are not allowed to be women, and thus not allowed to be overtly sexual or decorative in any way that women are culturally assumed to be at all times. Caring too much for your appearance or wearing things beyond the general shapeless shirt-and-trousers on which all quote-unquote "western" men's clothing is built is seen as "feminine" or even "girly" - and thus, of course, "gay" and absolutely forbidden and, as you note, often enforced with violence.

So it's still very related, ime, to "women's bodies are for THIS, and we assume a straight-man's gaze on the world, so other men's bodies aren't ALLOWED to be for THIS."

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:43 pm (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
Can you give an example of how failing to think about clothing choices could or has, in your experience, hurt other people?

It's my opinion that this sort of thing is a matter of personal autonomy, which is why I'm kneejerk annoyed by the position that people have to have a justification for it. Women often are required to justify their clothing choice, at length, and threatened with social or physical violence if they don't have good enough justifications.

(Men have a narrow range of acceptable presentation in western cultures, but every choice they make is not symbolic in the way women's clothing is treated as; men can usually wear most options within their range of socially acceptable clothing without having to decide which "type" of man they want to be read to the extent women do. While their choices give impressions, most of the time they aren't treated as a reflection of their family's morality the way women's clothing is -- class, certainly, but not usually ethics.)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 07:47 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
Sure. Because we, in "the West" are conditioned to overvalue certain kinds of social praise, many of us "learn" to dress to get that social praise without really thinking about it. This can lead to certain people in groups to slightly overdress all the time. This can have two effects. It can cause their friends who have dress appropriately but not overdressed for an event to feel "frumpy" and overlooked. It can also cause consistently escalating dress "requirements" which can be a financial hardship for a lot of people. Gym-wear is a good example of this.

IMO it is a matter of personal autonomy, but because we are often influenced by social conditioning, IMO it's important to think about whether we are really making our own choices, and in order to figure that out, we have to think about why we are making them.

I agree about men's choices, but more in the direction that the resulting judgements are different, esp re gender expression.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-23 06:08 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
People tend to be very shiny out here in Cali. The gyms are all filled with people in v. expensive clothing.

It's all good. Sometimes the line between discussion and argument is arrived at rather suddenly and then walking it can be a bit of a challenge, esp in someone else' space. :P

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 12:49 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(aside while I'm being prissy about language: my understanding while out-group is that in general "prostitute" is considered a slur and isn't okay for out-group people to use, but "sex worker" is fine and the preferred terminology of most sex workers)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 01:26 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
"full-spectrum" or "full-service" is maybe the adjectival modifier you're looking for? here's the resource my knowledge is based on!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:45 pm (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
Gah, I do know that, but I got lost rephrasing the original much more offensive comment to something I felt was repeatable. I possibly should have phrased it differently.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 04:36 pm (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
Thanks! The idea of women's clothing as symbolic has been something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Particularly in relation to veil bans, which seem to me to be making the same choice as legally requiring them in the opposite direction. (Instead of treating women as a symbol of family/society piety that has to be enforced, treating women as a symbol of family modernity/Western-ness that has to be enforced. In either case, the women's dress is how the family has to "prove" how mainstream their morality is to society, which it should be a choice she makes.) It also comes up in a lot of other places, though, where we're not used to having these discussions - class markers, for instance.

Not everyone has strong feelings about clothing, and it's okay if your morality doesn't have much to do with it. Of people who do have strong feelings on clothing, sometimes those feelings are "I don't want to think about it" or "talking about this upsets me." I think of clothing choice as a part of bodily autonomy, which I think is why I got annoyed by the suggestion that everyone Must have a justification for it.

That one kind of stunned me at the time, even as a kid, but it's a good example, I think, of the 'how you dress reflects on us all' thing. "Our society degrades prostitutes" -> "You are dressed in a way I think is associated with prostitutes" -> "If you don't change your clothing before going outside, people will think of you as a prostitute, and by association me and the rest of our family" -> "You must change to prove OUR social standing/morality." Which has about ten different logic holes and is really terrible to both actual sexworkers and the women being accused of being sexworkers for illogical reasons.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 07:58 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
Yeah, if people are already thinking about it, I'm not saying they should necessarily think more (counselor hat for a moment: it might be healthy for them to work on anxiety and/or consider if everyone judging them consists of a healthy relationship with their culture/friends/relatives :P /counselor hat).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 01:09 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daharyn
Our mutual friend can confirm that I am very, very intentional about my clothing. I have a distinct sense of style (made all the more specific in the past year, now that I have to look professional five days a week for the first time in my life) and my clothing is absolutely a way in which I express myself. Today at work I'm presenting my first annual report; every last item of clothing or piece of jewelry has been specifically picked out days in advance, including underthings and shoes.

It's just that every choice was made based on how I want to feel today--not on how this clothing will resonate with others. So that's where I'm challenged by the modesty business. Even if the relevant religious texts seem to be about modesty of spirit and apply to all, the practical application of those laws seems to be based on caring too much about what others think of you?

I have a not-so-secret fascination with Christian evangelical mommy blogs; they're something I read when I have downtime. (My parents nearly became conservative Christians in the early 80s, so I have a "that could have been me!" sort of feeling, particularly since my life is nearly the opposite.) I feel like I see a lot of policing there--so much so that the person is erased, and only the rules remain. In contrast, I want my clothing to highlight, complement, and extend who I am. So for me, I don't apply any external code to how I dress--it's a very internal thing, driven by personality and desired emotions.

I also think we should take on a generous mindset, and just not worry about what other people wear? What you wear is your thing. Honestly, it kind of makes me sad that you wore a cropped top to please someone else. I'm all for people wearing whatever they want to wear, and that includes fat folk (myself included) wearing whatever they feel like, but I would really really hate to think someone was making clothing choices specifically to make me comfortable. I basically think your friend should get over their discomfort.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 03:00 am (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (the unforgiving sun)
From: [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
This is a very interesting look at a question which I don't think about much until every few years it eats my head, so thank you. I appreciate the reminder that modesty is about, well, humility, because so often it turns womens' bodies into a battleground.

The last time that happened to me was in Istanbul about two years ago. I was raised Baha'i, though I no longer identify that way, and one of the things that Baha'is use to differentiate themselves from their Islamic roots is that not only do Baha'i women not wear any sort of veil, but Baha'i women may not wear any sort of veil. There are multiple female martyrs in the hagiography I was raised with who were killed for unveiling in 1860s Iran. And so as a child and adolescent in religious education, I was repeatedly told, in so many words, God does not want you ever to do this thing because it will halt the emancipation of women. One year my entire class of girls at Baha'i summer camp signed a pledge, on paper, saying that no matter what the circumstances we would never wear a modesty veil.

And, as I said, I don't identify with that faith anymore, but, well, I promised. I was young, sure, but my twelve-year-old self thought it over and was willing to commit that to paper, and I feel some responsibility to safeguard my twelve-year-old self. My wedding, for instance, was not the level of formality for which a bridal veil might be expected, but I would not have had one if it were.

So there I was in Istanbul, and there was the Blue Mosque, and portions of the Topkapi Palace (the ones which have significant religious artifacts), and if you present as female, you can't go in without something that the guard will accept as a headcovering. I tried tying the hood of my hoodie very tightly, because that is a garment I own anyway and an action I am willing to take under other circumstances, and was told that wasn't good enough; they will give you a scarf at the door if they believe you need one, so I could have taken one of theirs.

The thing is, I don't identify as female either.

What happened was I went away and had a three-day crying fit about the confluence of unavoidable self-presentation with my inability to suck it up and do this thing I had promised not to do and my desire to respect their desire that people who go into these spaces show the proper respect and how what that means in practice is that I don't get to go into these spaces. I know it is my decision, but it still hurt. And it didn't help that when I went off to cry in the bathroom of the Topkapi, which seemed like the least public option, there were several women in there who had, as soon as they were in the ladies' room, removed full burqa for a chance to cool off a bit, and it seemed like the same category error in the opposite direction that I was inadvertently allowed to see that.

The whole thing still smarts, but your post does remind me that modesty in the eyes of others should never, ever trump your own self-respect, which helps me remain firm in the belief that excluding myself from those spaces is the right choice for me. Thank you.

I just wish it didn't ever have to be a choice between modesty in the eyes of others and your own self-respect, I guess. Those things are not inherently dichotomous.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 05:38 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional
(Hi. I am a stranger but I just wanted to say that I am really deeply impressed/moved by your kindness/support to that twelve-year-old self and her promise, I'm so sorry that running into that metaphorical wall hurt you so badly, and also to thank you as framing that kind of decision as one of self-respect: for reasons I won't bore anyone with, a modesty veil/covering/etc is something I too cannot in conscience wear* and as someone perceived as female, this also means I choose to exclude myself from these places. Which means I catch some flak from people to whom it doesn't matter, and that's difficult. Anyway. Thank you.)


*I wish it were self-evident but I know it isn't: I support the right of anyone to choose to wear whatever they want for whatever reasons they want. I just can't, for my reasons.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 08:21 am (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
Mostly I think this is interesting and I basically agree with you, but - I am a little bit bothered by your decision to deliberately wear more-revealing clothes to "respect my friend's views". Because, although presumably that isn't the intention, it comes across as saying to me that you are exposing more skin than you personally would choose, and that makes me uncomfortable. Would you argue that it is the same as covering more skin to respect someone's views? It feels asymmetrical to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 10:48 am (UTC)
wychwood: this is what a feminist looks like (me) (gen - feminist)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
Right - that makes more sense to me. I don't think I would react to it in that way personally - I mean, I nearly always am covered throat-to-elbow (or wrist if my shirt is longsleeved)-to-ankle, modulo my top shirt button being unfastened, but it's absolutely not because of anything to do with anyone's modesty standards, it's because that's how I am comfortable dressing on a number of other axes, and I hope no one is going to take that as a criticism of their clothing, because it definitely isn't! But if you're taking it as an expression of solidarity with your friend, that makes more sense to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 12:54 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I want to make it clear to my friend that I'm not judging her for generally wearing more revealing clothing than I do.

is that the message conveyed, though? (Possibly, if you have discussed it) Absent conversation explaining that I would assume that someone who normally dressed very modestly and changed their style somewhat around me either

1. Felt safe from judgement around me and had relinquished some sort of modesty-policing in my presence (which would confirm my objection to modesty rules)
2. Was erroneously trying to imitate me or some standard of cool associated with me
and/or
3. had simply worn that outfit for whatever reason, and i'd pay no further attention.

Surely the *good* option here is your friend doesn't actually notice at all? If your friend not only objects to modesty rules *but also to people dressing comfortably and habitually in ways that read as modest*, I'm not sure that you wearing more-revealing clothes is going to *help* that situation at all.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 08:25 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I think there's something rather peculiar about wearing deliberately *more* revealing clothes to make others comfortable?

I'm trying to put my finger on why and can't quite articulate it, but there's another factor in 'modesty' which you haven't picked up on here explicitly: privacy. I have fairly conservative standards in teaching clothes, for instance (at least in terms of coverage; these days I'm pretty casual in register). People have asked me why: some of it is practicality (I can swing over a desk in a long skirt more easily than an above-the-knee one), but a lot of it is *privacy*. Those are my legs, they're not for students. That mole on my upper cleavage is mine. My friends get to see it. Random people at the beach get to see it, if i feel like it. But students don't.

I think that's where 'dressing more covered-up than the norm', even if it draws attention, isn't necessarily ostentation. There's a factor of privacy in there, which isn't foremost about other people's reactions.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 03:03 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Sometimes people spend so long being told by everyone around them to COVER UP that they find that even if everyone *stops* that uncovering is a difficult/uncomfortable thing to do.

I think saying (not that you are, but some people (m'mother) do) that "you should cover less because your covering is ostentatious and not modest at all" is just going to make such people feel SUPER BAD.

What I want is for everyone to have as much choice as possible in what they wear, so that they can be as happy and comfortable as possible, without social pressure to change.

I'm not generally happy altering my level of modesty because someone else doesn't like looking at me dressed the way I am. I rarely dress with other people's happiness in mind, and only on very special occasions. The unhappiness applies even when the clothing requested is well within my usual standards of acceptable - if I put a hat on this morning then I *want to wear a hat* and I'm not taking it off so you can "see my hair", fuck off. Neither do I "smile" on command.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-19 05:38 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
True,people I care about get more say. And actually I've just spent a week following strict rules about dress for theatrical-ish reasons... I think it is the tone of the request that bugs most with some people.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 09:55 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Thanks for writing this - it's really interesting.

I like the broader idea of modesty being more like lack of ostentation. In British Quakerism, "plain dress" was adopted to steer people away from ostentatious dress, by encouraging wearing of the most neutral clothes of the time. It was largely abandoned for the same reasons: the clothes that had been neutral/unostentatious when plain dress was introduced had become peculiar and had started to be ostentatious themselves by the time it was abandoned.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 11:37 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Yes - it stopped being standard practice in the second half of the nineteenth century (I can't find an exact date). Quakers are free to dress as they wish, though still encouraged towards simplicity and away from ostentation. Different people interpret this in different ways! There are still some individuals and groups in the UK, Ireland and the US (I'm less sure about other places) who practice plain dress along traditional lines, but they're in the minority.

Head Coverings

Date: 2015-06-12 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is a fascinating and thoughtful discussion, especially for someone who tends to be somewhat socially conservative in dress without any particular analysis. Thank you.

As a complete side issue: until at least the 1950s it was unusual in Western society for either men or women at any level of society to be bare-headed in public, with obvious contextual exceptions. (I strongly suspect that the Queen's predilection for head scarves merely reflects her generation.) Does anybody know when or why this change occurred?

I have seen a suggestion is that this change in dress code is attributable to President Kennedy not wearing a hat at his inauguration but this seems unlikely.

Southernwood

Re: Head Coverings

Date: 2015-06-12 04:58 pm (UTC)
slashmarks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] slashmarks
In relation to women, part of it is likely the Vatican II dropping the doctrine suggestion women cover their heads in church. Part of it may be related to the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis, which fueled the association of Muslims with terrorism (sigh) in the West. AFAIK that's most of why headscarves suddenly stopped being a thing in the Christian West.

I'm less sure about hats, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 03:03 pm (UTC)
lizcommotion: Lily and Chance squished in a cat pile-up on top of a cat tree (buff tabby, black cat with red collar) (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizcommotion
I think it's really great that you've come up with a system that works for you, and also that you're really thinking about each ethical choice that you make. (Which is from what I understand a lot of what Judaism is about...? Could be wrong, I got a lot of excited Jewish!thoght!squees for awhile from a friend who was converting.)

For me personally (not saying this is The Way Everyone Should Do Everything, just Sharing Experiences/Perspectives):

I have a lot of chronic pain which actually dictates a lot of my clothing choices, and actually can mess with my gender identity a bit because I can't present the way I would like to at times because it takes way more energy than I have. (I'm somewhere in the genderfluid category, and days when I would like to say wear make-up or shave it's often not even an option because showering took all my energies.)

So like today I am wearing one of those tank-tops with the built in bra. I haven't actually been wearing bras much lately for the past couple of months because I've been having intense back and shoulder pain that bras intensify. My strategy has been either tank top with shelf bra or t-shirt large enough that it's not super obvious I'm not wearing a bra underneath, but this all requires a certain amount of laundry and wardrobe juggling and it's fortunate I'm not trying to dress for a professional job atm. Depending on how much pain I'm in, it's anywhere from yoga pants to shorts to a skirt and some sort of footwear that provides arch support.

I'm also extremely heat sensitive, so wearing a tank top under something in the summer is not actually an option unless I'm in a super-airconditioned movie theater or something in which case I might just be enjoying the a/c.

I do have a friend who wears hijab who's also trying to bike ride over the summer in a warm area, and we have been swapping "staying cool in summer" tips. Because part of hijab is not just the head covering, it's also keeping the rest of you covered too. She tends to wear long sleeves and long pants no matter the weather, so I think she's been looking into moisture-wicking fabric and those sorts of things.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] woodpijn.livejournal.com
Thanks, this is really interesting and thoughtful.

I so identify with this part:
But at some level I have the experience that if I dress sexily, I will get grief for daring to imagine that I'm the sort of person that others would want to look at in a sexual way. Unlike many women, I don't personally have the experience that if I dress sexily, I will be harassed and groped and molested (which I know isn't really about clothing choices, it's about bullies exerting power over women), but I do basically expect to be mocked. Not consciously, not if I actually stop and think about it, but I have a kind of visceral memory of it.

I'm generally fine these days to dress at a culturally typical level of revealingness, e.g. short sleeveless sundresses in summer, but I have wibbles about wearing things that are explicitly sexy as opposed to keeping-cool-in-summer or little-girl-pretty, and I overreact emotionally to experiences that slightly evoke that kind of mocking.

Part of me is curious to investigate what makes the difference between women who experience harassment/groping and women who experience rejection of their sexuality. I don't think it's a straightforward function of attractiveness (in as much as attractiveness can be quantified) - there seem to be women less conventionally-attractive than either of us who are in the harassment-experiencing category.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-12 08:31 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
This is a subject about which I have a lot of emotional responses and not many good thoughts.

I know, first of all, that the issue of modesty in clothing is one that disproportionately affects women, and therefore that I cannot really know what it is like to be a, for example, Orthodox Jewish women who is subjected to the laws of tzniut, and kol isha ervah, and etc... I therefore try to form my opinions as much as possible by listening to women talking about how it affects them.

And I know that I have spoken to many, many Orthodox Jewish women who believe that the laws of tzniut empower them, and I have spoken to as many women who feel that the laws restrict them. So I think it's a hard thing to make a value judgement about either way.

I get very resentful of people who say that the only reason why Orthodox Jewish women observe the laws of tzniut in dressing is because they have internalized sexism. Except when it's being said by someone who grew up Orthodox. Which it rarely is, usually it's people who don't know the first thing about living life as an Orthdoox Jew who are saying things like that, but sometimes it is, and I of course don't want to say they're wrong.

And I think back to college, when one of the Rabbis at Hillel did a class where he took a bunch of us through the Talmudic discussions of kol isha ervah, and at the end of the class, people from much more traditional backgrounds than me were saying "Wait, that's it? That's the basis under which I have been making the modesty choices I have" I think it is very hard to read the halachic laws of modesty as they're written in the classical texts as being absolute in any fashion. They seem pretty damn clearly to me to be saying "Whatever society and culture you're living in, dress and act in a way that is appropriate and contextually respectful." Which is your basic approach to modesty as I'm understanding it, and which makes a lot of sense to me.

But in general I find it's a lot easier to be deferential to other peoples' sensibilities by being more modest than it is to be deferential by being less modest (though your friend that you show more skin for is an apparent exception). I do not observe shomer negiah, but I have lots of friends who took a while to realize this, or may still not realize it, because when I meet girls I don't know, I assume that they are shomer and don't try to touch them, and let them make the first effort to show that they are not. And this is my general approach to most questions of tzniut, to build a fence around my approach in order to try to be respectful to as many people as I possible can.

But it probably doesn't hurt that this approach is congenial to my general social conservatism, and so it's worth asking if this general approach of trying to be as accommodating as possible to people who are observing laws of modesty that I think are out of proportion is itself sexist or at least supportive of patriarchal attitudes. I don't really know how to answer that question.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-19 01:57 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Yeah, I dunno, shmirat yichud is hard because it has a much firmer basis in halacha, in sotah. Anxiety about men and women secluding themself is a genuine concern of the Torah, for whatever reason. In general, sotah is one of those places that's just a huge hole of doubt in my emunah. I have no idea why Hashem would ask that of us. To be honest, though, I've never found the MO approach to yichud very obtrusive. It's a thing in the back of all of our heads to keep a door open, not something we even talk about very much- unlike tzniut or kol isha, which we're constantly debating. But then I suppose that the MO observance of shmirat yichud is not really what you're talking about... there are a lot of practical exceptions we make that charedim tend not to, that make the practice a lot more obtrusive and to my eye problematic.

Though there's definitely some really machmir opinions in traditional halachic literature, it's not all just modern invention.

Absolutely, and it's easy to seize the lenient opinions and present a Judaism we find more acceptable than actual practice has historically been and in some cases still is. You're right that that's not intellectually honest, that those machmir opinions do have to be confronted in some way to build a halachic Judaism. I worry all the time that I'm not doing that right.

It's a kind of opting out male-dictated secular beauty standards.

Again not presuming to speak for my friends, but I think it goes deeper than that, because it's not a new, invented method of opting out. It's an assertion of an old tradition of opting out, a way of saying that Torah is an engagement with feminism.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-14 02:09 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
I'm also trying to dress a bit more revealingly around my friend who objects to modesty rules.

For example, I generally feel more comfortable in calf-length or longer skirts, so knee-length skirts are in principle fine but I'm not used to them.

Just popping by to say, I don't think you dress outside the window of plausible British clothing levels at all; your description of coverage is the same as me at work (I wear T-shirts outside work with sleeves ~10cm shorter than your typical, but everything else still the same). You have two reasons for dressing as you do, only one of which is related to religious reasons. The other is that's what you're comfortable in and used to, and that is a perfectly good reason on its own to dress the way you dress. I don't think you should feel under any obligation at all to dress differently around your friend - they probably wouldn't even have had a rant at you if they thought they were ranting about you...

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-14 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
This was very interesting to me, having previously kept tzniut...

I do seem to have fluctuating levels of comfort with exposing my skin and/or wearing tight clothing, and haven't really worked out why. As a teenager I hated anything without sleeves and went through one summer wearing jumpers all the time because I hated having my arms exposed. I definitely drew attention to myself -- it was 30°C and I was wearing long jeans and a jumper!

This hasn't gone away in adulthood, I have a bunch of clothes I sometimes feel comfortable leaving the house in and other times don't, based on sleeve length or how much of my body shape they expose or skirt length. It's not about what I think is appropriate for the context, but that there are days, weeks or months where I just don't want people to see e.g. my upper arms. And it doesn't appear to be obviously linked to how I feel about the way my body looks; I'm not ashamed of my legs, I have pretty much always liked my legs but sometimes I don't feel comfortable with anyone but my very nearest and dearest seeing them, and I have no idea why.

For me one of the positive aspects of tzniut was that by using a consistent external yardstick to guide my clothing decisions, I ended up for a while not owning any clothes I would be comfortable in sometimes but not other times. This made dressing simpler.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-15 09:25 pm (UTC)
ayebydan: by <user name="pureimagination"> (potter 2)
From: [personal profile] ayebydan
So Torah says that "you" should protect widows, orphans and strangers, but has little to say about how you should behave if you yourself are in one of those subaltern groups.

I have not read the Torah (I have never come across one. I would to be educated but yeah. I don't trust online sources these days in this sort of thing) but I think this statement is very true of many religious texts and movements in life. They are formed to tell people at the top how to change while offering little to those beneath. For example, today there is a lot of 'cis people do bad GRRR' and lots of 'look at this famous trans person!' with less on the 'you need help, here is a list of information to get you shelter, a job or an education course or just, safety from your friends/family' for trans people themselves. It is a pattern that repeats across history. The top are told to change while the bottom flounder.

On the 'modesty/humility' thing...I think that is something that is easily hijacked. They are both terms that can interchange and more importantly I think they are both terms that do not have to relate to clothing in the slightest. A person can spend hundreds on their hair and make up and outfit for the day and then spend 16 hours in a soup kitchen or a charity shop or pounding the streets for an appeal. I do not think any religious group can read those terms in their texts and for certain say 'well it means that'.

Of course, we also have to understand that all these texts have faced several translations and may well no longer say what they would have and need to adapt to that. It sure is an interesting one.


Overall, very interesting post.

ps: I personally think that if a religious person has so much energy to spend on me, an atheist, and my outfit they are doing their religion wrong. I'm already going to hell for not believing in 90% of texts so why not go feed and cloth those that need it, as all the texts intend.
Edited Date: 2015-06-15 09:26 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-17 03:18 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Of course, we also have to understand that all these texts have faced several translations and may well no longer say what they would have and need to adapt to that. It sure is an interesting one.

To a large degree, this is not the case with the Torah and the Jewish tradition in general in the same way it is for Christian texts. Jewish law is still studied largely in the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts, and yes, there is sometimes academic difficulty with the diachronic linguistic problems of dealing with what words meant two thousand years ago, but they're not the same problems at all that are faced by Christian scholars who might studying the English translation of the Latin translation of a Greek or Aramaic original text.

Which is not to say that Jews don't face problems of translation, because there are still many layers of cultural translation between texts designed for an ancient oriental culture and legal traditions that are functional for a 21st century predominantly-Western culture. But the actual words? For the most part, we know what they say.

I do not think any religious group can read those terms in their texts and for certain say 'well it means that'.

There is very little tendency for Jewish scholars to do this, either. The Talmud consists not of prescriptions for legal rules but arguments between scholars about what the rules are. The laws of tzniut are debated at length in the Talmud, sometimes without reaching conclusion. Judaism is often not a very certain religion. We like it that way.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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