Modestly Speaking

I was so riled up last night after reading what I thought was a disturbing message, I felt like I needed to say my piece.

Disclaimer: THIS CLEARLY APPLIES TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT DRESSING MODESTLY

I am not here to judge. What I do, how I choose to dress, is not what is comfortable for everyone. I appreciate that and I respect that, the choice is left up to the individual to best interpret, within reason, following their religious mentors, what ‘modest’ is for them. Whether we call ourselves Amish, Orthodox Jews, Muslims or Nuns and choose to wear a Hijab, Niquab, Habit, Mitpachat, Wig, Hats, Scarves, or Bandana on our heads there is a common thread when it comes to modest dress. It stems from the Bible or Talmud or Koran and it pertains to both men AND women. However, it seems, that there is a lot of gray area where modesty is concerned.

The Amish believe in a Biblical call to plain dress that is not revealing and that does not fall prey to “worldly” fads or fashion. It is believed that clothing should not contain any ornamentation that might call attention to the wearer, or give rise to feelings of pride or vanity. All items of clothing for both Amish men and women, children and adults alike, are utilitarian and conservative. -taken from this website

Seems fair enough and the world seems to accept the Amish as a quiet and respectful people, the same goes for nuns and the Pope. When it comes to Jews and Arabs however the world goes mad. Why is this? It is seen as a fanatic practice. I have no real agenda here other than to say a few personal opinions on the matter, how it plays out in the life I have chosen to lead. Within each religion there seems to be a common thread of modesty in dress. As far as I know the only religion here that does NOT give the woman a choice is the Islamic world (and not every sect). Leaving them aside, since it seems that women who do not conform (in certain places) are beaten and again, I am not here to agree or disagree though I do think it’s awful.

It is my honest opinion that if you are calling yourselves Modern Orthodox Jews you have an obligation to dress modestly. Whether you emphasize on the word ‘modern’ or ‘orthodox’ and translate that into wearing pants or skirts, for married women covering all, or part, or none of your hair, covering your elbows or your forearm or are showing your collarbone, for men – wearing tzitzit, a kippah or not is your choice. These are all outward reminders of who we are and how we should act. That’s all.

The biggest problem I have is with inconsistency. While not to be confused with appropriate attire based on events: some examples; it’s dangerous to go skiing or horseback riding in skirts – though some feel its do-able, or wearing a bathing suit to a beach when with your family – or a woman wearing a suit to a wedding with stockinged feet for her Hasidic relatives or taking off your kippah to play basket-ball. 

I feel more often than not, that those who struggle with what modesty means to them send the wrong message out. They have difficulty with accepting what their society deems as modest, so they pretend to conform but are angry and then vocal about it. They seem wishy-washy and claim to be one thing when in fact they are another. Blaming the society that they chose to live in is a cop-out. Pick a side, any side and stick with it. If you are in this in-between place of deciding, than say so. Don’t pretend to be holier today and tomorrow post your pictures that are not modest from your day at the beach with your friends or of you in a bikini or kissing that guy at the party or wearing  a tank top and smoking a doobie, etc…

I don’t care what you do. It’s not my business that your daughters are wearing inappropriate mini-skirts and high heels. (Sorry if that sounds judgemental, I do not think any 16-year-old needs to wear high heels so she can feel sexy). I’m not saying she needs to be in a burka, I am saying if you want your children to respect you, set better examples. Be firm in what you believe in. Don’t be a faker. Just be honest. If you think it’s okay for her to wear heels – so be it. If you’re convinced that she’s just testing the water with her mini-skirts? Be naive. Your prerogative. Just stop blaming society for your choices, or your daughter’s choices. If you were altruistic and your child took another path…okay – you did your best to show her what you thought was right, and she chose differently, it’s not always a bad thing, it could just be, different.

I know I’ve mentioned Newton’s Three Laws of Motion in a previous post here but in a jokey, I’m-not-really-smart, only-in-a-sometimes-sorta-way. But it’s important to highlight this message:

I. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Everything looks status quo because we all ‘dress the part’ until someone loses it and decides, hey – I’m not sure this is for me, I wanna’ feel the sun on my scalp when I’m at the beach like whats-her-name.

II. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (as indicated by their symbols being displayed in slant bold font); in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vecto

This has to do with how hard something gets pushed. The stronger you are in your convictions, if there is an obstacle or a force that is trying to sway you one way or the other (call it the evil inclination or your new besty who wears mini skirts, or the fact that you just lost 45 pounds and want to show off your new body) you may have the inner strength to deny the force, but if you are on the fence here  – be prepared to fall Humpty…

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Try setting good examples in behavior, dress and speech. If you want positive results there is never a guarantee but you can’t expect a positive outcome if you do not even try to lead by example. Clearly I’m not saying that if you want to be a drug addict fine, your children will turn out to be saints, though that is also  a likely possibility with this theory. I’m saying, if you are honest with yourself and you accept SOME stringent laws when it comes to modesty, you are setting a healthy picture of decency. Again, I am not saying that means cover up head to toe and take a vow of silence. Everything in good measure. But for goodness sakes, make a decision and start feeling comfortable in your skin, whether it’s a floral frock, a jock, or a leopard print smock. And just stop blaming society for your decisions.

I feel better.

I truly hope no one is insulted here, you have my apologies if I came off too strong or you think I was talking to you. I probably wasn’t and this was after reading a lot of blogger input on issues like these…my opinions are just that mine and mine alone. Feel free to agree, comment, or ignore me altogether. I am fairly open-minded and non-judgemental after all. 

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3 comments

  1. This is a common discussion in my home. In the Israeli system you are judged by what you wear. Fact. Are you a faker for wearing an uniform so people will see which side you are on? I don’t think so. If you want me to wear on snoods, fine. If you think bandanas are too “trendy”, no problem. You can’t change a society that’s been in place for longer than any of us and people are always going to be judgmental.

    1. I’m not asking anyone to change a whole society. Pick a place that fits your needs, accepting yourself and your own decisions and sticking with it is all I am saying.

  2. I do think that if someone is dressing a certain way due to societal pressure then you are in the wrong neighborhood. I have to decide where I am comfortable and where to I want my kids to be. Don’t worry at the end of the day we will all be modestly dressed a shroud covers you from head to toe!

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