Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I read this amazing post today about self esteem and specialness and how a person can view themselves as relatively superior/special or as intrinsically special and what the difference is between the two. I don’t want to repeat the whole post here and I definitely recommend reading it before reading this one, but the main point was that real self esteem is based on intrinsic value, the kind that is spiritual and tied to our godliness. This got me thinking about how that applies to women and their self esteem.

We know that self esteem is based on the perception a person has of their own self worth and by women it often revolves around physical beauty. In the non-Torah world, feminism preaches the freedom for a woman to dress and act as she pleases, without concern for the needs or desires of men. Feminism is supposed to accord women the freedom that men have always had, the freedom to behave according to self-serving motivations.
Judaism, on the other hand, is often perceived as restrictive and denigrating towards women.

Well women, I disagree.. and here comes my little rant.

Don’t tell me Judaism is sexist, while you parade barely dressed and allow others to objectify you. Real worth comes from qualities that have depth, infinite depth. It comes from a spiritual source, from working and developing one’s character, one’s godliness.

You complain that men don’t treat you like equals, you complain about eating disorders, you complain about the dating process, but why don’t you complain about a society that objectifies you, that requires of you to flaunt your body to please men, a society that expects you to harm yourself to be pleasing to the eyes.. of men, a society that expects you to satisfy men's basic instincts. Why don’t you build a society where people are viewed according to their intrinsic worth, where people are valued according to their hard work and character development, where people don’t objectify other human beings, where women are not considered toys, tools.

I agree that women want attention from men and that's natural, but why do we feel the need to give them the basest of reasons to be attracted to us. Who decided that the standards of men need to be so low? Why do we accept that decision? Let them be attracted to the real you, the one you’ve worked on and developed, the one centred on your godliness, the one expressing your true essence.

Skin can be blinding, and it’s a real shame when we let it blind the world, and ourselves, from seeing our soul.
We are so afraid of real intimacy, of a real connection, that we try to blind those around us to our true selves. We want to take easy way out, we want to be noticed without the hard work, without the spiritual development.

We bare our skin to hide our soul.

So women, next time you feel like your self esteem is lacking, you feel like you’re not worthy, ask yourself what you’re basing your worth on? Are you looking at yourself through the eyes of others, others who are seeing you as a worthless, physical object existing to please their senses. Ask yourself whether your desire to bare your skin isnt simply a cop out because you’re afraid you don’t have the intrinsic beauty to attract others with?
Stop and realize your
real worth.
Your real self esteem is based on something much more spiritual. Don’t blind others from seeing it too. Let your soul shine to those who want to take the time to see it. Instead of instantly gratifying the gawkers, reward those who take the time and have the desire to see the real you.

Next time someone tells you Judaism is sexist, tell them that the day women of the world see themselves as more than hips that don’t lie, sparkly bellybuttons and bootilicious, then they will have earned the right to tell you about a woman's worth. In the meantime they can go preach to those nice juicy steaks at the butchershop.

(and to the men out there..i know you probably think all this is pretty obvious, but until youve stepped in our shoes (which i dont recommend :) then you have no idea how difficult it is to internalize these ideas and to live by them.)

(another amazing post related to this topic of inherent worth)


At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 4:18:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Strong post. Sadly adherence to Tznius is not guarantee against problems like anorexia and co.

I'd like to ad that besides the point you made, Jewish women are often the boss at home, I've witnessed it myself many times.

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:03:00 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Beautifully written, thanks.

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Nicely done, Mookie.

What Prag said is true, we're not imune, but that's because of the envrionment picking on people to look like a size 2 or 4.

Anyway, I agree about tznius helping us to show our inner beauty.

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 12:44:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

and youre right, the frum communities are not immune to those problems, but thats not because of tznius. its a societal problem and unfortunately in the greater society we live in, inherent value is not worth much and the focus is geared towards building illusionary self esteem. the torah helps us distance ourselves from those ideas..

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

what am I worth?

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 1:07:00 PM, Blogger Limey2001 said...

Mirror Mirror on the wall who the fairest of them all? MOOKIE!!

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 3:08:00 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Mookie for the first time we disagree. Its funny I actually have something like this ready to be posted, was saving it for after tisha bav but from the opposite persepctive. I express it differently.

I understand where you are coming from, I truly do. And of course I agree about baring skin to hide the soul and all that. And of course I agree that we, as women, should demand respect not just because of the way we look but because of who we are, our personalities, our moral fiber, our strengths, etc. But Mookie, Orthodoxy is sexist. It is a fact. To deny it would be ridiculous. I understand that you have found a place that you are comfortable with and want to find the beauty in it. I want to find the beauty in it too. But I also have my eyes wide open to what reality is. And reality is that it is sexist.

At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 5:46:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i know people often think that baalei tshuva see judaism through rose colored glasses and are not aware of the reality.. and maybe that’s true to at the beginning, but the honeymoon doesn’t last very long – bt’s are very quickly made aware of the reality of things..

the difference between my perspective and that of many ffb’s is maybe that i feel like the sexism (and its effects) that ive experienced in the secular world far outdo what might be found in judaism.

i think some aspects of judaism play themselves out in a way that can be viewed as sexist, but those are very blatant situations that usually affect a womans public role. I don’t think the sexism in orthodoxy is based on the torah, it is maybe found in some of the people, and some of the leaders.. but ideally the torah itself is not sexist in my opinion.

the sexism in the secular world is much much more subtle, its ingrained in the mentality. its a view that taints every aspect of a woman's life to the core. i really believe that it is behind issues like eating disorders, sexual abuse, low self esteem.. and so many other societal ills.
it has no reason or basis to it, aside from the mysogenistic past it evolved from. its just an underlying attitude where women are objectified and devalued.

most bt’s will tell you that the view of women that the torah teaches is a relief and a savior from what they have had to deal with on the outside. It’s a permission to protect oneself and to value oneself that is not easily found elsewhere

At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 5:08:00 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

interesting (and well written).

and i agree with you on this: how you feel about yourself depends on whether you base your worth on outside influences, material elements in your surroundings or more spiritual, inner and individual worth.

At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 1:56:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

It's hard for me to comment as a guy....
I can say this was very well written and personal...and it does seem to be the case...that within orthodoxy it is easier to find a place...where you can focus only on your true spiritual qualities..

At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 6:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice post.
This topic is more relevant to women, but not only so. There are men out there who are incredibly vain, and can dress accordingly.
They can wear shorts to show off good legs, short tight sleeves to show of good arms, and leave an extra button open on their shirt if they have a good chest, and wear fitted pants and shirts to show off their body over all.

There are sparate lines of cosmetic products, facials, and waxxing products and services that cater specifically to men.

I used to use them all.

I started the transformation by not allowing myself to act on my vanity -anything that does not constitute simply being presentable, then began to like knowing that people liked me for me, and am much happier for it.

Big change, but by far the best one I have ever made.

I do occassionally feel the temptation to just tweak my appearance that little bit more (so little effort can make such a big difference), but I stop and think about what it means for approx. three seconds, and the temptation dissapears.

The original commnitment was excruciating (I loved my appearance SO much), but within days -literally, I was so much happier, and actually began to like the new, less hot, appearance.

PS Beofre everyone says its more important for a girl, that is because generally men tend to be less vain. A very vain man gets just as much satisfaction knowing that they are looking good, and knowing that all the girls (and women) are looking at / talking about them. Trust me!

Its a hard step to take. but well worth it.

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 1:31:00 AM, Blogger Dr Sooll said...

Beautiful post Anonym00kie.

Adherence to Tznius is not a guarantee against anything. The effect on the subject will be particularly minimal, if they are keeping a set of rules that prevent them from dressing the way they wish they could. The concept of tznius goes far beyond a set of rules that restrict the way one may present themselves. It is not just about the way one dresses, but who they are and how they conduct their lives. How they view themselves.

If instead of seeing tznius as a set of restrictions, one tries to see it as a lifestyle -and a positive one, it can actually change the person that they are. When an individual becomes a 'tzniusdik' person -rather than a person who observes the halachos of tznius, they naturally become more sensitive, and may without even realising it completely change the language that they use, the thoughts that pass through their head, and the type of things they choose to discusss. True tznius makes it easier for one to recognise others for who they really are. It gives one greater respect for themselves, greater respect for those around them, and earns one greater respect from others, often even without the conscious intention of those others.

And talking tachlis, making the decision to commit to a life of tznius can be an immense challenge. However the challenge lasts only as long as one chooses to struggle with it. If one takes the plunge and decides to live tznius rather than just observe it, the new life style has such an enormous effect on the individual, one could be shocked by how quickly they may begin to enjoy it, and actually be happy that they 'got real.'

Another post
with a lightly different angle on this issue.

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

uhm.. this is all bs because c'mon in crown heights the guys all want the girls who dress well.. and look good. its all physcial attraction.

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 10:19:00 PM, Blogger Dovid said...

The guys all want that? Have you bothered asking me? I want only a tznuah. V'da"l.

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Dr Sooll said...

Maybe most guys want that, but to say that they all do is unfair. There are real men out there. Men who are looking for a soul-mate, not just a pretty bed-mate that they can show off. There are men who want to meet a beautiful woman and are not concerned about appearance. They may not be the majority, but they do exist.

Would you really be happy sharing your entire life with a man that was attracted to you by your appearance? Surely it is worth waiting a little longer to meet a man who respects you. Think about the consequences down the track when you have an emotional issue and need somebody to lean on. What kind of man would you want to be counting on for support?

There are certainly people who will immediately be either attracted or uninterested based on one's appearance -and unfortunetely they seem to be the majority, but would you really want to be sharing yourself with such an individual?

Would you want such a man to be the father of your children?!

P.S. If one seems to encounter only guys that are after a good body and a pretty face and it bothers them, perhaps they are looking in the wrong circles? (just a thought)

At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:52:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

the amazing thing is that if you ask almost anyone, they will tell you that of course real worth comes from internal qualities.. yet so many live in a way that contradicts that..

david on the lake,
we all want to focus on what's important and real, but the torah seems to give us the tools to achieve that which is what i find the most amazing.

thanks for that great comment. i completely agree, this relates to men and women. its about understanding where your real worth comes and how easy it is to lie to ourselves and be blinded by superficialities

dr sooll, thanks for your great comment too! once you internalize the reasons and the benefits of a tznius, it really becomes much less about rules and much more about a perspective - of ourselves and of the world.
and regarding your second comment, we all know there are guys like you describe out there, but its nice to hear it :)

anonymous #2:
1st of all, that may be a crown heights issue, altho im sure i can find guys who speak this way about other communities.. and guys from CH who would strongly disagree.
2nd of all, i think you may be hanging out with the wrong crowds
3rd of all, you may be right that guys (or people) have a tendency to get blinded by superficial factors, thats the way we were created, but the torah gives us tools to get past that, and there are people whose mentality and views are guided by the torah to the point where their opinions and desires reflect wat the torah wants of them..
and finally..my point was more about how tznius affects women as opposed to how men view women. the secular world does not provide tools for women to respect and love themselves, and the torah does. if men choose to see past that and focus on the base physicality - then thats their issue, not the women's.

At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:55:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

oops i forgot dovid..
thanks for your comment, like i told dr sooll, we all know there are guys like you out there, but its always nice to hear from you! maybe you should invite anonymous to come hang out with you once in a while ;)
(btw, whats 'V'da"l'?)

At Friday, August 04, 2006 2:09:00 AM, Blogger Dovid said...

V'day L'havin. Meaning I have written enough for you to get my point, and there is no reason for me to elaborate.

At Friday, August 04, 2006 9:16:00 AM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

There is no way thta I would step in your shoes. I can't figure out how anybody walks in those uncomfortable looking high heels.

At Sunday, August 20, 2006 1:24:00 AM, Blogger FrumellasGoneWild said...

Try being a beautiful lesbian! It's even more annoying because you're just not interested in men that way. But seriously, m00kie, while I completely appreciate your critique of secular sexism, I must let you know that your characterization of feminism is misconceived. There are all manner of feminist criticisms, YOURS is in fact one of them! Indeed, there are "frum" muslim feminists in France (for example) who make versions of YOUR argument for why it is not sexist to wear the HeadScarf! Why then, do you feel the need to make your insightful observations at the expense of secularism or feminism when you employ strategies from that world (whether you admit it or not)?


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