Sunday, July 12, 2020

Guest Post: Modesty or Travesty?

After my post on The Invisible Women, a reader, Rina Goloskov, sent me her master's thesis on this very topic. I asked her to summarize it for a guest post, and I present it here:

Modesty or Travesty? Understanding the Symbolic Annihilation of Women in Orthodox Jewish Media 

By: Rina Goloskov 

I remember learning about hilchos tznius in tenth grade back in the early ‘90s. It was presented in a very matter-of-fact manner – cover this, don’t behave like that. Kol kevudah bas Melech pnimah. But over the past two decades, tznius has evolved beyond dress and behavioral guidelines; it has transformed into an ultra-Orthodox ideology.

This metamorphosis was catalyzed by 1998 publication of Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk’s book, Oz veHadar Levusha/ Modesty: An Adornment for Life. In his introduction, Rabbi Falk explains that the book was a response to the “moral decay” of the outside world and its “relentless assault of the media on human decency and morality” that was permeating the Jewish community, diminishing Jewish women and girls’ instinctive knowledge of how to dress and behave modestly.

As Emmanuel Bloch observed in his 2018 paper, Immodest Modesty: The Emergence of Halakhic Dress Codes, Rabbi Falk’s book is the first attempt to codify the laws of tznius to such a minute degree – dictating the fabrics, colors, necklines and hemlines that are acceptable for a frum woman’s wardrobe. The book presents the laws of tznius “as the quintessential commandment incumbent upon women” – the female equivalent of the study of Torah for men.

Within a decade of its publication, the dominance of the tznius ideology became most apparent where it was completely invisible: ultra-Orthodox Jewish media. Several Charedi publications in Israel, including Hamodia, Mishpacha, and Yated Ne’eman, either blurred women’s photos or stopped printing their images on their pages altogether. As this practice became commonplace in Israel, American ultra-Orthodox publications followed suit.

When Charedi publishers are asked to explain this practice, they cite a sensitivity to the laws of tznius, as directed by both their rabbinic oversight panels and their readership. According to these publishers and editors, many of their readers would cancel their subscriptions should they publish photos of women. This second rationale – eliminating visual representations of women in Charedi magazines to ensure alignment with the supposed communal modesty ideals and, therefore, maximize the publications’ profits – exemplifies the theory of the symbolic annihilation of women, put forth by Brandeis University sociology professor and author Gaye Tuchman in 1978.

The theory goes like this: media executives aim to develop programming that appeals to the broadest possible audience to maximize profits. To do so, the programming must reflect dominant social values and ideals. The programming they produce contains symbolic representations of American society, not literal portrayals. This representation in the fictional TV world symbolizes the depicted group’s social existence, conveying to the audience that they are “valued and approved.”

So, if being depicted on television means you are valued and approved by your society, then being misrepresented on television – or not represented at all – makes you invisible in your society. Tuchman also explained that mass media not only reflect dominant societal values and attitudes, but they also act as agents of socialization, teaching young children how to behave. The symbolic annihilation of women in the media creates an absence of positive female role models in professional settings, or only depicts women as victims or consumers. This discourages girls from entering the workforce when they reach adulthood, or from reaching their full potential in the workforce, diminishing both their earning capacity and the national economy.

Symbolic Annihilation of Women in Frum Media 

How do frum women perceive the impact of their symbolic annihilation in their community’s media outlets on themselves and their children? Do they believe that their erasure from frum media is consistent with the halachos of tznius? I conducted a textual analysis of several threads in frum Facebook groups and discussion boards with hundreds of comments on each thread to find answers to these questions. The core themes that emerged were:

1. Erasing women is a distortion of the laws of tznius 

Those who oppose erasing women in often describe it as a distortion of Judaism, of halacha, and of tznius. They believe it is unrelated to Judaism and is veering into religious extremist territory. Many express that they do not believe there is any rabbinic involvement in creating or enforcing this policy. Some of the women expressed more neutral attitudes – they either do not think it is a big deal, or they do not care enough about it to take any action in response. Those who expressed support for erasing women either appear to truly believe that it is consistent with tznius, or they believe that it is simpler for the editors to have a blanket policy against publishing women’s photos than to have to decide which photos are sufficiently modest to publish on a case-by-case basis.

2. Tznius has transformed from modest dress guidelines to a distinct religious ideology 

Discussions about tznius depict it as an ideology that has tremendous influence over how community members conduct their daily lives. The word “tznius” itself takes on an ideographic quality, invoked to justify symbolically annihilating women. Citing tznius also evokes a conditioned response from Orthodox women and girls that their observance of tznius is a requirement for communal inclusion, and failure to comply has both social and financial penalties for them and their families.

3. Frum media publishers are symbolically annihilating women to maximize profits

Regardless of whether they support or oppose erasing women, most commenters acknowledged that the policy is a marketing decision designed to make Charedi publications acceptable to the largest swathe or Orthodox community members as possible. By accommodating even the strictest interpretations of tznius laws – not printing women’s photos or blurring out women’s faces – publishers believe that all Orthodox Jews will be comfortable reading their publications, thereby increasing their profits. This meets Tuchman’s definition of symbolic annihilation: the elimination or misrepresentation of a population in the media for the purpose of appealing to the broadest audience in order to maximize profits. Those who support the practice express that since these are private businesses, it is their prerogative to decide who their target market is and how to appeal to them.

4. Erasing women has dangerous physical and emotional ramifications 

Many women believe that erasing women has the opposite effect of its purported intent. They claim that it is disrespectful to women and objectifies women, rather than preserving their modesty and honor, as those who support the practice believe it does. In addition to the extreme measures of gender segregation in the Charedi community, the absence of modest women’s photos in frum publications hypersexualizes women in the eyes of frum men, making the women nothing but creatures available for their sexual satisfaction. Others observe that the practice also dehumanizes men, treating them as lustful animals with no control over their own sexual urges.

Another stated consequence is that frum women and girls are deprived of healthy, modest frum role models. If they do not see women like themselves in frum media, their only role models will be those they see in secular media, which is typically not modest. Those who support erasing women do not consider this an issue, as they maintain that they have many modest role models in real life. Erasing women also impacts female entrepreneurs negatively. Not allowing women to include their photos in display advertising is a form of economic discrimination which gives their male counterparts a competitive advantage

5. There is a need for more vocal responses 

Many of the women who object to the practice of erasing women are aware of existing grassroots efforts to combat this practice: Chochmat Nashim and Additionally, many of the women have cancelled their subscriptions to these publications and voiced their objections directly to the publishers. Possible additional methods include coordinating a community-wide female “strike” against publishers who erase women – a month where women do not write articles, buy advertisements, or buy copies of these publications. Another option is to pursue litigation against these publishers, either in a Beit Din (rabbinic court) or a civil court.

Fortunately, the movement against erasing women in frum media and in support of more authentic, less extremist definitions of tznius continues to grow. When the Orthodox Union, the flagship organization of centrist Orthodox Judaism, recently ran a print ad with only men’s names and photos for an event that had both male and female speakers, discussions in numerous online groups prompted swift responses. But greater awareness of this practice and its consequences is needed, as it continues to evolve from exclusion in frum publications to other areas of frum life, attempting to make Orthodox women entirely invisible.

And sometimes, they literally take their lives. In response to literature from an Israeli women’s health clinics refusing to use terms like “breast cancer,” Chochmat Nashim founder Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll recently wrote, “Why then, do we recently – and increasingly – find euphemisms in place body parts when discussing women’s health? Why are health clinics, using vague phrases such as ‘women’s cancer’ or ‘the cancer found among women’?” (Jaskoll, 2019). She recounts a story told to her by a doctor who found evidence of cancer in a patient seeking antibiotics for mastitis, despite her being “far beyond her breastfeeding years” (Jaskoll, 2019). Both the patient and the doctor she had previously seen were Orthodox – never did the doctor offer to conduct a breast exam, and the patient never knew to ask. These things just were not talked about.

It is imperative that Orthodox community members advocate for women’s visibility. To do so, they must counter the narratives claiming that erasing women is consistent with tznius. They must push back against this dangerous extremist ideology, before their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters disappear altogether.

Additional comments by Natan Slifkin:

I want to add that aside from the problems mentioned in this study, another damaging aspect of the new trend of refusing to print pictures of women (which I have heard from several people) is that it makes them feel that their very existence is fundamentally devalued.
In a future post, I plan to discuss why this phenomenon exists, and the justifications that are offered for it (which are stronger than some opponents to this practice believe). You can subscribe to this blog via email using the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.


  1. This short article reports one quick example
    that shows how extreme the "tznius" situation
    has become in the Charedi 'Olam:

    Don’t Compliment Your Date
    by Rabbi Chananya Weissman:

    Last but not least, I strongly recommend
    ALL of Chananya Weissman’s articles,
    because they represent a voice of sanity
    and logic, in a world that has gone insane.

  2. " I conducted a textual analysis of several threads in frum Facebook groups and discussion boards with hundreds of comments on each thread to find answers to these questions"
    This sentence shows such a flaw in the thinking and lack of understanding of the author. Of course the women on social media don't like the chareidi tznius standards. Im sure near to none of them are part of a community that actually follows Rabbi Falks book. the vast majority of adherents to theses tznius standards do not find themselves on social media. If you would actually ask the women living in mainstream chareidi communities (where even if they have internet for work, social media like facebook is a no go) most would say they are fine and even celebrate their communities tznius hashkafa. you can argue that there brainwashed or whatever, but to argue that they fell oppressed is just false.
    Shmuel Fleicher

    1. This is called a "qualitative study". Doesn't pretend to be a methodologically sound quantitative study.

    2. exactly what i was thinking, it seems like the author of this post hasn't completed a rigorous analysis of the statistics. Additionally, can the author provide evidence that the erasure of women has actually caused a loss of self respect or inclination to follow the role models found in regular media?

    3. With all due respect, qualitative studies have as much rigor as quantitative studies, and are often used by those who also pursue quantitative studies. Just because one provides a number or statistics doesn't mean that the study is meaningful. I assume you all understand the phrase "GIGO" (Garbage in Garbage out). Quantitative can provide a broader picture of the conditions relating to a situation / question. But they often lack deep, penetrating insights because the questions they ask (such as through surveys) do not usually ask open questions. That is the function of many qualitative studies, especially those that are based on interviews. (These days most social science studies use a combination of qualitative and quantitative studies as it makes it easier to triangulate the results of such a mixed nmethod research). This is the one thing I would criticize in terms of method. Using interviews along with textual analysis would have helped the research.

      Moreover, in most quantitative and qualitative studies there will be some forms of sampling bias. That doesn't mean that the studies aren't valuable; it does mean that the researcher has to be up-front about those biases. It comes down to the definition of what is considered to be a Haredi woman. Anonymous discounts those who would state their opinions on Facebook. The author does not agree obviously. However, the most that Anonymous could say is that those Haredi women who do not use Facebook MAY agree with adhering to Rav Falk's views on Tzniut. Nonetheless, we don't know if THIS GROUP feels constrained by it, are forced to keep it by community standards or really do agree with the policy because the research has NOT yet been done. That doesn't mean that the research already done is not valuable. IT does represent a sub-sector of Haredi women (even if some critics do not agree that they represent the definition of A true Haredi woman). There are definitions given to Haredi thought in the academic world but I doubt that they would convince everyone on this comment board.

    4. Not that I want to pull the "brainwashing" card, mostly because it makes me uncomfortable about my fellow Jews, but those who are rank and file chareidi women might not "realize" the problems. They are not sociologists. And while sometimes social science creates or inflates a problem just by putting a fancy label out there, sometimes a problem is real and not noticed. It may not manifest until the next generation of Jewish women grow up and find themselves "de-personed" more than ever before.

      One can ask how chareidi society could get even more - after all, women either don't come to shul or if they do they go to another room, yom tov meals with large families involve the women sitting at another table or another room, women have to raise the children, cook/clean, and also get a job to pay for the meager subsistence the kollel family needs... and I will say that as the Yiddish expression goes: It's never so bad that it couldn't get worse! Don't court disaster by asking such questions - just work toward keeping them away.

    5. yosef r,

      "rank and file chareidi women might not realize the problems"
      that argument might make sense if we were discussing some objective issue with real world consequences, such as undiagnosed cancer or heart disease. in this case we are discussing something that is completely subjective, some feminists find a particular behaviour offensive. if someone else is not offended, that is the end of the issue. you can not be offended but not realise it.
      like all adherents to evangelical ideologies, feminists feel that everyone else must accept their way of seeing things, if not there is something wrong with them. but this simply isn't so.
      on deeper level i think what is going on here is simply a reflection of the larger secular/religious divide. secular people in general tend to derive their self worth from how they are seen in society (perhaps that is why, as the western world becomes more secular, it engages in ever greater degrees of group think). religious people on the other hand tend to see self worth as something internal, perhaps derived from a relationship with g-d. as such, a person who's world view is secular (even if they keep the mitzvot) will find "social erasure" ie not seeing themselves depicted in the media that they consume, threatening and offensive. on the other hand a person with a religious orientation will not find their self worth threatened by a lack of depictions in their media, as that is not the source of their self worth in the first place. this analysis probably also explains the difference between the large role played by media in general, and it's enormous influence, in the secular world, versus it's small role and minimal influence among frum jews.

    6. Eh, anonymous, I won't argue with your internal and external self worth points, in part because I think you have a point and in part because I have no idea what it means. I do get the issue about not being offended for someone who is not offended - I see that issue overplayed a lot - but those affected may not be the adult women so much, but rather the rising next generation, who do not realize yet what they are losing.

      It's one thing to come on the scene as a "feminist" (to use your word) and say that it's demeaning to women to make them be responsible for taharas hamishpacha or to limit them from being able to kead the davening - ie, practices that are age-old and part and parcel of how Judaism understands women and halacha - vs creating a whole new practice and slowly push women out of all visible presence. This is not validating internal self-worth, this is eliminating as a person. One is not a "feminist" if one is weirded out by children's books (yes, children's books) not having women drawn in.

      Has there been a rash of pritzusdik behavior that necessitates a hora'as sha'ah pushing in the opposite direction?

      I make the same argument about other "chumra-creep" scenarios, like gender-segregated busses.

  3. The situation is like the current question whether chareidi communities and individuals are suffering discrimination in the Covid crisis vis a vis police and closures. Arguing that "many" suffer from a phenomenon proves nothing. What is needed is a statistical analysis of the modern tzenius issue demonstrating that it does more harm than good. No attempt has been made to do this.

    1. Maybe, but as it is something new, I would venture that the onus of proof be on those who WANT to bring this on - THEY should bring the stats to show that this is necessary and will help the thing they want to help.

  4. The application of the "symbolic annihilation of women" from movies and TV to print media is faulty.
    In movies and TV where women ought to be seen acting out living roles and are missing would indeed deprive viewers of women role-models. That is making them invisible in their society.

    In print media, no-one is acting out any life-role and WOMEN are the DOMINANT WRITERS in these publications. I fail to see how they are being symbolically annihilated even though I can't see their still picture next to their article.

    The only way to make a valid application is by looking at frum videos and comic books where the characters are acting out roles. And here, Artscroll's and Feldheims's children's books never leave out visual depictions of women and girls.
    And there is a robust industry of theatrical productions and videos for women BY WOMEN which are immensely popular--even in the most Ulta-Orthodox circles in Israel. This really deflates the entire thesis.

    There are plenty of healthy, frum women role-models that are visible all over Ultra-Orthodox media--children's books, comic books, biographies, and even videos. Just not in the news/magazine/advertising ones (tomorrow's fish wrapping).
    It's far from perfect and not ideal, but it doesn't seem like a full-blown crisis of erasing women in Orthodox society to me.

    1. I own and have seen children's books with little-to-no women and almost no girls.
      I have seen dinner invitations with two men in the "Mr. and Mrs." picture.
      I have seen videos at frum benefits where the men are interviewed on camera while the women are only ever in voiceover.

      How many illustrated biographies do you read? They may have one or two grainy black and white photographs, maybe.

      Frum comic books have very stylized and caricatured drawing (sure, by their nature) and therefore might not be a good example of "See! We DO have pictures of women!" But even we say fine - how many frum comic books are there?

      It is not only far from perfect and not ideal, it is getting worse, and getting worse unnecessarily.

    2. Your anecdotal examples of "I have seen..." are totally besides the point. Of course women's pictures are being erased. The question is: are women *as people* being *socially erased* and *symbolically annihilated* from frum society?

      I'm saying you can't credibly claim this is happening if:
      1) photos of women are in fact published in very popular biographies of Jewish women.
      2) depictions of women and girls are in fact routinely published in very popular children's books and comic books (of which there are A LOT--especially in Israel. And I don't deny there are exceptions but they are not the rule.)
      3) Jewish women are in fact that dominant voices in these publications. They completely dominate the publishing, editing, writing, and design positions in Hamodia and Ami Magazine.
      These women ARE the magazine! How can you tell me they are being socially erased just because their still photo does not appear next to their names all over the publication?
      It's absurd.
      As for advertisements, see my second comment in the very next thread.

  5. If you think about it, there is a logic to erasing photos of women specifically found in newpapers/magazines/advertising and not erasing them in biographies, storybooks and comics.
    Newspapers, magazines and advertisements are all explicitly designed to get the attention of the reader. They have to look *very good* if they are to have the intended impact.
    These photos are not there to historically inform (as with photos in a biography) or part of telling a story (as in storybooks and comics).
    These photos (especially the adverts!) are there to please the eye of the reader, period. So it's no wonder there is a policy of not displaying women's faces in this particular form of print media.

    I'm am not downplaying the existence of unintended consequences from this policy (though I do think it's grossly overrated), but I think there can be broad agreement that the alternative is a little absurd: it would mean frum women will essentially become models in these ads.

    Imagine a cover story in Mishpacha with a frum woman's face on it. Even if she is fully clothed, is it modest to put her face (and body) out there in public like that for tens of thousands of people to see?

    (Truth be told, I don't think it is modest for Jewish men to be put out in public like that either. The whole "cover story" feature in frum magazines which center around a single individual is quite unjewish. And don't get me started with the Jewish music and entertainment business. The marketing done for these guys is really over the top.)

  6. I do not think it is correct to suggest that the parallel between tzniut for women and torah learning for men is a result of Rav Falk's book. It look predates Rabbi Falk. For an example significantly older you can look at the introduction to the Chiddushim of Rav Chaim, written by his sons. In the body of the text, he is praised for his learning and the importance of his path in learnig. Appended to it you find a paragraph beginning: "And this should be a monument to our revered mother (הרבנית הצנןעה) the modest rebbitzin...." And I am sure with a modicum of effort I can find examples much older than Chiddushei Rav Chaim.

    There is plenty to criticize about Rav Falk's book, but that isn't something that can be pinned on Rabbi Falk.

    1. Also see introduction to r ovadia yosef sefarim where he praises his wife with "נשים באהל תברך"

  7. A subset of more general trends?
    Think about how beit yaakov originally focused on women's education as an end in itself (Maybe to counter OTD trends in Europe?) to a means to support the Men's learning culture.
    Think about the "halachazation" of ethics (Rambam hilchot deot comes right after yesodei hatora and before talmud torah vs. Chofetz Chaim Hilchot Lshon Hara)

  8. I wonder, how does it bother "progressives", who presumable don't read Hamodia, Mishpacha, or Yated Ne’eman other than for bashing? After all, frum people don't write master's thesis on how low-life and immorality are being promoted in secular media.

  9. If you want to learn opinion of haredi women about modesty or any other subject, then Facebook is wrong source for you. Facebook owners are actually very specific group among them, probably even a marginal one.
    Most of haredi women don't have Facebook account; those who do never question or discuss the modesty regulations.
    Meanwhile: it's clear that the war for modesty has nothing with modesty itself. It's an opportunity to create more rabbanic positions, to give rabbanim more control over their society, and so on.

  10. I definitely agree with most of the article. However, linking all of this to the late Rabbi Falk's book is beyond me.
    Mrs. Goloskov starts by telling us that while growing up in the 90s she was taught tzenius as only a set of rules. Does she believe this set was ideologically neutral? That there was no reason behind it AT ALL?
    She then quotes the book's introduction, where Rabbi Falk describes his reasons for writing it. While his appreciation of the so-called ''natural feeling for real tzeniyus'' is at least debatable, it is clear in these very lines that what he opposes is IMNMODEST depictions of women in general media, and not their mere appearance.
    In the third paragraph we are told the book is the first to present tzeniyus as such a minute set of rules, A FACT WHICH IS AKNOWLEDGED BY THE AUTHOR HIMSELF. But were we not jut told that tzeniyus as a set of rules is fine?
    The truth is, while such an extensive book had never been written on this subject before, and while some of its content does not stem from any previous authority, but relies on the author's subjective appreciations, individuals and communities never waited for it to adopt even more stringent rules. I could give a whole bunch of examples, but I'll just give you one: in pre-war Poland (which was probably home to more than half of the world orthodox jewry) it was not considered acceptable for a boy beyond bar-mitzwah age to even speak with his own sisters! Now what's that for an erasure?
    (What I peronnally think is the REAL reason why such a detailed book was needed in our days is simply the fact that inmodest clothing and make-up have become so available, cheap and diverse in our consumption society, that it simply wasn't possible anymore to just say ''cover this and don't behave like that.'' Of course the cursors in it are not carved in stone, but it's a starting point).
    One last thing: among the many matters discussed in the book, there is not a single comment about orthodox women appearing in media (or even other women on news pages, for that matter). If the author woud have opposed such a widespread practice, he would most certainly have mentioned it in such an exhaustive book.

  11. what a disgrace you areJuly 12, 2020 at 9:33 PM

    The very fact that this issue is extremely important to you demonstrates your true colors. Suppose there were two issues at play. 1) going beyond the halacha of tznius and 2) immodestly dressed women and immodest billboards and such.

    Would you ignore the immodesty issues?

    The State of Israel and the U.S. is full of immodest billboards and bus advertisements. There is also immodesty in various not-so-frum publications, and certainly secular ones. There is terrible immodestly online.

    The result of immodesty is much worse than extra modesty 1) Immodesty is more than a distortion of the rules of tznius, it is pritzus per se. 2) Immodesty goes beyond sin, creating an ideology of being free of healthy restrictions. 3) Exposing flesh objectifies women much more than high levels of tznius. Immodesty is a great dehumanizer. 4) There is a need to speak up about not being contaminated by the immodesty rampant in Israel and the United States, much more than a need to speak up about taking tznius too far. And of-course pritzus devalues the very existence of women.

    Why is immodesty much less of a concern to you than the lack of female faces in Orthodox periodicals? You simply want to forever spew hate, get revenge for what happened to you, and to maintain your publicity. Remember what it says in Avos. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקַּפָּר אוֹמֵר, הַקִּנְאָה וְהַתַּאֲוָה וְהַכָּבוֹד, מוֹצִיאִין אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם

    1. what a name-caller you are

      The difference is that we all KNOW that immodest billboards are wrong. We KNOW that immodest dress is not Torahdik. But the audience for this blog - diverse as it may be - really is not the one who is putting up the billboards.

      However, as with many other kinds of "mission-creep," chumras get stronger and stronger. Religious Jews do not realize that we have gone too far sometimes, so yes, THIS is indeed something to talk about.

      Kol d'posel b'mumo posel.

    2. First off, get your wording right. It's Kol Haposel, not dposel.

      Anyway, knowing something is wrong doesn't mean any attempt is being made to do something about it.

      If this website stressed the need for high levels of tznius, then I would respect his view on things going overboard.

      But considering that he has an ax to grind, you have to be a fool not to realize that it's really nothing more than that.

      It's a front to maintain publicity and to put down his real or perceived enemies.

  12. Falk's book has some real problems.
    1. Many of his sources are misconstrued. (See his Hebrew source work for forbidding wigs thst look real. He literally cuts out 4 lines from igros Moshe that compared it to misparayim ke'ein taar - you can argue on r moshe, you cannot misconstrue him).
    2. He assumes the power of hachra'a in a way that no other area of halacha has. For example, no one flips out about mahlokos in hilchos nida or kashrus. One finds thst there are areas of halacha where there is a tendency to be stringent. In chazal it's monetary matters, brachos and pirkei avos. Many Rishonim are mahmir in hilchos avoda zara (rambam, but rashi and tosafos are davka meikil) In the poskim some are machmir for Pesach, or shabbos etc. I have yet to find a source staring that Hilchos tznius is an area requiring chumra. Furthermore, I don't see the basic rules of poskim being kept in his book. Machlokes Deoraysa lechumra, bederabanan lekula etc.
    3. He mixes his personal sensibilities with halacha (white sneakers?)
    4. He seems convinced that the world much more parutz now then it was in the past. He obviously didn't know about the Romans.
    5. What bothers me most here is the insane emphasis on tznius. Chazal didn't seem to be so focused on it. There is more in Shas about oxen going cows than about tznius. It's barely a few one liners scattered around. And when you turn to Rishonim and acharonim, they also didn't spend that much time on it. Yet he managed to make it a full time project. And his level of detail is insane. No one before ever added an envelope with diagrams to their seforim.

    1. For what its worthJuly 13, 2020 at 12:37 AM

      The history of halacha has many cases of responding to changing social /religious norms. You find the pendulum of psak swinging from strict to lenient and back again depending on the specific level of community observance at the time.

      There are statements in the gemara where a Sage explains outright that he is being stricter than the halacha requires becuase the masses are too lax in this area and the breach needs to be fenced in.

    2. Might one not level charge #5 against the sefer Chafetz Chaim as well? (That ought not to be misconstrued as disagreement.)

    3. @Shlomo - You are correct that this argument has been made about Sefer Shmiras Halashon. Yet there are a few serious differences. 1. I don't mind a tendency for chumra when it is bein adam lechavero (Though under certain circumstances it can end up being a kula.) 2. The CC wrote a masterpiece on Orach Chaim. His Mishna Brura is one of the most influential poskim of the 19-20 centuries. He is clearly of the gedolei haposkim. 3. He wrote mussar on many topics as well.
      On the other hand R Falk, has written 6 books on tznius. He has written on Shabbos and a few other topics, but nowhere near as intense and with the level of detail on those topics as he has written on tznius. One wonders if this became an unhealthy obsession. Just to put it into perspective, R Ovadia Yossef wrote extremely long teshuvos. In his seforim, he wrote out everything clearly and without shortcuts. Aside from his teshuva about sheitels (which i would not compare to R Falk's book as it is not a detailed tznius issue, it is a general concept of status of disconnected hair), he dedicates only 2 pages (in taharas habayis) to mekomos hamechusos be'isha. He spent more pages deciding the bracha to be made on pizza.

    4. Kn, pardon my ignorance, was Roman pritzus displayed to the Jews as much as current society displays it to us today?
      Also RE Lopian has this idea which I haven't seen in a long time, but as I remember it, that sins which are rampant in (Jewish?) society become more stringent. (He mentions Tznius &Shabbos.) Do you recall this and do you think it would explain why there should be more emphasis on Tznius than in earlier times? Thank you.
      (BTW, for what it's worth, I liked RF's tshuvah allowing fish worms.)

    5. Chaim, The Romans were pretty bad. Chazal tell us that 400 Jweish girls and 400 Jewish boys committed suicide so not to become sex slaves. The boys were to be homosexual sex slaves. This was normal for the Romans. Apprentices were "imbued" with strength from their masters. Emperor Hadrian (hadrianus harasha - who destroyed Beitar) had a gay lover, Antinous. When antinous died, he deified him, built a city and numerous temples for him. He out busts of antinous in all of the cities of the empire. It is unlikely that Chazal didn't realize these things. Rather they just ignored it.
      I am not an expert in R Elya Lopian, but standard methods of halacha must always be followed. I get it that in some generations poskim seemed to be more worried about certain things more than others. Still, we cannot ignore rigorous halachic process.
      Rina Golovsky here is focused on the social aspect of it. And it seems that RNS is focused on that as well. I have no comments on that.
      She linked to Emanuel Bloch. The problem with Bloch's approach is that his method would not be accepted in a Charedi Bais Medrash, nor would it be accepted in most DL or Modern Orthodox batei midrash. Normative Halacha does not differentiate bet basic pshat of the passuk and Chazal's understanding of it. If Chazal understood that ופרע הכהן את ראש האשה means that a woman must cover her hair - תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אזהרה לבנות ישראל שלא יצאו בפרוע ראש , halacha will not contest that (especially since Gemara refers to this as Deoraysa - even according to Rambam in sha'ar 3 it would be Deoraysa). Chazal and Rishonim did understand these basic concepts as Halacha for a woman to keep such as קול באשה ערוה, טפח באשה ערווה, שוק באשה ערווה. According to Rishonim these are not just for hilchos krias shema and they are not just for hilchos kesuba.
      Accordingly, Bloch's criticism of R Yehuda Henkin is incorrect. R Henkin will allow that tznius has halachic rules to it. R Henkin is arguing that Falk has thrown out the entire halachic process out of the window. Chazal clearly differentiated bet some parts of tznius that is binding halacha in all cases, and cases where it depends on time and place (דת יהודית). Yet Falk assumes that his own preferences are דת יהודית. There are rules to Halacha, yes priorities can be subjective, but there are still rules to how it works. Many of Falk's "halachos" are extremely subjective, he is lacking in proper sources, and lacking in method.
      Bloch is correct that Charedim have created a concept that tznius is for woman, what Limud Hatorah is for men. It became this all encompassing more is always better. I do not find this emphasis in Chazal or Rishonim.

    6. "pardon my ignorance, was Roman pritzus displayed to the Jews as much as current society displays it to us today?"

      "Displayed" is hard to define. They didn't have billboards or magazines.

      But Roman society was absolutely saturated with prostitution and sex-slavery (the line between them as blurry then as it is now), especially among the elite.

      Everyday prostitution wasn't exactly secret, even if the more extreme forms (the ancient version of "what happens in Vegas") were not as openly discussed.

  13. i believe this is an area where non haredim should butt out . if they want to treat their women as trash or temptresses , that ultimately should be their business. do we listen to their lambasting of our communities ? [ maybe unfortunately too much ]....

    1. What if some chareidi women ARE upset (because some are) and ARE trying to argue against this. Do we help or pull some kind of bizarro Inter-Sectarian Prime Directive and say "Not our velt"?

  14. The problem is that she projecting. The author is projecting her own views. But just because they feel a certain way doesn't mean the vast majority of women feel the same way also. An example is from the new "popular" book, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. In the book, DiAngelo tells us a story. One night she was late to a party and she found that all the parking spaces for white people were no longer available. She could only park with the black folk. Naturally, she felt afraid and drove home. On the way home she was crying to herself; how was it possible that she was so racist that she was unwilling to park near blacks? Then, suddenly a light bulb went off. No, DiAngelo thought. This is not my problem, this is a societal problem. The white race as a collective has wrongly taught me to act this way.

    The problem is that she's projecting. She assumes that everyone thinks the same way she does. That this is not her problem but a collective issue. But maybe she's just the racist. Just because she's racist doesn't make the rest of us racist.

    People rather be told that they're not the problem. No one wants to feel that they're the problem, that they need to fix themselves. No, they rather feel that we're the problem. We need fixing.

    I feel that this author is doing exactly that. Just because she feels insulted with Charedim campaigns to erase women doesn't mean that other women feel the same way at all.

    1. Of course she is projecting and stating her own views. It wouldn't make sense to say someone else's views!

      But joking aside, she is not alone. Check out all of the stuff written about this - facebook groups and blogs at least. There are new magazines that have cropped up EXPLICITLY to be a frum woman venue that includes pictures of modestly dressed women (the one I know of is called "Nashim").

      I mentioned in another comment, above, that social scientists seem to sometimes create a problem by giving it a fancy name. So take away the fancy terminology and studies about representation or whatever. My wife and many of her friends and associates, both virtual and flesh-based - frum, tzanuah women all - are horrified and more than a little insulted by this trend. Small sample size, perhaps, until you attach to all the aforementioned groups. Now that there IS a recognized response/feeling/whatever here, we can bring the sociological jargon back in to try to address it.

    2. @ Yosef R

      The message you're conveying is too nuanced. As you can see, when confronted with a conclusion you disagree with, it's far easier to just shoot the messenger.

  15. Those commenters criticizing Ms. Goloskov's methodology, or claiming she is projecting, should read the actual dissertation before writing anything further.

    The link is

    She clearly outlines her methodology (not "projecting her own views") and sources (not just Facebook). Her conclusions come from textual analysis of thousands of comments.

    1. Anyone who thinks that this "study" is notable in any other than the most self-serving way is absolutely ignorant as to what science is.

    2. Reb Inigo MontoyaJuly 13, 2020 at 6:58 PM

      I scanned Rina's paper for her picture, but it was sadly lacking from the paper, the websites, and the posting above. Sad.

    3. This paper went to TOWSON university? A goyish place near Baltimore? Oy, oy. The baltimore jewish community must be reeling from this major chillul Hashem. Publicizing your personal complaints in front of the neighbors. Al eileh ani bochiya.

    4. Does Rina Ocasio-Goloskov predict the end of the Charedi woman in twelve years?

  16. Regrettably, the article serves as an excellent illustration of the moral decay of western society, but not b/c of "tznius." Rather, is b/c this thesis, on this most frivolous and useless of topics, is supposed to earn its author a "Master of Science" (and from a secular university.) Not only is the topic silly, but the central hypothesis of it, unfortunately, has no basis whatsoever. (This was all catalyzed by a book from 1998 - Really? Proof, please?) If something like this can be used to be called a Master of "Science", is it any wonder so many people today reject what passes for Science?

    I shan't waste my time on this, but if one really wants to know, the genesis of this phenomenon comes from without, not within. The Jew does what the Gentile does. Actions beget Reactions. The secular world has declined morally, becoming feminized, homosexualized, and impotent. The religious world has thus reacted in the opposite direction. Someone who doesn't understand this doesn't understand history, social trends, and certainly not the Jewish community.

    1. "homosexualized" I need some laugh emojis. Your silliness made by day with its humor values.

    2. David - you honestly think I care what an amhaaretz laughs at?

  17. To all Charedi people reading this:
    Read the post, which is a summary of the paper. Then read the paper itself. Ask yourself if this thesis has any connection with reality as you know it (at least to me, and as far as I can tell, to everybody else in my social circle, it doesn't)

    Now, in case you haven't attended a secular institution of higher learning, know that this paper is representative of the quality of scholarship that comes out of such institutions. It has a rigorous methodology and follows the scientific method, using data collection and evidence. This is the same quality of scholarship that Rationalist Judaism claims is the pinnacle of truth, such that it can overturn thousands of years of mesorah. Know that this same quality of scholarship is what leads one to say that the Bereishis account is not literal, that the Flood was localized, that Yetzias Mitzrayim never happened as stated.

    1. Please don't talk about things you don't understand

    2. happygoluckypersonage,

      i had the good fortune to attend medical school in the US before moving to israel, so i had a bit of exposure to the state of scientific thinking in modern secular institutions. i think that your point is well taken, but perhaps a bit of an oversimplification. in general the sciences can be divided into three categories. the hard sciences such as physics where there tends to be a strong correlation between data and conclusions, the soft sciences such as the social sciences, where there is little data altogether and what little data there is is only weakly correlated with the conclusions drawn. in between are the semi hard sciences such as biology in general and medicine in particular, which as you would imagine, function with aspects of both of the extremes.
      the paper above was submitted as a thesis in the social sciences, so not surprisingly, it is rich in assertions but poor in data. on the other hand, some of the arguments made against bereshit and the flood are based on harder sciences, so they are more difficult to dismiss. of course even in the hard sciences there are biases at play in how to interpret the hard data, and they no doubt play a role in many of the "proofs" against bereshit etc.
      it is worth keeping in mind that many of the worlds greatest scientists (i have interacted with some of them personally) are complete imbeciles outside of their area of expertise. it always amazed me when in personal conversation with a nobel prize winner (for instance) in biochemistry, he might demonstrate himself to be a complete fool when discussing politics. it's not that expertise in biochemistry endows one with political insight, it's just that i would have expected critical thinking skills to cross over into whatever subject one is contemplating. apparently they don't.
      bottom line, you are correct in noting that the above paper demonstrates nothing but it's author's bias, and that the general deterioration in critical thinking skills that has become endemic in the secular world should give one pause when contemplating secular arguments against the torah. none the less, i do think that when an argument is based on the hard sciences, it does deserve a more serious response than something like this paper does.

    3. @happygoluckypersonage, I find your first paragraph spot on, but most of your second paragraph spot off. Back to your first paragraph, it reminds me of a recent Ami interview with R Refson of Neve. To quote, "A few weeks ago, a donor came to Neve, an observant man ... We introduced him to six students. One was a stockbroker ... Six successful students. They told him their stories. He listened and listened, and finally couldn't help himself and he said, 'Why did you become religious? You had it all?' One of the women said to him, 'Don't you understand the difference between success and fulfillment?' But he didn't give up. He said to them, 'So it was trauma that brought you to religion?"
      The women were looking around at each other with an expression on their faces that was like, What's with this guy?..."
      The common ground between that little story (which I like for its distinction between success and fulfillment) and this post is that certainly many if not virtually all Chareidi women, well, maybe only the true Scottswomen, but certainly the majority of them, would look around at each other with an expression on their faces like, What's with this lady? And what's more, What's with these commenters?
      WADR, chaim.

    4. I also see that no one addressed my comment on the previous post to pick the brains of Chareidi women to see why they aren't bothered by this. To expand, if someone wants to say that Chareidi media policy is absurd, ok, let's agree. But to say that they're in pain, AFIK that is absurd.

    5. But chaim, some ARE. And they are being ignored, or silenced, or simply have no forum because they are more religious and therefore eschew social media etc.

      Some proof of the chareidi women being affected - some of them are now participating in new women's magazines - magazines with tzanuah pictures of women.

      And anyway, this trend is spilling over to the DL/MO communities (as many chumras tend to do) - at my Young Israel, a flyer with a tzanua picture of the frum woman speaker was censored for having a picture of a woman. The event organizer wanted the picture, but she caved to this pressure because she didn't want people to boycott her event. Don't you find that story terribly sad and more than a little ridiculous?

    6. I am a charedi/yeshivishe married woman, and I'm not bothered by it.

    7. SA: fine for you. Likewise, I am not bothered by the lack of Jewish people portrayed in Hollywood.


      Could you understand why some women would be upset by it? I'm not telling you how to feel. I am asking if you can understand how others might feel.

      In my [incomplete] analogy, I am not bothered by the minimalist portrayal of Jews in movies and television. But I can understand when someone says that they are frustrated with not being able to see "themselves" when they watch TV, read newspapers, read books to their children, etc.

  18. I find many copies of Falk's books left in the genziah of the community I live in. One person who review his book on Amazon, wrote if you were not neurotic before reading his book, you will be after reading it.

  19. BitterLikeMarrorJuly 20, 2020 at 3:11 PM

    What about you is rational that you spew hate and anger in one article after another you are obviously very very bitter.


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