speaking of provoking, or, is Katie Couric too cute for primetime?

One of the first blogs I like to read in the morning (of my Israeli posts) is Treppenwitz. I think he writes very well and often very poignantly about the humanity of living in Israel, and in the Gush, to boot. Today’s post, however, got me a little…

Well, annoyed? frustrated? and all that jazz.

Here’s what he put on his page about how he thinks women dress:

Women's Attire

I don’t do cute. I don’t think anyone over 30 (and that’s really stretching the limit) should do cute, either. You can say something cute, you can do something cute, as in sweet, but you should not aim for cute. And is Katie Couric too perky or cute to be taken seriously for the news, and that’s why she couldn’t make it? Do you have to be cool and distant, like Diane Sawyer? Could cute ever make it?

Okay, maybe with shoes.

No! Actually, that was my next step of the day. I went to return a pair of shoes I had bought on line from DSW. They were white sandals, which I thought were going to be dressy.


The horror! They were patent leather!

It didn’t say anything about being patent leather on the description. After the fact, in the reviews, there’s some mention, but I really didn’t look carefully. That clearly was my mistake. I don’t do patent leather–too cute (i.e.–for 5 year olds). If you like it, that’s wonderful. It’s just not me. So they needed to be returned.

But as I looked around at the thousands of other shoes, searching for a replacement, I was almost gagging at the level (pun intended) of what is the word? cheap? trollopy? Shoes intended for one thing only, and that’s to lure men.

Or is it

And all the girls walk by
Dressed up for each other

Oh, Van Morrison, you never disappointed me.

But I fear that things are actually like what I remember someone telling me at least 33 years ago. This woman mentioned that she made extra effort to always look nice because her husband worked among many very attractive women and she knew she had to compete. At the time, I thought that was a New York mindset, or maybe one of people who work in the real world, but not for us who live in the Jewish world. We didn’t need to worry about that.

Or did we?

So now so many years later, I am not as naive as I was, and I know that there are many levels of temptation and of frustration.  But then I get to another blog, Emes Ve-Emunah, that often brings up important topics in defense of thinking Judaism, and it just sent me over the top. He refers to a column in the Jewish Press with 3 different letters to an advice columnist about tzniyut and different standards and perceptions in the various Jewish communities. The first two letters decry the degradation of dress of many women in the “frum” world, but the third just is really a cry for help. But not the way that this man writes. Oh, I’ll let him say it for himself:

Dear Rachel,

I read your column every week and would like to thank you for helping the frum community.
I want to bring up a topic that I believe many frum married men have a problem with: while the woman we marry may be baalbatish(refined), highly intelligent, a great cook and homemaker, and excellent mother, she is not a good wife – meaning she doesn’t satisfy her husband and fails to give him what he really wants.
To clarify, most of these wives lack femininity and have absolutely no notion of romance. While good in the kitchen, they utterly fall flat when it comes to adding spice and fun into the marriage. This seems to be a major drawback of the frum couple’s marital relationship, which ends up having a negative effect on the community as a whole.

He goes on, and you can imagine it gets worse.

Rav Maryles goes into great length about this topic, and I’ll quote from him, too:

So you have a situation where even the most devoted of husbands cannot help but make at least subliminal comparisons between what they have countered all day and what they come home to. Most husbands realize that and overcome those visuals. But let’s not fool ourselves. Those provocative visuals are there day after day and sometimes all day long. This is how the modern American woman in America dresses in the workplace these days.

A married Frum woman has to compete with that. Which might explain why they dress up like that whenever they can even in public. They follow the letter of the law, but they otherwise dress as attractively as they can for their husbands. Which is seen by people like the first letter writer as worthy of a stint in hell.

So it isn’t as simple as saying that women should dress modestly in both the letter and spirit of the law. Telling husbands to just get over it, doesn’t always work. Especially when the ‘best Bachurim in Lakewood’ (You know – the kind with big price tags on their heads) refuse to date any woman who wears a dress size larger than 2. (Yes – they’re dating dress sizes now.)

Women may then have a justifiable claim to dress in ways that will be attractive to their husbands. And being attractive is more than looking baalebatish. And yet sometimes this may cross the kind of lines that so greatly upsets the first letter writer.

So my friend from so long ago was more right than I gave her credit.

I’m frustrated that we can’t teach women to dress to express their own self-confidence. I’m frustrated that men are so often  incapable of being adults in their relationships with women.

I think we should all go for the smart look.


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