In the Wardrobe Department
Clothes have been a method of power and control.
Word of extremes in feminism– bikini’s or burkas.
Bikini theory – by flaunting my physicality, showing it off, I own it, I own and
control myself and I have power. You are liberated. No one is telling you what to
Burka theory – by hiding my physicality, I own it, I control it and I have power.
Problem is that most women nowadays don’t consider ourselves feminists
anymore. We just use feminism as a way of justifying to others or to themselves
‘I’m not dancing semi naked on a table to please the boys who are looking up my
skirt – I am making a powerful feminine statement that I am liberated’
‘I’m not in the same sweatpants and top I’ve warn three days in a row because
I’m low, PMSing, have low self esteem….I am making a powerful statement that I
don’t give a crap about what you think about me. I am liberated.
The problem is that while there ARE many women who subscribe wholley to what
I have nicknamed bikini or burka and I don’t want to you to think that I am
knocking this down….yet.
Both excuse by bikini or excuse by burka are examples of low self-esteem. The
latter is easier to see. The I’m in sweatpants, feeling low etc. Whats the point in
dressing up, looking good etc if I’m not worth it. The former is a little more
complicated by most of us know that the girl wearing the least in the room
usually, not always, but usually has the lowest self esteem. Looking for attention
because as Rabbi Berger said recently ‘society has taught us to substitute self-
esteem for the esteem for others’. Aka – my value is basedon exactly how many
guys are looking up my skirt.
I’m deliberately couching this in extreme terms and the only way you will be open
to growing from what I say is if you honestly assess yourself and see whether you
can hear yourself saying any of these phrases.
OK so lets analyse Jewish approach and see whether we can antidote any/all of
these four approaches – bikini/burka or the excuses for low self esteem.
JEWISH APPROACH TO CLOTHING
JATC is actually two fold – the first half gets the most coverage but the second is
just as important.
Part one is the mitzvah of tznuis. Part two is the obligation to dress as a bas
So lets deal with the former because its gets more press.
What is tznuis – tznuis is actually a method of revealation not a method of hiding.
Step one – we are focusing on the physical. Not easily changed – (dad and
digestives joke). Plastic surgery. Anorexia. Airbrusing (Dove advert). Attempting to
attain unobtainable objective standards of beauty.
I always say that the only thing that we can change is ourselves. Are you a soul or
a body. Lets get specific, the only thing you really have control over is your soul.
You can diet your heart out literally and never lose the weight, try every plastic
surgery GF and never look exactly right.
You can change your spirituality. Judaism says that you are able to change – work
on key character traits and slowly and healthily enhance and apply those skills you
have and improve and perfect those areas which you struggle with.
Why would you wish to emphasise that which you have little control over when
you could emphasie that which you have complete control over. That which you
can be totally proud of. You know what – what if you do have the perfect body,
you are a Barbie doll? Firstly would be unable to stand up but regardless, why are
you proud of that, that’s genetics.
Clarify, I am not talking about not being healthy – just let yourself go –we will talk
about that momentarily.
There are two ways to emphasize – first to de-emphasise everything else,
secondly to actively enhance that which you have.
Tznus is the art of de-emphasis. BUT the purpose is not to hide but the purpose is
to emphasize. Lets clarify even further.
I de-emphasize my physicality but ONLY in order to emphasize my spirituality,
that which I am really proud of, that which is stunningly beautiful about me. That
which I am totally in control of. That which I really do have complete control of.
That which I have total power over and through.
There are two areas which this part of me shines through, face and hands – I de-
emphasize everything else in order to emphasize that.
OK – so what does this solve
Bikini theory excuse – why would I dance semi naked on a table. Even if I am
proud of my body, I’m far more proud of my soul.
Burka theory excuse – why would my physicality bring me down. I am not in
complete control over it. It has no power over me.
True bikini theory – I don’t own my physicality and do not wish to be determined
as a physical creature. I want you to be able to see my soul.
True burka theory – Hiding my physicality does nothing to emphasize that which
is much more important, my spirituality. Its hot, uncomfortable and anonymous.
Liberation – burka was the sign of the oppresision. But don’t get me wrong every
time you hide yourself in those old sweatpants and baggy tshirt you are
I said that there were two ways, first deemphasize then enhance. Second less
talked about part of JATC is dressing like a bas melech - a princess.
What does this mean – basically its G-ds way of telling you to PUT YO-SELF
together girl – snap snap snap. G-d version of what not to wear. Shape up.
Clothing has long been a statement of status – law studies, ridiculous gowns.
Jewish women are expected to dress like princesses.
That means that you can’t wear something that does not fit the status of your
soul. Take a good hard look in your wardrobe – that stain, that slutty skirt, that
rip, ditch it.
Also – healthy – we go to the gym not to make our butt look good but to ensure
that we are healthy. Your body is your soul’s space suit, given to you on loan – has
NASA emblem on it. Priceless , literally, so make sure you take good care of it.
Why well we talked about de-emphsis. Now we are enhancing.
Excuse bikini – I dress like this to get attention for the right thing.
Excuse burka – You don’t get to not be arsed because it is not powerful and
liberated. It is lazy and will just drag you down further.
Bikini - my clothing doesn’t draw attention to physicality but spirituality.
Burka - My physicality can be used to enhance my spirituality. Hiding it silences
Dress like a princess without your physicality becoming a distraction. There’s a
challenge. Look attractive not attracting. Remember that the most beautiful part
of you is your soul. You have complete control, complete power. No one can take
that away from you.
The world has made you think that control and power will come from your
physicality and time and again we prove to ourselves that is just not true.
True liberation is spiritual not physical.
As a post script….a teaser for future….
We are bound in many physical ways but spiritually you have so much wiggle
room. This week we just talked about showing your spirituality but as I said at the
beginning – really you want something to be proud of in the firs tplace. Start
shaping up your soul girls.