Brief disclaimer; basically none of this is directed at Yoni, since he's already made it quite clear that he defers to females in this area.
To begin, I will recount an anecdote. When I was in high school, we used to have bnei bayit at our house almost every shabbat for meals. Basically family friends, people we grew up with. People who enjoyed arguing, because, in case any of you have missed this, it's kind of an olympic sport in my house. I remember in particular one conversation about tzniut, involving one of these bnei bayit, a well-intentioned male who, it deserves mention, has nothing but respect for womenkind; but although his intentions were clearly respectful, they were also slightly misguided, and I remember saying, essentially, "Dude, how many classes have you had on the subject? How many lectures by guest speakers? How many sources have you read? How many 'informal casual discussions' with teachers? Over the course of your entire education?" He'd maybe had a class (read: single class period), heard a speaker, had a conversation or two with his rabbi. And I said "Yeah, I've had about four to five of each of those things per year since sixth grade, possibly earlier. And we're not even going into summer camp shaiur and extracurricular chugim stuff." Yeah, also this was pre-seminary. (Not to mention, we're (us females) the ones who shop for clothing, and wear the clothing, so we know things like what's available, what kind of stuff looks like what on our bodies, things abut drape and cut and material, etc, which most guys don't know or care about bichlal(excepting possibly Yoni ;))And he said "Huh; ok, so maybe you know a bit more about it than I do."
And that's kind of my point. You guys think you know what you're talking abut? Trust me, we do. At least, those of us with any background in the religous educational system. It's been rammed down our throats since we were old enough to dress ourselves. Mammash? You don't have to lecture us. Girls know what things look like on them. We wear what we want to wear, and we probably know the halachot better than you do. If you have a problem with it, kindly deal. Take it to your shrink. He's the only one who cares what you think about this anyway.
I mean, forget the business about being uninformed; (although trust me, chumrot in place of actual halachik knowledge? Not exactly minimal in this area) why would men make it their business to notice exactly what the women are or aren't wearing, and how that exactly fits in with the rules and standards, and then lecture us about it? Shouldn't they be learning torah and focusing on their own avodah? What exactly do they gain by being so overly concerned about our stuff? And don't you give me kol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh, because if that's what their concern really is, I can point them in a few other directions in more dire need of attention.
The ongoing hypocrisy really gets me. The people who blatantly disregard halacha in so many areas get to lecture people on stuff that isn't their inyan at all? I know not all of the men out there who care about this issue blatantly disregard halacha. But a lot of them do. And I'm sorry. The minute you're a blatant hypocrite is the moment you lose all right to pass judgment on how other Jews handle their religiosity. Not that you ever really had that right to begin with, but whatever, that's not the point.
So that's one point, although I'll be honest, it kind of irked me to have a rabbi lecturing us abut tzniut also. I mean I know he's a man of Torah and good intentions etc, and I appreciate that. But let someone who really has to deal with these issues talk about it man. Otherwise, even the best intentioned, purest-souled, longest-bearded rabbi of them all sounds sanctimonious, self-rightous, and condescending.
But all of that, while yes it bothers me, is not what bothers me most. What bothers me most is the uniformity which is slowly overcoming the orthodox world and expressing itself particularly in clothing. If you remember, I mentioned a discussion Tobie and I had with a madricha in my last post. We were basically discussing women learning gemarah, and particularly how it does or doesn't affect their general avodah. Our madricha was saying how it shocked her that davka the girls that learn gemara are the ones who wear the lower necks, the shorter skirts and sleeves, who cover less of their hair, etc. Tobie said that it has something to do with the fact that mostly only girls from communities where those are the standards of tzniut are going to want to learn gemarah (I know, I know, not Chabbad; I'll be honest, it's one of the things I love most about Chabbad. Their women are just so darn hard-core! It's really very cool.) and I know that sociologically she's right. My madricha was saying, why is it these girls who spend so much time osek biTorah that don't want to fulfill the mitzvot to the fullest?Shouldn't these be the girls who davka would want to dedicate everything in their lives to Hashem and His service?
Look. I get the whole chassid bidavar, going the extra mile, G-d really appreciates the effort, thing. I do. Let's remember I am part chossid. But - one of the main things I love about Judaism is how within the framework of halacha, there can be many different opinions that are all mutar. I know people like to think that being makil means you're slacking off to make life easier and more comfortable for yourself. And I know that for a lot of people that's true. But supposing it gets to the point where all religous people hold by all the same standards? And therefore, no one knows that there is any but one single right way? Because they don't know any better, because it won't exist anymore. I think that the Torah and the halachik framework will lose half of its beauty and more than half of its truth. I think we'll have turned halacha into something G-d never wanted it to be; something narrow and dark and unimaginative. He gave us the Torah bishivim panim in order for it to be something wide and varied and wonderful, full of clashes and differences and color and argument. There are supposed to be a million opinions on everything. Why would we try to destroy that? Why do people assume that G-d wants us to? I think for this reason that there davka should be people who hold by the more makil opinions, just to remind people that they exist, and are in fact halachically valid. If your rabbi tells you that it is perfectly mutar according to halacha to cover only the scalp and the rest of your hair can hang free, then go for it. And if your rabbi says that loose-fitting pants are fine, then great. If he says red isn't really a big deal nowadays, I would buy that the average man on the street isn't going to mistake me for a hooker, although yes, I know there are some chareidi men wandering around who are unclear on this concept and may solicit my services, or stone me. I'm willing to take that risk.
I just want to say that just because there are women who dress this way (and hey! they also learn gemara!) it doesn't mean they don't live a life of Torah, completely dedicated to the service of G-d. Probably all of them don't, but again, how many women who wear the prescribed uniform do we know really live for that purpose? What gives us the right to make that judgment call based on what people are wearing?
One last thing, less about tzniut and more about Judaism in general; these people who say things like, "But nu, you know what G-d really wants from you..." or "Tachlis, what Gd really wants from us all is..."
I'm sorry. Did you install a G-d phone? Is He talking to you while you sleep now? Is there someway that I could get in on that deal, bc there's there's a couple things I'd like to ask Him if I could get the chance.....Tachlis, ladies and gentleman? I have no idea what the hell G-d wants from me. Sometimes I wish I did, because it would make things that much simpler, but mostly I know that THAT WOULD SORT OF DEFEAT THE PURPOSE OF WELL, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING. So please, people, stop pretending that you and G-d have these one-on-one confabs every night, that you're so sure you know what He's trying to say. I mean, I love your sincerity and your effort, but seriously, when it comes to real truth, you really know just about as much as the rest of us. Please accept that and move on.