Tzniut, or modesty, is one of the most controversial issues in the Orthodox world today. Indeed, different people see the issue of modesty through different lenses. Some wonder about how to teach students and children about tzniut so that they’ll be more inclined to follow the halachot and established Orthodox customs; others ask questions from the opposite vantage point, wondering about whether tzniut is an inherently oppressive system that leads to an unhealthy body image, increases a sense of counterproductive shame, and completely ignores the need for self-expression. Some people look at tzniut as representative of a woman’s role in Judaism, and others see that attitude as an unhealthy and repressive obsession.
With this in mind, Scott invited Shayna Goldberg to have a difficult but necessary conversation about the challenges that surround the issue of tzniut.
The topics they discuss include whether we need to redouble our efforts to emphasize that tzniut applies to men as well as to women; why it seems that many women find tzniut more challenging and repressive than other aspects of Torah Judaism; what is a healthy way to teach tzniut without turning it into an obsession; to what degree societal factors influence our perception of what is considered modest behavior; the difficulty in that women are told to downplay their sexuality, whereas this very requirement itself sexualizes them; the fact that the laws of tzniut that women are told to follow were codified by men; whether following tzniut undermines self-expression; the reality that we often use the yardstick of modesty to declare whether someone is religious; and more.
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