Sunday, August 16, 2009

Right to Set Their Own Rules

Over Shabbos, the conversation turned to some new tznius guidelines implemented in the Satmar community. The items specifically discussed included the decision to ban both shells and "the layered look".

The irony about the latter item was that just this past week I caved, and bought a very sweet, folky t-shirt to wear over my long-sleeve t-shirts. So as I sat there at the table, it was dressed for the very first time in banned item #2. This coincidence/timing actually furthered the conversation, so despite my initial embarrassment, I'm glad in the end that I was dressed as I was.

With regards to shells, it was commented by the women at the table that shells do tend to 1. move around (I suggested pinning them in place), and 2. draw attention to that part of the body, i.e. whatever pieces the shell is filling in, that's where the eye tends to fall. I suppose that the shells in question are of the tank top kind, with regards to comment 1, although I couldn't be certain.

As for the layered look, one woman scoffed (and commented that she liked how I looked in my outfit as proof), but another pointed out that the community has a right to set rules for themselves to follow. As non-Satmar, we can choose to either associate with them and follow the guidelines, or go elsewhere. I thought that was a particularly insightful comment. As for the whole issue of fashion, I can understand it. But then again, I've never been a slave to fashion. I like simple and neat, and am never up on the latest trends. So perhaps I'm not the best one to chime in. I will say that I am not generally a fan of the layered look (in spite of the compliment I was paid, lol), because it tends to look "forced", aka trying too hard to be hip. Again, what do I know?

Anyhow, I found the guidelines to be an interesting discussion point, and I hope I've provided some fodder for further discussion regarding current tznius standards, across communities.


  1. I agree that community has a right to set whatever rules they choose. I am not Satmar and don't wear layers (at least I don't think in the context of this ban). On the other hand, it often feels like the topic of the day is, "what else can we ban?" I mean, c'mon - if the outfit covers knees and elbows, is not low cut or tight and not bright red, why the heck forbid it? (on a personal note, i am still not getting the ban on slits.)

  2. Re: the ban on slits, I hear you, if the slit is from below the knee. I, for one, prefer not to waddle like a penguin down the street.

    I can understand the ban though if the slit cuts above the knee so you see the back thereof. And I suppose maybe the total ban is due to the same factor of drawing attention to one part of the body? Of course, since I only heard of that edict post-move to Brooklyn, I can't say for sure.

  3. Here are some of the more interesting Satmar bans:

    Adults are not allowed to ride bikes because goyim do it. Apparently goyim don't drive cars.

    Women are not allowed to drive cars because they will drive to do something untznius. Getting carservice and going somewhere with a strange man is 100% ok.