There has been a recent trend among many “frum” publications and institutions in which women are not seen. The publications won’t use photos of women or girls. If there’s a story involving women, they might use photos of the men involved but nothing of the women. Or they might blur or pixilate the woman’s face. Or they might photoshop the women and girls in some way. I recently saw an ad via social media that was supposedly for children’s clothing, but they removed the face of the girl and replaced it with a doll face. That goes beyond disrespectful all the way to creepy. The institutions might advertise fundraising events in which women are honored, but only the men are displayed. Or they might advertise their services and while they’ll show the male professionals, they won’t show the female professionals.
Of course, all of this is done in the name of tzniut. As if we women are not supposed to be seen because the men can’t control themselves.
The truth is that there is NOTHING tzniut about erasing women from view.
One of the main points of tzniut is that men and women deserve to be seen as people and not as sexual objects. By erasing women from view, even when they are dressed b’tzniut, they are only hypersexualizing women and turning us into sexual objects. That’s the exact opposite of tzniut.
Plus, tzniut is just as incumbent on men as it is on women. Erasing women only puts the onus further on the women. That is, the men are fobbing their responsibility off on the women. Not good at all.
One of our responsibilities as Jews is to be an Ohr LaGoyim and bring good values and teachings into the world. When we make Torah and mitzvot look bad in some way, it’s a Chillul Hashem. There’s a very prevalent belief in the secular world that Torah Judaism is sexist/biased against women. Erasing women from view only perpetuates that myth and thus is a Chillul Hashem.
I am proud to be part of a group of people- women and men- who are trying to raise awareness of this. Recently, my friend Merri came up with an idea. Every day until Shavuot, she’s posting selfies with the hashtag of #Iwontdisappear. My friend Ann suggested adding the hashtag of #frumwomenhavefaces and that was well-received. Shavuot is when we celebrate receiving the Torah and mitzvot, including the mitzvah of TRUE tzniut which demands that we women be seen. I myself have been doing this. I don’t want my daughter or my niece to ever feel that they have to hide themselves over someone else’s misguided idea of tzniut.
In honor of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, I’m adding this post.
On Shavuot, we’re supposed to be celebrating Torah and mitzvot. Let’s celebrate the mitzvah of tzniut (among others) by showing our real selves and not letting ourselves be erased.