Why do aidel maidels need to be so tznius? The mashal is often given to a precious diamond, which is kept hidden away in a safe, not exposed where anyone can see or steal it.
In the opening anecdote of Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s latest article, a NYC taxi driver explains the problem with this comparison:
We usually don’t take a car,” the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. “But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to — “
The yeshiva boy’s date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: “Sir, he doesn’t really care about the heels. It’s my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won’t even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are…”
The driver turns the corner. “That’s the problem with religion, it’s sexist,” he says, looking at her in his mirror. “I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It’s all a bunch of sexist garbage.”
The boy and girl laugh nervously over the profanity, and the girl says slowly, “Well, I don’t think religion itself is sexist, it’s just that chauvinists still exist…” She casts the boy a look.
The boy turns back to the driver: “But don’t you agree, sir, that if you have the most precious diamond in the world, you keep it wrapped up? You don’t take it to the streets to show the entire world?”
The girl gasps silently — she is taken backwards in time, back to the apologetics they taught in 7th grade, again and again, bas melech, kol kvoda pnima, a princess’s honor is all inside, a divine jewel to be kept hidden…
But before she can respond, the driver presses the brakes. He turns around and faces the yeshiva boy, and says slowly, his voice shaking with rage: “Listen to me, boy. This is not an object you’re talking about. This is a living, breathing human being.”
What he is saying is: when you lock someone away like a diamond, you are treating them like property, not a person.
This is how objectification works: By preventing other humans from meeting your “diamond,” you prevent other humans from acknowledging their humanity. The other humans only know about them from descriptions. This, essentially, turns them into objects defined by their description.
Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:
If men learn about women strictly from a photo proffered by a shadchan, then they will accept and reject women based on the simplest algorithm: appearances. Which objectifies women. So, by keeping women hidden from men, you objectify them. You do not protect them.
I can’t believe I blogged about shidduchim for seven years and never realized this.
But there you go: that is the root problem. The reason why shidduch dating is so offensive.
There’s another, similar, point to be made about sexualization. Arguably, there is nothing overtly (or possibly even covertly) sexual about a woman’s knees. However, if a gentleman glances at your knees, blushes, looks away, and refuses to look at you anymore, then your knees have just been sexualized. And you have just been turned into an object. A sexual object. Something that can’t be looked at without creating sexual thoughts, because everything about you — and especially your knobbly knees — are sexual.
In the opening story, the boy (and yes, he’s a boy not a man or even a guy) decided that Avital’s skirt was too short to be seen in public. He begins making decisions for her about how she ought to appear in public, on the theory that she’s not a person, she’s a diamond. Bam! Objectified! Sexualized!
So you see why Avital was a little upset.
By the way, I’m awed by her presence of mind and her guts in telling that smug bochur how it is. She’s my new rebbe. I’m a total fan. Go read her article.
Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.