Myth: Who cares if publications erase women from view by not using photos? What’s the big deal?
Truth: It’s a very big deal and nothing to ignore. I Won’t Disappear
By now, many people have noticed the new phenomenon of not showing women in photos. There are Jewish publications that won’t use photos of women. Either they won’t use a photo at all or they’ll use photos of the woman’s husband or father, or they’ll Photoshop the women out of the group photo. They claim that it’s about tzniut. I’m telling you that it’s not tzniut.
From me, you get the truth.
It used to be that most Jewish publications just wanted to be careful that they don’t use any photos of women who are not dressed b’tzniut. There are publications that still do that. And there are groups that won’t allow any advertisements that feature women not dressed b’tzniut. On that, I agree. Why? Because of what true tzniut is.
True tzniut is about who you are as a person and what you have to offer and how you feel about yourself and your relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. When it comes to how we dress, we’re supposed to dress in ways that allow others to see who we really are as people. Showing too much of our bodies only distracts from our personalities and draws attention to the bodies. When we wear clothes that fit properly and flatter our bodies and draw attention to our faces, we’re directing people to look at our personalities. One fashion guru referred to the face as “your center of communication, where your true personality shines through.” Exactly.
This is also why I always remind people to dress in ways that reflect their unique personal styles. It’s why I rarely make any specific recommendations in terms of style details. Yes, fit and flattery count, but that’s because they reflect the most important aspect of you: your health. You always want to make the statement of being healthy and taking good care of yourself. But it’s important to make other statements about yourself. Smart, creative, artsy, edgy, sporty, relaxed, ladylike, and others are all good things (feel free to add your own positive adjectives about yourself).
The problem is when tzniut gets corrupted to the point that even a woman’s face – where she shows her personality – is deemed too provocative for public view. In fact, all that does is to turn the woman into a sexual object, which is precisely what true tzniut is trying to avoid. It also puts even more of the onus of tzniut on women while forgetting that men are just as obligated in tzniut as women.
Recently, friends of mine have been posting photos of themselves, either alone or with others, with the hashtags of #Iwontdisappear and #frumwomenhavefaces. I loved the idea so much that I did it too. The message is that our Torah and our halachah have never tried to erase women from view. In fact, one more thing that sets Judaism apart from most other cultures and religions is that when a woman takes a stand for traditional values, she becomes a heroine in the Jewish history books, unlike in other cultures that would treat her as an old-fashioned prude. Earlier, I referred to the phenomenon of erasing women as a new one, and that’s because despite what some might say about mesorah, this practice is very new: it only started in the 1990s.
I do understand that there are women who prefer to stay behind the scenes. There’s a fashion guru who once described just this type of fashion personality. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s who you really are. But it’s a choice that only you should be making. And while there’s nothing wrong with staying out of the spotlight (if that’s who you really are), there’s everything wrong with hiding.
True tzniut means sharing your personality with the world along with everything you have to offer to make the world a better place. Instead of allowing ourselves to disappear, let’s reappear and show the world what tzniut really is.