modesty

British Jews Object to Ultra-Orthodox Sect’s Decree Banning Women from Driving

Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS
Ultra-Orthodox Jews watch a wedding ceremony in Jerusalem on June 10, 2014. Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

Two prominent leaders of England’s Jewish community and a representative of the chief rabbi have joined in repudiating rabbis from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in London that have banned women from driving.

Rabbis from the small Belz community have decreed that as of August children would not be allowed to study if their mothers drive them to school.

The decree was motivated out of a desire to keep “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp,” the rabbis said, according to a report in The Jewish Chronicle.

Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects?

Karen Birdsall (L) and Kammi Bean sign at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Lenexa Ward. RNS photo: Sally Morrow

When Mormon leaders sense a decline of moral standards in the world, they roll out sermons on modesty.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, they preached against miniskirts and hot pants; in today’s sex-drenched society, it’s spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, and skinny jeans.

The message remains largely the same: Cover up, lest you cause the males around you to sin.

It’s often couched in the rhetoric of “virtue” and usually aimed at young women, even girls.

Creating Equal

WE OWE A lot to Anne-Marie Slaughter. Last summer, the Princeton University professor’s Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” kicked off an overdue, protracted national-scale debate on the difficulty of juggling the demands of professional success and committed parenting, the likes of which we haven’t had in a while. Shortly after Slaughter’s polemic hit newsstands, Marissa Mayer, just 37, was named CEO of Yahoo!, becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company at the time and stirring controversy when she revealed that she was seven months pregnant. (Months later, she banned telecommuting companywide and was sharply criticized by some as being “anti-parent.”)

Then, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg got in on the action, publishing in March the ambitiously titled Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In the following months, it sat at the top of bestseller lists, with staggering sales triggering multiple printings. Sandberg, one of the wealthiest women in the world, donates all related profits to her newly established nonprofit, also called Lean In, encouraging women to form consciousness-raising Lean In Circles, in which they’ll discuss money and maternity.

Suddenly, there was a lot of estrogen in the air. A year into this cultural conversation, we’re still trying to make sense of what it all means.

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It's Hip to be Plain

ONE SUNDAY EVENING during high school, friends from my Mennonite church and I drove around Lancaster County, Pa., stealing mattresses. Bored by too many evenings of roller skating and Truth or Dare, we, like teenagers everywhere, landed on thievery as the solution to adolescent ennui. Having found out which of our friends were away from home, we showed up at their houses, told their parents about our prank, and swore them to secrecy. Then we clomped up narrow staircases to their sons’ and daughters’ bedrooms and wrestled mattresses back downstairs and onto the bed of a pickup truck. Just before our getaways, we left notes on our friends’ dressers, signed with what we thought was a most clever alias: “The Mennonite Mafia.”

We had no idea that 25 years later, Amish Mafia would be a blockbuster reality show, its first episode attracting 10 times more viewers than there are Amish people. Had you told us then that a bunch of Amish and Mennonite kids growing up a few miles away would someday parlay boredom-induced shenanigans into a hit cable TV series, I don’t know whether we would have been flattered or jealous. Kate Stoltzfus? Rebecca Byler? Lebanon Levi? People with names like these—our “plain-dressing” Amish neighbors and the more conservative Mennonite kids we went to school with—were the butt of our jokes, not the cynosures of popular culture.

Only a few decades after we and our families exited the conspicuous conservatism of plain Anabaptism, mass culture is flocking toward it. From Amish-themed reality TV shows to Christian romance novels with Amish characters and settings, the media have finally landed the lucrative Amish account, although the furniture industry and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise” got there first. Americans’ enthrallment with the Amish—and schadenfreude about their sometimes wayward youth—has rarely been more intense.

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Rethinking Modesty

Photo: Barcelona Fashion Week Jorge Cubells Biela / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Barcelona Fashion Week Jorge Cubells Biela / Shutterstock.com

When I was growing up, the only thing that could be said about clothing was that it should be “modest,” and ideally not too “worldly.” “Modesty” was proof-texted from 1 Timothy 2:9: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”

Not looking “worldly” usually meant not being too fashionable — neither dressing in accordance with what was popular in the mainstream nor wearing anything with strong counterculture associations: no skater pants for boys, no ripped jeans for girls. This is what was meant, apparently, by 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world, or anything in the world.”

While it seems that fewer churches are pushing the second issue — except, perhaps, to offer OMG-wear and other Christian versions of whatever is popular — modesty continues to be a topic of interest. Most American Christian definitions of modesty involve “not showing too much skin.” The question of male lust is often a part of the discussion. But in context, that doesn’t seem to be what Paul is talking about at all: modesty, in 1 Timothy 2:9, is about not flaunting your wealth, which is a surprisingly important thing in the Epistles as well as the Gospels. Braids and gold and pearls have nothing to do with not looking like the other, non-Christian, worldly women. The opposite of “modest” is not “sexually provocative,” but “flashy.”

FIFA Agrees to Test Special Hijab for Female Soccer Players

TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Australian-Egyptian soccer player Assmaah Helal wears a hijab, during a training session. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Muslim female soccer players are celebrating a decision by the International Football Association Board to allow them to test specially designed head coverings for four months.

Soccer's international governing body, known as FIFA, has prohibited headscarves since 2007, citing safety concerns. The new headscarves will be fastened with Velcro rather than pins.

The headscarf prohibition has generated controversy among fans of the world's most popular team sport, especially in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

No. Tim Tebow Will Not Show You His Underpants.

Tebow on the sidelines (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.
Tebow on the sidelines at the Divisional Playoffs (Broncos v Patriots) 1/12/12. Getty Images.
"The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'"

~ I Sam 16:7 (NRSV)


Now, this may come as a great disappointment to a few Tim Tebow fans out there, but apparently the star quarterback of the Denver Broncos will not, we repeat, will NOT be stripping down to his skivvies for one of those famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) Jockey undewear ads.

Tebow is the new spokesman for Jockey. But unlike '70s baseball heartthrob Jim Palmer (the relatively hirsute gentleman in the white Jockey briefs to your right) or soccer god (and father of four) David Beckham in his smoldering Emporio Armani undergarment spreads, the quarterback known as much for his Christian faith as his agility on the grid iron will not be posing in his underwear for the, well, underwear company.

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