Dear friends, sexist Haredi nutcases, and people who ride public transit everywhere, 

I have great freaking legs. They can walk for miles and miles and not get tired. They are strong and healthy and baruch hashem they don’t have knee or ankle issues. They can help me lift large things (bend at the knees, not the waist!). And they look AWESOME in short skirts. 

I’m not going to cover them up for you. If we go to the same dinner party or minyan and you’re distracted by my legs, that’s on you. And perhaps you should explore that a little bit–what is it inside you that can’t stop staring? What comments have your coworkers made around you? What advertisements have you seen? What experiences have you had that make it difficult for you to focus on the content of my words and actions? Go talk to a therapist for a while and give me a call when you can keep it together enough to have a grown up conversation.

I like my body, and I like my mind, and I think both my body and my mind deserve to be respected. When I wear frum clothes, I’m respecting both my body and my mind, and I insist that you do the same. When I wear hotpants and fishnets, I’m respecting both my body and my mind, and I insist that you do the same. For me, frum is about culture and tradition rather than respect and modesty. “Respect” means nothing when we don’t respect women’s minds, and “modesty” is often just thinly veiled sexism–no one gets up in arms when men reveal their collarbones or elbows. 

If you really respect a woman, you listen to what she’s saying, no matter what clothes she has on.  When people try to cover up the female body in the name of “respect,” they are focusing on her as just a body rather than a human being who has a mind, an opinion, and a soul. Fetishizing the female body by covering it up is just as disrespectful as fetishizing it by putting it on display for all to see. Women are people, with thoughts. Listen to the thoughts, and let them control their own appearances. That’s respect. 

I acknowledge that there are norms in our society that make it shocking and distracting to wear, say, a pink corset to work as a professor. I admit to adhering to such norms in work environments. However, when socializing and simply appearing in public, we have the ability to push back against such norms and wear things that make us feel comfortable. If we don’t push back against such norms periodically, they will encroach further and further upon our right to express ourselves–because such norms have been put in place and reinforced by societies that don’t respect our minds. 

A note on class and dangerous neighborhoods: they exist. And they suck. They pose their own problems for self-expression through feminine clothes–but being frum is not the answer. If you see me walking down a bad street in a short skirt, don’t worry about me. Worry about the other guy, because these legs know taekwondo. 

I am not going to wear long skirts that cover my knees all the time. Sometimes I will, sometimes I won’t. I will not always cover my collarbones and elbows–because, you know what? I don’t think cleavage at a party is a bad thing. And don’t get me started on hair. If Gd wanted Jewish women to cover our hair all the time, Gd wouldn’t have made our hair so beautiful. 

So lay off the scolding, whispering, and eyebrow raising. Lay off the judgement, whether out loud or inner monologue. As awesome as my legs are, my thoughts are even better–so focus enough to hear them, or you’ll miss out. 

your favorite rebbetzin in training,

  JoJo