Frum?Just kiddin’ about the title. Muffti noticed this and figured he better blog about it before one of the more religious types around here goes ‘look, the hidden hand of hashem in everything including body images disorders!” (c’mon, Laya, you know you would have…)

Anyhow, a recent study on body image by Prof. Yael Letzer of the University of Haifa’s School of Social Work, working with Shira Gefen and Prof. Ora Gilber, based her findings on interviews with 320 religiously observant Jewish girls in 9th through 12th grades. The finding? There is a positive correlation between levels of observance and lack of body image problems, eating disorders. Self esteem generally seemed to be higher amongst the girls who were religious.

The explanation? According to Letzer:

Sex roles are much more defined, and this constitutes a type of protection for the teenage girl and prevents her from being dissatisfied with her body and, developing eating disorders…Jewish tradition praises internal characteristics and traditional principles and not beauty…Instead, religious girls focus on a strict lifestyle and observance of the commandments.

Makes sense, Muffti guesses. Actually, it seems incredibly speculative. Maybe the requirements of tznius make it easier to be happy about body shape: why worry when no one is going to see it anyways?!? But it’s good to know that subservient gender role (get your engines running, apologists!) at least comes with a side benefit.

Thanks to Jpost.

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  • From the article:

    The researchers’ main explanation for this finding was that Western culture glorified thinness as an important value representing beauty and an expression of self-control, independence and high social status. But religious Jewish society directs girls from a young age to succeed in their tasks of being wives and mothers and puts much stress on their functioning inside the house and less stress on their appearance and what they do outside the home. “Sex roles are much more defined, and this constitutes a type of protection for the teenage girl and prevents her from being dissatisfied with her body and, developing eating disorders,” said Letzer.

    She added that observant girls are taught to internalize traditional values such as modesty and simplicity rather than beauty and appearance. “Jewish tradition praises internal characteristics and traditional principles and not beauty,” said Letzer. “Instead, religious girls focus on a strict lifestyle and observance of the commandments.”

  • Yeah muffti! You’re right! I’m tired of being an apologist! Women are sooo much better off in secular society. Really. These religious fanatics who keep their wimmins subservient have nothing to teach us. Now pardon me while I watch some quality television. My “Girls Gone Wild” DVDs have just come in. Oh yeah, shake that ass baby.

  • I feel bad for the girl whose picture that it. It reminds me of when they do stories about obesity on the news and they run footage of fat people eating or walking down the street.

    As for the invitation for comment from apologists, I’ll give a reply of the length that is due such a taunt:

    subservient, my ass.

  • i agree with yaaziel on both counts. the use of the picture is pretty cruel. muffti, it is insulting to observant/orthodox women to make victims out of them all. you are making a mockery of the life that many women choose to live. as if there are no subservient/abused secular women.

  • GM
    I fail to see the connection between the article and the headlines.

    Frum girls do mind getting fat. Most are just not obsessed, starved, walking skeletons.

    And as far as being able to cover things up by being tznius… I dont think the study got into this area of research.

    Anyway, thanks for the insults to all frum women.

  • People should understand nutrition and eat in a reasonable way. And they should enjoy their food in a delighted, reasonable way. And they should be active in a reasonable way – young and strong without being nuts about it one way or the other. My mother used to say, get out and run around. She fed me simple food. My father taught me to love an ice cream. My mother taught me to stand, and sit, up straight.

    Not to brag or anything but it worked.

    This stuff is hard. It is worth working on. In a reasonable way.

    Mufti, find a girl who has a positive, normal, non-hysterical attitude toward food, and who enjoys a good dinner at a nice place. Take her to such a place, and keep talking. But not about the food. Women hate it when you talk to them only to ignore them and chow down when the food is brought. Save that for marriage.

    Thank you for bringing up a very painful and difficult subject.

    Yes it is easier when one’s bits and pieces are more covered. One is not as subject to the calipers in the boys’ eyes.

    But hair and makeup .. that’s still got to be dealt with, correctly.

    A nice laugh and some decent perfume go a long way. Don’t forget to have good teeth no matter what it costs.

  • And yes, rigidly defined sex roles give you automatic value, even though you have to try to be a good specimen. That goes for men, too. The ugliest, stupidest man is precious when they need one more for a minion, because somebody’s parent died. Whatever you think of him, he has automatic value just because he is a man.

    For a woman, a social group that values a warm soul and a fertile body is going to be easier to succeed in than one that likes a lean (covertly, man-like) appearance. Looking woman-ish just plain comes easier to women than looking flat, hard and straight-up-and down. And anyway, ours is not a gymnasia-based culture.

    As GM is learned, he knows the literal meaning of gymnasia.

    But he has a right to a wife who understands and likes food and is a reasonable weight for her height. Without being one of those gym people who think about their abs all day, what a bore.

  • An honest question: Is it not still a “subservient gender role” to need constant male approval?

    Western society has simply replaced a financial dependence men with a psychological one. The looks, come ons and attention we get from men (even when we find them distasteful) reassure us of our attactiveness, and our attractiveness is our prime value and the reason we are worthy to be loved.

    The day they put an accomplished female professor on the cover of a major “womens magazine” I will eat my proverbial hat. And that has nothing to do with the proverbial hand of God.

  • Wrong.

    There’s an abnormally high incidence of anorexia amongst shidduch-aged girls in some haredi groups, something many of us who’ve been around teenaged Lubovitcher girls have noticed anecdotally.

    Dr. Ira Sacker reports that in a study of Orthodox Jewish girls in Brooklyn, one out of nineteen were found to be eating disordered, a statistic 50% greater than the occurrence of these disorders in the general population.


  • Ah! You noticed!

    But you know, we are pretty looks-oriented, too. Oh NOOO. We just like a guy for his SOUL. His BRAIN. Yeah, right.

  • Not to strike controversy in terms of men’s and women’s roles, but the same goes for men, too. It’s not as prevalent, but sure we have our share of eating disorders. Pressure to build muscles.

    Western society has imposed on men and women a psychological dependence on one another. Women more, surely, because they’re the ones with boobs and nice butts and all the other things men slobber over like idiots. But men on the other hand are constantly seeking approval as well. Not just from women (pressure to look good goes for us, too), but also from men (pressure to be, well, a man).

    But…laya you’re definitely right. Would you mind sharing that hat with a little bit of lemon and salt with me when that female professor gets the cover?

  • Well this post is sensible. Just take a look at all the overfed yeshiva boys in Brooklyn who are fat because they don’t have anyone to look good for.

  • The trouble with being good-looking is you think you have forever.
    The trouble with not being good-looking is you think you can’t have sass, flash and charm, anyway.

    Never cook for a man who won’t carry you out of a burning building. Then you won’t be subservient.

    It helps to not be too fat, for that purpose. Easier to carry.

    So, cook lean cuisine. And don’t smoke in bed. We don’t want to test him, really.

    Unless he likes to cook. However, that does not mean you have to carry him out of the hypothetical, G-d forbid, burning building. Let’s face it. You can’t.

  • Uh, Andrew, I am not sure the psychological entanglement of women and men is socially imposed. We are all born with it.

    There is no understanding creatures so different from one’s self, but that is exactly what makes it all so interesting. You have front row seats to one of nature’s great mysteries, great spectacles, like Niagara Falls on a sunny day.

    Anything else is dull by comparison, ultimately.

    And mystery has beauty.

  • TM – you’re being disengenuous. You know whaat Laya meant by Women’s Magazine – Cosmo, Vogue etc. – mainstream Women’s magazines. Who even reads Ms. anymore anyway?

  • Well ck, my point, in case it wasn’t clear, is that in “secular society,” women are encouraged not to be subservient to men. How do I know this? Well, let’s start with the number of female graduate students in the United States, which exceeds the number of men in those programs. This includes law and medicine, arguably two of the most desirable educational programs. Throughout the business and academic worlds, there is a new emphasis on “diversity” and among the “minorities” that these companies consider part of a diverse workforce (or one they expect their vendors and suppliers to have), are…women. Fortune and Forbes have had women on their covers, so has Sports Illustrated.

    You know why nobody reads Ms. Magazine any more? Because in many respects their “mission” is now part of the mainstream. Just today I was reading an article and it pointed out that the lawyer in question – a woman – was the primary breadwinner in a family where the husband was a landscape architect.

    Is it possible to discuss the issues Muffti raises in his post? I realize he wasn’t gentle and there were a couple of jabs in there, but he raises an interesting point based on this study.

  • I think this has more to do with the lack of exposure to TV as Haredi families generally don’t have them. What was the island that saw a huge increase in eating disorders when they first got TV?

  • middle – funny you bring that up – If the number of female grad students exceeds male grad students, then why are the vast majority of professors..uhh…male?

    However, that wasn’t my point at all. I specifically said that “Western society has simply replaced a financial dependence men with a psychological one”.

    The number of female grad students doesn’t say anything about a woman’s ability to feel attractive and worthy of being loved in the absence of male approval.

    By the way, it might be eye opening to pick yourself up a copy of The Beauty Myth. I would be genuinely interested in what you thought about it.

  • laya : If the number of female grad students exceeds male grad students, then why are the vast majority of professors..uhh…male?

    have you heard the saying, “if you can’t do, teach!”

    haha… i kid. i kid.

  • There are more male professors for many reasons, but the main one is that it takes a long time to replace existing, tenured faculty and it’s only the last decade that has brought about these changes in graduate programs.

    Another reason has to do with society and instinct. Many people still believe that in a traditional household – or even on that is a well-run one – women should dominate the household part. Frankly, also, many women prefer to be in the house with their primary concern the children. I believe this is a very natural maternal instinct. It takes a great deal of time and energy to develop a career in any field and fairly or unfairly, women often have to choose between a desire to be the primary caregiver to their children and achieving success in their career. Most continue to choose family and children, and most who choose career usually have some form of strong support system at home (husband, grandparents, and yes, nannies).

    As to your point about “psychological” dependence, I know exactly what you mean since I feel “psychologically” dependent on my wife. When she says, “You don’t look so good today,” I run to the kitchen and drown my sorrows in chocolate and write shitty posts on Jewlicious. When she says, “Hey, that shirt looks good on you, despite the middle-aged paunch,” I immediately jump for joy and run to the kitchen for a beer and immediately post quality material on Jewlicious.

    In other words, Laya, our self-esteem tends to be affected by the opposite sex (or counterparts, for the homosexuals). Those men’s magazines tend to have a great deal of grooming and dressing advice for men…

    As for The Beauty Myth, it’s a complex and very involved topic. Society does have an impact on how women perceive themselves physically. Of course. And in some respects it can hurt women and their relationships, lives and careers. But it’s not all negative, it really can be a double edged sword. Women in our time are empowered in ways that they haven’t been in centuries, if not millenia. Men have to compete for women in ways that were unimaginable throughout most of history. And it’s not as if men aren’t affected by media depictions. If I watch enough tv and cinema, or read enough magazine profiles, I can only conclude that income is the hallmark of success for men, athletics are a sign of manhood and virility, and the ability to look like a Banana Republic model is de rigeur if the women are going to consider you anything but a sloth. Nobody wants those professors wearing tweed jackets and geeky glasses.

    Yup, secular society sucks.

    But we were talking about frum society…

  • Banana Republic model? Diesel maybe, Abercrombie and Fitch for sure, but Banana Republic? Even before being purchased by the Gap in 1983, BR was a brand aimed squarely at middle aged Middle America. Their ads are not very threatening or sexy and their clothing is suitable for soccer Moms and vacationing families. Yawn inducing is what they are…

    That having been said TM – do read the beauty myth. Show this post to intelligent women you respect and ask their opinions… See what happens.

    I love it when men feel free to tell women how great everything is for them now. Things may have evolved, but there remains lots to do.

  • Or perhaps a large part of being modest is not sharing everything with everyone and the frummer girls would never tell someone doing a study how they really think about their bodies. Just sayin’…

  • Oy,

    CK said:

    Yeah muffti! You’re right! I’m tired of being an apologist! Women are sooo much better off in secular society. Really.

    Muffti didn’t say they had it easy anywhere. The researchers themselves, however, described a society of firm gender roles where the woman ends up, well, doing ‘woman’s’ work as they say. Secular society may have its evils as well, but the level of freedom it allows women is staggering compared to what it was a mere 60 years ago and, while certainly not perfect, its getting better year by yera by all indications.

    And as for your ggw dvd, laugh all you like, women have the choice in secular society wheter or not to participate in such things. The VAST majority don’t and, Muffti takes it, appreciate the opportunity to choose.

    Ofri said:

    muffti, it is insulting to observant/orthodox women to make victims out of them all. you are making a mockery of the life that many women choose to live. as if there are no subservient/abused secular women.

    Muffti didn’t make victims out of any of them. Where do you get off accusing him of that? The article EXPLAINS lower food-problem-related rates by describing gender roles where the role of the woman is fairly clearly subservient. If you want to blame anyone for this, blame the writers of the article. Muffti never claimed that women in secular society weren’t subservient so he’s not sure what your point is: the idea was that secular society offers a range of options for women that, byt eh lights ofthe article, aren’t offered to orthodox women who grow up moulded to a certain gender role.

    As for the girl in the pic, Muffti grabbed a totally random one but your points are well taken. He’s asked ck to blurt he face beyond recognition (Muffti’s computer crashed and photoshop is no longer on his).

    Rabbi Yonah wrote:

    I fail to see the connection between the article and the headlines.

    Muffti apologizes, rabbi, but he’s feeling like you haven’t given him quite as close a read as he would like. After all, the very first line after the obviously insulting headline is:

    Just kiddin’ about the title.

    It was intended as a joke; the whole point of the problem of anorexia, bulimia is that it is the result partially of absurd body images, not the result of overweight people trying to lose weight and taking it to extreme measures to do so. It is a typical claim, however, of anorexics and bulimics that they feel loike they look fat. Hence the joke in the headline is something like this: orthodox women, nto suffering from these problems at the rate that secular women do, have no ridiculous conception of their body thinking that they are getting fat.

    Surely a man as well versed in the jewish tradition of interpretation could have given Muffti a more charitable read! Rarely does the Torah flag its itnerpretations as clearly as Muffti did by explicitly telling you to interpret the headline tongue-and-cheek!

    Laya said (a few things!):

    Western society has simply replaced a financial dependence men with a psychological one. The looks, come ons and attention we get from men (even when we find them distasteful) reassure us of our attactiveness, and our attractiveness is our prime value and the reason we are worthy to be loved.

    This is no doubt true. And, as Andrew points out, men have new ways of dependance as well since we can’t push you guys around (quite as much!) with money and organized marriages etc. In any case, bulimia and anorexia aren’t clearly a result of anything to do with what men want. Fashion magazines with twiggy models are bought by, ummn, women, not men. Playboy, FHM, GQ and the like all feature curvy busty women that certainly represent an airbrushed impossible fantasty but certainly do NOT represent anorexia as a good thing 🙂 In any case, the really sad thing about anorexia and bulimia is htat it seems to be feedback insensitive: you can tell a girl she’s beautiful and skinny all you like and her body image doens’t seem to improve one whit. We are slowly, using standard scientific methodology and our deeping udnerstanding of neuroscience, getting to the root of the problem whcih seems to be seratonin related and hopefully we shall have a fix for that.

    In the meantime, let Muffti point out something rather importnat: ‘secular’ society is a thing in its goddamned infancy, at least as we concieve of it today. The idea of female equality has come about quite slowly: surely muffti doens’t have to point out hte embarssingly late dates that women were even allowed to vote and until the World Wars they were not really thought of as useful in teh workplace for skilled labour.

    So back off a bit. Secular society offers a range of opportunities NEVER BEFORE had by women and it has developed very quickly and is still settling in. The other alternative (defining gender roles rigidly) has had, well, since the beggining of humanity’s reign on this earth to develop.

    This dovetails exactly with TMs point: of course there are fewer female professors. Big surprise given that profs have tenure and can’t be replaced until they move, retire or die. But the rate of replacement by women is high.

    And laya, Muffti suggests that you go and read the feminine mystique: is not hte whole point there that tightly based gender role society leave women feeling shafter and unfulfilled on the whole, who, lacking the language to express it end up depressed and frustrated? Do you wanna throw feminist classics back and forth all day?

    SEcular society is new, peeps, new and improving. Of coruse it has its problems and Muffti never denied that it did so much of this whining about the gender role crack are compeletly and totally irrelevant.


  • CK said:

    I love it when men feel free to tell women how great everything is for them now. Things may have evolved, but there remains lots to do.

    Yeah, see this is the kind of drivel muffti is talking about. Nowhere in the post did Muffti say such a thing, And no one denies that there is lots to do. Muffti is pretty sure TM didnt’ say otherwise. It’s just absurd to think that anyone was saying otherwise so wtf is your point?

    But here’s one thing that secular society does: it provides a forum for women to talk about these things, critique the society they are a part of and slowly institute change. People tell eachother how good they have it relative to previous times a lot, and you know why? Because along the relevant dimensions being discussed, its true!

  • Jewish Mother, thanks for the kind words, cryptic as they may be at times. Surely GM knows what a gymnasia is: a words for high school in europe 🙂 Fear not about the women Muffti sees…he likes his girlz kinda curvy and none have any problems enjoying dinner at nice places (his wallet would certainly prefer a woman who enjoyed dinner at a slightly less nice place…)

  • Muffti– thanks for the highly entertaining post (which, for you, amounted to something of a martyrdom operation).

    Female beauty, at bottom (no pun intended), is a pernicious, misogynist construct. That graven image of Natalie Portman I made into a screensaver? Click, deleted!

    Off to find an Andrea Dworkin .jpeg to replace it . . .

  • Muffti– we’ll do it! You’re right on the merits above, particularly about eating disorders. Men do not find the anorexic look attractive.

    And secular society is just fine, as long as it’s not a source of values. It’s about freedom to choose. The choices are up to us. For some religious folks, of various persuasions, that poses a danger, an impermissible burden, and freedom itself must be rejected. Not a winning strategy in the long run, I suspect.

  • Please take this photo down, it’s really not nice to use it if she didn’t give you permission. It might be a recent yearbook or graduation pic and people might know who she is because the communities are so small. She looks very,very familiar to me.

  • Although I am not frum (and the conversation seems to have deviated from that topic, anyway), I am a doctoral student in a group of mostly women, and I am the “breadwinner” in my family (such a pathetic term), so I have certainly been interested in where the comments have gone. Do I expect to be on the cover of Vogue? No. Why? Well, I haven’t done anything secularly fantastic recently, (I’m also not a professor, so no one would be eating his or her hats) and I’m…zaftig. Do I care? Sure, I’m human. Does it make me feel like I should have done less with the intellectual pursuits and more with physical challenges—–only about once a month; it’s never too late to get into a positive fitness cycle. We need to be teaching people positive ways to look at their bodies rather than the “you’ll never get a man unless you’re a stick” concept. (and you can only cover so much with long sleeves and skirts—trust me)
    I think Jewish Mother has some great points about teeth, perfume, and makeup—all taken with a grain of sensibility rather than appearance-obsession.

    I’m intrigued by the comment (joking) about liking men for their brains. Actually, that is what I liked about my husband when we were dating: he read for fun. Recreational reading was at the top of my figurative “list” of what I wanted in a man because, as a teacher, I knew that reading for fun usually indicated strong comprehension abilities, often a sense of humor, and NUMBER ONE—he wouldn’t mind if I often got lost in a book!

    I teach in a secular school and in a supplementary religious school. Body issues pervade the environment of young men and women: we have both genders on diet pills and obsessing over their bodies. I should be so lucky to have them obsessing over their minds and opportunities for learning.

  • Muffti, we’ll do it!

    You’re right on the foregoing merits, btw. I don’t know of any men who find the anorexic look attractive.

    And three cheers for secular society– as long as it’s not a source of values. It’s really just a setting of freedom, a space to weigh and make choices. Which is why so many religious folks, of various persuasions, find it threatening. If Ofri’s right, and some women truly “choose” to live in a religious community, eschewing the broader culture, more power to ’em. As long as it’s a bona fide choice.

    And if it is a choice, we can thank secular culture for it.

  • Oy, ck!

    Please, spare me the lecture about how easy or hard it is for women. Really.

    Again, as I wrote above, we no longer read Ms. Magazine, ck, because that culture is no longer radical or cutting edge. It has largely become our society.

    We’re all affected by media portrayals of our respective sexes, to the point where entire relationships, marriages, homes bought and sold, cars driven, careers made and broken, etc., are dictated by the impact of media upon us. Upon us all – men and women.

    If you like, we can also start talking about boys and how the majority of boys underperform in schools across North America these days, sometimes quite significantly as compared to girls. We can talk about how boys, instead of being outside running their asses off in soccer and baseball games, find themselves sitting in closed classrooms having to write out essays without really having the fine motor skills or patience to do so. Advantage? Girls. The class has to be quiet and nobody can shake or move because they have to listen to the teacher? Advantage? Girls. And on and on. Other than engineering and certain sciences (not life sciences, but more typically electrical, mechanical and other forms of engineering), women have taken leading positions with respect to academic performance at every level post-kindergarten over men. And when they get out into the workplace, it’s not harder for these women to get a job. Hilary Rodham Clinton is going to run for President and 100% of the Senators from California are women and a majority of the law students and medical students in the US are women. Oh, did I mention that all this sexual stuff that subjugates women has also empowered them sexually and liberated them in a way that was unimaginable in the past? No longer is the father Tevya going to cut a deal with the Butcher to give away his daughter in marriage. The daughter chooses whom to marry and can earn enough that she can also leave that man if he is no longer someone she wants as a husband.

    This issue with boys and their problems in school is actually quite disturbing, but virtually nobody talks about it (yet, they will when it becomes too obvious to miss) because some women’s groups have continued to claim that it’s girls who are underserved in schools despite consistent evidence to the contrary. Did we discuss what happens to men as they age and find that in their 50s they suddenly become unemployable because of workplace bias, often after a lifetime of providing for their family? Is it possible that while elements of The Beauty Myth are certainly true and valid, the problem cuts both ways and in many respects men are no less than women also victims of this world, its media and all the cultural changes that have come about?

    We were talking about life for women in frum society when somebody tried to make a parallel with secular society, suggesting that in some ways it’s just as bad.

    Here is the parallel: in secular society the likelihood is that a graduate student in a highly valued field and in a less valued field is most likely a woman; in frum society the likelihood of a woman ever becoming a scholar of any sort, much less the dominant party in a yeshiva is not only remote, it is virtually unheard of. The former gets to develop her potential while the latter may achieve physical potential by raising children and making a home, but may find that she is not achieving – or even getting the opportunity to attempt to achieve – her intellectual potential. What is worse is that she probably never even had the choice.

    Let’s not beat around the bush any more, ck and Laya, this is the point. Why not address this honestly instead of deflecting the conversation to secular women? Is that woman who stays at home, usually bearing large numbers of children and raising them, and who is not expected to become a torah scholar in her community and probably can’t even study torah, fulfulling her intellectual potential?

  • Amen, TM for stating the point so, well, clearly if not briefly. Shame on teh rest of you for missing the point and having no sense of humour (except you, Morrissey!)

  • Just what was the point, exactly? It looks to me like Muffti just put up a big Rorshcach inkblot and let everybody go wild with it.

    You should get that Tourette’s checked out, Morrissey.

    If you and Muffti are ever out in the SF Bay Area and want to go out for drinks, let me know.

  • If that’s how you see it, Ephraim, that’s very interesting 😉

    Muffti is moving near the SF Bay area next year (August). Can he take you up on that offer then?

  • Muffti:

    Sure. Let me know when you blow into town. Where will you be living? You can even be my Shabbos oyrech sometime if you want. I won’t tell anyone.

    My point was that you, as the CEO of Instigators R Us, and with tongue lodged firmly in cheek (so far as I could tell), threw out what amounted to raw meat in front of a starving lion. Of course, everybody went nuts.

    The assumption that Orthodox girls, whatever their subservient roles in frum society, are less obsessive about their body image than secular girls because they know they will be valued for something else other than physical beauty may not be such a bad assumption, if one also assumes that secular girls are judged more on their looks. But, then, I’m not a philosopher.

    And, speaking as a male, men are most certainly expected by “society” to look and act in a certain way and fulfill a certain role. We don’t always like it, and we often have problems when we can’t live up to what is expected of us, by either our bosses at work, our friends, and, most especially, the women we want to like us.

    Hey, life is tough.

  • Muffti,

    Next time you write “Hashem,” would you mind capitalizing the H? You’re only talking about the creator of the univers.

  • julie, considering the fact that there are no capital or lower case letters in Hebrew, and the fact the ha is a mere indefinite article, I’d say why nit pick? or, if we must nit pick, next time you write universe, would you mind including the silent ‘e’ at the end?

  • Muffit didn’t say it was a bad assumption: he just said that it was speculative. As for the meat before lions, Muffti can only say that the tongue was firmly in the cheek and he’s a little annoyed that people think so badly of him that they went, as you say, nuts.

    Istigators R Us. hehehehe. Muffti would be delighted to be your oreyach anytime, so long as you are his wingman when we hit hte bay area bars 😉

    Julie, qua atheist, it’s awfully difficult for muffti to bleieve that Hashem created anything. On the other hand, it’s a proper name (even if it’s not a proper name of anyone) and Muffti guesses that even Zeus gets a capital ‘z’ so, fine.

  • I’m not averse to being your wingman, Muffti. I’m probably old enough to be your father, so if there are any chicks, they aren’t going to pay any attention to me, I would imagine. Just don’t expect me to be Gummo to your Groucho.

  • I think the focus on “subservience” betrays the researchers own prejudices, and misses the point.

    I would bet a lot of money that a similar study of ANY community with sex-segregated education through high school (like catholics used to be) would find the same result.

    My sister attended an all-girls program for gifted girls that was part of the NY public school system (basically the sister school of the famous Stuyvesant High, which used to be all-boy).

    She enjoyed a stimulating intellectual environment that was free of many heavy layers of social/sexual competition and trauma. There were no barriers to girls taking leadership positions, no pressures to be popular, severely reduced focus on appearances, and close friendships unmarred by boy-oriented competition.

    In short, a self-based experience during crucial formative years – rather than the externally-oriented, popularity-based wringer that most teens, male AND female, are put through.

    During her junior year it was announced that the school would go co-ed – because the feminazis had successfully forced Stuyvesant to admit girls. My sister, her friends, and their parents almost unanimously opposed the move, and predicted that girls would suffer under the new regime.

    A follow-up study predicted just that: by the time all grades were co-ed, female leadership of student clubs had withered, and girls trailed guys in academic acheivement.

    This is where the frum world makes a difference in self-esteem. Compared to a secular society in which pre-teens are already thinking of themselves as sexual actors/objects, the sex-segregated school system gives both girls and boys a social arena with a different, healthier focus.

    It has nothing to do with “subservience”.

  • Classification and role definition come naturally to society even to secular society. Roles by nature are restrictive. The beauty of secularism is the choice to embrace or reject assigned roles.
    Of course a religious lifestyle has an upside, just as a secular lifestyle has a downside. If a woman can suffer living upto some rigid definition of what she ought to be then more power to her.

    Laya: The need for approval is universal. It’s the degree to which one needs the approval of males that makes her subservient or not; and that isn’t dictated by secularism.
    Western society has simply replaced a financial dependence men with a psychological one. The looks, come ons and attention we get from men (even when we find them distasteful) reassure us of our attactiveness, and our attractiveness is our prime value and the reason we are worthy to be loved.

  • I beg to differ. I also attended a girl’s only high school for 4 years in what you call the “crucial formative years”. And all that does is provide a sheltered environment that in the greater world does not exist. After you finish high school, what then? You are hit by reality and unless very strong, can be overwhelmed by it, since after all, you had no preparation for it. So i don’t agree with your opinion that a male only or female only environment provides anyone with any sort of self esteem advantage. At the end of the day you have to sort it out for yourself in the world. I would never recommend such schools to anyone. But what does that have to do with anything?

    Then I don’t understand what everyone is arguing about. Mufti made an excellent point.

    “Instead, religious girls focus on a strict lifestyle and observance of the commandments.

    The statement above doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand how having your place in the world as a woman defined for you by some religious authority improves your self-esteem. Last i checked self esteem is something everyone figures out individually in the hostile environment that is the world today- both men and women! But i feel like such an idiot! To think it was so easy to develop high self-esteem. Here i was-years and years of self examination and resolve! What a waste- i should just have joined one religious movement or other and all my issues would have been sorted!

  • Muthoni – perhaps you are unaware of the enormous social pressure – which is nowadays explicitly sexualized and objectifying – that exists in coed schools.

    We are currently at a cultural movement where 9 year old girls buy dolls modeled on Beyonce Knowles (the Bratz series) and wear midriff-baring tank tops. This is sexual objectification that inculcates an externalised, appearance and approval-based notion of self-worth from a very early age.

    The fact that an orthodox Jewish girl does not have any of this “popularity overhead” factored into her daily social and academic pursuits has an enormous positive effect.

    With regard to the “real world” – most of these Orthodox girls manage to handle dating, marriage, and building a career and a family with a lot more aplomb than most of their secular counterparts. Part of that is having clearly defined roles to fulfill – but part of that is a sense of competence, worth, and a solid scale of values with which to make sense of the “real world”.

  • just fyi, I’m in Eilat, and at an internet cafe with precious few minutes remaining. This is why I havn’t responded to anything.

    Now back out into the sunshine with me…

  • However – Middle, please DO actually read The Beauty Myth. Your local library is sure to have a copy.

  • Ben-David: If there is enormous social pressure in coed schools, wouldn’t teaching children to cope with it be a better solution than constraining them to un-natural settings; afterall social pressure is everywhere.

    What you call an enormous positive effect i call a repressed personality.

  • Laya, enjoy the sun and please DO actually read the feminine mystique!

    Ben-David, that’s an interesting angle that Muffti hadn’t thought of. It would be interesting (and, if the methodology was any good in the case of the frum girls) relatively easy to test.) The report of the study underspecified what is was to be frum: it merely correlated level of observance with body image satisfaction etc. So it’s not clear, for example, if some of the less frum girls were at segregated schools or not. Muffti agrees, however, that the researchers explanation seemed like a stretch (but in fairness to the researches, we are only looking at a precis of hte study at best).

    Muthoni, thanks for the props. Joy, nice points as always.

    And when is someone going to claim that hte right explanation is the hidden hand of Hashem?

  • Guess who just picked up the Story…

    Anyway, in case you can’t see the text of the ArutzSheva article, I’m copying it below. It doesn’t add too much, but it’s got a spin, and it shows how on top of things Jewlicious is. (Since it didn’t make the news until today…)

    Study: Religious Girls More Comfortable With Their Bodies
    Wednesday, April 5, 2006 / 7 Nisan 5766

    As long as a young girl is religious, the likelihood that she will have an eating disorder is lower, asserts Prof. Yael Latzer of the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa.

    In a unique, first of its kind study, Latzer [pictured above] looks at the connection between levels of religiosity, self-esteem, self-image, and eating disorders.

    The study findings showed that as long as the level of religiosity is unified and high, the desire to be thin is lower. On the positive side, self-esteem and body image are higher, as is the extent of satisfaction with one’s body. The result, the researcher states, is that there is less preoccupation with food and weight.

    A total of 320 Jewish religious girls in grades 9-12 (16-18 years old) in Israel participated in the University of Haifa study.

    According to Latzer, Western society sees thinness as an important value, representing beauty. It is also an expression of self-control, independence, and high social status.

    On the other hand, she continues, religious society expects women at a young age to fulfill some roles of mother and wife. In the religious world, importance is focused on the woman’s activities in the house and less so on her external appearance and activities outside the house.

    Professor Lazar commented that Jewish religious girls tended to emphasize and focus on traditional values, such as simplicity and modesty, more than on beauty and external appearance.

    “The important uniqueness of the woman, as is written in Halacha [Jewish law], is her inner qualities and moral principles, and not beauty,” the University of Haifa researcher commented. “Instead of controlling their body and their weight, young religious girls focus on a modest life style and observance of the commandments.” She cited the maxim: “The dignity of a king’s daughter is on the inside.”

    The younger in age and the lower the level of religious belief of religious girls, Latzer found, the greater was the connection with eating disorders. “Young girls (age 12-13) still immature and unclear about their identities, become confused in respect to their religious identities, values, and the division of roles in the home between the sexes,” she explained. “The confusion is expressed both in a lower self-esteem and in a poorer body image.” She emphasizes that a similar phenomenon of confusion with identity also exists among peers from secular society.

  • Well, first of all, i agree with Joy. Repressed personality sounds more apt than anything else. And “clearly defined roles”- what do you mean by that exactly? Everyone, including women are different individuals, so what do you mean by clearly defined roles that apply to one and all? Isn’t that repressive enough as it is?

  • How about this: the RIGHT to be sexual can bring with it the OBLIGATION to be sexual – too young, and all the bloody, damn time, with no let-up.

    The RIGHT to NOT marry can bring with it the OBLIGATION to not marry. Just try and marry! Not so easy! Once it was obligatory, now it’s not allowed.

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    YES it’s NICE to know you are going to be valued for something other than your t and a.

  • A home has to be fought for. Just the way a law degree has to be fought for. You want it? Work for it. No sweat, no ferocious effort, nothing.

  • Jewish Mother, I have a law degree, I’m damn good-looking, and I’m dumb as a fencepost. Go figure!

  • Okay Jewish mother, i can see your point. I was just questioning the idea that one way of life is better for an individual’s self esteem than another. There probably are no perfect answers.

  • In late life, contemplating some properly raised children seems to be more self-esteem-producing than anything achieved at the office.

  • Middle, I’ll promise to read your comments (even the unduly long ones) if you promise to read the Beauty Myth, is it a deal?

    muff, I’m familiar with the Feminine Mystique. Nonetheless, being a mother is a basic instinct for many, if not most women. In a society which values and encourages motherhood
    validates that urge, and in turn validates the women for whom a gaggle of children, not a doctorate degree, is their greatest desire and joy. It would be wrong to assume that all those women who are “simply mothers” are unfulfilled.

    I think the study makes absolute sense; a society which encourages self discipline, positive character traits and a spiritual life (in addition to discouraging images of beauty from the media) is also one in which teenage girls are happier with their bodies.

    Personally, I would rather give my hypothetical future daughters a value system and sense of worth that does not begin to fade and sag at the age of 30.

    Clearly neither secular nor religious society is all good for women, it would be disingenuous to say so, but there are things each can learn from the other, as this study points outs.
    But it’s off to suggest that feminism came along and in a few short decades wiped away thousands of years of ingrained misogyny and now everything is truly equal and peachy (except for the backwards religious folks).

    It would also be disingenuous to say that because men and women are both judged on looks, that it is to a comparable degree.

    I just question whether or not secular society as it is currently manifested is so very much better for women’s overall happiness at the end of the day.

    Sorry to the points I wasn’t able to get to. No time.

  • Laya, I think you are right. The woman-man thing is not a balanced equation. Maybe that’s a lesson in life or something. Maybe it’s a challenge. All I can offer as comfort is that 1) we have to play the cards we are dealt, and 2) life can stink for men, too and 3) there is an opportunity for virtue here, generosity – theirs toward us. And, in a subtler way, ours toward them. 4) Separatism, war with men, and the armed and sovereign queendom of Amazonia are not going to work.

    We should be modern sometimes and old-fashioned other times. Yes, we are modern people. But men are still me and women are still women and that is not going to go away, and life is not perfectable. Or what’s a heaven for, as Robert Browning wrote.

    Time is different for us.

  • Laya, no offense, but this is silly and recapitulating an error that Muffti tried to correct a while ago. Of course secular society (as if that named one coherent group or phenomenon!) hasn’t overcome thousands of years of mysogyny. It’s really really young and in its infancy. But it allows certain things that religious society doesn’t, in particular with respect to the opportunities (social, political, econonmic and sexual) that they can take advantage of. The point of the feminine mystique was that a value system based on rigid reuqirements of motherhood and housework were found by many womne (not all, and the hell ever said that sociological discoveries were universal?!?) to be completely unsatisfying socially, intellectually etc.

    I just question whether or not secular society as it is currently manifested is so very much better for women’s overall happiness at the end of the day.

    The whole point, m’dear, is that we are not nearly at the end of hte day: we are early on in the morning as far as women’s happiness in a secular society goes. As with most ideas and ways of life, they are judged by their long term abilities, not the follies they encounter early on. With any luck, eating disorders will soon be though to be so ‘2000s’ 🙂

  • Nope, not a deal, Laya. My comments stand on their own and are readily accessible right here and now. Beauty Myth or not, you can address them. It’s not that I don’t want to read Beauty Myth, it’s just that I have so little time to do what I need to do in general, that I can think of about 237 things I prefer or need to do at this point than read that book. I understand you have no time now…so I’ll wait.

  • Wow, all these posts about “miracles”, eating disorders, Middle’s not funny, read my freakin’ post, etc. etc.– This site has really taken a turn. Was it Hamas’s win or what? Somebody should sex it up. Whatever happened to whatshisface, that jayslurp or jaywarp or jburp . . . ?

  • I’m with Tom… We had our Conservative Judaism Talk… It’s the record thread. Let’s do one one Reform or Reconstructionist, or even Orthodox… and go for the record! Gee I hate lables…

  • There are self-cleaning ovens and self-rising flour but there are no self-raising children. You want the joys, you have to put in the time. Our species spends a long time reaching adulthood.

    I wait for the smart remarks, with pleasure.

  • Someone mentioned the girl in the picture looking familiar. She is Christina Corrigan. She died 10 years ago at 600+ lbs. and her mother was charged with child abuse because the girl got so big.

  • You guys, could you take down this poor girl’s photo and replace it with something like a pic of Eric Cartman–I just feel weird that there’s a real person representing the face of fatness–and that this particular girl’s life ended in tragedy makes me that much more uncomfortable about it…

  • Middle – it’s really not a difficult read. I could even recommend just a few short sections, or are you not willing to have your views on this matter challenged? I think of you as a very smart fellow, as well as a relentless one when it comes to talking to people about important matters, and having a person such as yourself understand such issues might do women everywhere a bit a good.

    Or perhaps one of your 237 things to do first is heading to Romney Marsh with Charlie for Jewdas? 😉

    As for your comments I really don’t think there is so much to address. No one is saying all women are victims, but we are saying that despite all the progress, women are not at this point equal to men – not in the salaries we make nor in the way we are viewed and judged, nor in our safety.

    The fact that you can point to a token female CEO or senator here and there is nice, but really not evidence of much.

    What I feel you dismiss is just how much our culture preys on and encourages female insecurity. Which is not to say it doesn’t also do it to boys, but to a significantly lesser extent.

    I think that that is what the post was about – pointing out how a different kind of society in which there is not the same kind of media saturation, unrealistic models of beauty, expectations of sexual availability and pressure to be youthful and skinny at all times is not surprisingly one in which girls have higher self esteem.

    You keep coming at so-called equality from a stand point of academic achievement and intellectual potential. Now granted, The fact that women graduate universities at the rate they do is a phenomenal achievement and one of the places where feminism has worked quite well. However, that fact is not in any way conclusive evidence of women’s overall equality in society, nor is it any indication of a woman’s happiness.

    Is it possible that fulfilling intellectual potential is NOT every woman’s goal? Could some women choose fulfilling their spiritual potential instead, or would that seem quaint at best?

    Like I said, there are women I know for whom a gaggle of children, not a Ph.D is their greatest desire. While it is not mine, I will try not to judge it.

    You seem to be projecting your value system upon every woman, as if every woman’s happiness is derived from the same source.

    What’s funny of course is that while the post was about how frum teenage girls are in fact happier with their bodies and self image (and thus quite possibly happier on the whole), you keep insisting that really they are unfulfilled. Basically you are telling them that they are NOT in fact happy, despite what they may think, because their lifestyle does match up to what you think a woman needs to be happy.

    Muffti – agreed, and may we only get better from here. While I personally view motherhood not dissimilarly to how Betty Friedan did, I know for a fact that Betty and my feelings are not universal. Despite how I see it, many of my friends here keep choosing to have children, and, though I cannot understand it, seem happy doing so. A fair number of my non-Jewish and non-religious friends back in America are beginning to express the same desire, despite their enviable jobs.

    So, regardless of my own feelings, I will not look at those who choose and love motherhood and try to tell them they are dissatisfied and just don’t know it.

    And nice pic, btw.

  • Laya,
    Welcome back from the beach!

    Despite how I see it, many of my friends here keep choosing to have children, and, though I cannot understand it, seem happy doing so. A fair number of my non-Jewish and non-religious friends back in America are beginning to express the same desire, despite their enviable jobs.

    Hang on, no one was saying that motherhood is a bad option or something that women should avoid. And no one was sayign that women won’t find satisfaction in motherhood. And no one was saying that secular society will help ALL women or that ALL women will find fulfilment even in the wide range of options that secular society offers.

    That would be absurd. There are next to NO generalizations in social psychology that are true of 100% of the population. There are next to NO generalizations athat are true of 90% fo the populations. That’s just not what we look for, or expect, when we try to figure out the triggers, causes and rules of human satisfaction. No one in these studies aspires to universality because all evidence suggest that hte complexities of the human mind, the vagueness of notions such as ‘happiness’ make universality a stupid, unacheiveable goal.

    And Muffti isn’t sure that Friedan was sayign that motherhood is detrimental to women, but that the expectation of all woemnt aht they would be mothers and then find fulfilmnet in the father of their children and keeping a nic ehouse is debilitating to a woman’s (in fact, just a human’s) self development, self conception and happiness.

    So, Muffti and TM are not tryign to say that secular society is good for all women. Muffti in fact was sayign that it would seem that there is a side benefit to frumness for women and that is freedom frombody image problems. Muffti was suggesting that it is in no way worth the trade off.

    Of course, in a way, we are arguing apples and oranges. THe study was a study of teenagers and the problems we are discussing mostly are problems of adult women – we don’t tend to marry off the 12 year olds anymore.

    Muffti noticed that there is at lleast one study well predating the one in the post about body image and eating disorders in orthodox vs. non-orthodox women:, which came to similar conclusions regarding adult orthodox females.

  • Our culture “feeds on female insecurity” in the same way it feeds on “curing” bad breath or the smell of underarm perspiration: it posits that there’s a problem and then markets the hell out of “solutions” that generate money for the purveyors of those products.

    Women are not “preyed” upon by a society where they now dominate the academic ranks – of high school, not just college. Any measure of income shows that higher education leads to higher incomes, so don’t be so dismissive of the larger number of women in higher education because it doesn’t fit your point. While there is pay inequality in the market, part of that continues to be based on long-entrenched domination of men in key executive roles. As time passes, this situation changes and improves for women. Also, alas, this has to do with women and families again. If a woman has to take time off from her career to care for kids, then she is creating natural “breaks” in her earnings trajectory. Instead of increasing as her experience increases, she finds herself back at the level prior to her family break while her male counterpart who has been working those couple of years would see his status and income increase during that time. Salary increases tend to compound on previous income levels.

    As to having my views on this issue challenged, go ahead and challenge them all day. If you really feel that this book is the bible on this issue, feel free to email me the chapters you think are critical to my understanding of your viewpoint and I will make an effort to read them. But as to your point that I haven’t enough understanding of these issues, I beg to differ. You may disagree with me, but maybe it’s you who needs to open your mind…it may be your values that you’re projecting on to this debate.

    I was watching Paul Newman in a movie the other day and I thought to myself that I would never be able to be as good looking as he is in the film. That made me really insecure, particularly since I then walked to the newsstand and saw several business and Hollywood magazines with rich and good looking men on the covers taunting me with their material and career successes. I then went to my gay hairdresser who had photos of attractive men all over his wall and I thought, “Shit, I’m never gonna have abs like that again.” And so on…

    Finally, yes, frum girls and women are often satisfied with themselves, because the emphasis of their lives is on raising children and keeping mitzvot. I am happy for those women. I do wonder, however, whether they would be happier practicing medicine or, say, becoming great Torah scholars. Do you think that they resent the fact that they can’t become great Torah scholars? Or do you think that since this is a taboo area in frum life, that they aren’t even aware that they’re missing out on something?

  • wow, academics are the end all be all for you eh? If women are equal in the halls of learning they are equal anywhere – is that how it goes?

    In any case, I would love to transcribe the book for you into email, but it would really be easier to pick yourself up a copy. You might even enjoy it!

    Your paragraph about feeling insecure looking at hot men’s bodies is quite funny actually, for the very reason that it doesn’t work like that and you know it. You are essentially saying that either men are made equally insecure by such images or that women are exaggerating about the effect such images have on them.

    Now, do you want to give me side by side statistics of anorexia and bulimia in girls vs. boys?

    Beauty products are marketed and sold primarily to women. It is a multi billion dollar industry. Lancome alone grossed $16.9 billion in 2005. It all basically says you are not good enough the way you are, and then glossy magazines come along to say “here, lets show you what WOULD be good enough”

    In the 80’s and early 90’s women were fired from office jobs because they were not pretty enough. No such thing happened to men to the best of my knowledge.

    Instances like that, combined with media messages – Beware of cellulite! Fight growing old! accentuate your features! look sexier! reverse the signs of aging! don’t go grey! have basically sent the message in the past 20 years that it is a woman’s very responsibility to be attractive. But not too attractive mind you, or they wont respect you!

    But whatever, its always amusing to have a man tell me how equal I really am and how talk of insecurities are overblown, and women’s safety and bodily integrity has no place in a discussion about equality, as you said in the other post.

    We could go back and forth on this all night, but it’s making michael sad.

    Would frum girls be happier learning more? some of them undoubtedly would. Thankfully there are more and more opportunities opening to them in the non-heredi world, and may that continue to grow. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m all for more inclusion in Jewish rituals and community for the whom who desire it, and I look forward to the day when women rabbis are equal to men in number and authority for those movements which allow it, and when women are respected spiritual authorities in all streams of Judaism.

    Muff – I don’t think we disagree so much.

  • yeah…that link, it’s a real problem that needs to be addressed – but it has nothing to do with either anorexia or bulimia, or body image, which is what I thought we were vaguely talking about. Care to try again?

  • I dunno, Laya, it seemed right on target since we were talking about equality. But I understand why you don’t want to really address the issue of equality, the meaning of the progress women have made, the difficulties frum women have within their culture, and focus on how women are affected by media without discussing other ways in which media impacts women, men and society in general. I guess it’s easier to make personal attacks and say things like What I would say is that when men at large begin to care that the woman fulfilling his sexual urge is doing so willingly (this applies equally to date rape as to prostitution), that will be one huge step towards real equality and then deny you were speaking about all men.

    I’ll get back to the other discussion when I have time to respond. Hopefully a little extra time will help me “understand something.”

  • wow, we’re talking about girls and body image, and sexual vulnerability, and how it affects equality, and you give me an article about boys and education, and then accuse me of not wanting to talk about equality, mmmkay.

    I made very clear statements about the men who would do such things, and you accuse me of somehow acting as if ALL men are rapists – once again, can we say straw man?

    Lets try to put it in terms you can understand – Not all male employers would refuse to hire a woman specifically because she is a woman, but if we were still living in a society in which it happened regularly enough for all women to fear not getting hired because of their gender (let’s say 1 out of every 20, which is much less than how many women are victims or rape, attempted rape or sexual assault) – then you too might conclude that women are not yet fully equal.

    I hold that equality does not end at employment educational opportunities, although the importance of those two things cannot be underestimated.

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