Sunday, October 31, 2010

Women, Clothing and Self-Respect

I wrote this article back when I was a student at the university about eight years ago - nothing has changed. Unfortunately what applied to campus life back then also applies to us all today. It's time to think about how we portray ourselves to ourselves and the outside world at large. Are we exclusively our bodies, or are we more than just the cleavage or legs that we show off? (I've made a few adjustments here from the original as well as added a new paragraph at the end.)

Thank goodness winter is coming. It will now be easier for us, the women on campus to keep our own self-respect.

What we wear is who we are. We don't have to like it, but it's true. Business people wear suits, bank tellers wear business casual, baggers at the supermarket wear aprons that have the name of the supermarket on it, and some of the women on campus dress like prostitutes.

What the question really comes down to is, who are you dressing to impress? If you wake up in the morning with no thought to what you are wearing and you put on the most comfortable jeans and sweatshirt, then this article is not for you. For the other 95% of women on campus, pay attention.

Most women wear clothing to attract the opposite sex. So who is it that you want to attract? Will exhibiting your body get you the man you want? What do you want the guy sitting next to you in class to notice first? Your chest, almost covered by a nonexistent shirt, or the insightful question you just asked the professor?

"Wait a minute", you yell. "I should be able to wear whatever I want and he should still respect me for my mind."

As a woman, I would agree with you. You should be able to wear whatever you want. But let's deal with Reality. Are guys dating you because you look like an easy target or are they interested in a real relationship? What image are you projecting?

Are we women so insecure with ourselves that we are dependent on a man to give us an identity? What happens when you "get" a man? Are you going to be able to keep him? What will you give up in order to keep him?

We all know the answer to that one. But what about "love"? You fell in "love" with him. How long does that "love" last - until he finds someone else? Is this a real relationship, or is this sex? How much do you know about him? You both like the same movies? That's real deep. It definitely something on which to base a lifetime relationship.

Let's go back to the idea of clothing. Clothes are the objects that tell the rest of the world who you are. What kind of a person you are. Wearing clothing that doesn't show off every curve of your body, leaving nothing to the imagination, is a good thing. It shows that there is more to you than your body. You are more than your body. Hopefully. If you're showing off your body, it may be that there is nothing else to show off, no mind to go with it.

When you go outside in the rain, and you have something that shouldn't get wet, like a book or a camera, you cover it with something. Not because that object is bad, but because you want to protect it.

The same concept applies here. The body is not a bad thing at all, rather the exact opposite. It is very valuable and it needs to be protected. It must not be used at anyone's discretion or as a means to an end. The more valuable something is, the more protection it should be given. This does not include dressing like the Taliban women under a veil, where they were unable to participate as a full member of society. This is unnecessary and cruel.

We are not objects. Or bodies should not be objects. If we want a real relationship with a man, we must show them that we are more than how much skin we show. Show them that you have some self-respect. Otherwise, there's no difference between us and a prostitute.

* To add to this article a Jewish aspect - our bodies are also the clothing of our souls. Our goal in life is to create a partnership between our souls needs and our bodies wants. Our bodies are transitory - we have them on loan for a temporary period of time - our souls are forever. Our souls are our direct connection to G-d, and our bodies are the physical interface between our souls and the world around us.

Sometimes our bodies do not want to listen to our souls needs, and wants purely the pleasures of the world without the responsibilities of the purpose of our creation - to bring G-dliness into the world, to make the world into a place where G-d wants to dwell. One of the challenges we all face is to bring our bodies under the control of our souls and allow them to work together in tandem - in unison. The soul needs the body to bring good into the world, and the body needs the soul in order to focus its power in the correct direction.

Clothing is there to help us focus on the spiritual side of ourselves, rather than solely on the physical side of life. This is certainly a challenge - to integrate our G-dly soul and our physical bodies. It can be done. Don't neglect your soul - go to a Jewish lecture once a month or once a week. Find a Jewish book and read from it for five minutes a day. The same way it is essential to feed your body - it is essential to feed your soul. Begin today.