If someone were to ask someone I know to describe me, the word “feminist” would not come to mind. Now the words “crazy,” “psychotic,” and “oversensitive” might be mentioned, but definitely not “feminist.” Is this a good thing or a bad thing? As a woman, I feel that women should have the same rights as men, get paid the same salaries as men — you know, the basics.
Most feminists are not happy with their roles in the Orthodox Jewish world. I am not one of them, because, as I have said, I am not a feminist. I am very happy not to have the obligation to pray three times a day, I am certainly relieved that I don’t have to say Kaddish for my dad (but, of course, I would if I had to). I don’t mind not getting up to read the Torah or even get a blessing during the Torah reading. I am happy that I am, technically, not allowed to be a rabbi. These things make me happy. I don’t need more things that I can be doing wrong, when I have a hard time doing the things that I am supposed to be doing, technically, right. I am good in my role as the childbearing, child-rearing, housekeeping, cooking, holiday preparation specialist and challah-baking superhero, also known as mom. It’s all good.
This past holiday, however, I was sitting on my friend’s porch waiting for our afternoon walk, and I was looking at all of the men walking to synagogue or wherever they were going, and a very random thought popped into my head. Who invented the suit, and why? I am observing all of these men wearing suits. The exact same jacket and pants. The exact same shirt. Yes, the colors vary (except in the case of my adorable Oreos and the rest of the yeshivish community. Not to be confused with the chasidish community. Yes, there is a difference. No, I don’t understand it, and no, I am not going into it at this time.) Jacket. Pants. Shirt. Jacket. Pants. Shirt. The same exact outfit for every male-shaped human. Husky, skinny, average. Tall, short — you get the point. They are all wearing suits. The same suit.
Hopefully, they have some sort of charming socks situation that helps them stand out as an individual, like I tried to do with my Oreos, however unsuccessful that was, because how can you wear socks with colors if you can’t wear anything else with colors? Yes, I am a terrible mother. Please forgive me. So this was my great revelation. My “aha moment,” as Oprah Winfrey would call it.
As I am thinking about men and their suits, and the poor guys who don’t look as good in a suit because of whatever reason, be it body type (like the poor guy who has his mother’s love handles or the guy who has really short legs and a long torso or really long legs and a short torso) or whatever it is…
I am looking at all the different choices that women get. Women can wear suits, but if they don’t look good in them, they have a zillion other things they can wear. Not happy with your body type? Wear black, baby. Black everything. Black turtlenecks and stretchy pants or skirts for days — or not. The choices are endless. The styles are endless. Which is only interesting because women are so limited in so many other things — except for what we wear. Is that our consolation prize? I hate shopping, I hate clothes (which comes from years of low self-esteem and horrendous shopping experiences with my mom. I still wonder about those salesladies who witnessed some of our epic battles about plaid pleated skirts and if they received the therapy they needed after listening to us go at. I am assuming they never had children.)
And men, who have had the upper hand for centuries, they are stuck with suits. Yes, that was my “aha” moment. I am a very complex individual after all. Beau Brummell was the google search-appointed inventor of the suit. Turns out, many years ago, men’s clothing involved large powdered wigs and stockings and pointy uncomfortable shoes, and he modernized the look. Funny how women still have to wear those pointy uncomfortable shoes, but that is for another day.
And there you have it.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is looking forward to talking to Strudel about how her Tatty let her dance with the Torah, but that she shouldn’t get too used to it.