This past Purim, several people, myself included, shared photos on social media of our costumes featuring faces that were erased or pixilated. Different people did this in different ways, but the common statement was that women’s faces do not deserve to be erased from view. My own version got tons of compliments. I just couldn’t take credit for uniqueness or creativity.
From me, you get the truth.
There is a commonly-used saying about tznius: “Kol k’vudah bas Melech p’nimah.” This translates as “All the honor/glory of a King’s daughter is within her.” Notice how the last word, p’nimah, is in the feminine form. This means that the woman’s honor and glory are within her. Her intelligence, creativity, energy, kindheartedness, and overall personality are what give her honor. And it means that she doesn’t need to seek approval from anyone other than HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Notice also that the word p’nimah is related to the word panim, which means face. One fashion guru said that a very effective technique for dressing well is to direct attention toward the face. She referred to the face as the center of communication through which your personality shines. To me, that was no accident.
When publications erase the woman’s face from view they are taking away her humanity, her dignity, and her honor and glory. That is the exact opposite of true tznius. And it’s wrong.
There are those who twist the above phrase to say that a woman needs to stay inside and silent and out of the public realm. But where would we as a nation be without the women who came forward and did what they had to do? Where would we be if Esther had not donned her royal attire, come forward, and revealed Haman as the real rasha? Where would we be if Miriam bas Amram hadn’t approached her father and spoken up and told him to go back to his wife (thus creating Moshe Rabbeinu who would lead us out of Mitzrayim)? Where would we be without Devorah Ha’Neviah, Ruth, and other heroines who came forward?
Sarah Schenirer taught her students to carry the above verse in one pocket and “Eis la’asos la’Hashem” in another pocket. If you apply the meanings that I described above, you see that these two verses do not contradict each other. The first simply gives us the confidence that we need to apply the second one. And speaking of Sarah Schenirer, where would we be as a nation if she hadn’t come forward and conceived the idea of formal Torah education for girls? I myself never attended a Bais Yaakov school per se, but thanks to her I was able to get a good yeshivah education from elementary school through high school and on to college.
Of course, tznius does not demand that every individual woman be conspicuous if she doesn’t want to be. Some women do work best behind the scenes and don’t do as well in the spotlight. But when other people make that choice for the woman, that’s wrong.
Let’s just keep in mind that no one, man or woman, deserves to lose his/her humanity and dignity. Ever. And let’s teach our children true tznius and allow them to make it part of who they really are.
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe organizer, personal shopper, jewelry designer, and fashion writer/blogger and speaker. She helps women look great while saving time, effort, and money, all within tznius guidelines, and she’ll add to that with custom-designed jewelry. Read more about her ideas on her blog- www.truetzniutistruebeauty.wordpress.com. She also has a YouTube channel, “Look Your Best in Mitpachot,” where she does head-wrapping tutorials, and she is also available for private demonstrations. She can be reached at (718) 644-6135 or at MESAtik@gmail.com.