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Why don't Jewish women get told they are oppressed by their religion if they are 'encouraged' to shave their heads and wear a wig instead?

(77 Posts)
Undefeated Mon 18-Jul-11 17:32:57

Just curious, but Muslim women are often told by society that by wearing scarves, niqabs, etc, they are being 'oppressed'- I'm torn on the issue, iI don't like to see it sometimes, but its their religion and their choice, unless they are under pressure to do so - which they may well be.

But (some) Hassidic Jewish women are required to shave their heads and wear a wig instead upon marriage... as well as wearing 'modest clothes - no short sleeves, neckbone must be covered - again, there may or may not be pressure to follow tradition, but I wonder why there is so much debate about the Muslim dress codes and so little about Jewish? Personally I'd rather wear a veil than have to cut off all my hair, it would be horrible to me!

I'd welcome views from anyone that does it, or knows someone who does - I only recently found out and was quite surprised - and it also made me think how unfair it is that so much attention is paid to what Muslim women wear, as if they are less able to decide for themselves. I put this is feminism because I think it's a feminist issue, please move if it doesn't belong here.

ArmchairFeminist Mon 18-Jul-11 17:36:06

I'm an atheist so I find all organised religions oppressive and offensive!

chibi Mon 18-Jul-11 17:38:21

Because only a v small minority of Jewish women do this, and outsiders may not even realise they've done it- a niqab on the other hand is pretty unmissable

I very much doubt it is because people love Jews and have it in for muslms

coccyx Mon 18-Jul-11 17:39:26

You can always spot the wig!!!
Interested to find out why it is done

MoreCrackThanHarlem Mon 18-Jul-11 17:42:15

As you say, you only recently discovered this practice, and I would imagine most people would be similarly unaware.

Veiled Muslum women are more visible and definitely more common, certainly in this country.
Both are oppressive imo.

SheCutOffTheirTails Mon 18-Jul-11 17:43:53

Who says they don't get told that?

I think any religion that has rules about female modesty is oppressive of women.

And I think that even if the women choose to go along with the misogyny that demands they cover themselves.

Same as I don't think women choosing to be lapdancers means that practice of having women perform sexually for men for money makes it OK.

BellsaRinging Mon 18-Jul-11 17:44:20

Because it's not necessarily obvious to the casual observer, presumably. You say yourself, you've only just realised that this is the custom, and I would imagine the same is true of most of the population.

ShatnersBassoon Mon 18-Jul-11 17:45:06

I think because most people don't know it happens. When it does happen, it's not that obvious so people outside of the religion don't realise what goes on.

I do view it as oppression.

DaisyHayes Mon 18-Jul-11 17:45:33

Whenever I was in Stamford Hill I always used to wonder how the Jewish women always got their hair to look exactly the same as all the other Jewish womens'. Slight variation on colour, but exact same style and always so neat... I couldn't work it out - especially when the girls often had curlier or frizzier hair. Hours I spent pondering this on the bus. Hours.

It was a revelation to me when someone finally told me they were wigs.

<absolutely nothing of relevance to add to thread, merely 'fessing up to own stupidity>

SheCutOffTheirTails Mon 18-Jul-11 17:47:05

grin @ Daisy

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 18-Jul-11 17:48:17

I knew they had to cover their hair and some do this with a wig(is this not cheating a bit?). I didn't know they had to shave it.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Mon 18-Jul-11 17:52:50

After a brief bit of research it seems that many Hasidic Jewish women traditionally cover their heads with wigs, and cutting the hair short is simply easier.
Many of the men also shave their heads but are required to grow their sideburns hmm

Organised religion is truly bizarre

ChunkyPickle Mon 18-Jul-11 17:56:21

Dione - I always felt there was a definite element of gaming the system too - that the letter of the law said they should cover their hair, but didn't specify what with.

I think the head shaving is for comfort too.

spout Mon 18-Jul-11 17:57:04

I once had a nosey browse in the Hassidic Wig Shop on Stamford Hill. DH wanted one of those wonderful furry enormo-hats that the men wear.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Mon 18-Jul-11 18:01:16

I think it's partly about what you're used to seeing, too - I grew up in an area where lots of women covered their heads and my DH comes from a culture where women often cover their heads in church, and it doesn't have the shock value for me that I think it does for some people who didn't see such things much until they were adults or moved to a different part of the country.

I guess the other thing with orthodox Jewish women is that men also wear skullcaps and grow beards, which is perhaps more similar than Muslim men, who may wear modest dress but don't AFAIK wear other visible symbols?

DilysPrice Mon 18-Jul-11 18:07:38

I think it's hard to see people as oppressed when they're so visibly gaming the system. And of course there are far fewer of them in the UK, and it's a fairly static number restricted to certain areas, so there's not the "Ooh, this is new and strange, I'm not sure I like it" factor.

ChunkyPickle Mon 18-Jul-11 18:13:51

As head coverings go (not that I have any issue with head coverings at all actually), the idea of covering your own hair with a wig because your religious laws say you can't show your own hair is a flash of genius I think.

It must have taken some fast talking on the part of the woman (or man) who thought it up.

themildmanneredjanitor Mon 18-Jul-11 18:15:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrettyCandles Mon 18-Jul-11 18:15:54

There is only one Jewish sect that shave and wear wigs, they're just more obvious than other sects - partly because the men also conform to fairly strict dress codes. There is nothing in the religion that requires this. All that the religion requires is modesty from both men and women, just like in Islam. It is the cultural interpretation that ends up with the particular dress codes and the wigs.

Hassidism (the sect where the women wear wigs) began in Poland a few
100y ago, and the mens' dress codes date from the fashion of the time. Women being women, their dress codes evolved, while retaining modesty.

The wig is because at that time the Polish nobles practiced droit du seigneur, which meant that they could demand any bride's first night. How oftenthiss actually happened, I don't know, but, as a result, brides would shave their heads to make themselves unattractive, and wear a wig on top to make themselves attractive again.

Nowadays some stick strictly to an un-necessary tradition, others reinterpret it by only cropping their hair into a style that will be comfortable under a wig but still attractive in private, others merely cover their head with a hat or scarf.

Many Jewish women consider covering their heads to be a badge of honour. Because you only do it once you are married, it signifies a great life event.

themildmanneredjanitor Mon 18-Jul-11 18:16:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SardineQueen Mon 18-Jul-11 18:21:36

I think there are a few reasons

There aren't so many people of this branch of Judaism
They don't tend to mix much (have their own schools etc)
The men have quite an extreme dress / hair code as well - it's not just the women

We live fairly near to a large Hassidic Jewish community and you can see that the women are a part of it - and also the men and also the children including little boys.

Whereas the Muslim covering up thing seems to only go one way.

Personally I think the fundamental forms of religions generally are best avoided.

FYI I also live near to a large group of of a Christian sect - the children attend mainstream schools so from that POV they mix more but otherwise live separately. The women are not allowed to cut their hair, dress "modestly" and wear headscarves... It's not just some parts of Islam and Judaism where people follow these type of codes/

ChunkyPickle Mon 18-Jul-11 18:22:14

themildmanneredjanitor - as PrettyCandles says, the same people that wear the wigs also adhere to very modest dress codes (covered ankles to neck) - the men also.

That's very interesting PrettyCandles - I'd always wondered why the men wore heavy coats even on the Mediterranean, learning that the sect evolved in Poland means that finally makes sense!

SardineQueen Mon 18-Jul-11 18:23:13

xposts with prettycandles that took me a long time to type!

SardineQueen Mon 18-Jul-11 18:24:15

"Many Jewish women consider covering their heads to be a badge of honour."

Well not that many... I have never known a Jewish married woman who covered her head.

SardineQueen Mon 18-Jul-11 18:25:47

Also the Jewish community is more established, while large influxes of Muslim people have been more recent?

There is an aspect of familiarity removing fear with these types of thing IMO.

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