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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wasn't an Adar/Purim Joke

It is official, the previously linked article (All the single ladies. . . you aren't very pretty so go get plastic surgery to be hot enough to date my son) was NOT belated Purim shtick, but rather the serious thoughts of one woman. . . a woman who, while mostly condemned, was also celebrated by other mother-in-laws to be.

(Quite frankly I am at a loss because I know no other group of people as a whole that places so much emphasis on fashion, looking one's best at all times, and spends a small fortune on looking regal as the right wing population).

A few select quotes:

Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum Responds: I wrote the article with tremendous trembling and trepidation because I didn’t, chas v’shalom, want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and because I knew in advance there would be people who would misread it, miscomprehend it, misconstrue my intent and lash back in anger. . . . ..

. . . . if you read the title of the article carefully, you will see that I called it “The Tyranny of Beauty.” This should have immediately alerted you – and anyone else who misconstrued my intention – that I am actually horrified by the priorities of beauty that hold sway in our society. . . .

I have spoken to boys in shidduchim until I was blue in my face about “inner beauty” and “real values” and their own shallowness in seeking good looks in prospective partners. I have begged them to give the girls a chance – just one date.

Believe me, I have been doing this since I was 18, and I have, b”h, made several shidduchim that resulted in marriages. I also worked as a volunteer matchmaker for Saw You At Sinai. But during all my interactions with these men, I saw over and over again (and it broke my heart) that appearance counts with them, some less, some more. So as I much as I dislike – in fact abhor – men’s emphasis on outer surfaces, I feel we all have to face the harsh reality and try to accommodate it.

Orthonomics responds:

Perhaps we need to get back to some Torah basics via basic Tanach. Just as the author drew a lesson from the story of Queen Esther which was not only not there but rather quite the opposite (note: Queen Esther was on no pursuit for King Ahashverosh), she seems to be taking a page out of the story of Lot in regards to a fanatical suggestion.

Just a quick refresher course for those that missed this incident: when Lot in Sodom he was visited by two men (actually angels) with whom he broke bread. When the inhospitable townspeople formed a mob around his home demanding that he send out his guests so that they could engage in relations with them, Lot, while praying the guests not be harmed instead offers up his unmarried, virginal daughters for the mob to have their way with and satisfy their appetites with.

Throughout Tanach I see a rather consistent message regarding the importance of taming and controlling one's sexual appetite. Whether it is mitzvot placing restrictions on sexuality as a whole, sexuality outside of the marriage, or sexuality within the marriage, the Torah asks us to utilize this drive appropriately.

While it is also true that attraction and pro-active pursuit by women within marriage is of importance (Leah and the dudaim, the copper mirrors of the women of mitzyarim that later were used for the avodah), I can think of no place where we are asked to "face the harsh reality [of men's boys' demands and fantasies] and try to accommodate it" via the suggestions of Mrs. Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, i.e. transformation from "plain" to swan via a menu of possible vanities and even surgeries no matter the cost ("borrow money if you have to").

The worst part of it is that I'm not even certain that it is the "men's" appetite that the author asks young women to try to satisfy because the "men" aren't exactly out there searching for their lost half a la Adam and Chava or even a woman that they find attractive. The "men" are normally passive participants, at least in the initial phase of dating, while the mothers, sisters, and shadchaniyot call the shots. So who is accommodating whom? Who is seeking the accessory or trophy wife?

One person writes in the Jewish Press comments: Why are we humoring these men? Why do they hold the cards?

Amen. It is time to stop accommodating bad behavior, both the bad behavior of "mothers of boys" (and I've witnessed some pretty abhorrent behavior myself) and the bad behavior of boys who demand nothing less than someone who can rival a magazine cover.



39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Mrs. Mandelbaum is the wife or the mother of a plastic surgeon or bariatric surgeon? I think she should indicate lack of personal interest in the dangerous procedures she has been advocating.

Second, this emphasis on beauty is found mainly in right wing Hungarian communities like Boro Park, and through population increase, has spread through many right wing communities. More Hungarian Jews than other Eastern European Jews survived since their persecution did not begin til August 1944. It is logical that Hungarian standards of beauty have become the "right wing" standard in the eyes of many modern orthodox Jews.

The Polish and Litvish and Russian descended right wing Jews were very simple and modest in their dress. I know because when Hungarian Boro Parkers visited our school many years ago, an out of town school, we were amazed at how glamorous they were. On subsequent visits to Hungarian Boro Park, I was also surprised at the emphasis on external appearance. To the modern orthodox readers, please do not think these ideas are solely right wing. They are right wing Hungarian.

ProfK said...

Apparently Anonymous that old Yiddish saying which translates as "The worst anti-semites are the Jews themselves" is alive and well and, for a change (not), aiming at the Hungarian Jews. If you are going to spew divisive rhetoric, at least get your facts right.

The first massacre of Jews in Hungary took place in July of 1941. Of the original 825,000 Jews before the war, only 260,000 Hungarian Jews survived. And some of those Jews were not really Hungarian but ethnic Romanian, or ethnic Czechoslavakian or Ukranian.
Many of those Jews whom people point to today as Hungarian are, in fact, Romanian. While the Austro-Hungarian Empire may have had them under their control pre-WWI and for part of WWII, the fact is that Satmar, Sighet, Vishuv and many others were in Romania, and still are today--check a map.

Boro Park is Hungarian Boro Park? Again, check a map. Bobov, Minsk, Pinsk, Vishnetz are not Hungarian, and are a large presence in Boro Park. Satmar, Sighet and Vishuv are Romanian.

Just what did you think to accomplish by naming the problem inherent in Ms. Halberstam's article as a "Hungarian" idea?

Sadly to say, the old European competitions and animosities country to country are alive and well here in the US, well over 6 decades after WWII.

Orthonomics said...

Ludicrous anonymous. And of those I've met who are near anorexic or nose job wielding. . . neither have thet lived in Boro Park nor are they Hungarian or Romanians.

This type of sexualizing of young women is not of Hungarian doing or of American doing. But I do believe it unique to moder day Orthodox culture.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

I hate to say it, but I agree with the letter writer. The competition is so bad out there, that if your end-all is to get a shidduch, one certainly should get plastic surgery so that your chances will increase. It certainly is not right, but those are the cold hard facts, just like "Winthrops" don't have to deal with tuition committees. Putting your head in the sand will not help.

Now should a girl's end-all be a shidduch? That is a very different question, but as long as we send to Sem for the year (which pushes Kollel) and society disowns/ignores unmarrieds, that will not change either.

JS said...

It's all a manifestation of lack of respect and dignity for women. It's a culture and worldview that puts men on a pedestal and makes women subservient to them. It's all dressed up in platitudes and apologetics that women have inherent kedusha, don't need more mitzvot, men can't control their urges, God gave each gender a specific role, women are internally focused and men are externally focused, blah blah blah.

What results is not only a society that degrades women and turns them into sex objects, but a society in which the women do it to themselves in the name of religion and spirituality. The women coerce and apply pressure to their daughters, sisters, and female friends to play the part and do what is "right in God's eyes."

So, it's not surprising this article was written by a woman or that the mother in laws treat the young girls in this way. It's an extreme "l'havdil" but in societies where female genital mutilation is practiced, it's the WOMEN who perform the ritual on their daughters and the WOMEN who fight most vociferously for continuing the practice.

Maybe if people who are part of this system took the tiniest step back and thought about whether this is really what God intended and really what pleases God they'd realize how absurd and insane things have become. You can be a religious, God-fearing person and not participate in this nonsense.

I really wonder when people are finally going to stand up and say the Emperor has no clothes.

AriSparkles said...

I can't help but wonder how conventionally pretty the author is.

tesyaa said...

As much as parents of girls wring their hands about this mindset, most will tolerate it because they also have boys. As much as they think girls shouldn't be judged by superficialities, they want their sons to have attractive wives.

It's human nature, and it reminds me of a very old joke in which Sadie and Gussie are discussing their married children. Sadie laments that her daughter-in-law ignores her domestic resposibilities, spending all day shopping and enjoying coffee and brunch with her friends. Gussie tries to cheer her up by asking about her married daugher. "Oh, things are wonderful! Her husband doesn't let her lift a finger around the house. The maid takes care of everything and her husband insists she buy pretty clothes, and he makes sure she has plenty of free time to see her friends! What a catch he is!"

tesyaa said...

I'd add that sincere baalai tshuva may have a different view of the shidduch system than most FFBs. Sincere baalai tshuva who want to find appropriate matches for their children should look at children of other sincere baalai tshuva. I used to think BTs should attempt to integrate with FFBs, but it seems pointless. The motivation for, and attitude towards, observance is quite different.

This is, of course, a generalization, and there will be exceptions.

tesyaa said...

Above comment (11:25) by me is referring to the RW world. The comment may and may not apply to the MO world. More generalizations *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Prof K, why the anger in your comment? Why do you think I am sowing discord? It is well known that most of Boro Park was Hungarian. I don't have exact demographic statistics, but I never met anyone from Boro Park who was NOT Hungarian. Everyone I met from Boro Park was dressed glamorously, with the exception of Hungarians of high ideals and who made it a point to dress quietly. Most Hungarians are glamour-conscious and these views have permeated the right wing world, except for the minority of idealists. I have attended a Boro Park shul where tznius and kavana were both believed and practiced, and it was Hungarian founded and financed. Why the tone of excitement in posts? Is it because I have perceived something that is not supposed to be said? Thought but not said? That I may have hit the nail on the head? By the way, I'm Hungarian, too! My Hungarian family came in the 1890's, and we are FFB since then.

Anonymous said...

Prof K, why the anger in your comment? Why do you think I am sowing discord? It is well known that most of Boro Park was Hungarian. I don't have exact demographic statistics, but I never met anyone from Boro Park who was NOT Hungarian. Everyone I met from Boro Park was dressed glamorously, with the exception of Hungarians of high ideals and who made it a point to dress quietly. Most Hungarians are glamour-conscious and these views have permeated the right wing world, except for the minority of idealists. I have attended a Boro Park shul where tznius and kavana were both believed and practiced, and it was Hungarian founded and financed. Why the tone of excitement in posts? Is it because I have perceived something that is not supposed to be said? Thought but not said? That I may have hit the nail on the head? By the way, I'm Hungarian, too! My Hungarian family came in the 1890's, and we are FFB since then.

Anonymous said...

Prof K, why the anger in your comment? Why do you think I am sowing discord? It is well known that most of Boro Park was Hungarian. I don't have exact demographic statistics, but I never met anyone from Boro Park who was NOT Hungarian. Everyone I met from Boro Park was dressed glamorously, with the exception of Hungarians of high ideals and who made it a point to dress quietly. Most Hungarians are glamour-conscious and these views have permeated the right wing world, except for the minority of idealists. I have attended a Boro Park shul where tznius and kavana were both believed and practiced, and it was Hungarian founded and financed. Why the tone of excitement in posts? Is it because I have perceived something that is not supposed to be said? Thought but not said? That I may have hit the nail on the head? By the way, I'm Hungarian, too! My Hungarian family came in the 1890's, and we are FFB since then.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 60s,,I was taught that a Jewish "10" was a "3" with seven million dollars.

Yitzhak said...

Profk: My impression is that Sighet is actually generally considered to be Hungarian. At the time that its eponymous Hassidic dynasty was founded, it was a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, not Romania, which doesn't even seem to have existed as its own country until the mid to late nineteenth century:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sighetu_Marma%C8%9Biei
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sighet_%28Hasidic_dynasty%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Hungary
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Hungary
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romania

[I was interested in this since I recently referred to a string of Halachic responsa, beginning with the Avnei Zedek and Minhas Elazar, as "Hungarian" ;)]

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't mean for my deathless prose to repeat 3 times - this is a computer glitch, I deny all responsibility!

ProfK said...

Yitzhak,
Sighet is well within the borders of the country of Romania. It, along with the whole of Romania, on many occasions was annexed by the Austrian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire among others. It's "countryhood," under various names, goes back to the Roman occupation when Caesar was attempting to rule the world--a Roman legion was stationed in the area and named it Romania--of Rome.

"In 1877, Romania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire and, following a Russian-Romanian-Turkish war, its independence was recognized by the Treaty of Berlin, 1878, making it the first independent national state in the eastern half of Europe." It would, up until immediately following WWI, have a history of having the Austro-Hungarian Empire take it over. From post WWI it was again an idependent country.

Lots of people confuse where Sighet and Sata Mare belong to because residents of the area spoke both Hungarian and Romanian, and many also spoke German. When my grandfather was born, the area was under Austro-Hungarian rule, and German and Hungarian were the two official languages, although "natives" also spoke Romanian. When my mother was born, Romanian was the official language, the language used in school, but she and her family and the other families in the area also spoke Hungarian, because that was the language of their parents.

Note: the US government way back immediately post WWII considered Sighet as part of Romania, and it still does. When my parents were emigrating to the US they were asked for their city of birth. My father answered "Sighet" and his papers read "Place of birth: Sigheti Marmaru, Romania."

Someone once told me that people coming from the Transylvan and from Maramores and Satamare prefer to be known as Hungarians because it has more "cachet" than being known as Romanians. Like any of that has any real relevance in today's world, in the US.

rosie said...

Mrs Halberstam Mandelbaum has personal knowledge of women whose noses are keeping them single as well as her own past experience. I am not a fan of elective surgery, particularly vanity based cosmetic surgery, and personally try to avoid all operating rooms, but I guess that there are those women who hate their noses enough to have them altered. I think that such a person needs to speak to a rav to get a halachic perspective.
These girls and their families have chosen to compete for a small group of boys who are sought after enough to be picky. If they want to marry someone who would love them as they are, they might want to consider boys who are not as sought after.
The mothers of boys have been given the rights by their sons to pick the daughter-in-law of their choosing. It might seem unfair but if they subscribe to it.....

Anonymous said...

I hope Mrs. Mandelbaum will indicate she has no personal pecuniary interest, other than a desire to facilitate shiduchim, in encouraging plastic surgery. Judges who have a personal interest in a case disqualify themselves from pronouncing on it.

I work in trusts & estates law, and I feel everyone with property should have a will. But since I am not an attorney, I have no financial interest in the matter. People can go to any attorney they wish to. But if Mrs. H-M is related to someone who is in the business of cosmetic surgery or weight loss surgery, that is another matter entirely, and is highly pertinent to the advice she is giving. I am sure she is sincere, but her sincerity would shine through most brightly if she could tell us she has no financial interest in these procedures.

rosie said...

I doubt that she had anything to gain by confessing her own history of plastic surgery or that of the 40yr old kallah that she mentioned. I emailed her through the JP and she said that she knew some older single women who she felt could have benefited from plastic surgery. She was simply making a suggestion from her own experiences. She also makes shidduchim and has an open house for singles and she often sees women who don't find shidduchim because they are very unattractive.
I know several people who had weight loss surgery and they were in some cases, very large. It may have been recommended by their doctors.

Anonymous said...

Rosie, your reply is irrelevant to the question I posed. Sorry to use the legal word "irrelevant", which means does not answer the question.

Anonymous said...

Moreover, it is for her to answer the question, not a friend, to whom the question was not posed.

Mr. Cohen said...

That men have it easier with dating is a myth.

Baalei teshuvah, Sephardim, short men and men with low-paying jobs can go for months without a date, or even years without a date, especially if they belong to more than one of those categories.

tesyaa said...

Mr. Cohen,

Perhaps there is need for a specialized shidduch service matching short men with women who do not want to wear large quantities of makeup.

Is it more unreasonable to suggest to a man with a low-paying job that he undertake training to qualify for a higher paying job than it is to suggest to a woman that she undergo cosmetic surgery?

I am making these suggestions tongue in cheek, since in general, short men and men with low-paying jobs want to date attractive, successful women. There is nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that these women have the choice of dating taller men with higher paying jobs.

Miami Al said...

It is a bit of a cultural bias that we suggest that spending $40k-$200k on higher education to secure a higher paying job and get a choice wife is a reasonable change, but a $5000 Rhinoplasty is somehow "frivolous" and beyond the pale.

Dave said...

Actually, I think we look at the Rhinoplasty to get a spouse the same way we look at "going to college to get an MRS degree".

tesyaa said...

There are more benefits to higher education than just securing an attractive spouse. There may be additional social benefits to rhinoplasty as well, but these are harder to quantify.

Miami Al said...

Dave,

I don't know, rich girls that go to college and don't plan a "career" and get a degree in liberal arts (whether they work after school or not, that's not a "career focused degree") are NOT slammed the way people are slamming cosmetic surgery.

If the end all and be all of pre-married life is to get married, I'm not sure why that's a terrible investment.

I mean, Rhinoplasty is cheaper than "a year in Israel," yet the latter is heavily promoted as "necessary for a Shidduch..."

Studies have shown that the students that are accepted into Harvard, but don't go, end up in roughly comparable economic positions as those that go, indicating that large portions of the benefit of attending Harvard is being smart enough and ambitious enough to get in, NOT the education there...

OTOH, I've never seen Harvard Men not play up that angle in the dating pool, and they seem to have success with it. I don't know if "Harvard Admitted, State University" graduates are as successful in the dating pool, no studies have been conducted.

Does anyone thing that Stern College is a better academic choice for a New Jersey resident than Rutgers? Rutgers is higher ranked, but I'm guessing Stern graduates have an easier time finding nice modern-Orthodox YU guys than Rutgers girls.

Anonymous said...

At Rutgers the modern Orthodox girls and guys actually get to spend time together in natural settings - eating in the kosher dining hall on weekdays and Shabbat, going to class, etc. - I think that makes up for the Stern "social" advantages.

Orthonomics said...

Even if you hope to get married by going to college or attending a choice seminary, you hopefully expand your other opportunities, life experience, knowledge and your mind as well.

Plastic surgery to transform a regular girl to a potential trophy does none of the above.

fat lips said...

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and if your nose is so large that it is the one thing that makes that first impression, you may as well fix it.

Avi Greengart said...

Of course it would be far more refreshing if her article said that the RW shidduch system is terribly broken and that we should encourage young adults to regularly socialize with each other where they can get to know each other and see beyond the superficial. She doesn't seem to think that the system is broken, though. And while I disagree with her there, I find it hard to argue too strenuously against fixing or mitigating obvious appearance problems. If you really need a nose job, by all means, get one. Same with giant moles, orthodontia, or acne that can be fixed or mitigated with cosmetics, dental appliances, or even, yes, minor surgery. If you're playing in a field where people are judged by their appearance, shouldn't you do the minimum required to level the playing field? Seems like sensible advice to me.

Mark said...

rosie - Mrs Halberstam Mandelbaum has personal knowledge of women whose noses are keeping them single

How could she possibly know this? How could she possibly have "personal knowledge" that it is the nose that is keeping the girls single?

Shabbat Shalom all.

Mark said...

Mr Cohen - That men have it easier with dating is a myth.

Baalei teshuvah, Sephardim, short men and men with low-paying jobs can go for months without a date, or even years without a date, especially if they belong to more than one of those categories.


For short men, you can put them in a device called a rack that will stretch their bodies until they are an acceptable height. And for sefardim, you can have them bleach their skin so it becomes a lighter shade of flesh. For men in low-paying jobs, make them work 18 hours a day until they earn enough to support a family in the proper Orthodox style. Baalei Teshuva ... well ... pretty soon you won't have to worry about that because there won't be any.

rosie said...

As to my comment about the noses keeping women single:
Some women (and men) are unfortunately born with bulbous or hooked noses and most people don't view such noses as attractive. That is not to say that unattractive people are not marriageable without surgery but Mrs Mandelbaum may be circulating in a crowd where surgery for such things might be more the norm or expectation.
In my crowd, plastic surgery is almost never done.

Anonymous said...

Emphasizing beauty in women to help them get married is not a new idea. Rav Moshe Feinstein paskens that it is not considered chavalah b'atzmah for a woman to get plastic surgery to help her find a shidduch, and he says this is because yofi is "a great tzorech" for women.
What she said is not a new idea. Many of my relatives, who are on the edge of Charedi society, are shadchanim, and while I am not very specific on the details of what they do my grandmother always said that looks were very important especially as a first impression and I am certain that she would have agreed with this woman at least in principle.

mother in israel said...

From a comment on Ingathered: http://ingathered.com/2012/03/23/shidduch_crisis/
Go read the whole thing--this is an excerpt.
But I remained single for almost four and half years. Why? Because I wear hearing aids. I am hard of hearing. I used the telephone. I could watch TV or go to movies. I function so highly that unless you know what to look for you might not know that I was hard of hearing. But SHADCHANIM saw ONLY the fact that I was hard of hearing. EVERY SINGLE Shadchan that called me to redt me a potential shidduch — they would say he is “perfect” for me. Why? He is “deaf”, like you! Or, he is blind. He stutters. He has a disability. He is crippled. NOT ONCE did a Shadchan suggest to fix me up with a “normal” man. NOT ONCE! I even asked Shadchanim to please NOT tell a potential shidduch that I was hearing impaired, with the PROMISE that I would tell him on the very first date. There were two responses to that: either they flat out refused or they would “yes me” — agree to my condition but they lied — they would tell the potential match.

Rabbanit Ruth Alfasi said...

We have a daughter in shidduchim and plenty of friends and I believe the real issue isn't simply looks - but the ol' "what will the Jone's Say?" syndrome. It's really more about status of the families involved really believing they deserve x,y,z and feeling they really shouldn't have to 'settle' for a less-than-perfect wife for all to admire and feel envious.

Funny example: A girl who's otherwise "perfect" brother has diabetes and has had a hard time finding a shidduch because this is such a drawback, enthusiastically exclaims, "Mazal tov, my brother's finally engaged and she's PERFECT!" Ironic since the sister and family really believe the kallah is perfect even tho there obviously is no such thing.

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