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.
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.