Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Another blogger stated that my post "weighty questions" created the impression "that if modesty was actually about not standing out, it would be alright to go to the gym in gym clothing," but, from reading my post, it appeared "that modesty is about silence after all…"

I am not sure if that was truly the impression I gave, or if she was reacting to my response to her post asserting that "thinness" and "modesty" were dirty words, or if it was a combination of both. However, I replied with the following, in which I assert that thinness, while not a moral good is still a type of "good" and I assert that tznius is done for focus on ones inner self.

I was not attributing thinness with any moral value. I compared it to something that has a moral value, but the comparison was just used because they are both "good." Being thin (or, as I used it, "thinner," i.e., loosing weight) is physiologically, emotionally, and mentally good as seen in the linked articles which demonstrate longer life, greater happiness, and lower stress. My analogy to giving to charity was done so I show how obtaining something that is pretty much universally accepted as "good" sometimes benefits from outside pressures and influence. If people do not even give charity without benefits other than the moral good, then it is easy to understand that some people would not lose weight without benefits other than those listed. Some people need some societal pressure to get them moving in the right direction. Do I think that the pressure current society puts on people is healthy? No. But, I do think that a desire to be thin can be healthy and is not unnatural considering the benefits derived.

As for the quote from my blog:
Thanks for the publicity? I am not sure how you get that modesty is about silence. I think in order to perceive that my wearing a skirt to a normal gym would be silencing, you'd have to do some mental acrobatics. First, I am not silent, ever. I am friendly, outgoing, ebullient, sarcastic, and noticeable. Everyone at my gym knows this and if someone told them I was silent, they'd be very confused. Second, when I wear a skirt to the gym, I certainly do not disappear. In fact, it lead to much conversation. I talked to them about Orthodox Judaism, about why I am converting, and about why the heck I would be wearing a skirt while doing pull ups. If anything, wearing a skirt gave me more of a voice to express something more personal. However, that is a one time thing, so it doesn't prove my point. The concern expressed about my skirt is because it is not long enough. Having a 3 inch longer skirt that would cover my knees would not make me any more silent. The further concern is based on the fact that it seems odd to think about modesty while at this particular gym. I have gone to numerous gyms, and I have been to those where the gym was a fashion contest involving designer sports bras, barely there spandex shorts, and masks of make-up. If that environment allows a greater voice to women and caters less to men, then my perception is way off. At my current gym, most people wear practical work out clothes and people are there to challenge themselves. So, it feels strange worrying about tznius while I am there because I feel like I am around my work-out family. But, I realize that my feelings of closeness are not always shared and I realize that I am making a lifestyle change and commitment to be aware of who I am. To shed the standards of modesty I have chosen for myself just because it seems odd, or seems unnecessary is contrary to who I am. If I am protesting injustice by wearing all black for a week, I continue wearing black even if it's night, even if it's dark, even if no one else is wearing black, and even if people not protesting are wearing black. By wearing tznius clothes to the gym, I maintain focus for even that hour on who I am, and people around me see that I am committed to principles I have chosen. After 45 minutes of exhausting myself, my skirt helps remind me that today, I'm modest. Today, I am not my physical body, I am more than that. The other people at the gym do not talk about my skirt much anymore. Just like we don't talk about Chad's full body tattoos or Sarah's 36 piercings. The great thing about my gym is that it isn't about what we put on our bodies -- it's about who we are on the inside. It feels weird worrying about wearing clothes to focus attention on my internal self when the attention is already focused there. It feels weird wearing black clothes when no one notices but myself, or when no one can tell because there is no light, but the focus just returns to the fact that I am not wearing black clothes for anyone but myself.

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