Ask Aviva: Reply to readers on “Fashionable and Frum”


Dear Readers,

I’ve been writing this column for about 80 weeks now. I will sometimes have people comment to me in person, via email or phone about how they felt after reading one of my articles. I have never had a reaction that even comes close to the myriad comments I have received from “Fashionable and Frum.”
The most neutral of comments came mostly from men. They expressed how the writer of the question claims to be tznius, but is not because she dresses to attract. They were wondering why I didn’t address it in my response. I told them that in my first draft, I kinda bashed her for thinking that covering her elbows, knees and neckline with fabric that’s tighter than her epidermis is being considered within the spirit of the law. Then, when I proof-read it, I realized that so many women hate tznius because it is impossible for a person to learn to be inward-focused when the foci of the outward is constantly being shoved down their throats. So instead, if you read the finished article, you will find one sentence about how the writer should evaluate which force is stronger—the drive to covering up, or to standing out? And while on this topic, for women struggling with tznius, I suggest working on just one piece at a time, because you still want to feel like yourself. And that’s only if you feel motivated to work on it. I also suggest upping the ante in the kodesh k’dushim. Not that it’ll solve everything, but it should help realign the priorities for you. (If I weren’t a therapist, I would never think that I need the following disclaimer, but unfortunately, I’m not one of the blissfully ignorant, so here is my disclaimer: The kodesh k’dushim advice is for marrieds only. My apologizes in case I just burst your bubble.)
The more intense reactions came from cats. I mean from women. These comments were mostly negative in nature, often using terms referring to the writer which I’d rather not repeat. Ladies, why do you care? Seriously. You make me ashamed to be part of your gender. Get secure. What do you care if someone is investing time, money and effort into looking inappropriate? How does that influence you? Why does that even strike a chord? I could understand if you tell me that you can’t stop looking at her and are upset that you are getting an aveira for gazing at her, but you are not! Can we maybe separate you from her? Can we stop measuring ourselves against others? Can we turn our emotional energy inward and see where we need to improve?
And now, for the drumroll: The most outlandish reaction I received from “Fashionable and Frum”, the reaction that I still feel horrible about. Some of you may try to console me and tell me that I don’t need to feel guilty, but Rashi says that if you are an agent for something bad happening to someone else, it reflects poorly on you. (He said it regarding the halacha of putting a fence around a high porch or rooftop, Devarim 22:8.)
So here’s what happened. A woman reached out to me to let me know that someone put a copy of “Frum and Fashionable” on her door, either thinking that she was the writer (she was not), or trying to tell her to tone down. The woman said that she dresses “fashionably” and is in shape. She has her own style of dressing and encounters many jealous people.
I know I cannot take responsibility for such juvenile communication, but it really bothers me that I put so much effort into telling my readers to communicate openly, honestly, directly and respectfully, yet this is what a reader used my words to do! I implore whomever you are to apologize and I will even enable you to save face. Reach out to me and admit that it was you. Realize that you caused a person
unnecessary pain. I will pass on your regret while protecting your identity.
And the best comments were the silence. The comments of those who see a women like the writer and think, “Oh.”