Monday, December 18, 2006

And Then You'll Know a Woman's Worth -

I davined Ma'ariv at the Kotel tonight with my friends Aaron and Josh from the yeshiva. I was supposed to go to my friend's Dan's and Arielle's for dinner and realized that I wasn't go to making it there on time. An act of Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Providence) was about to occur; I saw a Jewish friend of mine from Tucson there, and he was there with a group from Hillel. I ended up going with them to eat some shawarma and then we went to a small bar where one of the guys, Evan, a zissele Yid (sweet Jew) bought me a glass of beer.

I realized something. The trip they're on is definitely co-ed, and I noticed that the guys, my friends, had a certain level of agitation around the girls on the trip. It was as if they felt a bit inadequate if they were not able to woo them or to get them to laugh. In other words, if they were not able to create an attraction from the girls to themselves, their self-esteem was hurt.

I can sympathize because years ago, before I became observant (and shomer negiah) I too placed high value on being able to attract a girl; it was almost a social prerogative, regardless if I even felt attracted to the girl or not. It was a sort of prison. After becoming observant and learning the ins and outs of the principles of tzniut (modesty) and shomer negiah (avoiding phsycial contact with women) and having decided to apply those principles, my views on "women chasing" changed dramatically. Needless to say, the lure of attraction is still very strong, but since I had cut out touching women from my life, slowly but surely I realized that flirting, which is supposed to lead one to dating and/or physical contact with a woman, was fruitless if I had decided that I wasn't going to touch women anymore (until marriage, where I will be able to touch my wife).

That physical barrier that I erected forced me to reconsider my views on women; slowly and surely I was able to stop seeing them as objects for sex and place them in the category of person. Sex was no longer a necessary attribute of women, a thing that was reserved for my (future) wife only. Therefore, not only was I able to see the total and complete humanity in a woman, which I must admit even I, who always tried to be sensitive to human beings, saw them as related to sex, I was able to see it in myself as well. I realized that not only was it harmful for a woman to see her as a sex object, it was also harmful for me. If she was a sex object and my goal was to reach that objective, then I too was the instrument of sex and also then a sex object. A true connection with one woman at one point in life that would, G-d willing, last forever, became less and less realistic as long as I saw women as purely physical beings.

Men, if you look at yourself for a moment you too will realize just how strongly you view women as sex objects; you are so convinced of this that you have told yourself that they actually enjoy being seen that way. In doing this you strip both yourself and her of your humanity, your claim to be able to say that you are a human being. Ultimately, not only do you strip yourself and women of humanity, you also strip other men of it because you reason, "If I think like this then surely other men must think like this," it becomes a value that you propagate through society by means of your inner circles. In doing this we in fact build a society of sex objects.

*By the way, if you think that sex objectivity is reserved for consenting adults, realize that it can spread to non-consenting adults. If you think that it is reserved for consenting adults of different sexes, realize that it can also occur in consenting adults of the same sex. If you think it's reserved for adults period, realize that it can spread to children. If you think that it's reserved for human beings, now hold back the barf factor, it can also spread to animals. If you think it's reserved for living humans, now really hold back the barf factor, it can spread to dead human beings. If you think that it's reserved for animate beings, realize that it can spread to inanimate objects. If you think that it's reserved for sexual behaviors, realize that it can spread to non-sexual behaviors; these things are usually known as "fetishes," i.e., non-sexual behaviors that stimulate a sexual response. All of these things have been done (or are) at least during one point in time in human history. These things exist.

The guys which with I was hanging out, good guys for sure, with good heads on their shoulders and good hearts, were too trapped in this "I must attract girls or my worth is lessened" habit. People can tell when you treat them like human beings, and women, whom are said to be more observant of subtle suggestive behaviors, clearly sense when a man is acting in a suggestive manner. Try one time treating a woman like a human being, i.e., without the need to drench her in conversation, and you'll be amazed at what you'll see; there's actually a little human being somewhere inside that woman. And wow, get this, there's also a little human being inside of you too, even if you deny his existence! Trust me, if you do this you'll begin to see people as highly more dignified beings. Not only will you enrich the quality of your relationships with people, you will enrich the quality of the world.

This is a distinct Jewish ideal and, guess what, the basis of every single commandment in the Torah - Tikkun Olam, and it is a deeply religious concept. It also is thoroughly attached to the commandment (mitzvah) of "love your neighbor as yourself," which implores one to be able to love himself as a prerequisite to loving others, and as an obligation to love yourself so that you can love others. Ultlimately, this type of love reveals G-d to the world Who then reveals His love.