Monday, June 25, 2012

NOW, 1968

I came across this quote while browsing at this Christian headcovering blog (I venture into interfaith head-covering land, on occasion, to explore styles, comparitive approaches, and the like.  More on that some other time.)
"Because the wearing of a head covering by women at religious services is a symbol of subjection with many churches, NOW recommends that all chapters undertake an effort to have all women participate in a "national unveiling" by sending their head coverings to the task force chairman.  At the Spring meeting of the task force of women and religion, these veils will be publicly burned to protest the second class status of women in all churches.  (National Organization for Women, Dec., 1968.)
I suppose it was the mood of the times, but the thought of having to burn my tichels as a demonstration that I am not repressed really bothers me.  Of course, noticing that it only refers to churches, ignoring all of us non-Christians bothers me too, but that's not the point in this blog.  The point, for me, is that my head-covering is Mine, not anyone else's.  I follow halakha- my husband didn't make, or even ask, me to do this (in fact, he tends to be just a little surprised at how attached to it I feel, and how thoroughly I take it), nor does it feel like subjection in the least, from any source.

Maybe (probably, even), if I lived in 1968, I'd feel differently.  It's amazing how fast cultural attitudes change- and this was over 40 years ago.  In a world where cultural distinctiveness was just becoming acceptable, not a lot of women covered their hair outside of shul, anyway...  I have been to a lot of Orthodox synagogues where you can see the generational divide: older grandmothers come bare-headed, women my mother's age come with hats, and women of my age come with either hat or tichel.  At my own shul, older women come either bare-headed or with those doilies designed for the head, with a little bow in the middle- what must have been the fashion for women to wear to shul probably around this time, if not a little earlier, even.

Looking Jewish wasn't what you did, then.  I get that.  I'm not trying to be totally anachronistic.  But just reading that quote irks me.  I'm a feminist, and being told by a feminist organization that my choice of religious practice is a form of subjection of women really bothers me.   For all that I'm aware that feminism of then is not the feminism of now (sorry for the pun- it wasn't intentional, I promise), it still riles me up.

How do you feel about it?  (If pertinent)- did you feel differently about the topic in 1968 than you do now?


  1. I can't believe the quote... I'm very attached to my covering... going without it is like going naked. I actually teared up reading about the burning of them. Do you have any background information on it? I tried Googling it but the only place I found the quote was from this post and the post you got it from. Would love to know if they actually did it and how much success they had.

  2. Salam! There are still many people attacking a lot of veiling practices, including the various styles of veils and hijabs. There is actually a lot of colonisim and Western thought that goes against it and originally there was a lot of sexulization of any form of veils. Like postcards of Algerian woman wearing a niqab but breast out. There are countries like France who ban any sort of veiling from Muslims and Jewish woman outside of mosques or temples. I think for a lot of Christian Western woman the veil really symbolizes oppression especially in 1 Corinthians 11:3 (I think that's the verse).....but I think this whole thing is really interesting. P.S. I love your blog!