Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Bais Yaakov Mentality. Part 1-Restrictions

On my interview for seminary, the principal asked me if I consider myself a Bais Yaakov girl. Now you're all thinking, "Duh, she said yes.." If only I was that smart. Here's how it went:
Michelle: "Do you mean what a Bais Yaakov girl is supposed to be, or what it has become?"
Rabbi: "Either one."
Rabbi: "Why would you say that?"
Michelle: (Flustered!) "'Cuz I wear denim..."
Meanwhile, this is my second year there, so I couldn't have been too bad.

But anyway, essentially, a Bais Yaakov girl SHOULD be a nice, aidel girl with middot tovot, yirat Hashem, Ahavat Hashem, and Bitachon. She should do Mitzvot out of Avahat Hashem, not out of habit, or because she was raised that way.

Unfortunately, the Bais Yaakov girls I have encountered do everything because they are taught that that is the right thing to do, or better yet, that it's wrong to do everything else. Most girls don't do nearly everything they're taught, because they're viewed as restrictions, not special commandments from G-d. For example, the rule about the boots. They restrict the girls. but are afraid to tackle the issue and tell them simply that they can look extremely "untzniut" (notice my clean language :-) ) when they walk around like that. They don't bother to explain, in connection to that, the value and the beauty of the laws of Tznuit, and how we are so protected from harm when we follow them properly, and how the Mitzvah helps us connect to our spirituality.

They chose to take the negative side of all the issues. They told us: "Don't go to the pizza shop on Fridays. Don't go bowling Motzei Shabbat..." But never explained why. In a certain way, if they would have said, "Don't go there, because we don't want you hanging out with guys..."and tackle the issue properly: Explain why hangihng out with guys is not good, what the consequences are, and offer alternative enetrtainment or eateries that are okay. This way, we have options and are less resentful about the restrictions.

They also made a rule about what color shoes can be worn. So, first it was no "sneakerish shoes" and then, some bozo came in with light blue shoes. In a certain way, I can't blame her, she probably figured that was the one way she could express her individuality without her tuchus being kicked. Then they came up with yet another rule: The only color shoes that are allowed are maroon (not red) and black or brown. That rule went along nicely with the one about no design on the socks. Not even a grey stripe. Then they wonder why the girls are resentful.

Those are the rules that tell us to rebel. Teenagers need options. They need freedom to a certain extent. Everyone appreciates explanations. If they tell the reason they make these rules, they are a little easier to accept, or argue respectfully. When the rules get that ridiculous, though, girls feel a lack of freedom, a lack of control, and definitely a lack of individaulity which is so important in high school.

As for me, I used my shoes. I wore platforms even though they were so out because I knew nobody else would. (Plus they're comfortable, and come in handy when walking in puddles.) I knew they hated them, but I was so frustrated with their nitpicking...well, I won't dig into Part 2- Image.


At 1/03/2005 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle-I'm not sure exactly what your "Bais Yaakovy" High School explained to you but I happen to feel that I had it explained to me when I was in High School. We were taught that if you don't understand something or have any type of question you can ask it. So I did and I got lots of answers.
I remember my principal explaining reasons she didn't like the name of a specific makeup artist's company and also telling us why she didn't want to give out the Tznius Awareness Booklets and fliers to hang around the school. (And lots of my very fine friends always wore really cool socks and multi-colored shoes.) We were also always told that tucking your shirt in has nothing to do with tznius halachos--it just makes you look more put together.
We also had a class once explaining why denim shouldn't be a determining factor of frumkeit levels...

At 1/03/2005 3:33 PM, Blogger miss piggy said...

It's hard enough for frum kids as it is.
Sorry I missed you yesterday. ;)

At 1/05/2005 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a problem in the boys' yeshivas as well. They don't give reasons, just rules.

At 1/09/2005 4:06 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Re: The boys' Yeshivos. Sadly, that is true. In addition, a local yeshiva gives Mishmar 3 nights a week for 8th graders--13-14 year olds!! That is complete overkill. These kids won't want to learn another word by the time they get out of there. I understand that Limud Torah is important, but along with the learning must be taught a love for torah, and the importance of Limud Torah.

At 12/15/2005 10:08 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

I definitely agree that students need & deserve explanations, but don't you think that the girls the principals were talking to when they said "No Ave. J on Fridays" knew what the principals were talking about? Honestly, at some points I thought I was the only girl there who didn't know what they were talking about. I went to Ave. J once on Friday. I didn't enjoy it 'cuz it was too crowded & because I had a guilt trip about deserting my mother on Friday afternoon anyway.

At 7/16/2007 10:20 AM, Blogger MAK said...

Living in South Florida, and going to a BY, was somewhat similiar yet different. For example: we weren't allowed to go to the canal on shabbos or to the Pizza Places on motzei shabbos. However, at least our teachers will willing to explain why! They were even willing to do it over and over again for the girls that asked! I never really realized how different going to a BY in Florida would e from NY. On the other hand, the BY in Florida is the only one in the whole state.

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