Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shake Your Body Like A Bellydancer...

I wrote this before I posted Mr. Katz's piece on Spirit of the Law, and I feel it's still relevant:

In Bais Yaakovs, one of their arguments against listening to goyish music was that it makes you "move your body in a non-Tzniusdik manner," and blah, blah, blah.

So, there I was talking to a young woman and she was telling me about this bellydancing class she attends. "Do a lot of frum women stay for that?" I asked, what I thought was non-chalantly.

"Yeah, they're all Israeli.." (another story)

"Why? Do you think it's inappropriate?" Someone else at the table asked.

"Would I do it myself?" I hedged. "No, but..."

What it comes down to is-it's not Tzniusdik. Obviously, they're not doing against halacha. Supposedly, there are no men there, so they're not turning on any men, which is the whole point, right?

But to me, that defense is weak. The girl tried to justify it by saying that G-d wants us to be in shape and healthy, and that's good exercise. Hey, ever heard of a treadmill? An elliptical? A Bowflex? An Ab Roller? I mean, there are many ways to burn calories without behaving inappropriately.

Why do I deem that inappropriate? It just is. Not everything has to be so black and white, so cut-in-stone, [insert your cliche here].

Those knowledgable in Z100 music will realize the title of this post was taken from lyrics of a song about a bellydancer. Trust me, not one of the cleaner songs on the air.
It teaches you to thrust your hips and do all those things that are not proper for frum people. That can really influence how you behave. This is like Carmen Electra's striptease classes, just your clothes stay on. We hope.

39 Comments:

At 11/19/2006 2:59 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Michelle,

"Why do I deem that inappropriate? It just is."

It just is? You should at least _try_ to do a little better than that.

 
At 11/19/2006 3:28 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

doesnt it say something that its "all israelis"? i commented this on your last post.. but could it be that youre extreme view on this just isnt taking into account the cultural factor?

 
At 11/19/2006 3:45 PM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

akon even says in the song that he needs to go to church the next day repentin so even they agree its far from tznuis

 
At 11/20/2006 6:30 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

This girl isn't Israeli, and who says it's okay for them, too?

Y.Y. Pardon my ignorance.

Ortho---try this: tell me why it IS right.

 
At 11/20/2006 7:54 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

michelle, if this is an issue of "spirit" of the law and not clear cut halacha, shouldnt you take into account a variety of factors such as cultural background.. maybe you didnt read my comment on your last post, but by sfardim, "bellydancing" is an accepted form of dancing.. actually its pretty much the only form of dancing.. for everyone, religious, non religious, little kids, old ladies, men.. its not viewed as something erotic or inapropriate.. i agree that there might be an issue of tznius for someone whos not accusomted to this kind of dancing but it seems a little ethnocentric to call out straight out inaporpriate for anyone..

 
At 11/20/2006 7:57 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Michelle,

"Ortho---try this: tell me why it IS right."

I'm a libertarian. The rule is that things are permitted, you have to supply the reason to forbid something. If you have no reason to disallow it - then allow it.

 
At 11/20/2006 1:39 PM, Anonymous Something Anything?!? said...

Well, should guys be allowed to do the 'alley cat' at bar mitzvahs?

In the 7th and 8th grades we were subject to very strict lectures about not chas v'shalom doing those trayfe tummehdige dances. We were taught that a yid dances in a circle and not by himself, like in the 'alley cat' or the 'chofetz chaim.'

What does the Spirit of the Law (whose law) have to say about that Michelle (and supporters)?

I think the answer to this question is favorable to Mr. Katz's position. If everyone's definition of the spirit of The Law is different, then the spirit of The Law is really the spirit of myself as I project it onto The Law.

That being said, I certainly agree that 'kedoshim tehyu' and 'naval b'rshus hatorah' and 'lifnim m'shuras hadin' and 'hiddur mitzvah' and 'vasikin' and 'minhag chassidim/chassidus' and 'Lchatchila/b'diuvad' are fully recognized, accepted and integrated parts of The Law.

In conclusion, I do not know where I stand in the instant debate. I am also unsure of its scope. However, my wife/daughter/sister/neighbor have full permission to take any type of belly-dancing class that they want. They are also welcome to wear their snood low on their forehead if they wish. The spirit of the law is broad enough to encompass both, IMHO.

 
At 11/20/2006 2:42 PM, Blogger yingerman said...

Everything in life pushes you in either direction
take eating, I can pig out not make a bracha and stuff eat all sortsa crap
Or I can make the brocha eat like a polite human make the after bracha and come away a better person

this applies to EVERYTHING one does
even music and dancing
so think about this for yourself
is there afterlife?
is a reckoning?
are you going to to proud of the music you listened to?

truth may hurt
or maybe people dont give a flying rats a$5

 
At 11/20/2006 3:04 PM, Anonymous Me said...

I agree with anonym00kie. When I was in seminary, we would have gatherings and stuff, and there was inevitably song and dance. We Americans stood in shock and just gaped at the way the French girls (many with Moroccan and Tunisian ancestry) danced. It blew me away at first. I asked them how they could not have any compunction about dancing in a non-tznius manner like that (non-confrontationally, of course- I was honestly curious), and they answered completely guilelessly, saying that that is their custom, simply the way they have been brought up and the way things have been for centuries. Now if WE were to try to mimic that kind of dancing, it would come across as cheap because it isn't, in fact, appropriate for US. So I do think that it's a culture thing and is acceptable so long as people do not use it as an excuse to get away with inappropriate things or take it to extreme lengths. But this is the way the world is all over.

 
At 11/20/2006 6:23 PM, Anonymous something anything?!? said...

Everything in life pushes you in either direction. Take eating: I can pig out not make a bracha and stuff all sorts of crap.
Or I can make the brocha eat like a polite human make the after bracha and come away a better person.


You can also not make a bracha, eat like a polite human, not make the after bracha and come away a better person.

You can also thank your host(ess), help prepare, eat like a polite human, thank your host(ess) again, help clean up and come away a better person.

You can also pig out, make a bracha and stuff all sorts of crap (or helathy food) and come away a better person.

What's your point with these polarizing examples? Why can't you accept that there is a gray area somewhere between all the black and white? DOn't you see your white shirt after wearing it for a week straight - it becomes a little off-white. People are like that also - the vast majority of us. In Israel and in BT Yeshivos they try to turn you into a black and white cookie but the truth is that most of us are not black or white and we don't fit into the cookie mold.

 
At 11/21/2006 12:05 PM, Blogger JBL the first said...

Can't comment as it's the first time I heard about this, and don't really know what it means.

 
At 11/21/2006 12:20 PM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

If you ask me, some of the new jewish music out there makes you move your body as well.
re belly dancing - if it's all women and you can have a little fun, I don't think it's a bad outlet.

 
At 11/21/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Yeah, so it's American culture to sleep around. So, I guess it's okay to do that, right? If I am American...
The person who told me this about Bellydancing isn't Israeli. If you're talking weddings, that's even worse because there are certainly men around who will be turned on from it, no matter who's doing it. Moving your body in a sexy manner attracts men. Straight men, anyway.

 
At 11/21/2006 7:59 PM, Anonymous something anything?!? said...

Michelle,
Why are you equating bellydancing with sleeping around? Even you agree that sleeping around violates the letter of the law and bellydancing violates only the spirit of the law.

 
At 11/21/2006 8:41 PM, Blogger Independant Frum Thinker said...

I agree with Michelle,
Training yourself to shake around provocatively, especially with the possible chance that men may be watching, doesn't seem right.

 
At 11/22/2006 7:59 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Maybe you're worried about belly dancing causing you to have obscene sexual thoughts?

 
At 11/22/2006 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Training yourself to shake around provocatively, especially with the possible chance that men may be watching, doesn't seem right."

You've got to do better than that.

 
At 11/22/2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

s/t, a/t--i knew someone would say that. It can certainly lead to it. And some advocates say that if the girl goes to the mikveh first it's okay. Well, it isn't.
ind frum thinker-thanks :-)

 
At 11/22/2006 11:18 AM, Blogger yingerman said...

My point was that everything one does, is either to their credit or to their shame.
No there is no middle ground.
There is no neutral.
Think about it, EVERY action is either helps you up or down, depending on the spirit its done.

So where does belly dancing fall?
'To thine own self be true'.

 
At 11/22/2006 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my professional opinion:

belly dancing can be ok. when at a sfardi wedding, if you watch the older generation women, you'll notice they're belly dancing is more tasteful. the last sfardi wedding i attended was rather interesting. after the older women left the dancefloor the festivities resembled a crowded nightclub. the younger women's movements were rather erotic. this was accentuated by skin-tight clothing.

belly dancing has the potential to be harmless fun. a warning about all women's exercise classes- if the building is not exclusively for women you may have a problem. some places have men barge in during or right after an all women's class. and if you think you're safe at lucille roberts, guess again. i don't know if he's still there, but a few years ago there was a man with a membership to lucille roberts. he has a lifelong membership from when lucille roberts was mixed, and they can't throw him out. so there is one male member to lucille roberts who, as far as i know, still insists on exercising there.

 
At 11/22/2006 1:21 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

last anon--good point and tastefully written. I appreciate that you were not in attack mode. Now, i dont know from experience, but what you say makes sense. Perhaps the old gen. did it tastefully but now--and yes, as you aptly described the tight clothes makes it WAY worse. As far as the Lucille Roberts--it's slightly far fetched but you really never know, so thanks for helpin me out :)

 
At 11/23/2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous megapixel said...

my thoughts:
belly dancing i believe is of egyptian origin. (Walk like an Egyptian...) why do we even want to emulate a bunch of low life Arabs/Mitzriyim?
doing that legitimizes them somehow. They are scum.
also:
not having too many sephardim in my life, i was unaware that they do this, its obviously cuz they hung around Arabs a little too long. But what is with the shreiking at weddings? The first time I witnessed that, i was shocked. That is so not tznius!!

 
At 11/23/2006 8:56 PM, Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

Shake it baby....

 
At 11/26/2006 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to go along with the commenters who have a problem with banning something because "it just is" inappropriate.

If the folks at your seminary don't respect you enough to back up the various restrictions they want to place on your behavior, you might consider whether the restrictions are justified. Belly dancing may or may not be a good thing. But you can't know that without thinking for yourself.

 
At 11/26/2006 4:54 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

re bellydancing

no problem
1. it may teach woman to be sexier for their husbands. but thats the main reasons.
2. its sounds like fun, and how is it different than tai bo? any aerobic exercise is sexy if you want to think about it that way.
3. i think it makes a woman feel good about herself, and what is wrong about that?

 
At 11/26/2006 6:51 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

I think women walking around during the daylight hours is inappropriate.

Why do I think that's inappropriate? It just is.

 
At 11/26/2006 7:16 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

along ortho lines.
if we think things should be because we just think so, then the rabbonim are empowered to make silly takkanahs because they think so, and then people like you gladly accept them because the rabbonim just think it should be so, and who am i to think about it or think otherwise about it.

chassidim think a woman should not drive, why, well it just isnt appropriate.
they shouldnt shop alone in walmart,
shouldnt eat in resteraunts, shouldnt be a front seat passenger in a car.
seperate sidewalks in bnei brak and square town, hecsherim on music, on clothing stores etc. etc.

women shouldnt be seen nor heard.
that is where you will end up if you cant come up for reasons for why things should be wrong or right.

 
At 11/26/2006 8:38 PM, Anonymous sorry for just being difficult - BUT your argument needs work said...

oh yeah, and women on cellphones in the street is just plain wrong, it's beyond the pale. Don't even make me explain myself, it's just too obvious. And if you really want an explanation, the answer is that the Rabonnim decided (in Israel and USA). Aren't you happy that they decided so that you don't have to think for yourself anymore.

 
At 11/28/2008 8:46 AM, Anonymous Thaily said...

As someone who belly dances I have to wonder if Jews don't have bigger fish to fry, like antisemitism? Rather than pass judgment about other people's harmless hobbies.

I think being so judgmental is more inappropriate than shaking your butt in the private company of other women.

 
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