Is Modesty Submission Or Is It Self-Preservation? It depends who you ask. The issue of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged impropriety with women is the talk of town and Mayim Bialik had what to say about it last Friday in the New York Times. She shared her take on the idea that modesty is what always protected her from being taken advantage of. She was kind of relieved she wasn’t so attractive so it was easier for her. She wrote that as an actress she makes decisions every day that protect her. One of these is that she dresses modestly and doesn’t talk flirtatiously with men as a policy.
However her words were taken out of context and people thought they understood she was blaming pretty and/or immodest women for their getting into trouble with men. Many called her out for what they perceived as insensitivity and justification for men’s conduct which was not at all what she said or wanted to communicate.
She apologized for her words taken out of context which seemed to offend women. As a feminist she personally sees it as her mission to empower women. Mayim still unabashedly believes modesty protects a woman and she doesn’t consider it submission. Quite the opposite, she felt that the whole Hollywood business objectifies women and encourages them to compromise their dignity since the men in Hollywood dictate what is attractive and how a woman should look. Flirtatious conduct is really submission to what the men in Hollywood want. Mayim did reiterate that there are no guarantees and no excuses for when a man behaves inappropriately towards a woman and that her advice may not be transferrable to other professions where women aren’t objectified.
Jewish law takes these temptations very seriously and there are many protective mechanisms to prevent contact and intimacy with members of the other gender out of the context of marriage. We pray every morning that “G-d spare us from trials and shame.” If you avoid the trials you will spare yourself a lot of shame. And this applies equally to men and women.