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Yitta Halberstam’s recent article for The Jewish Press, “Purim and the Tyranny of Beauty” opened up a hailstorm of controversy and outrage. What starts off as a lament over the poor treatment of girls involved in the shidduch process eventually devolves into something altogether different – a recommendation that more girls invest in cosmetic procedures. While you might expect to hear this sort of thing from a casting agent, to hear it as advice being given to religious women was jarring to say the least.
Sure, we all know that looks do to a certain extent matter. After all, numerous studies show that the more attractive you are the more likely you are to be helped in stores, hired for better jobs, etc. However, to suggest that young women aren’t concerned enough about their looks, would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Low self-esteem and body image issues are already rampant in Western society and calls for plastic surgery do little to ameliorate that.
The shidduch world is already ridiculously pressurized and really the last thing it needs is someone recommending we turn it into some kind of high stakes beauty pagent. As Ms. Halberstam noted in her article, most of the single girls at the event she attended hadn’t even gotten past being reviewed on paper. No one had even seen what they looked like, so their being single had nothing to do with what they looked like. Besides, to imply that the only women getting married are drop dead gorgeous and that all the singles out there are beyond plain, is not only not true, but hurtful as well. Now, these women are not only *gasp* single, but so incredibly ugly that they need plastic surgery as well?
There is an incredible amount of pressure to be perfect, both in Western society and even within religious society. All Ms. Halberstam’s proposed solution does is feed this unattainable and destructive quest for perfection. What single women need far more than makeup or cosmetic procedures, is a sense that they matter as individuals, that they are more than just pawns in the dating game.
People love to wring their hands and fret over the fate of all these single men and women, while attempting to fix the system, but here’s a wild suggestion. Instead of involving more intermediaries – teachers, parents, Rabbi, shadchans, future in-laws, etc., why don’t we do more to empower the singles themselves? Why don’t we get feedback from them about what is and isn’t working, and makes changes based on their suggestions. Why don’t we treat singles as what they are – sophisticated, intelligent adults who just happen to not be married?
Metroimmas, what do you think?