Sisterhood Blog

More Than A Fashion Statement

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share
Joanne Ginsberg

Two new feminist t-shirts entered the world this past month and I am not sure which will incite more scandal, considering the context.

One is a tight, black, short-sleeved v-neck tee that has “’Daughters of Israel, Do Not Dress Provocatively” printed across it in Hebrew. This is the same language women find on signs posted around religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem warning them to not show too much skin.

This shirt was the brainchild of Jerusalem-based Joanne Ginsberg, who came up with the idea after being harassed for her “provocative” dress a few summers ago. She was wearing long sleeves, a long skirt sandals and a head scarf.

As Ginsberg explained to the Times of Israel:

The women had head coverings and shawls and what appeared to be wool blankets draped all over themselves accosted me in the street. They surrounded me.. and had decided to give me a lesson in modesty.

They said they could help me become a better Jewish woman. They could help me reach new levels of modesty. My husband would desire me more. My life will miraculously become spiritual if only I listen to them.

At first, Ginsberg kept the tees on the down-low, keeping a couple a dozen in the back of her Hebrew Tshirts shop for customers she could trust. Eventually she went public, and now sells them on Etsy.

The other racy new t-shirt features a drawing of a menstruating, masturbating vagina and it’s on sale at — where else? — American Apparel. The shirt was designed by artist Petra Collins and half of the proceeds will go to the online female art collective she runs.

Collins told VICE that she is not surprised by the media storm the shirts set-off, explaining that this was precisely her intention.

“We’re so shocked and appalled at something that’s such a natural state — and it’s funny that out of all the images everywhere, all of the sexually violent images, or disgustingly derogatory images, this is something that’s so, so shocking apparently. The graphic on my shirt is a line drawing, too. It’s not even a full-on image,” she said.

Collins referred to “those really gross novelty shirts that make it look like you have boobs” and said she wanted “to reappropriate that and create a feminist, more aesthetically true drawing on one of those T-shirts that everyone can have.” Oh, and her message for those who are freaked out by the shirt, “you should probably masturbate and you’ll feel better.”

The interesting thing about the controversy surrounding Collins’ shirt is how it is, at this point at least, limited to the media. Ginsberg’s shirt, on the other hand, has a very good chance of getting its wearer hurt considering the rising trend of violence towards “immodestly” dressed women in religious areas of Israel. This isn’t to say both women aren’t breaking important taboos, just that there is so much more at stake, i.e. physical well-being, for women in some parts of the world than others — and these two new t-shirts illustrate that.

Let us not even imagine what would happen if someone stepped into an ultra-Orthodox community wearing Collins’ shirt. Ptui, ptui, ptui.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish women, sisterhood, israel, feminism, fashion

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.