Tattooed Jew

I read all of these articles about religion and modesty laws, and usually I scoff. They are always filled with explanations of why women should cover up, about how the very sight of our hair will cause some man to lose all control and ravish us. I’m a pencil skirt, tank top wearing girl and I generally have found modesty laws to be silly and irrelevant to my life.

Increasingly, however, I am beginning to wonder. I have noticed a disturbing trend towards the idea that bodies are public domain, towards the idea that we have a right to understand, poke, prod, and examine the bodies of others without regard to their wishes. My pregnant friends complain of people – complete strangers – coming up and touching their bellies without having even said a word to them. My friend with a prosthetic arm constantly bemoans the people who want to touch it, see what it feels like. Daily I have people who try to touch my tattoos, who attempt to move my clothes out of the way to see what the rest of them look like.

We have become a society that expects all information to be in the public arena. Nothing is held back. Nothing is personal. Google and Wikipedia have given us the sure and certain knowledge that information is at our fingertips, and we expect this to be true in the rest of the world as well. We no longer believe in knowledge that is not ours to have, and this includes knowledge about other people’s bodies as well. We share all the information about our ailments; our sex lives, our physical attributes; we expect other people to do this as well.

I think that bodies should be sacred. We should choose when and where we choose to share them, and when and where we keep ourselves private. When did we move away from a society in which it was ok to say “no, I don’t wish to share that with you”? When did we become a society that has a hard time saying “please, don’t touch me”? If our bodies are temples given to us by G…d, then when did we become so covetous of other peoples? And how do we return to a place where my body was the only one I had a right to?

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