Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Beged Ish

The issue of cross-dressing (men and women wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex) is one that comes up from time to time. Most Ashkenazic Orthodox consider it to be forbidden for a woman to wear pants in most situations where men might be present. Some of those who hold differently assert that in the US, men's and women's pants and suits are readily distinguishable from one another, and thus don't fall under the ban. Supporting this view in a completely different context is this comment from Martha C. Nussbaum:

Anne Hollander has written eloquently of the way in which women have claimed the suit, that attribute of the successful man the world over, as their own, replacing with it those billowing petticoats that made women seem vaguely like mermaids, human on top and some hidden uncleanness below. But women's suits never have been and never will be precisely like men's suits -- perhaps because women have better fashion sense, perhaps because color-blindness is a male-sex-linked gene.

6 comments:

SephardiLady said...

Interesting. I ran into an article years ago claiming the women's suit was specifically to copy the men's suit. . which would be a real beged ish issue, at least how the Ashkenazi poskim frame the issue.

Charlie Hall said...

Pants for women are acceptible in my community, although rare. I have occasionally even seen women wearing pants in shul.

In any case, women in America have been wearing pants as long as men -- they were common work dress on the frontier. So in America they are not exclusively begged ish.

ADDeRabbi said...

for some reason, we are much more 'sensitive' to the issue of women's pants than we are to men dying their hair which, acc. to the gemara, is a form of 'beged ishah'. if hair dye can be 'just for men', and thereby obviate the problem, then pants can be made 'just for women'

Zman Biur said...

But women's suits never have been and never will be precisely like men's suits -- perhaps because women have better fashion sense, perhaps because color-blindness is a male-sex-linked gene.

Perhaps because women are shaped differently from men? Or at least they're supposed to be!


Regarding Beged Ish, the halacha is pretty clear that a garment is only forbidden if it is distinctly worn only by members of one sex. A garment worn by members of both sexes in a given society cannot be a violation of Beged Ish(a). This would seem to be irrelevant of the historical origins of that garment.

(Standard "not a rabbi" disclaimer applies)

chardal said...

yes, but sometimes meta-halachic issues may come into play and poskim have the prerogative to make fences where they believe social ills would follow.

Anonymous said...

Almost all poskim who asser pants don't asser pants on the grounds of beged ish, but on other tznius grounds. The notion that the main issue is beged ish is a misconception.
Rabbi JDBleich has a review of this in one of his Contemporary Halachic Problems issues.