Friendly Coverage — It Can Be Done

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A few weeks ago, a reporter for the Florida Times-Union called with a few questions about sheitels, the wigs worn by married Orthodox women to cover their natural hair. The result is this morning’s column in their ongoing series called “Dare to Ask,” and I am frankly impressed with how accurate and how friendly the coverage turned out to be.

From the title alone, “These wigs reflect code of modesty,” you see the reporter isn’t out to mock or degrade. It’s very easy to imagine how negatively this article could have gone, and which stereotypes could have been perpetuated. Instead, I and the others interviewed had the opportunity to rebut and dismantle those mistaken impressions, and thus paint a far more favorable picture of what, to the secular viewer, initially appears to be an arcane and even repressive practice.

Modesty, of course, isn’t about repression but moderation. Our community keeps private what others broadcast, and that was apparent in the article. Reporter Phil Milano posed challenging questions provided by his readers, such as the following from the accompanying podcast: “Yeah, but these wigs look so great nowadays that it almost defeats the purpose!” We then had the opportunity to point out that even a well-made sheitel isn’t natural, and is usually immediately distinguishable to the practiced eye.

Wonder of wonders, the whole Indian hair thing didn’t even make it into the article. And not only that — he closed with my best line. What more could we ask for?

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15 Responses

  1. G B says:

    To #11 from #8: I am a woman who has covered my hair (hats/snoods/scarves and yes, sheitls) for 30 years.

  2. Shalhevet says:

    While I understand, and even agreed with G B (#8) and Rivka W. (#13), I have changed my perspective after hearing more than one friend explain how emotionally difficult it is for her to have to cover her hair. She feels she must do whatever she can to make the mitzvah easier and more pleasant for herself. Even if that means spending the thousands of dollars.
    While I don’t have that issue, I’ve come to realize that others do. Which brings us to “al tadin et chavercha…” – don’t judge others until you stand in their place.

  3. Rivka W. says:

    Re #11 (which was re #8):

    Perhaps it was written by a man. Allow me (not a man) to agree with it entirely. In the almost 15 years I have been covering my hair, I have not spent as much on ALL my wigs, snoods, hats, and tichels as I would have on one “custom.” In my opinion, spending thousands of dollars on a single wig is the height of absurdity.

  4. SephardiLady says:

    I guess I don’t have a well trained eye. I just spend time inquiring about a really nice “girl” I met at a wedding that seemed right up the alley of a single we are friends with to find out she is married and that was a sheitel. :)

    Better luck to me on both counts (recognizing sheitlach and making shidduchim) next time. :)

  5. rak says:

    Something tells me comment #8 was written by a man.

  6. Jewish Observer says:

    “Isn’t it a chok for MARRIED women to cover their hair”

    i don;t believe it is a chok the way shatnez is a chok

  7. Oldster says:

    Isn’t it a chok for MARRIED women to cover their hair? If Halacha were like, lehavdil, the Moslems– wouldn’t unmarried women be required to wear head coverings?

  8. G B says:

    When kollel wives who receive WIC and food stamps are buying sheitels that cost $1000 – 4000, something is terribly wrong with our definition of modesty. Ditto for those who can afford it. We are no different from any other fashion slave who is guided by culture dictating what is “au courant” and what we “must” have to be “IT.” We’ve confused the important halacha of a married woman covering her hair with flagrant and ostentacious consumerism that is a perversion of a beautiful rite of passage for a Jewish woman. I won’t even get into the lack of responsibility taken by many fabricators and stylists for defective or poorly cut sheitls, after women foolish enough to squander such huge amounts for their wigs disover, to their dismay, that their sheitls failed to meet their expectations, and the gold mine on their heads is, ultimately, only hair today, gone tomorrow.

  9. sima ir kodesh says:

    I find it more informative and meaningful when Women delve into and give over info about shtiel wearing, rather than men.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    One wonders how any of the major NY-LA-DC papers would cover this issue.

  11. moshe says:

    “…We then had the opportunity to point out that even a well-made sheitel isn’t natural, and is usually immediately distinguishable to the practiced eye.”

    Is this what the halacha comes down to? In fact there are plenty of sheitals now that are very difficult to distinguish from real hair. Are there any sheitals that cross the line and are prohibited by halacha? I believe the answer is no. So in essence the questioner is right-they really do defeatr the purpose. Unless you say the obligation to cover has nothing to do with modesty, which then begs the question:What is the reason for covering?

  12. ralphie says:

    Hmmmm – wonder why this is in the Entertainment section.

  13. Oldster says:

    A cover is a cover is a cover! Nonetheless, I for one often cannot recognize a sheitel for a sheitel, certainly not a good one well handled by a capable woman.

  14. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    A beautiful job, almost miraculous. Considering some run-in my friends and I have had with visiting journalists around here, it makes my day and should make yours, too.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Menken pointed out that “even a well-made sheitel isn’t natural, and is usually immediately distinguishable to the practiced eye”. This raises the quasi-economic question: above what price level does the improvement in the appearance of a sheitel become too small to matter?