Re: Women wearing pants

Elliot S. Gordon (elliotgordon@juno.com)
Sun, 17 Nov 1996 21:51:27 PST

I wrote:
>The Shulchan Aruch states that the bifurcation of a woman's legs is
>sexually suggestive to a man's psyche...

No sooner did TF #95 hit the lists, when I was immediately called to task
on the above quote by email from one who was sure that it is incorrect.
To be honest it is a quote from a 2nd or 3rd hand source, which I
included almost by a "slip of the keyboard" so to speak. Having made
the statement though, it now required proper research.

What I first found was the Talmud Pesachim 3a, which states that it is
not proper for women to straddle a horse or donkey because of female
modesty. Otherwise I discovered that no, indeed this is not found in the
Shulchan Aruch. However the issue of women wearing men's clothing, or
clothing that makes a woman look like a man, is discussed. (Y.D. 182).

On the other hand, the full discussion of the modern day version of
this question and the problem that I addressed about the "sexually
suggestive" issue is to be found in the Responsa Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 11
Chap. 62. Anyone interested is referred to that source.

Briefly, as I understand it, the more lenient view is held by the Taz,
and Shu"t Avnei Tzedek, that under certain conditions women may wear
pants (note: Taz does not specifically discuss pants). The main
criteria is that the pants be worn for practical reasons [vs. fashion
or a desire to look masculine], and that although pants are being worn,
the woman by dint of the rest of her garb does not appear to be male.
The "practical" reasons cited are extreme cold or the like. If I
understand him correctly T.E. sides with this narrow interpretation of a
heter. This is about half way through the responsum. Then T.E. launches
into a long and emotional assault against any heter (permission) for the
pants commonly worn by women today.

On a personal note, I normally shy away from "frum" arguments [i.e. those
about following very stringent opinions or philosophies -- YM]. My
problem is that "frumkeit" is an area where one can easily find himself
residing in the proverbial "glass house", from which it is unwise to
throw stones. I really only intended to respond to the more general
issue of women being responsible for being treated as sex objects. My
hope was to shed a bit of light on _that_ issue from a Torah perspective.