Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Speaking of Watching our Language

By my reckoning I have not gone on a rant since before Purim, when the subject of overindulgence in alcohol came up. I am overdue so fortunately something occured this week that "lit the fire" so to speak.

Over the months I have been blogging I've come across one label that has had me gritting my teeth. This week was just the final straw.

We Jews are proud of the fact that we have the concept of Shmiras HaLoshon. Unfortunately, in far too many cases all it is is a concept, not an actual way of behaving and of speaking. We "talk the talk" but we don't "walk the walk." The gossip surrounding shidduchim and dating couples is so out of hand that it is interfering with the ability of people to get married. We indiscriminately throw labels at each other and act towards each other as if those labels have actual intrinsic meaning. We use MO and RW and assume we have said something perfectly clear when we have said nothing at all. And then there is the label that has me seeing red.

A vort. Far flung family and friends meeting in NY to celebrate the engagement of two people. And then the talking began. And what label did people choose to put on the kallah? Was she a fine girl? Was she an aidel girl? Was she a pretty girl? Was she a bright girl? None of the above. Instead the label going around was the kallah is a "Hot Channie." Hot Channie! If offends me to even have to type these two words together. And nor was the kallah the only one so labeled. In describing the choson's best friend's wife she was the "hottest Channie in Lakewood." (And isn't her mother kvelling right now--she raised a "Hot Channie.")

Ladies and gentlemen, do you really think that affixing a Hebrew name to "hot" changes the label into something that is acceptibly Jewish? Yes indeed, there is a label that all Jewish women ought to be striving to achieve. Centuries of Jewish feminism all encapsulated in that perfect encomium. Forget about striving for positive midos ladies. Forget about developing your mind. Forget about learning how to be a balabosta. Forget about being a good mother. What's going to get you noticed in Klal is plain, old fashioned SEX and sexiness. Do I have your attention now? You bet I do. Being a "hot Channie" is not about being attractive but about attracting, a whole world of difference. And it's not attracting because of your scintillating personality either.

When the men of Klal use the term it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what is going through their minds or other parts of their anatomy. Oh yes some of them shake their heads in a "what is our world coming to" way, but their eyes are firmly glued on what is so obviously on display. And so are the eyes of the ladies. And while they might "tsk tsk" most don't. They stare too. And both groups breathlessly expell the words "Hot Channie," each group envious in its own way.

"Hot Channie" conjures up a lot of images but none of those include a Bas Yisroel of impeccable midos. "Hot Channie" plays to the lowest common denominator of male/female relationships. "Hot Channie" places women firmly in the class of objects. "Hot Channie" blurs the lines between public and private. "Hot Channie" is about being/having a trophy and displaying it for all the world to see, comment on and be envious of. "Hot Channie" is nothing but another four-letter curse word, given an imprimature of acceptability because it uses a Hebrew word.

You want to think "Hot Channie" in the deep, dark recesses of your mind, well go ahead and indulge your prurient interests. But keep those thoughts well to yourself, because if I hear "Hot Channie" on anyone's lips in public again, I refuse to be responsible for the explosion that will result. And that includes you ladies too. It's not more acceptable when a woman says it than when a man says it.


mother in israel said...

Right on, ProfK!

Anonymous said...

Look out, the volcano has erupted !

יישר כחך Prof. K. !

P.S. I agree with you that this is vulgarity with a 'frum' veneer. However, I think, if it is true, that the phenomenon it purports to describe should be addressed, as well as the verbal expressions of it.

On another, somewhat related note, I wish to strongly condemn the vulgar expressions (profanity if you will) that come out of the mouths of some frum, even Hassidic people, at times these days. Like 'four letter words' of various types.

I thought frum people were not supposed to do that type of thing ? Shmiras haloshon is not just about loshon hora or onaas devorim. Seems that some people are forgetting or disregarding the famous Ramban on קדושים תּהיו, about not being a נבל בּרשות התּורה.

Another chapter in the vulgarization of parts of the frum world.

May G-d help us...

Anonymous said...

Funny because to me Hot Channies are the snobby slutty trophy wives who don the sheitle and the mini skirt to tramp around central avenue and eat lots of sushi.

Anonymous said...

How absurd...a sheitle & mini skirt, why even bother...with the wig I mean unless they are afraid of the boogeyman

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the new and improved world of frum decadence and bourgeois behavior. It is very unbecoming of a people who are supposed to be a Light Unto the Nations.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the use of the term but what is the term reacting to? One person above said it is a type of slutty behavior. From what I can see that is only a little bit of what the term refers to. Maybe just maybe it's a reaction to the few girls out there who look like what women used to look like, almost all women. The two women pointed out to me as Hot Channies weren't sporting size 6 bodies on a 5'7" frame. They didn't seem to be ashamed that they had been created with a figure. They weren't so blah that they melted into the wallpaper. They seemed to have a personality instead of being a copy of everyone else in the room. Okay, there are some who overdo it and cross over the line of good taste. But in my opinion hot Channies are like the very womanly movie stars of the past, like Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren and Gina Lolabrigida. Women who weren't ashamed of being women no matter what their other qualities and achievements were.

G said...

+1 Allen.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the term hot Channie but more because it means two really different things depending on who it is applied to. When it is used to describe a single girl that is one thing. Then I'm with Allen that it means a girl comfortable with all of her parts. It also means the girl has some idea of what it takes to attract a guy. But when you apply the term to a married woman you are talking about something else entirely. Married women shouldn't be acting like single girls. And if they are then there is trouble coming sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

Doing this as anonymous because I'm not looking to get killed here. Get rid of Hot Channie and another term will come to replace it, and you probably won't like that one either. And I think Allen may have given you why. Whoever girls are dressing for today it sure isn't the guys they are going out with. Too many of them who come close to looking like those pictures of the concentration camp survivors. I'm not the only guy out there who is not attracted at all to girls who look like boys. You want me to appreciate your intellect and your sense of humor and your midos? I'd like to do just that, but first I have to want to sit across the table from you.

ProfK said...

Spend an unexpected day shopping and come back to this. Where to begin?

First, thanks to Allen and Tuvi for mentioning a few things. Tuvi is correct that the term is used for both single and married women, and that is one problem. It's application to a married woman has a very negative import and the label is hardly a compliment. And because it has this negative connotation that connotation passed with the term even when applied to single women. I still believe that the term itself is vulgar and "past nisht." But I can see where there might be a different meaning being attached when applied to single women, particularly by men. But gentlemen--and ladies too-- a little time with a dictionary and/or a thesaurus might get you out of hot water. Try "alluring" or "fascinating." Or maybe "captivating" or "entrancing." Or just go with "beautiful."

Anonymous said...

ProfK- re better words. You can't expect people to use better words in the society that does not cherrish learning and knowledge.

For example there is a girl in my daughter's class. She's 15-16 years old. A student. But she does not know the basic things in life. She did not know who Einstein was and when her classmates called her ignorant she did not know what that word meant either. She then went home and complained to her mother. Now she proudly annouces that yes, she is ignorant, but she gets the best grades in class.

Why this girl is ignorant and proud of it? Because in today's society ignorance is a badge of honor. If one is ignorant that someone does not waste her time watching tv, reading books, listening to the radio (except for Jewish music channels), does not read newspapers and doesn't hang out with friends. Basically she is a good girl that should be a price in every shidduch.

Anonymous said...

You were correct in separating out the married women from the single women because the application of Hot Channie to each group has different implications.

Someone commented that perhaps you should be writing about the behavior of the females that results in the Hot Channie label being attached to them. I'd like to say something about the single girls who get labeled in this way. Many of them are far "healthier" then their classmates and friends. They recognize that completeness and acceptance of self cannot come when you deny the physical. Some few may go to extremes, because they have no normal guidelines to work with, but most have accepted who they are in all aspects.

I worked for years in a clinical setting where we dealt with various eating disorders. One of the causes of these eating disorders is societal pressure to conform to standards of body type. But it is worse in the frum community then it is outside of it. Not only have the girls adopted the outer standards of style and body type, but they add into the mix a subverted idea about tsnius. Wearing anything that might show the barest outline of the figure is a violation of tsnius. These girls are trying to disappear from view literally and figuratively. The extreme frum burka wearers have taken this to the nth degree. These girls are ashamed of their bodies. They have been taught to view themselves as temptation walking and that anything that men say or do wrong basically reverts back to being their fault, their lack of tsnius. Frankly, we can't help them clinically as long as the frum community, and count the schools in on this, confirms what they "know" to be true. Mothers who shop for brides for their sons by the dress size have a special place in gehenom as far as I am concerned. They not only have a clinical fetish themselves but are perpetuating that fetish through their sons and daughters.

Anonymous said...

It's a complete chillul hashem!

Sure beautiful women have been noted throughout tanach, but this isn't referring to beauty, but rather referring to blatant sexuality. Exactly the complete opposite of tzniut.

Now juxtapose that with who Channie really was, or Chana. First of all, she was the wife of Elkanah and the mother of Shmuel, the first Navi. Now how about what Chana means - "Gracious"!!!


Anonymous said...

We've all been taught that Shir HaShirim is an allegory and that it is not about the love of a man for a woman. But what cannot be denied is that Shlomo HaMelech used the words that he did in building his allegory. Why, with all the possibilities, did he use words that describe a woman's body as part of the allegory? One explanation is that he wanted the allegory to be understood by those who would hear it, so he used terms they would understand. The words he used weren't "prost." People obviously had a different attitude to mentioning body parts in his days. But when someone uses Hot Channie to describe a woman they are not saying something good or nice about a woman. Maybe she has stepped over a line and maybe she hasn't. But the name condemns her no matter what. And it really says more about the person who uses the term then it does about the person being referred to.

So big deal, women have beautiful bodies. God created them that way. Calling someone a Hot Channie takes away from that beauty and replaces it with something sleazy. I'm with you Profk. God help anyone who says those words in front of me.

Anonymous said...

Look there is a fine line between pritzus and tsnius and some women go over the line. I don't like the loshon hot channie but it didn't come out of thin air. The behavior came first and the words to describe it came because of the behavior. If you don't like the words then do something to change the behavior and there will be no reason for the words to continue any more.

Anonymous said...

I think we are getting too far off the topic when we try and figure out if women are behaving right or wrong and if they deserve the name they are getting. None of those things excuse the use of the words Hot Channie. Are there behavior problems? Take that up with the women as a separate issue. But the behavior of those who call someone a hot Channie is nothing to be proud of.

And JW, I don't buy that old worn out "the devil made me do it" excuse. Those who are using Hot Channie are being forced to use it? Sorry but no soap.

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, i can't tell if you're protesting the term or the behavior. I doubt pple (women?) who behave in such a way that they are labelled "HC"s assume that their behavior is muttar because there's a Hebrew name in the term.

The term seems to describe a cultural phenomenon. It's no the the use of this term that causes problems- it's the fact that phenomenon exists. I think it's much more productive the protest that then two words.

Bas~Melech said...

BTW, if anyone ever wants evidence of the danger of social labels, step this way please. In these comments alone there are different perceptions of what the offensive term is supposed to mean, and I had a different one myself.

I'm with anon9:30 -- the way people dress is a separate issue. There is an inherent indecency in the label being used here.

I also must respectfully disagree with the take that these are the women who are comfortable with their bodies. A healthy frum woman has no need to flaunt her body if she is indeed comfortable with it. I quite like my body, and I dress well, but I don't think I could be called "hot" by any stretch of the imagination (and if you try it, I'll sock you a good one.) I don't want or need to attract the attention of every passing stranger.

Anonymous said...

I don’t believe what I’m reading: people are blaming women for men’s bad language. How is that different than a rapist defense “She was asking for it?” We don’t accept this type of defense in a court of law, yet we have no problems with denigrating remarks towards women just because we don’t like the way they are dressed.

Let’s compare how HCs dress versus today’s secular society.

HC – has a top with sleeves, no cleavage showing, no stomach showing, no back showing, and she is wearing a skirt up to the knee.

Average secular summer dressed girl/woman – spaghetti straps top where most of her cleavage is showing (I’m not even talking about her bending down). She is either wearing a bra underneath which is very noticeable or she is not wearing a bra and her nipples are showing. Her top is purposely short so that one can see her belly-button ring. On the bottom she is wearing a skirt that is so short that it barely covers her behind and on the back it displays a nice tattoo. When she bends down an expensive thong stings are displayed.

G said...

she is wearing a skirt up to the knee.

I am even more out of touch with current fashion trends than I thought!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with mlevin. We're blaming the women for what is really the fault of those making the hc comment. Lots of those women are dressed as mlevin showed in perfectly tsnius clothing. My bil didn't argue with that but he said that "there's just more of them in that clothing and it shows."

Here's a thought--put on dark glasses or stop looking. And shut your mouths while you are at it too.

Anonymous said...

mlevin--what species of secular women are you describing? In my experience, the style of dress you are describing is largely confined to high school and college aged women. It may not up to the tznius standards, but even in the summer, most women manage to keep their breasts and bellies covered.

miriamp said...

"but even in the summer, most women manage to keep their breasts and bellies covered."

Ha, ha, ha! Not around here they don't! (Not NY, a bit further north.) On the street, in parking lots, even sitting in my gynecologist's office waiting room, I see lots and lots of cleavage, definite spaghetti strapped tank tops with exposed bra straps, and quite a few exposed bellies, including some very pregnant ones! (I'd like to believe these women aren't technically "high school/college aged," and some of them obviously are a bit older, and even married.) Okay, I don't see thong strings, but that's only because these women are wearing shorts or pants, not skirts.

In fact, I recently got a summer clothing catalog (for plus sized women, no less) and when I went through it, there were barely any shirts with decent necklines. Mostly plunging V's of some sort, maybe not already showing tons of cleavage, but definitely the kind where if you bend down at all, you show a lot.

I'm doing my small part -- showing my 6 daughters how to dress properly, even if it means sewing all their clothes for them, as it becomes harder and harder to buy a T-shirt for a 6-9 year old that doesn't show her belly (too short to even tuck in), shoulders (too wide a neck or with cut outs) or upper chest (deep V or keyhole neckline!).

And the local Girls' HS, which had a dress code but not a uniform, just instituted a uniform b/c some of the girls were having trouble keeping within the spirit of tznius and the dress code, even if they obeyed the letter. I helped measure them so we could tell them which size would fit properly instead of the other way around.

miriamp said...

Oh, and when we sold our house in MA about 4 years back, the mother and grown-up daughter (post college) were the co-applicants on the loan so they were the ones at closing -- the grown daughter had her green bra straps showing, and the mother was wearing a completely sheer top and we definitely saw her entire bra. As both we and our (male) lawyer are Orthodox, we were extremely uncomfortable at the closing, although we didn't say anything, figuring they would have had no idea it would bother us. When they came for the walk-through before that, the other, younger grown daughter (who granted, was probably college-aged) had her entire midriff bare. That's just the way they dressed, I think.

Anonymous said...

So now I'm confused. Are the frum women that people call hot channies dressed like miriamp and mlevin describe? If they are not then what exactly qualifies them for hot channie status? What is it that people see when they apply the label to women? The name doesn't sound very complimentary to me and I don't like it for that reason, but just what is the label supposed to mean?

mother in israel said...

I believe Shifra coined the term:

Anonymous said...

Dee Dee - what these women are wearing are nicer clothes that do not look like a black bag or a burqa. These women wear their clothes nice and clean and their figur shows through it. Many find it objectinable that women dare to be women and not hide like good moslem women are supposed.

ProfK said...

Thanks MII for the link to shifra's posting. It both cleared up and confused the hot channie issue. The posting was in response to some women who were in 6 flags during chol hamoed and who were dressed in heels, fancy outfits and full sheitlach. The argument seemed to be that this apparel was inappropriate for the venue where it was being worn. The women looked too "hot"--read fancy or farpitzed--for where they were, thus drawing attention to themselves. Commenters expanded on the original subject in all directions. Everyone had a different way of defining what a hot channie was.

Some dealt with the appropriateness of the clothing for an amusement park and said that since the clothing was not appropriate the women wearing it set out on purpose to call attention to themselves. Others said that the clothing was appropriate to their community/social group and that takes precedence over what everyone else is wearing someplace. The problem thus becomes the viewer's, not the wearer's. Others talked about the competition among members of the religious grouping these women belonged to and how it's all a game of one-up-manship played on a public stage. Despite the fact that there was no picture of these women, some commenters said that their clothing was not appropriate from a tsnius point of view because it was too tight, had slits in the skirts etc. So now tsnius enters the picture. And there was the ubiquitous male commenter who stated that such women cause untold hurt and damage to men who see them because they(the men) get urges and feelings and thoughts that are not appropriate and which they may not have an outlet for. It is thus the women's fault for raising thoughts in the men. Still others careened off into the area of "sluttiness" as a key quality of a hot channie, although shifra did not so describe the women in the original posting. Not to mention that there was no definition of what that meant either.

But none of this information changes one essential item: the term used "stinks," it's too vague, it depends on the person using it as to what the meaning might or might not be, listeners will not all have the same definition in mind when they hear the word, it wanders into the territory of loshon horah, rechilus and motzi shem rah and it brings about gossip of the worst kind.

As mentioned above, if you want to raise the question of why women would dress as they do, do it separately and without the vile epithets. Using Hot Channie reflects poorly on the speaker.