Volume 14, 2009 : Women in Israeli Judaism

"Grace is Deceitful and Beauty is Vain":
How Hassidic Women Cope with the Custom of Head Shaving and Wearing a Black Kerchief

Sima Zalcberg
The Department of Land of Israel Studies
University of Haifa, Israel

Religious women’s modesty norms are often perceived as patriarchal oppression aimed at governing women’s bodies. Current study challenges this perspective, offering a deeper, multi-dimensional picture of Haredi women’s lived experiences and body practices. Focusing on the notion of modesty among the women from the extreme ultra-Orthodox group Toldot Aharon, the article explores how they experience the harsh custom – shaving off their hair upon marriage and covering their heads with black kerchiefs. The findings exemplify a variety of women’s voices, ranging from viewing these practices as desirable and empowering to the opposite view that they damage one's attractiveness and are quite painful.

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