Double Take of a Photo Op – Pictures of Women in Orthodox Publications
If you are looking to avoid controversy, Cross-Currents is not the place for you.
Continuing a recent trend of respectful internal dissent, I would like to comment ever so briefly on the issue of women’s photos appearing in frum media.
Whether or not we like to admit it, every “normal” male is going to view the image of a woman, if she is attractive, as an attraction. That is how Hashem wired the male gender. Male attraction to an attractive female image is part of nature, and is a normal biological reaction, endowed by our Creator for the purpose of perpetuating life.
This being the case, I fail to fully understand the often vociferous clamor insisting that photos of women be featured in Orthodox religious publications – knowing that men will naturally, intended or not, view some of these photos with attraction and will as a result likely violate the halachic prohibition thereof. The reluctance to publish photos that will evoke natural attraction – as much as we may wish to deny or overlook the existence of this attraction as pertains to reading enlightened media, and as much as we may assert that people are “above that” – has nothing to do with an aversion to women and has everything to do with an aversion to sin. As one of my rebbeim remarked long ago: Some Orthodox Jews view man as a malach (an angel); Chazal (the Talmudic Sages), however, were realists and viewed man as human (and therefore promulgated halachos that regulate interactions between men and women).
As Torah Jews, we do not seek renown, acclaim, glamor or glory. We try not to be self-serving, and our publications, especially when they are of a religious nature, should promote these ideals. Hence, we ought to consider whether notions of, “I want my/my rebbetzin’s/my daughter’s picture to be in the magazine too”, are proper. Of course, no one is being accused of vanity, but perhaps we should take a step back and think about how this quest for the appearance of female photos does or does not reflect our values. And given that the majority of people who seek the publication of photos of women in frum media are driven by noble reasons, this does not mitigate the halachic issue at hand.
While blotting out faces in photos is distortive, can offend, and is something entirely outside of the purview of this quibble, the professed right or requirement to post photos of women in Orthodox religious publications, when it will knowingly and naturally evoke male attraction, is something I find difficult to endorse, as politically incorrect as my stance may be even within some of our same religious circles.
Very well said. This insistence that the omission of pictures of females is an expression of the devaluation of women in Charedi society is not borne out by fact or halachah. It may be a chumra and some may not feel it’s even necessary, but it’s certainly not based on a lack of appreciation for women or their myriad contributions.
What many fail to realize is that this same argument is made by many non-observant Jews about the unwillingness of Orthodox males to shake the hands of a female. [The fact that it goes both ways somehow doesn’t register]. Neither argument is correct even if one feels strongly that pictures are non-objectionable.
Not based on a lack of appreciation, but bound to cause one.
I was greatly dismayed to read Rabbi Gordimer’s piece where he expressed an incredible double standard. He suggests that those who wish to include photos of women in modest attire in our publications need to check their motivations and values while assuming that of course those wishing to exclude women are only doing so “for noble reasons”. When people assur activities that Chazal did not forbid and embrace a practice which is not consistent with the mesorah of our gedolim (a topic that Rabbi Gordimer particularly has powerfully and passionately written about) it is they who need to do a cheshbon hanefesh because their activities – regardless of their motivation – objectively demean women and they actually harm men as well by creating an unhealthy, and not supported by Chazal, attitude towards interacting with members of the opposite sex.
davidf – your comparison to shaking hands is woefully inaccurate and precisely the point. One activity is a real halacha and the other is not. Chazal did not look favorably on those who created unneeded, and in this case perhaps harmful, chumros . (The explanation for a nazir bringing a korban after he completes his term and the entire concept of “mechzak k’yuhara” both illustrate this point.)
The world lacks nuance, the same way we beg for nuance when trying to defend ourselves, we justly should give it to other to understand their argument. I respect R’ Gordimer for trying to add nuance for those he might disagree with. I would not classify myself as MO , but a regular yeshiva balanced fellow. My yeshiva would certainly not blot out women’s names, or even take hilary cliton out of a picture in the yated. I do see my yeshiva potentially trying to avoid publishing a picture with a woman in it. I dont think they feel “women are evil”, or “shouldn’t exist “. I believe they, in respecting gadlus haadom, would still say” in this case it is an unnecessary michshol. If in a subtle way we can avoid doing it we will.”
I personally think an editor shouldn’t have the lo- plug and simply use common sense. But, in respecting other people’s views could understand why some would simply avoid it all together.
We all have or should have hadracha from our Rabboonim/ Rebbeim, if we do and our Rebbe feels one way or the other I dont see why we can’t be okay with either side. (provided the question was asked of course)
I find it rather odd that it is considered modest to make sure men are not in a position to see a photo of a woman, but then, at the same time, Haredi women are encouraged to go out in the world to work and then be in a position to have men come into actual physical proximity to them, which I would think would be even more of a temptation than to simply look at some photo.
The only real solution to ensure true, 100% protection for men is to have women behave like in Saudi Arabia and to lock them away at home most of the time and if they do have to go out then to cover them from head to toe.
What is the halachic prohibition to look at a women’s photo?
Maybe R. Gordimer didn’t carefully read the most recent installment referenced here on CC on the issue. It’s not *just* about women. The faces of little girls are either being blurred or removed as well. Is the Rabbi asserting that “normal men” are “wired” to find the faces of little girls attractive to the point of distraction? I certainly hope not.
And of course his base point calls for a simple Kal V’chomer. If mere 2 dimensional pictures of women are such an issue for men, then certainly actual live women so much more so. So clearly the Rabbi would have no issue with the spread of the Burqa movement as it makes perfect sense, following his logic.
It seems clear to me that you did not read the entire article in which I clearly show the damage of erasing all females from all images from comics to school books to shabbas zemiros. I am happy to email you the article and then you can try and argue actual points and not just tell your readers that images of little girls leads to sin. “I fail to fully understand the often vociferous clamor insisting that photos of women be featured in Orthodox religious publications – knowing that men will naturally, intended or not, view some of these photos with attraction and will as a result likely violate the halachic prohibition thereof.”
Of course, the logical conclusion of this position is that since men are clearly all that much more likely to be attracted to actual live women, we must remove women from the public forum entirely. This position was not, however shared by Rav Moshe, who felt that it was very unusual for a man to have inappropriate thoughts even when being jostled against women in rush hour public transportation and stated very clearly that if a man did indeed have this unusual difficulty of not being able to control his thoughts and feelings, he was the one who should avoid such travel, abeit most usual men should have no such difficulty and were permitted to travel as necessary even when then knew there would not only be women (one assumes at least some dressed inappropriate at least in the summer) present but even incidental physical contact.
There is nothing wrong, halachically,with a man viewing a photo of a woman with attraction. A hirhur isn’t a passing thought. It’s obssessively dwelling on something. The idea of an “impure thought” as some sort of violation of halacha is a Christian notion.
Regardless of the specific parameters of the discussion at hand, this is just incorrect:
ספר מצוות קטן מצוה ל
שלא לתור אחר העין דכתיב (במדב’ ט”ו) אחרי עיניכם. דרשו רבותינו (סנהד’ צ”ב) זהו זנות שלא יסתכל בנשים לשם זנות. אף על גב דמפיק הסתכלו’ נשים מקרא דונשמרת’ מכל דבר רע. ההוא הסתכלות נשים שלא לשם זנות רק שנהנה בהסתכלה. אבל אי דמיין עליה כי כשורי או כי קאקי חיורי שרי. ומטעם זה אסרו חכמים להרצות מידו לידה מעות. וכל דבר שיכו’ לבא לידי הרהו’ זנות בנשים אסור לעשות.
It is absolutely forbidden to gaze at women for pleasure and there is no reason this would not apply to pictures of them.
I can understand the reluctance to publish pictures of women in general frum publications meant to be read by both the male and female segments of the population. But why can’t pictures of women – or girls – be printed in women’s or children’s publications? Why are articles about women, printed in women’s magazines, accompanied by photographs of their husbands and sons…and their gravestones?
And does Rabbi Gordimer think it’s appropriate for children’s books to feature only men and boys, or at best a featureless, faceless female shape? (We own a children’s sefer meant to be read at the Shabbos table, which features men and boys cleaning for Shabbos, cooking for Shabbos and eating alone at the Shabbos table. We were feeling sorry for the poor alman and yesomim…) I’m not a man so I don’t know, but are drawings of modest women in tichels and skirts also attracting?
Context is important. Rabbi Adlerstein’s original article was referring to an advertising pamphlet. In the advertising world, pictures of women are generally used for one purpose only, which is the one that Rabbi Gordimer refers to. I think there is a need to also look at the motives why the wider world is doing what it’s doing, and to see if those motives fit our values or not.
It’s a different discussion to that of photoshopping out Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton in newspapers, and should be seen as such.
Both Shoshanna’s article and Rabbi Adlerstein’s presentaion address both issues you mention. And, the overwhelming majority of photos in the pamphlets referred to (obviously of men only) are intended to provide a face (business owner/provider) to a product, and very few are more illustrative in nature. The example cited shows real estate agents, a very competitive field in which face recognition is key, where the men are pictured while their female colleague is not. This is far removed indeed from the “one purpose only” you state as justification for such blatant discrimination.
If all these harchaqos actually created a society in which sexual scandal is less common than in the rest of the world, there might be what to discuss. But both therapists that work in the community and the newspapers seem to demonstrate that these rules aren’t helping.
At some point, adding harchaqos that chazal didn’t is counter-productive. If everything about women is inflected with a discussion of sexualizing them, then one is adding sex to the discussion. Warning someone “do not think of pink elephants” doesn’t have the literal outcome.
And so we created a society in which people don’t wish a “Good Shabbos” to (at least) half the people they meet — because we don’t want to cross gender lines, do we? — a chumerah that turns into numerous qulos, and have nothing to show for it.
What you write is unfair because it neglects the real emotional and psychological impact this has on girls and women. It’s our responsibility as Jewish women to be modest, but we are not meant to be invisible. Erasing women from magazines and making that the norm, while perhaps protecting your mind from potentially impure thoughts, also has the detrimental impact of making women feel “shut out” or that they don’t belong anywhere or that somehow our very being and essence is problematic. The feeling may be small at first, but reinforced over and over again it can be damaging. Such a norm also leads to books which portray a bizarre society, in which, as a commenter noted below, the men are the only ones cooking and cleaning and eating at the table for shabbos. Or in another example, in Binah, a magazine intended for women, a wedding advertisement shows a cartoon of three men dancing, for lack of more permissible image.
This article, as well as the ones by and the ones by Rabbi Adlerstein and Rabbi Menken, indicate the need for a more thorough study of the halachic issues (if any) involved with printing the faces of women in magazines and newspapers as well as a better understanding of how various segments of the frum community, and their leaders, relate to the halachos above. Is this something that has been done or is being done?
I can understand why a magazine would choose not to print women’s pictures. But if so, it would be only fair that they do not print pictures of men, either. We ladies can also be taken by a handsome face.
The trend towards the right (Chassidish, kedusha, chumrahs) has been an on-going debate from the time of Queen Esther in the palace of King Achashverosh. A lengthy article to read and ponder for everyone is Dr. Avrohom Fried’s “Are our Children TOO WORDLY?”. He feels that our children are NOT worldly enough and therefore any breach…..pic of lady, a glance at TV, Computer Screen, girls strolling down the avenue…..will cause spiritual anguish to one who has not been educated and exposed to life and its normality. Download, print and read it!!
That is precisely one of the main arguments that the Haredi spokesmen use for saying they oppose IDF service for Haredi men, even those who are not studying Torah full-time. The claim is that they will stop being religious if they are exposed to people (even religious soldiers) who are different then they are. This is quite an indictment of their own educational system and the cocoon-like existence in which all young people are to be completely isolated from everyone and everything different than they are. Somehow the religious Zionist boys, in addition to those Haredim who do serve mostly manage to stay religious, so it seems there is something to Dr Fried’s theses.
Not Avrohom, Aharon. It is in Chakira.
“As Torah Jews, we do not seek renown, acclaim, glamor or glory”
If that were so, wouldn’t the content of many Orthodox publications (including ads), even those now barring women’s pictures, be a lot different than what it is?
I have always believed that precise use of the term halakhic has been abandoned by many identified as chareidi. (Perhaps, one might argue, halakhic is too restrictively used on the left and too broadly on the right.) I was very pleased that Rabbi Adlerstein used less precise phraseology – “which have fine backing and mesoros for their positions” to refer to Chassidic positions. I assume that might mean midrashic, a non-halakhic/rejected view in the Talmud, kabbalistic, a stringency chosen for whatever reason, etc. But alas the term halakhic has entered the rhetoric. (Someone should tell RHS that the picture of his wife wearing tefillin went viral one Purim.) Things like Rebbitzen Pam ztl’s picture being blurred at a dinner, or the picture of a six year old yesomah blurred out in a request for support, or people being frummer than Rav Chaim Brisker ztl about how to identify their wife, leaves me only one conclusion – the reaction to modernity is impacting BOTH the right and the left. Similar things have happened during the last two centuries and are happening more frequently today. Its current incarnation is not all that surprising; odd, but not surprising. I believe that slippery slopes in both directions lead to burqahs and women chazzanim, both in the name of halakha.
I think this article is wrong, though. Chazal did not say that natural attraction is Assur. It’s Muttar to see a modestly-dressed woman. It’s not Muttar to lustfully gaze. But we have rules of Tznius because the assumption is that a Tznius woman will not evoke an Assur attraction. So if a woman is Tznius, there is no reason whatsoever not to show it.
It is simply not true that the Jewish Observer, as a matter of policy, did not print pictures of women.
It was not a magazine, it was a scholarly journal and it was not often natural to have a picture of a woman.
I personally saw an issue of J.O with a feature article about Rebbetzin Kaplan (I believe on her first yartzeit)
and it had pictures of her playing with her grandchildren. To demonstrate a policy you need to show something
like pictures of a group of speakers , with the faces of the female presenters missing. That never existed in the Jewish Observer.
Regarding Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov ZTL, both of their Art Scroll biographies have pictures of women, indicating that their respective families knew that they would not object.
The Art Scroll biography of Rav Gifter ZTL is filled with pictures of women, even when it doesn’t seem “necessary”. It includes pictures of the Hanhala of Telshe in Lita, with their wives!
Anyone who was privileged to know Gedolei Yisroel like these three, knows that had they seen a picture of a couple being honored at a dinner it would have not, in any way, struck them as inappropriate, but had they seen the ads in Mishpacha guaranteeing “yeshuous”, they would have hit the roof!
I don’t think that anyone reasonable in this discussion is clamoring to see more women’s photos added the various publications on egalitarian grounds or to get more of a charge out of them. (Hamavin yavin that there are plenty of other places for men to look for that objective.) Most of the clamor is simply not to delete the photos of women individually or otherwise in photographic contexts which make sense. I am also a bit surprised that you went down the path of implicitly sexualizing innocuous pictures of women thereby excusing the prevalent practice. To me, it is not Psychologically healthy to formulate the issue as such.
“I fail to fully understand the often vociferous clamor insisting that photos of women be featured in Orthodox religious publications – knowing that men will naturally, intended or not, view some of these photos with attraction and will as a result likely violate the halachic prohibition thereof.”
If we take this line of though to its logical conclusion, then women should wear burkas, or, better yet, stay cloistered at home, rather than tempt men with forbidden thoughts. Where is the line? When do we say that we can carry on with normal lives and not worry about tempting the hirhur of others?
I’m so torn. On the one hand, I don’t feel that the fact that the major Jewish publications will not publish pictures of women is leading down a slippery slope of objectifying and denigrating our women. OTOH, I cannot stand the graphics in the magazines. There are flowers and hot air balloons and all sorts of stuff taking the place of the pictures of the women that would logically be there. There are other things I find jarring too.
As always I think Rabbi Gordimer is making a worthwhile point. But in this case, it begs the question: must we not publish photographs of women in biographies? Should men not read biographies of women? Or is it presumed that the pictures are safe, having been carefully vetted? If so, that could present a solution. But at this point, I cannot imagine how this could be implemented.
I would like to add to the discussion a a quote from a wonderful piece in Jewish Action by Mrs. Koffsky:
“Our children care. The female images they are exposed to begin with Disney princesses and end with underfed, barely-clothed fashion models. No matter how we insulate our children, these images creep in. Their message is clear: superficial, immodest beauty is the most valued asset a woman has. We must respond to this assault on what it means to be an ishah chashuvah (dignified woman) with powerful images of our own.
Showing our Torah-observant heroines to our daughters and sons emphasizes our values. The paragons of chesed who give of themselves, the rebbetzins who have led Bais Yaakovs, the women who are building their own batei ne’eman b’Yisrael—these are the women we need images of for our children to see and know we value. Why are we surrendering the battlefield of images to the secular world so that our children only get to see printed images of immodestly dressed women? Our blank spaces have no chance of competing with their powerful images.”
I would like to point out that chareidi publications that are FOR WOMEN do not print pictures of women as a matter of policy. we are not talking about publications that are to be read by men. This policy goes to the ridiculous extent that an inspirational biographical article about a female role model is accompanied by a photo of her husband or father (or both), but no photo of the subject of hte article. i do not think it is reasonable to claim that such a photo would “knowingly and naturally evoke male attraction”
Please note that this is a recent change. both binah and mishpacha magazines began by publishing tzanua photos of women, but a few years ago they changed their policies. I have heard it first=hand from one of the editors of mishapacha magazine that they cannot print photos of any women because their rabbinical advisory board will not allow them to. they assert that many men also read their wives’ magazines, and so they cannot ‘risk’ printing a photo of a woman. one wonders how these men cope with reading the detailed descriptions of women’s “beautiful blue eyes … smartly dressed in a green suit … her sheitel is cut modishly framing her face” which accompany almost every featured interview with a female role model. perhaps that should also be censored in order to avoid any risk of provocation.
I certainly would hope that no frum publication would be ranting about a females “beautiful eyes”, smart dress or how a sheitel frames a face. Such low level talk is more suited for a fashion industry far from the ideals of a Jewish home.
isn’t it thus ironic that as a result of an effort to avoid the ‘inappropriateness’ of accompanying a biographical article with a photograph of the subject, the writers end up describing the subject’s appearance in inappropriate ways? it is often said that there is no chumra without a kulah; perhaps we could also reference the law of unintended consequences. it is those consequences that Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll is trying to bring to everyone’s attention.
If men cannot read Orthodox publications containing images of women, the Orthodox publications should not contain any images at all.
David–I’m sure that sounded pithy to you, but exactly how is that an argument?
My point is that if we perceive a problem, we should seek a solution to it that does not discriminate. If we decide it is a problem to have pictures of women in magazines, than having no pictures at all (or at least no pictures of people) resolves the problem without discrimination.
Thank you. I agree completely. – A woman who is happy to be mocked for her desire for modesty.
Muslim publications would never show pictures of women. Do we really want to be on a lower level than they are?
First of all, that’s not true; a basic web search brings up mainstream Muslim publications with pictures of modest women. But anyway, I don’t understand the comparison. They don’t drink alcohol; should we cut out coffee to one-up them? It’s a different religion.
Do you follow the Koran then?
I agree that we should take every step to avoid causing transgressions, but not at the expense of other human beings. You may not put a barbed wire fence around a pit and then say, “I don’t care that you got injured, I must keep people from falling.” If you don’t relate to my metaphor, you have not fully put yourself in my shoes as a modest woman raising modest daughters, and seeing our it images erased from our world. But I deeply feel your position; I have a husband and a son, too. Somehow, we must arrive at communal solutions that address all of our spiritual needs and concerns, not just yours.
Then why publish photos of men? Leaving those out, as well, would uphold the values the author mentions here and resolve the controversy.
Women! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!
I’ve been frustrated for years with the tendency to have a separate women’s entrance for more and more event venues. How does that work? In some of the older halls, men and women enter separately, and end up in the same lobby space. Men and women are in separate spaces for the kabolos panim, and the men come in to the women’s side because they will find a better selection of food, and then take some of the limited seating space. And at the end of the evening, women will exit on to a dark street alone.
As for the picture issue, we should be exposing both our young men and women to images of women modestly and properly dressed. Where the only images of women in public spaces are the glamorous and/or immodest, we are contributing to the objectification of women. We can, and should, be setting a better example.
Sometimes I wonder how an alien from another culture would view some of our publications. If marriage is between a man and a woman, how are there so many marriages and engagements with no women present?
If it is so important to protect our women, why are we sending them out into the workplace? Shouldn’t we be teaching our young people to relate to the other gender with dignity and respect, and not as just sex objects?
knowing that men will naturally, intended or not, view some of these photos with attraction and will as a result likely violate the halachic prohibition thereof.
How can any man who believes this idea to be true justify walking out of house for anything that isn’t a huge necessity? OK a man has to work and has to travel to work. But how can he justify going to shul if he lives in a neighborhood in which all women don’t dress to a certain standard? He can daven at home.
How can he take his family on vacation to almost any vacation site? How can he go shopping? The list is endless. If one is truly worried about this halachic prohibition, what type of justification is needed to risk it?
Cutting out pictures of women is the easy solution which requires nothing from the men. What are guys willing to sacrifice in order to avoid hirhur?
Actually, according to the article it makes no difference if the women are modestly dressed. Seeing the image of any woman, no matter how she is dressed, will violate a halachic prohibition.
Therefore, men should leave the house only for matters of life and death. Kol kvuda ben melech penima.
The controversy only matters when Orthodox publications Photoshop out any and all women from existing images, literally and figuratively deleting all women from any worldly, national or local matters. I, and most people, believe that women have a vital role in world culture, politics, business and dialogue that goes beyond merely being a “vessel” for child-bearing; you must be the other guy. And thats the irony – if the Orthodox view women as a child-bearing vessels, they then ONLY view women as a physical object. By showing their roles in worldly matters, women become more than just an object of natural attraction. Your opinion essentially exacerbates the problem. To top it off, your article implies the “Photoshop” controversy is outside the purview of this article; it is not at all – it’s actually the logical next step by the extremist Orthodox zealot who sees women as evil and probably stamps his feet enthusiastically at every mention of Esther during the Megillah reading. Hope your daughter doesn’t get him as a shidduch.
PS – I would love to see these how these “newspapers” cover a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.
Isaac says: PS – I would love to see these how these “newspapers” cover a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.
That’s too easy. Pictures of Bill.
When I was a teen in Yeshiva, I had a Rebbi who taught us that when we walk down the street we should not look more than ‘daled amos’ in front of them. He went on to explain that what that meant was that there is a lot of stuff out there in the world and the ‘view’ I see should come from a healthy moral value.
That being said, I feel that a man of any culture needs to keep his eyes in the right place and his thoughts from that self same healthy moral value. It is up to ME to create healthy boundaries to to see things in a healthy way, it is up to ME to live safely in this world and it is up to ME to not cause harm based on any selfish self-centered part of me. Blaming the woman for being herself is a ridiculous, blaming concept where men then don’t take responsibility for their own moral and spiritual growth.
Taking pictures of women out of magazines, covering women up head to toe, creating labels do nothing more than to help create those same unhealthy values. It is time that we stand up and become the men we are supposed to be and learn how look in our own ‘daled amos’. Coming from a place of healthiness and respect to all.
Perhaps the author can explain how 2 dimensional images of girls attract male attention and easily lead to sin yet 3en watching a woman live before them immersing in a Mikva is not a problem
I disagree. The inyan of tznius (modesty) never meant that no woman should be seen ever. We are now to the point that *any* photo of a women needs to be omitted if not deleted.
Next, “attraction” is not defined here and is a subjective state. Being “attractive” can mean anything from “clean and neat” to “sexual allure.” Attraction doesn’t necessarily mean lust. Men and women have been attracted to each other for a long time without it being assur (forbidden).
As has been stated many times elsewhere, the problem with a man’s inability to control himself has led to a pernicious attack on women. All women everywhere are no responsible for the sexual feelings of any individual male. Impossible and unjust….and never something required by the Torah (until the past few years).
This is so demeaning to women. You’re teaching your sons to be misogynists. No wonder so many Jewish guys are gay.
A follow up to my previous question: If publishing pictures of women inevitably brings men to commit an issur, what is your justification Rav Gordimer, for working for the OU? Jewish Action publishes pictures of women. How do you work for a group that causes men to be nikshal is this issur?
I disagree with this on every level. Women aren’t clamoring for our pics to be in the magazines. We’re clamoring for them to stop blocking out our faces or cropping us out of pictures. It’s anti Jewish. Jewish women aren’t meant to be hidden away. I was always told in bais yaakov that tznius is about being attractive, not attracting.
What is missing through most of the comments is an awareness as illustrated by Doron Beckerman of the halachic and hashkafic issues involved. I would add that the wonderful ArtScroll biography of Rebbitzen Kanievsky ZL is replete with pictures of Rebbitzen Kanievsky ZL.
Presumably, just as Chazal viewed man as human, it would be appropriate to view Chazal as human, and therefore equally subject to the societal standards of their times.
For some reason, my filter blocks out the comments section of Rav Gordimer’s later post, so I’m going to have to respond here to what I can make out from the Admin page.
Moshe Dick: Wrong question. You do whatever you want. But don’t have taanos on those who follow R’ NIssim and others are on that madreigah.
Eli Blum: If you look in Kesubos 71b and Pesachim 109a, you’ll see that בגדי צבעונין were not that uncommon; quite the contrary. Rashi just means they are not ordinary weekday clothes. Your distinction may hold some water (though there are tzedadim the other way as well). Be that as it may, the Poskim disagree as to whether a picture should be worse than the clothes in the sense that it is forbidden even if one is unacquainted with her, but no one says it is okay if one is acquainted with her (see Otzar Haposkim to EH 21:1). R’ Nissim Karelitz is the foremost Litvishe Posek in EY today. I do not believe there is anyone else alive today, other than R’ Chaim Kanievsky, who is routinely cited in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah.
Rabbi Slifkin: Certainly. First, pictures are there to be looked at. That’s their purpose. Secondly, no one wants to be caught gazing at women, but if a person is alone with a publication no one knows if he is gazing at a picture (i.e, what the Gemara in Shabbos 13a calls דעות does not exist. R’ Wosner pointed out that on this point yichud with unfiltered internet is worse that yichud with a woman). Finally, depending on who you ask, there is a bit of an אין הכי נמי here; the idea of separate sidewalks didn’t start in Beit Shemesh – they had them in Kelm. But I still want to re-emphasize that I am not taking a position on the issue at hand.
I respect Rabbi Gordimer, but he is ignoring part of the problem. These publications are rewriting history by literally removing women from the picture. Hamevaser photo-shopped German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other women leaders out of a grouping of World leaders gathered after the massacres in Paris to protest terrorism. Earlier Der Tzitung photo-shopped Hilary Clinton out of a photo of White House officials gathered in the situation to listen to the live reports of the Osama bin Laden raid. The politics of either woman is irrelevant. Neither was dressed immodestly. Looking at the photos, one would have no idea the women were there. If one couples this visual removal with cases of the removal of discussions of women’s actions from the text and the removal or obfuscation of their names, we seem to be sliding into a realm where women and their achievements are unacknowledged. That is problematic.