Latest update: December 12th, 2012
Native Intimates is an outfit that would not have made the cut at the Sunday Asifah by any stretch (so to speak). Its online blog promotes lingerie items with well written copy, a kind of “real women writing about their stuff” soft advertising which is both tasteful and appealing.
Of course, I don’t normally do my shopping at lingerie online outlets, and only went there looking for background material on a late breaking story that totally dovetails with the Asifah theme.
The owners of Native Intimates are Orthodox Jews. That by itself is not exactly shocking, since Jews of all stripes have been running New York’s garment industry since the early 20th century.
What’s unique about this particular outfit is their poor choice in letting go a female temp at their warehouse because she looked and dressed too provocatively for the workplace.
Not a good choice of words for employers in New York State. If the employee in question brings proof to back her allegations, which include a horror story of humiliation and ridicule, ending in termination, her frum bosses are in for a world of hurt.
Apparently, the part where she makes her accusations was extremely well staged for the benefit of the media. Reuters reported:
“Wearing a form-fitting sequined black dress and black leather, sequin-studded boots, Lauren Odes, 29, said her Orthodox Jewish employers at Native Intimates told her that outfit and others like it were ‘too hot’ for the warehouse.”
And she added: “We should not be judged by … the shape of our body.”
According to the NY Daily News, Odes told reporters that two days after she had been hired as data entry worker, back in April, a supervisor came over to let her know the Orthodox Jewish bosses were upset with the way she was dressing. Basically, they said, her looks were a dangerous distraction.
She said she agreed to switch to a gray T-shirt and black jeggings (leggings that are styled to look like tight denim jeans – I had to look it up) the next day. But the owners, she relates, were still unhappy.
It came down to the fact that her natural looks were simply too seductive, and she was even advised, so she says, to use tape to make herself less attractive to men.
Intimates’ website has been down, but their Facebook account is quite active, with a comment left by one Michael Blau: “Hello sexual harassing pigs. Have fun dealing with Gloria Allred…”
That’s Odes’s attorney, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who has filed a gender and religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York.
“I understand there are Orthodox Jewish men who may have their views on how a woman should dress and how much she should be covered,” Odes said. “But I am Jewish as well and don’t feel any employer has the right to impose their religious beliefs on me.”
That last part is crucial. Because the lady in question has no perception of the fact that— from her employers’ point of view—she’s been imposing her standards and, yes, beliefs, on them.
The law may back her up and the company, like many others in the path of Gloria Allred, will eventually do the math and settle out of court (although I’m writing this without the benefit of speaking to them, and they could be presenting an entirely different version of the same events). But this is far from justice.
No one should have to endure unreasonable sexual tension in their own business. Just as women should not be subject to active sexual harassment in the workplace, so should men be entitled not to be passively harassed by temptations that disturb them.
The fact that they were not able to be straight forward with her about the conflict, as befits a relationship between real human beings, the fact that they couldn’t say, We’re sorry, you’re a nice person and all, but your physical attributes are making us uncomfortable, here’s two months’ pay plus a gift package, let’s part as friends – the fact they couldn’t do the menchy thing – is the fault of the law. And the PC environment we all live in.
If the Asifah last Sunday had touched on that – empowering Haredi men to spell out that which disturbs them about another person’s attire or behavior or even physical attributes, directly and honestly, without forgetting the other’s image of God – it would have been a smashing, historic success.
I fear that the opposite was true, and the Asifah was about getting even more insular and secluded culturally.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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