Modesty is an extremely important value in Torah life, both for men and for women, and although “tzenius” has many aspects, a very strong focus has been placed particularly in recent decades, on the modesty of woman’s dress.
This extra emphasis of an existing value can be explained by the changes in general society and super liberalization of dress standards, whereby extremely revealing and suggestive clothing has become the norm.
However, this has reached ridiculous extremes in some religious circles, where the very presence of women, either in person, or even in advertising, has become at best frowned upon, and at worst, been forcibly prevented.
In such circles, women and girls are often encouraged to dress as unattractively as possible, and stay out of the way, while their male counterparts face no such restrictions.
There is no doubt in my mind that asides for the innate unfairness of treating women simply as if they are dangerous “eye candy” for hungry men and boys, such extreme treatment backfires, and causes the exact opposite of what is desired- men become over sensitized, often resulting in unhealthy, even abusive behavior, and woman become more and more sidelined, sometimes to the point that even their relationship with their husbands is severely impacted .
On our Daf, we are told about more items which people are not allowed to wear on shabbos in a public domain, lest one take them off.
One example is a wig (sheitel or פאה נכרית) worn by women to look attractive.
The leading Amora, Rav ,tells us that although most things that are forbidden to wear in a public domain, may also not be worn in a shared courtyard which has no eiruv ( see Tosfos who holds that we are indeed discussing a courtyard without an eruv) there are a couple of exceptions.
One exception he mentions is the sheitel, which is allowed in a shared courtyard, while still forbidden in a true public domain for the above reason.
The reason for the leniency is that we do not want a woman to look less attractive to her husband, even in front of other people in a courtyard, so she doesn’t repulse him in general.
This despite the fact that there are other people in a shared courtyard, and certainly in a Karmelit, which according to Tosfos is also permitted .
It can also be noted that if it were not for the concern of a biblical desecration of shabbos laws, “chillul shabbos deorayso” in a true public domain, it would be permitted in the most crowded places too.
While the need for married women to be attractive for their husbands might not go down so well in today’s liberal world, this is a totally different discussion for another occasion.
What seems clear from this daf , however .is that there is absolutely no problem with married women looking good in public, in person , and certainly not in advertisements , so long as the basic laws of modesty are kept, and this applies even more so to unmarried women of marriageable age who are supposed to be attractive to potential partners (see Kiddushin 30b)
These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha .