Orthodox magazines and newspapers have a strict ban on any images of women. Ironically, this erasure has emerged at a time of the community’s increased access to a luxury lifestyle: Orthodox women, decked out in glamorous wigs and haute couture, will ultimately pick up glossy religious magazines in the grocery lines that have zero images that reflect them.
The policy began as a stringency in the Hasidic community, and over the past fifteen years, has become the mainstream in the non-Hasidic Orthodox publishing world as well. Stories related to women feature images of flowers, stainless steel kitchens, wedding canopies, and more flowers. Obituaries of rabbis’ wives and renowned female educators show pictures of the woman’s husband alone. Sometimes, little girls are shown, posing in high-heeled shoes and pearls. According to publishers, the policy is out of sensitivity to modesty, and is mostly due to market forces, to retain its most conservative readership.
Orthodox women have been relatively sanguine about this recent erasure. But a growing number of them have found a way to surreptitiously flout it.
Welcome to the secret social media world of Orthodox Jewish women. Faced with their own invisibility, many religious women have turned to Instagram: To an alternative media that speaks to them, where a woman can see others who look like her. Open frum Instagram, and you’ll find another subculture, one that’s slowly pushing the boundaries.
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