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The Red Carpet

The Red Carpet


For the past week, the cover of endless magazines and website homepages have been debating the one great question: Who were the best-dressed and who were the worst-dressed at the Emmys. There are galleries of different actresses in various poses, showing the front, back, and side angles of their outfits; comparisons between one actress and the next; extensive debates as to how hairstyles and makeup were done,etc.; and this doesn’t even cover the discussion as to who were the men lucky enough to attend the event with these women.

Yet as the focus of so many revolves around this, one very basic and fundamental issue seems to be overlooked. And to me, as a woman, it is very sad and painful.

This “red carpet” is the meeting point, the convergence of the survival of the fittest, the place where winners and losers are made

The Emmys is an event that is organized to credit, acknowledge and reward those who are the most talented in their fields. It is an evening that is intended to celebrate skill, capability, and creativity, and yet, in the end, it is just one big fashion show.

Haven’t these women proved themselves through their acting? Haven’t they showed the world that they are intelligent, passionate and talented? Haven’t they made it clear that they have more to offer than just their pretty faces and overly skinny bodies? I would think so. I would hope so.

Yet when it comes to the time when they are acknowledged amongst their peers, amongst others who know and respect what it means to act, what it means to be an actor, they once again are reduced to their mere physicality. Worse yet, they allow themselves to be reduced to their physicality. Yes, she may have won an award for an outstanding performance for a very difficult and challenging role, but if her dress is the wrong color, watch out, that will be the only thing we hear about.

I doubt it is coincidental that these actresses walk down the red carpet. That this “red carpet” is the meeting point, the convergence of the survival of the fittest, the place where winners and losers are made.

In Kabbalah, red is considered the color of gevurah, of severity. It is a powerful color, but specifically because of its color, it is something that must be used carefully and in proportion. Blood is red. Blood represents life, but it also represents death. Red grabs attention. Red makes others look. Red shocks. This is why traffic lights, stop signs and brake lights are red. When the red flashes, it means that this is where our attention should be. Nothing else should matter.

So why in the 21st century, with feminism, women’s rights, the liberation movement and everything else we have tried so hard to gain, why do we allow ourselves to walk down that red carpet and reduce ourselves to mere bodies? Why do these talented women temporarily forget and forego everything they have worked so hard to achieve, as they turn around, strike a pose and flash a smile? Why?

As an Orthodox Jewish woman, I am often asked if I feel repressed or caged in or trapped through the laws of modesty that govern how I dress. I am asked if I resent having to wear only skirts or long sleeve shirts. People have even told me that they feel sorry for me and it must be so hard to live with such restrictions.

But as I click through these galleries of beautiful women standing on that red carpet, I feel so fortunate, so free, so blessed to be seen and understood and respected for who am I and not only for what I wear or how I look.

This is not to say that a woman should not be attractive. She most definitely should be. But there is that line, that line between being attractive and being attracting. That red carpet is the line. It is the line that says that I want you to stop and look at me, my external self, my physicality. And if you like what you see at that first glance, you will most likely have no need to look any further.

There is that line between being attractive and being attracting

Maybe that is what this is really all about? Maybe it is easier to be analyzed merely from the point of view of one’s body or hair or clothing. For if people like what they see, then that is great. And if they don’t, then it is all easily changeable. A weight trainer can help you lose weight and a fashion designer can pick the right outfit and a makeup artist, or better yet, some good ol' surgery can fix any other flaws. And as long as the world is happy only seeing the external, you’ll be safe. You’ll be able to stand on that red carpet and flash that winning smile and show them all you've got.

But as we all know, it isn’t all you've got, it is just all you may be willing or wanting to show. Because while there may be a lot we can do to fix our faces and bodies, fixing what lies underneath isn’t as simple and takes a lot more work. If the photographers and reporters and viewers were nearly as concerned with the kind of people that we are, with the deeds that we do, with the way that we speak and how we treat one another, then things would be a bit more tricky.

We are now in the month of Elul. This is the month of ours that is dedicated to working on ourselves, to polishing up, to reflecting on our past as we work towards bettering our future. This is our spiritual time to make sure we look our best, for we too will soon stand on that red carpet. We soon will also be viewed from every angle and analyzed and discussed. But no matter how fashionable our dress or white our smile, it is what lies within that must shine and sparkle.

For the only review and writing we should care about, is what takes place every Rosh Hashanah. This is when G‑d inscribes us in the Book of Life. This is when G‑d looks back on our past year and writes that review based on our performance.

This is why for the month preceding our red carpet debut we sound the shofar every morning. It is the cry of the soul, the cry of the Jewish people, that is meant to awaken and arouse us to figure out what is really important. To figure out why we are here and what we are doing about it.

Maybe Shakespeare was right that we are all players on the stage. For in the end, unlike today’s Emmy’s, it will be our performances that will be acknowledged and praised, just as it should be.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Richard Lauzon Lehigh Acres, Fl./U.S.A. July 12, 2010

Proverbs 31....................................... I did have a comment, but as I signed off, my index finger tipped the track mouse and it's gone, but I think that you may be affirmative in my vision of women.

Look or "see" into Pro.31:1-31.

You'll get my point! (wink, wink).{;-}>-- Reply

tb June 14, 2010

beautiful! I LOVE this article it explains tznius so well. Thankyou! I will be sending this to many of my friends! Reply

Anonymous June 9, 2009

Well put. Wonderful. Well put.

I've lived my life seeing these magazines and commercials. Not to mention beauty contests (in school, on television, the local fair, etc.). I was never really fat but not exactly skinny. Always wanted to get down to a size 10 so I would fit in better. I got there. And then a size 8. And now 7 (almost 6). And the magazine people just get skinnier and better skin and....I keep telling myself just another 15 pounds (120 pounds and 5' 3" isn't unhealthy). Special scrubs for my skin. I'm sick of it. There is always "just another 5 pounds" or "just one more skirt size". I am smart. I can bake (recently had the suggestion that I should start a business). Know about many different topics. But I don't feel good enough because I don't look like them.

What a world we live in. Reply

anti-emmy ;) US January 15, 2009

Red Carpet amazing article it was just that - amazing. really powerful, i truly enjoyed. Reply

Channa Mayer September 18, 2008

red carpet just did this article with my womens group (college students) theyloved it! yasher koach!! Reply

Helen Fox London, England September 17, 2007

red carpet sorry I missed the first time round on your Red Carpet loved the way you express what people seem to want to see, beautiful women,no one cares about what brains these woman have , it is the media and paparazi who put these woman in our faces, that is why so many girls want to be a size 10 and starve themselves.We can all look wonderful and be stars in someones eyes. Reply

Sharla Grossman Louisville, KY January 8, 2007

The Red Carpet article As with many other Orthodox Jewish women who reside in areas of the country/world where we are few and far between in number, I find I am viewed as somewhat an oddity in my manner of dress, especially in the warmer months, when a modest-dressing female sticks out like a sore thumb while others have donned shorts, tank tops, etc. It makes me proud that I have this wonderful feeling inside that all my physical attractivesness is reserved for the man to whom I am married...I haven't cheapened my worth by reducing myself to a common commodity on open display for the world to view...I only wish more women, especially Jewish women from all levels of observance, realized this is far more alluring to their husbands than anything else Reply

Natasha Lichtenberg IL via September 10, 2006

This is lovely....
Sara Esther has spoken so beautifully, clearly, and intelligently on the subject. It ought to make us pause, and question, and look to our inner substance. Reply

Anonymous Ramat Aviv, Israel September 7, 2006

Wonderful articlE! Very well written! Good job! Reply

meryl Palgon hollywood, FL via September 7, 2006

comment on the red carpet Thanks for giving me some inspiration this morning. Words well said and thought provoking. Reply

Carey Fried Oak Park, CA September 5, 2006

response to Crispe loved the piece about the emmy's totally right on - there are many people I'm going to share it with. thanks! Reply

nechamie Minkowicz September 5, 2006

Fabulous article. We are all entrentched in a world full of facades. May we all start measuring and evaluating with true torah principles and not the ones we adopted from our society. Reply

Anonymous September 3, 2006

What an amazing article. Really throught provoking!! I really enjoy all her articles. Reply

Ben Gross Auckland, New Zealand September 3, 2006

I thought that this essay was very good. It explained that what the women 20 years ago were fighting for e.g. equal pay and equal rights ect. is now just getting worse with immorality at its highest point, people don't seem to understand that when women wear short skirts or tight t-shirts it is degrading as we are effectively judging them externally and not really what counts which is the inside. My grandmother always tells me that it is so restricting and that it is hard for orthodox women to be pretty, but I tell her the opposite that it is hard for non orthodox women to be pretty with everyone judging them on the outside. and how they dress.


unique tarzana, usa September 3, 2006

awesome article Wow!! That was beautifully put! Beautifully worded! hit the point on the mark! This world is too vain, and thats why we Jews are here, to be a light unto the nations. Beauty lies within. Beautiful article Reply

Anonymous bowie, md. September 3, 2006

Best Performance! This is so wonderfully portrayed. I give S.E. Crispe a standing ovation! Reply

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