French Muslim Girl’s Skirt Judged Too Long
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French Muslim Girl’s Skirt Judged Too Long

Modest women of all religions must tread a fine hemline.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Impossible to skirt the issue — enforcing a religious code of dress at school can be tricky and controversial.

But in France, a law adopted in 2004 forbidding elementary and secondary school students from wearing visible signs of their religious affiliation at school, has supercharged the issue.

This past week, a 15-year-old Muslim student at a French school was sent home for a wearing a skirt that was too long. The article of clothing was judged an “ostentatious sign” of the girl’s religiosity, The New York Times reported.

The law also forbids any sort of religious head covering, including hijabs for Muslims and skullcaps for Jews.

For any female graduate of an Orthodox day school, the notion of being sent home for a skirt that was too long is quite humorous. In charedi communities and even amongst Modern Orthodox circles, young women are often penalized when skirts fall short. According to Jewish law, skirts should reach below the knee.

According to the school principal, the black maxi skirt the girl wore conflicted with the law. The student’s parents were contacted and instructed to provide their daughter with more appropriate clothing.

Though different Jewish communities adopt varying standards of acceptable skirt length, a tremendous amount of attention is allotted to the dimensions of this particular article of clothing. Many Orthodox female writers have composed personal essays on the topic, expressing frustration towards the amount of attention reserved for this article of dress.

In the charedi community, long black skirts among girls and women are considered a wardrobe staple. Certain Jewish clothing stores are dedicated almost solely to their sale.

Do the frum girls of France risk getting sent home from school to change as their Muslim sister did?

hannah@jewishweek.org

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