Tag Archives: Nadieszda Kizenko

Headscarves, Modern Orthodoxy, and Telling Women What to Do

by Nadieszda Kizenko

Dr. Katherine Kelaidis recently published a piece in this forum on ‘Headscarves, Modesty, and Modern Orthodoxy.’ The article, a loving homage to Kelaidis’s grandmother, aunts, and mother, describes the pressures faced by Greek immigrant women of the American Mountain West two generations ago, by contemporary Muslim women, and by Orthodox women under Ottoman rule. Acknowledging head covering as a historical code for women’s modesty and chastity—shared, one might point out, by Orthodox Jews, African American ‘church ladies,’ Roman Catholics before Vatican II, and Episcopalians before the social changes of the 1960s—the author then makes two unexpected turns. She perceptively notes that, to her supremely modest aunts, mothers, and ancestors, modesty meant “not calling attention to yourself…when everyone was wearing a headscarf, you wore it. But when you when you found yourself in a time and place where women had taken it off, you took it off as well.” “Any other choice,” Kelaidis continues, “was a display of self-aggrandizement.”

This last comment—that any other choice was a display of self-aggrandizement—leads Kelaidis to a complicated place. It is one thing to suggest that discretion is the better part of valor, and that the truly modest thing to do is to bow in true humility to the reigning external cultural standards of one’s day. One is most modest by not standing out from others. Real modesty—and by extension real Orthodoxy and real propriety—lie precisely in not making a show of one’s modesty or one’s Orthodoxy or one’s propriety. Continue Reading…

“Beat her when you are alone together”: Domestic Violence in the Russian Tradition, Past and Present

by Nadieszda Kizenko | ру́сский

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On February 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law decriminalizing domestic violence. Now, the first instance of poboi—“actions which cause physical pain but do not lead to grave injury or loss of ability to work’’—will be treated as a misdemeanor rather than a criminal act. This means that the offender will incur a fine of 30,000 rubles (about $500), community service, or a fifteen-day detention. If the offender repeats the offense within a year, the second offense will be treated as a criminal act. If more than a year goes by, the slate is clean, and the repeat offense is once again a misdemeanor with no jail time.

This measure prompted a furious response, both in Russian social media and abroad, when it was first raised in the lower courts last June. It seemed as if the most vulnerable members of society were left without protection, and as if the state considered bloodying one’s wife and children somehow not serious. But the picture is more complicated than it seems. Continue Reading…