Feeling tempted by scantily-dressed women on the bus, or sexy billboards by the side of the road? If you’re an ultra-Orthodox man in Israel, you’re in luck: you can now buy special blinders to prevent sin-enticing images from sneaking into your peripheral vision. As the Times of Israel reported yesterday, an organization called The Committee for Purity in the Camp is selling special stickers that the observant-but-easily-vulnerable-to-lady-business can wear on their eyeglasses. The stickers “blur vision of anything beyond the range of a few meters and so diffuse immodestly dressed women to a harmless blot.” (If you don’t wear glasses, the Purity Committee sells a non-prescription pair with stickers for the soul-saving bargain price of around $32.)
On the one hand, this is good news. As the Times notes, these eyeglasses mark a “change in tactics” in the Israeli ultra-Orthodox campaign against immodesty. Rather than forcing women to cover up (and spitting on eight year-olds with exposed forearms), these blinders place the onus for avoiding temptation where it belongs: on men. If the choice is between harassing women for displaying bare skin and turning men into carriage horses, the latter seems like the preferable option.
At the same time, these eyeglasses and their stickers send two toxic and unmistakable messages. First, women’s bodies have such power to do harm that men need to partially blind themselves for protection. Second, men are totally incapable of exercising self-control. In the book of Job (Iyov in Hebrew) the title character says “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then should I look lustfully at a girl?” A covenant is a promise sustained by faith, not by a crude device that impairs the senses. Deeply religious men usually have the ocular muscles to redirect their vision from that which might prove a solicitation to sin. Outsourcing that willpower to a pair of glasses makes the idea of self-control almost meaningless.
A pair of glasses that reduce rather than enhance vision is quite a novelty. And while these specs and stickers reinforce the myth that men are hopelessly weak, if we’re forced into the false dichotomy between shaming women and blinding men, we might as well pick the latter.