Rabbis in Red Lipstick

There are many things that play an important part in my morning ritual — a nice hot drink, a shower, morning prayers. One of the most important elements of my morning routine, however, is putting on my red lipstick. There is something so satisfying about applying the final smear of the creamy red across my lips before I walk out of the door–I feel instantly like a brighter, better version of myself.

My red lips have been my trademark for the last several years, and though the shade has varied, it’s always been red, red, and red. I’ve ventured from candy pink to seductive purples, and my personal favorite and general default, a true candy-apple red. In college, I spent hours defending my cosmetic habits to my feminist friends, who accused me of buying into patriarchal conceptions of beauty. I knew, however, that they didn’t quite understand why the contents of that tiny red tube were so vital. It was about making an active choice about my own gender expression in a way that made me feel all at once powerful, beautiful and uniquely feminine.

These days, as a person embarking on a lifelong journey of Jewish professional leadership — beginning my studies towards non-profit management at New York University’s Wagner School for public service — I continue try my hardest to bring my authentic self to the table as often as I can. Be it at a fundraising dinner, a board meeting, or in the office, I attempt to be fully present, bringing the traits I know to be my strengths — my energy, my genuine desire to connect with others and my drive to create inclusive community spaces — to my work. Oddly enough, the lipstick has become an essential part of making this happen. It is a final, dramatic touch — a flash of vibrant color — that urges me to truly turn up in the fullest way possible, wherever I am.

19 comments on “Rabbis in Red Lipstick

  1. Arlene on

    You are opening a window and yes, adding a new dimension, a new color to Torah study. Please continue to honor the legacies of Deborah, Eve, and Huldah and as well as Lilith too. Beauty and red lipstick is not a sin.

  2. Nechama L-L on

    Love this piece.  Looking forward to the spiritual dialogue of Rabbi Dasi in the future, a whole, vibrant, fully present, authentic human being in red.

  3. Rainbow Tallit Baby on

    The question being asked here is not “can a rabbi wear red  lipstick?” as I bet many rabbis do. I certainly have seen red lipstuck on at leat 3 Conservative Rabbis and 2 Reform rabbis. The question is”  Can a Rabbah or a woman ordained by a modern Orthodox Yeshivah wear red lipstick?” That is not the same question, as non-Orthodox streams have already struggled to some degree with issues of modesty, sexuality and the assumed unconrollable male in ways that even modern Orthodoxy has not.

  4. Rabbivalerie on

    People you serve are going to continue to make assumptions, have transference, and project all sorts of anxieties on to you whether or not you wear the red shade. Your leadership and intelligence will shine through and will make the biggest impression in the end. Keep the red lipstick. But don’t be surprised also if the fact that if over time, your trademark changes and the lipstick becomes less important to you. Define yourself; don’t let them define you.

  5. Ruchela on

    Hi, I think the question isn’t if you should or should not wear red lipstick, I see it to be more  will YOU be distracted wondering if others are judging you by your lipstick choice? “Am I being heard over this loud bright color on my lips?” The “red” of your lips is not what announces you into a room, it is the confidence it gives you. (which I’m sure you know). Be confident in your intelligence and your abilities – that is what people will feel when you walk into the room. To be honest, when I see a pair of red lips in a room, that’s exactly what I see – red lips. It doesn’t matter what the person is saying, I’m thinking, and this could be because I’m a women, “wow, I like that color. I wonder if I could wear that color…” I’m not hearing a word you are saying. That is not to say however, that you should wear only browns and neutrals. What you wear does not, should not define you. But why not tone it down at first, let people see your intelligence first, then gradually turn the redness factor back up! People will notice but they will see YOU first, hear YOU first. 

    Just another opinion. 

  6. Rabbiellen on

    Love this piece! You could exchange the word “lipstick” for high heels, black eyeliner or whatever “feminine” rendering attire you wish. I agree that this “post-feminist” era allows us to do what we want, how we want and doesn’t dictate what is meaningful to us. Yasher Kochech Dasi!

  7. Naomi on

    I really liked Ruchela’s comment. The thing I’m considering when reading her response is that it’s not just a female issue: there is often a perception that Rabbis are supposed to be simple in their dress and appearance. I cannot picture a single Orthodox Rabbi I know who was not restricted to the black-suit white-shirt model. Now again, that relates back to the history of Men’s dress. Perhaps the rebbitzens would be valued for their beautiful colors and styles, but somehow I don’t think so. The more I think about it, there is definitely an association between a spiritual leader and sexual purity, or at least a sexuality subdued in nature.

    I’m not saying that these associations are correct. And there are absolutely Rabbis who have what you referred to as a “strong presence,” but that’s usually disconnected to their appearance. What if a Orthodox male rabbi came to shul wearing a bright pink shirt? Or, to get away from gender associations, a bright orange shift? Or perhaps, even a red shirt? Would there not be the same personality assumptions?    

  8. Bill Landau on

    Dasi – A wonderful, thought-provoking piece.  My first thought is to say “rock the red” and to heck what the stodgy folks think.  But Ruchela makes a good point, having nothing to do with the Orthodox concerns….

    Whatever you choose, the best of luck to you in both your future paths.

  9. Doodles613 on

    Sorry, in my shul, we have not changed how things have operated in 100s of years.  In a Sephardi community, if you dont listen to the Rabbi all the time, eh, your OK, as long as you really listen when its very important.  HOWEVER, G-d have mercy on you if you DARE do not listen to the Rabbinit.  The entire shul will come against you if you say one unkind thing about her.  You will literally get punched in the face if you raise her voice to her.  You do not want to even think of what will happen if you really seriously do something inconsiderate, but I’ll just say a guy did pull a knife on someone else before over it.  There is nothing wrong with tradition, there is nothing wrong with the journey our people have taken.  The problem is with people who seek to put women down.  There is nothing wrong with the way a traditional community runs.  All the women of the shul say tehilim and learn.  Most of the men work, and very hard, so most of the women dont have to.  If the women want to work, they can, and the men help.  If they women want to take care of the house, they do, and the men work harder.  I just dont see the point in all the hoopla to separate ourselves and cause more rifts.

  10. Miriam on

    I really don’t think this is specific to gender.  In many professions and work settings, my own included, there are customary norms of dress/make up.  Often the often unspoken dress codes involve conservative clothing (and for women, under-stated make-up).  What you might wear to a social gathering might not the type of thing you would wear to work.  In the Orthodox rabbinate, as others have pointed out, conservative clothing – i.e. white shirts, suits, usually a tie – are customary.  Though there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, it’s unusual to see Orthodox rabbis in jeans in public.  The one Orthodox rabba that I have seen seems to conform with the rabbinic custom of under-stated conservative dress (though admittedly I have only seen her in shul and only on a few occasions).  While there’s nothing wrong with more attention-getting clothing or make-up, it is not the norm for Orthodox rabbis of either gender at this time, as far as I can tell. So it would not be surprising that you might get some (positive or negative) reaction to it.

  11. MarleyWeiner on

    Dasi, thank you for this. It’s interesting, because I feel a lot of the same challenges with negotiating modesty and gender presentation in the liberal Jewish community. I think that, at least in our community, the problem is less modesty and more rabbis who are very overtly feminine, and how femininity is perceived in broader society. I wrote a post about it!

  12. Moshe Averick on

    Quit pretending that you are Orthodox; you may fool yourself but you don’t fool the rest of us. Perhaps you are sincere but your mind and brain have taken a trip to outer space.
    You are a perfect example of the distortion and confusion that Avi Weiss has brought to the Jewish world, like Korach, Yeravam ben Nevat, the the Tzadukkim, Karaites, Reform, and Conservative have done before him and in whose legacy he continues. Tragic, Sad

    Moshe Aveick

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