Take Off That Hat:
A Message to My Subway Harasser

Beyond his aggressive physicality and his specific religious affiliation, my real issue with my Haredi assailant was… his hat. It was a beautiful hat—more of a cap really, one of those soft black astrakhan creations with the deep dent and high peaked sides that cost less than a shtreiml but still probably an arm and a leg.

For weeks after I was groped, every time I saw any kind of black fur hat—and in New York in December, this is a fairly frequent occurrence—I cringed with fear and fury, exactly as I had when I was touched so unexpectedly. The hat symbolized what was wrong with that man: He was a hypocrite. His hat (and his white beard, his white shirt, his impeccably tailored suit and matching overcoat) made a statement of piety, adherence to a set of rules about modesty, about treating other human beings with dignity and respect according to the laws of Torah, about a commitment to striving for holiness. And in light of his behavior, all of these statements are patently false, and that falsehood is disgusting.

You could argue that my flasher was putting on a similar charade, wearing a trench coat and work clothes and carrying a computer bag to create a credible façade of decency. But faking respectability and faking faith are totally different, and while he’s certainly not first on my list of people to nominate for the Congressional Medal of Honor, in this case, I am inclined to think his sin the lesser of the two.

If you’re going to disrespect women (or anyone) in such a foul way, you don’t get to wear a fancy fur hat that through which you self-designate as someone who fears God. It’s a lie, and it’s an insult to people who take their commitment to religion seriously, both those who do and those who don’t choose to showcase that commitment through our attire. Not only did that man disrespect my body and my dignity, he also insulted the sincerity of my faith through the insincerity of his.

So, my fine-fur-capped friend, wherever you are, I’ve got a couple of suggestions for you. Number one, keep your hands to yourself.

And number two, take off that hat.

Nathalie Gorman is a digital media professional by day and a writer by nights and weekends. She lives in Brooklyn, and can be found on the internet at Nattily.

Photo credit: photo credit: Janrito Karamazov via photopin cc

8 comments on “Take Off That Hat:
A Message to My Subway Harasser

  1. Hindie on

    Thank you for a very well written article. I was troubled by the double standard of this supposedly religious man. Or more likely how he was taught to see women as just sexual things for his pleasure

  2. Lisa on

    I hoped you yelled like hell and called attention to the Haredi man, at least, and notified the conductor. It would also be worth the time to fill out a report.

  3. sheepdan on

    Replace the hat with a black face, and every time she sees a black man she gets scared. Racist right?

    Yes, racist, that is right. And this is bigoted too.

  4. sheepdan on

    Or more likely how you just throw that accusation at anyone who has a different perception of the world than you do.

  5. Julie on

    Who is Hindie “accusing” here? A man who sexually harassed the author of this post.

    But you’re right–maybe he simply has a different perception of the world than Hindie (and the author, and myself): maybe he perceives it to be a world where it’s okay to grab a woman’s buttcheek.

  6. Yehudit on

    Please don’t disrespect all Jewish men because of this bad apple. My dear husband, son, son in law and grandsons do not deserve your unkind suppositions.

  7. Golden Boy on

    Realize though that just because you hold these ‘religiously dressed’ Jews to a higher standard of behavior than you would Joe Shmoe, they don’t necessarily feel the same way. The garb that you associate with piety and godliness is to many ultra-Orthodox merely normal dress, the T-shirt and jeans of their society, a dress code that all wear to fit in without any special significance. While of course what he did is wrong and reprehensible, it is a bit unfair for you to hold him to a higher standard of behavior than others simply because you associate some meaning with his clothing that he may not.

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