It's summer, and you know what that means: Short-shorts, bare midriffs, unseemly amounts of wicked skin positively everywhere. Well, some residents of Crown Heights are so scandalized by your vile body they've gone ahead and printed some signs, demanding "residents, guests and visitors" cover up. Or else?
The backdrop of the sign depicts what appears to be a lovely spring day—the grass looks inviting and soft, the sky is blue and filled with fluffy clouds. Somewhere out of frame, Thong Guy is surely gearing up for a relaxing afternoon. And that's exactly what the sign's creators don't want.
"Love and Respect," it reads, with "love" printed in gentle, sloping red cursive. "Respect," though, has a sharper tone, with white block letters suggesting a Machiavellian sternness. "Dear Resident, Guest, Visitor," it goes on. "PLEASE DRESS MODESTLY. THIS IS A JEWISH NEIGHBORHOOD."
To the sign's creators—a few points. The attempt to create a sense of otherness by referring to passersby as "visitors" and "guests" is bullshit. The street is city property, and its upkeep is financed by taxes we all pay. I am not a "guest"—that street is as much mine as it is yours. I have not sauntered into your living room wearing nothing but a smile and a merkin. I have not dropped in to your child's preschool parading my second best nipple tassels.
Second of all, this particular sign was posted at Kingston Avenue and Lincoln Place. While Crown Heights is home to a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews, the idea that any one group can claim ownership over a neighborhood is wrongheaded. Crown Heights resident Alexa Antopol, who sent the photos, put it best:
I wear what I want to (what is most comfortable and appropriate) and have done so since I was old enough to purchase my own clothes. "Modesty," as defined by others, is not a consideration as I dress myself to face the day. I am capable of pulling together appropriate and flattering attire on my own, using my best judgement and taste.
If one finds oneself offended by my attire, that's not my fault or my problem. Signs printed with demeaning and insulting subtext that my "immodest" attire is offensive to a particular group to which I do not belong are offensive to me.
Resident Native New Yorker Jake Dobkin has also weighed in, saying that no one has the right to tell a New Yorker what clothes he or she can wear outside. "If you want people to dress a certain way in your temple, or in your bakery, you can ask, because that’s a more private space," he said. On the other hand, the signs are protected by free speech—"you're free to ignore them!" he said, adding that in Jerusalem, an immodest outfit is liable to make you the target of hurled garbage and hawked loogies—or worse.
Happily, that's not the case here. Keep on truckin,' Scout Willis.