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The gemara in Ketubot 72a tells us that women wore special clothes when they were in niddah, and thus all the neighbors would know when a woman was in niddah ("הוחזקה נדה בשכינותיה").

This is even brought down in the Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Biah 1:22) and Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 115:2).

Question:

Isn't neighbors/people knowing when a woman is in niddah a TREMENDOUS lack of tznius?

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R. Moshe Feinstein has a responsum (Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:77) with the following question from R. Avraham Chaim Levin:

הנה במקום שיש אחרים רואין אם יש דיני הרחקות באשתו נדה שמסתפק כתר"ה דאולי יש להתיר משום דאז אין בו רעיון של קירוב וגם שבא מזה לידי בזיון להאשה ויש בזה משום כבוד הבריות

Behold, in a place where there are others watching, do the laws of harchakot with one's niddah wife apply – for His Honor is uncertain that perhaps we allow it because in such a situation there is no concept of closeness and also because it will lead to embarrassment for the woman [that people know that she is a niddah], and this is [an issue of] human dignity.

R. Feinstein addressed the embarrassment/human dignity aspect towards the end of the reponsum:

ומטעם שהוא כבזיון לה ויש בזה משום כבוד הבריות לא חששו משום שאין בזה בזיון כ"כ דידוע לכל שהנשים הן נדות י"ב יום בכל חדש כשאינן זקנות ולא מעוברות וצריכין להתרחק מבעליהן באיזה דברים ואדרבה הא הרבה היו לובשות בגדים מיוחדים לימי הנדות ומזה היו יודעות השכנות שהיא נדה אלמא שלא היו מתביישות בזה ומה שמתביישות כשהיא נמצאת עם אלו שאינן שומרות דיני התורה אין להחשיב בושת כזה לכבוד הבריות להתיר איסורים ואף לא מנהג ישראל בשביל זה כיון דאדרבה טוב שלא תתבייש אף לפניהן בקיום מצות התורה ומה שמצינו בנדה דף ע"א בראשונה היו מטבילין כלים ע"ג נדות מתות והיו נדות חיות מתביישות והתקינו מחמת זה לב"ש שיהיו מטבילים ע"ג כל הנשים אינו משום שיש בושת לפרסם שהיא נדה אלא מטעם שפרש"י שם שמתביישין בזה שאפילו במיתתן הן משונים מכל אדם ואדרבה משמע שלא הוי הבושת גם שם במה שידעו שמתה נדה אלא משום שמתנהגין במיתת נדה שלא כמו שנוהגין עם כל אדם במיתתן

And as for the reason that it's like an embarrassment for her and it's [an issue of human dignity], they are not concerned since it is not such an embarrassment. For it is known to all that women are niddot 12 days out of every month when they're not old or pregnant, and they have to stay away from their husbands in various matters. And on the contrary – many would wear special clothes for the days of niddut, and thus the neighbors would know that she is a niddah, so we see that they were not embarrassed by this.

And that which they are embarrassed when they are found with these [people] who don't keep the laws of the Torah, this type of embarrassment should not be considered [an issue of] human dignity to undo prohibitions or even Jewish customs on account of it, since on the contrary it is better to not be embarrassed even in their presence for fulfilling the commandments of the Torah.

And that which we find in Niddah 71a [that] originally they would immerse vessels used by dying niddot and the living niddot were embarrassed, and they instituted on account of this - according to Beit Shammai – that they would immerse vessels used by all women, was not because it's embarrassing to publicize that she's a niddah; rather it was because of the reason explained by Rashi there, that they are embarrassed about this that even when they die they are different from all people. And on the contrary, it implies that there was no embarrassment there in that they knew that a niddah died, but that they would deal with the death of a niddah differently from the death of any other person.

In this reponsum we see that R. Feinstein clearly rejected the negative association with knowing someone's niddah status, and specifically mentioned the special clothes as one of the proofs that there is no negative association. In fact, he didn't even mention the possibility that it is a tzniut concern (but only that the women might be embarrassed), presumably because such a concern does not exist. R. Levin as well apparently did not mention tzniut in his question, again leading the reader to believe that the only concern was embarrassment and not tzniut. The reasoning may be, as mentioned in the responsum regarding embarrassment, that it is a normal function that everyone knows about anyway.

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  • Except Rabbi Feinstein seems to assume there is only embarrassment from people who don't keep halacha. This isn't true nowadays. All women, including the midst religious, try to keep their nidda status and mikva night secret. In contrast to Talmudic practice. – user6591 Jul 4 '19 at 18:35
  • @user6591 It sounds like he might be talking about two different embarrassments. There's the potential general embarrassment of people knowing that she's a niddah, and there's also the potential embarrassment of irreligious people thinking she's weird. That's why the response to the first one is that it's not actually embarrassing, and the response to the second one is that you shouldn't be embarrassed for following the Torah. – Alex Jul 4 '19 at 23:32

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