The title of Chapter 5 in Wendy Shalit’s book, A Return to Modesty, begs a question. It is “Forgiving Modesty.” Is there a reason that society needs to forgive modesty? Has modesty failed us?
First, before even considering this, we need to define our terms. Shalit gives a couple definitions of modesty. She says there are two kinds of modesty. The humble kind and the sexual kind. Since dictionary definitions seem to fall short of explaining it correctly, Shalit goes back to the Latin and the Greek to see what they had to say.
Back to the question: Has modesty failed us? I think the answer is “no,” we have failed and turned a deaf ear to the codes of modesty. In dress, fashion comes and goes. However, we have thrown modesty out in regards to our behaviors and mindsets.
Shalit says we could pick up the October 1996 issue of Harper’s Bazaar to see what is happening about modesty in our culture.
In response to these letters, the editors wrote back:
Shalit’s following commentary is provoking. She reasons that according to the editors if you plainly do not like seeing bare breasts on the covers of national magazines, you just need to “bombard yourself with a greater number of such images until you are numbed to their power.”
The last four words in this part was the fodder for discussion at our last meeting. The idea that there is a type of power in revealing and covering one’s body. However, if everyone just lets everything hang out to secure “comfort with your body.” Then, this power seems to be lost.
How do you feel, as a woman, living in society today? Do you feel that you have to dress a certain way to wield your power over guys because that is what everybody else is doing? Are we hurting ourselves when we dress to impress, i.e. to get an up-down from guys’ eyes? Are we respecting ourselves and others when we do this? Is respect a lost virtue as well?