What is Modesty?

October 7, 2008 | NeW

Mark Twain said it this way: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have left little or no influence on society.”

Until next Tuesday, we will be discussing the Introduction in A Return to Modesty.

One thing I found most interesting in the Introduction, was on pages 8-9, when Shalit tells of some of Mary Pipher’s experiences.

“After hearing hundreds of stories of self-mutilation from her adolescent-girl clients, psychologist Mary Pipher concludes that ‘girls are having more trouble now than they had thirty years ago, when I was a girl, and more trouble than even ten years ago’. . . She is a staunch feminist, but cannot help noticing that ‘the sexual license of the 1990s inhibits some girls from having the appropriate sexual experiences they want and need.’ Mary Pipher’s only clients who have escaped the standard litany of self-mutilation and eating disorders are the girls who are not sexually active – usually the ones who come from strict families with ‘paternalistic’ fathers. ‘Jody,’ for instance, who is 16, comes from a tight-knit, fundamentalist family. Her mother stays home, and her father even insisted that Jody stop dating her boyfriend, Jeff, in the tenth grade, fearing that she would have sex before marriage. Yet in spite of these restrictions which ‘psychologists would condemn,’ as Dr. Pipher puts it, Jody seems mysteriously happy. In fact, Jody is the happiest and most well adjusted of all her patients.”

As one can imagine, Dr. Pipher’s observations caused her to rethink if paternalism is truly oppressive.

What do you think? Are girls who are raised in “authoritarian” families more outgoing and self-confident? Does paternalism have a link to modesty? Is modesty sexual repression? If not, what is it?

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