Tag Archives: Modesty Philosophy

Marketing’s Chump I am No Longer

‘Tis the Season to make consumers feel like they don’t have enough and wont be cool enough until they have it all. Can  modesty extend to our purchases and consumer habits?

Modesty(Dictionary.com)

–noun, plural -ties.

  1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
  2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
  3. simplicity; moderation.

     

This holiday season, I’m aiming for #3. No over-buying, no over-spending. No useless chotchkie and doo-dads. And I don’t want them either. This Christmas I will embrace a season of simplicity and rebel against consumerism. Away goes the VISA or MasterCard. One well-chosen gift for the few who count.

But before that, I’m going to go and write some final exams.

Merry Christmas,

~CUC

Stay tuned for the post about my upcoming job interview.

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Aside

Ten minute video with three different muslim women. One is dressed in the secular fashion, one hijab and one niquab.

Mind Your Plate! Or Should You Mind His?

Mind Your Plate is an Ortho-ism referring to fasting that I first heard on the Our Life in Christ pod-cast. Fasting is part of pastoral discretion. There are guidelines that, in general, everyone will follow. Then there are those who, under the direction of their priest, wont follow all or any of the general rules.

The question: Who is responsible for a man’s wandering mind, you or him?

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to why we cover and who’s responsible for  lusty thoughts caused by various modes of dress. At the extreme ends of the spectrum the theories are:

  1. Men are entirely responsible for their own thoughts regardless of what a woman does not cover.
  2. Women are entirely responsible for instigating men’s inappropriate thoughts – so cover up.

My personal thoughts fall somewhere in the middle.

I think ultimately you cannot control or prevent men from being the visually motivated creatures they are.  Denying men are visual creatures is disingenuous. It is not a slight or insult to men. It is a simple fact. Nothing more and nothing less. Nor can you control or prevent any particular thought or thought process.

You cannot hold a woman entirely responsible for the thoughts or actions of a man regardless of her clothing. However, going out barely dressed will elicit certain reactions and she should be cognisant of that fact. It is not that she deserves cat-calls or that she should be assumed to be “easy” but that we must all take responsibility for how we interact with the world.

Two clichés come to mind: “Actions speak louder than words” and “We teach people how to treat us.” In the context of our clothing and men (though I suppose women really should be included for the sake of political correctness) this means our clothing shows the world what we think of ourselves and how we expect to interact with the people around us.

A scantily clad woman, perhaps unfairly, indicates that she has little to offer. She offers the world what little she believes she possesses. A woman who is more modestly attired demonstrates her pride in herself. She knows that she has much to offer the world; they can enjoy her company if they demonstrate their respect towards her.

There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they would mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.  ~Virginia Woolf

I do not get dressed in the morning thinking about whether or not the men of the general public will be staring at me. I do think about if I’m going to flop out of my clothes or if I’m going to be comfortable with the amount of coverage. I do think about showing too much.

The way I dress, or any other woman dresses, cannot excuse the inappropriate behaviour of some men. We must all be responsible for ourselves. But I expect respect, and not to be treated as a “pretty girl.” I, therefore, dress the part.

It is a difficult issue. There is no “good answer.” I think as long as there are people we will run into these kinds of issues. I think that humans will continue to use their bodies and minds to manipulate and control in certain situations.

Modesty in the Doctor’s Office

I was reading a bioethics blog about modesty in the medical profession. Note that there is a naked male statue pictured in the post which can be found here.

And so the question: Does modesty have a place in the doctor’s office? And if so, what does it look like?

Being a younger, and fortunate,  woman I have yet to need serious medical attention in a hurry. My family doctors have always been female. And you can rest assured that I know how lucky I am to have even found a GP let alone, a young female doctor.

I see a registered massage therapist (RMT) on an ongoing basis. Female. Acupuncture – Female. Chiropractor, well, he’s a man. And that is the one concession I’ve made to date. I do have to remove my hat or headscarf for him to properly adjust all the crooked parts. He does have to touch my back, head, arms and legs.

At first, having a man doctor, besides my dentist, was a bit strange. I haven’t looked for a female chiropractor because the one I see direct bills the insurance company and gives me a student rate. No one gives you that deal but him. My personal way of rationalising this is that my clothes are on, and I no longer have headaches or tingly feet.

I don’t imagine that I’ll have a male maternity doctor. While I know several female doctors, I imagine that when I have a screaming, pooping, bundle of fun, I’ll head to a midwife. That’s a whole other discussion which doesn’t fall under the purview of this blog.

Should I require emergency medical attention where my body would need to be exposed to medical professionals who are also men I’d deal with it. I can tell you I might hate every damned second of it but it couldn’t be any worse, or more uncomfortable, than the predicament I was already in before I got there. I would only hope that they would conduct themselves in a manner we have come to expect of medical professionals.

What are your thoughts?

Cultural Modesty Standards – Part 2

Well it’s better late than never or so they say.

This is a response to Part 1 of the post.

I am not sure how I would deal with having to uncover to meet a cultural/political norm. I am uncomfortable with the idea of having to remove my head covering in any situation where there are boys to whom I am not related. This LiveJournal entry was the most thought-provoking post or article I’ve seen in quite some time.

Hotcoffeems has been put between the proverbial rock and hard-place. Family is important. In  this instance I feel like the political statement is more important. My mom and I may have friendly and irritating debates about the fact that I don’t run around without my hair covered, but it isn’t complicated by the fact that I’m also making a contradictory political statement. Even if I were, I don’t live in a country where things are so polarised.

There was an interesting comment about how the Jewish community or communities would look at an issue such as this.

My question about this is, are there no legitimate religious opinions in Islam that hold that a full hijab scarf is unnecessary? I know that in Orthodox Judaism it is pretty normative that hair covering is required, but different communities and different sages have disagreed about HOW to cover your hair. In fact, there are some rabbis who have even posited that it’s no longer a requirement in this age and place! There is disagreement about WHO is a legitimate Jewish law decider, but generally in our religion it’s understood there are often various (sometimes vastly differing) religious opinions on a topic that are all valid. For instance, Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews do things very differently but often see what the other group does as religiously legitimate… for THAT group. Plus we tend to follow our rabbi’s opinions and if they reach a legitimate conclusion from serious study of the texts, it’s okay if that opinion isn’t exactly the same as someone else’s. There are still community norms, but when you travel from place to place they vary quite dramatically. I don’t know how it is in Islam, but in Judaism, context and culture and tradition can indeed matter when making religious decisions.

In Orthodox Christianity this could fall under Pastoral Guidance or Economia. Perhaps, in the Protestant denominations, these lines would fall down denominational divisions as opposed to two different congregations of the same denomination having practical differences.

So what is the answer? I have no clue.  I hope that Hotcoffeemsis able to find a way to cover to her satisfaction that also satisfies her family and her political associations.

And what are your thoughts?

My question about this is, are there no legitimate religious opinions in Islam that hold that a full hijab scarf is unnecessary? I know that in Orthodox Judaism it is pretty normative that haircovering is required, but different communities and different sages have disagreed about HOW to cover your hair. In fact, there are some rabbis who have even posited that it’s no longer a requirement in this age and place! There is disagreement about WHO is a legitimate Jewish law decider, but generally in our religion it’s understood there are often various (sometimes vastly differing) religious opinions on a topic that are all valid. For instance, Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews do things very differently but often see what the other group does as religiously legitimate… for THAT group. Plus we tend to follow our rabbi’s opinions and if they reach a legitimate conclusion from serious study of the texts, it’s okay if that opinion isn’t exactly the same as someone else’s. There are still community norms, but when you travel from place to place they vary quite dramatically. I don’t know how it is in Islam, but in Judaism, context and culture and tradition can indeed matter when making religious decisions.

Modesty : It’s Shades of Grey

Interesting fact: When women started wearing the male-inspired doublet pictured on the left, many considered it immodest. The one pictured right was exclusively a female styled garment preserving the very definite gender differences. It didn’t matter that a very large portion of cleavage was showing. (Both portraits are of Elizabeth I at different points in her life.)

There are many different interpretations and definitions of modesty. Many books have been written. Debates have raged. Over time interpretations and definitions have changed and evolved.

As far as I’ve seen thoughts on modesty can fall into two basic categories: Coverage and Attitude. You can ascribe to either or both. Coverage, of course, is mostly concerned with clothing. To what degree should someone cover themselves? How tight or loose should a modest garment be? Attitude is a catch-all for everything that isn’t clothing.

Coverageis less simple than it may seem on the surface. It becomes more complicated when you are trying to develop a personal standard as opposed to following a community standard. For me coverage does mean avoiding clothing that is too tight or too tight for a certain situation. I wear skirts all the time. I don’t own pants. (Read my entry Put Some Pants On! to find out more.) I am covered to the knee, generally my elbows are covered and you won’t see my cleavage. I cover my hair in public, but bangs are seen fairly often. (I suppose this counts as cleavage, albeit, hair cleavage.) This is true for every time I step outside my house or there is an unrelated man in my house.

I am currently undecided about my swimwear situation. Before I started covering my hair I had a one-piece swimsuit that is commonly worn by fitness swimmers. I haven’t been swimming in three years or more. (I plan on a post lamenting the disappointing shopping trip.)

I decided on my personal standards after much research and experimentation. It was easy for me to decide to adopt something close to the Tzniut rules on dress. Being an Orthodox Christian, we commonly hear about our Jewish roots. There is respect for what came before. It is hard for me not to respect something that has been around for such a long time. The reason I don’t follow the Tzniut dress code exactly is not a fully formed decision. I think it is more a matter of ease and comfort. I cover my elbows because I feel more secure. I’m not sure why I feel more comfortable exposing my knee caps than my elbows. It just came to be that way. I don’t work to cover my collar-bone but the majority of my shirts nearly make it. My chest is fully covered, so I’m happy. Deeper necklines are easily filled with a scarf drapped overtop or a high-necked shirt beneath. I haven’t worn a turtle-neck in years. The one thing I am conscious about is bringing too much attention to my chest. (I’ve never been considered small) One thing that can make you look like you have a ski slope is a single coloured, turtle neck. No Thanks.

I have facial piercings and don’t feel these are immodest. I think people are just a tad confused. (post on piercings coming up!)

Attitude is an all together different matter. I swear, have been known to drink and am painfully blunt. These could be considered immodest. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Though I wouldn’t whole-heartedly agree either.

What I do attempt to avoid is talking about certain things in mixed company. Things like birth control, the female cycles (other women’s as well as mine), hygiene (such as waxing), etc. The basic rule of thumb is if it is gender specific or sexual in nature then it is not something to be discussed in mixed company. When it’s ladies only, all bets are off.

These are my personal guidelines. I tend to struggle more with the attitude more than coverage. Attitude is easier to slip up with than coverage by far. It’s all a process.

What are your thoughts?

Modesty and Feminism

I was reading the Globe and Mail on my way to work and came across this article about the resurgence of aprons as fashionable items. While this doesn’t have anything to do with modesty directly, it does discuss femininity and gender-roles related to one small item of clothing. It isn’t even a clothing item. It’s an accessory.

When discussing modesty in the modern world it is nearly impossible to avoid discussing feminism briefly. Many argue that modesty is the very opposite of liberation; it is anti-feminist. Modesty is thought to be a denial of your true self. In a culture where individuality is the supreme value, a denial of any part of your identity is declared anathema. (We’ll leave the “Modesty is a realisation of self and not a denial of self,” argument for another time.)

So the question is: Can an apron be just an apron?

The one quote that is truly irritating comes from Shira Tarran, a blogger for Ms. Magazine:

“These aprons are reinforcing ideas that domestic labour like cooking is women’s work and there’s nothing ironic or progressive about unpaid work, even if we want to wrap it up in a pretty decoration”

Dear Ms Tarran, no one said my husband couldn’t wear my cherry print apron in the kitchen. He may want to protect his clothes while making his fantastic grilled-cheese sandwiches.

The view-point that I think younger women tend to identify with suggests, “the apron doesn’t define the way it used to.”

Like other apronistas, she argues that the unforgiving work schedules that have threatened domestic life to near extinction today have conversely made the apron a symbol of respite – at least for some women.

My mom was born in 1950. I was born in the early 80s. In terms of personality we are the same woman born more than 30 years apart. Our conservatism and liberalism make us aliens to each other. For as long as I can remember, my mother has identified as a feminist. For most of my life I thought the feminists were all a bunch of old, crazy women who were out of touch with the modern reality. My mother and I illustrate the gap in 2nd and 3rd wave feminist thought.

I teach knitting classes. It is interesting how many women, who fall into the same generation as the second wave feminism, are picking up knitting needles as a hobby for pure enjoyment. Many women of this generation didn’t learn in their younger years because such a domestic art was a symbol of  enforced domesticity. Bowing to the patriarchy of old would elicit scorn from your enlightened and liberated peers.

Women of my generation ( approximately 30 and younger) haven’t had the same ideas to fight against. We have always assumed that we are the equal of men and, therefore, deserving of all rights and privileges that a man enjoys. We understand that we have the right to a career if we want it. Being a stay at home parent is a choice. Domestic arts could simply exist as a creative hobby.

Maybe that’s it, It isn’t a feminism issue as much as it is a generational issue. Younger women see vintage fashions and see the glamour and ideals of by-gone days. Women who lived through the early years of the 20th century have a different point of reference. An apron brings up all the memories of the fights they thought they’d won. The idea that younger women would throw all the previous generation’s efforts out the window and don symbols of feminine servitude is a disrespect at the most basic level. To our predecessors it is, to a far lesser extent, like winning one of the wars to preserve democracy and then turning around and running into the arms of the fascists or communists. The generational gap is really at the heart of the issue.

I don’t much care for militant feminism. I recognise equality in the human race. Equality is not defined as sameness. To me it really is just an apron. It represents nothing more than a fashion statement.

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If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It!

I was reading the Modestly Yours blog the other day and came across an interesting post. The post is entitled “A Quick Note on Miley . . .” Check out the original post for the comments.

The original post follows

This article appeared after Miley Cyrus came under fire for her choice of clothing on her latest album cover.

When answering the accusations levelled at her, Ms. Cyrus responded with the following words:

“I’m really comfortable with my body…”

Yes, again. Funny how “being comfortable” with your body always means showing it off.

“If you’ve got, it flaunt it,” is a hot button issue with me. I find this is one of the issues that comes up in conversation time and again. I do not cover myself because I am ashamed of my body. I cover it up because it’s fantastic and no one has any right to see it. It’s perhaps a rather pompous statement but, none the less, is exactly how I feel.

I too was a teenager once in my life. I didn’t see the point in modesty. I wasn’t running around in nothing but I was sporting the tank-and-bra-strap look very frequently. I was ok with jeans with large contrasting patches on my back-side. Baby-Ts were in and I was happy with that. Around grade 11 or 12 something slowly took root. I had read A Return to Modesty, by Wendy Shalit, in the summer between grade 11 and 12 which probably made me a little bit more conscious of many of my behaviours.

I was a teeny little girl who was a bit top-heavy. During the same summer I read Shalit’s book, I had gone on a trip and had spent a good deal of time with a guy friend who would point out all the boys/men looking at me and doing double-takes. It appears I had been fairly oblivious to how much ogling was going on.

I don’t really know when the switch finally flipped. At one point I took off the patches from the jeans. By the time I was 19, finished my first stint in post secondary, and living on my own, I had decided that more coverage was ok. Perhaps it was preferable.

When I got married I wore a back-less dress, though the front showed no cleavage (at least it didn’t all hang out). I still, more or less, followed the common mode of dress. But, within 2 years I had sworn off pants. A year and a half after that, my hair was undercover for good.

So what does this all have to do with Miley? I think it’s possible that she’ll grow out of it. I think this can be the unfortunate part of the process we all go through to, “find ourselves.” I wasn’t raised in a home where modesty was a constant point of discussion, it barely registered. So here is hoping that Miley figures out that she is worth the self-respect a pair of sleeves and coverage to the knees can bring.\

You can also read “Why Miley Cyrus is stripping down as she grows up,”  written, incidentally, by Wendy Shalit.

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Well Kept and Well Covered

It is a fact that hair grows, covered or not. It is also a fact that every few months I start to feel a little drab and the cure is a hair cut. This begs the question: If you cover when you’re out of your house, why do you get your hair cut? It is also commonly mused that the shearing of my locks must take place where prying eyes are found.

I get my hair cut the same place everyone else does, at the salon. Yes people can see me with my hair down. I sit down in the chair, uncover, get a cut, and cover up.

So why bother? It’s the same reason many women will get a bikini wax in winter. The thought process is similar to puting on nice under-things. Just because everyone doesn’t see, doesn’t mean I don’t. Bad hair can make me feel just as homely as an ill fitting shirt. It is a matter of good grooming and self-care.

I am ok with having my hair out in public for a brief time just as I am ok with the male chiropractor putting his hands on my back or hips. It is not a long process, I feel better afterwards. Given a convenient option to have my hair cut in private I would take it, but nothing seems to be forthcoming. Until such a time, every few months or so, I’ll doff my cap to have my locks cropped.

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Put Some Pants On!

I don’t own pants. No I don’t. It doesn’t have much to do with being modest though. It has more to do with looking and feeling like a girl. I gave up on pants 4+ years ago. I was sick of trying to find pants that fit. I was tired of feeling like a slob because all I was wearing was jeans, T-shirts and skate shoes. I just wanted out of my rut and to feel pretty and feminine. So I no longer even own pants and that’s that.

No,  I don’t get cold in the “winter.” (Have you seen what the Canadian West Coast and American Pacific North West call winter?) Tights, leg warmer, knee-high socks and boots keep me warm and dryish. If I get really cold I put my feather-weight long-johns under my tights and I’m toasty. I can’t imagine how cold people get when they’re only wearing jeans (or maybe I just forgot).

No, I don’t think pants are bad. Pants just aren’t for me. The only time I feel pants are immodest is when they’re too tight or the rise is too low. I don’t see pants as a strictly male garment. Back in the day, in many parts of Europe, everyone wore tunics (reads: dresses). Men’s tunics tended to be shorter, but still, we don’t consider dresses male garments today. My convoluted point is that pants or skirts can be modest or immodest. I think it is primarily a matter of cut.

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