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Adding a thought:
We've sometimes considered sponsoring public debates, but I've hesitated. I've hesitated partly, I think, out of an intuitive sense that the traditional debate format tends to encourage a competitive vying for victory, as opposed to collaboration in discerning truth.
Jul. 12 at 11:11am | See in context
Ok. But you are still talking only about "the good side" of modesty talk. You haven't addressed, it seems to me, the central problem I'm trying to highlight, namely the way modesty talk backfires
1) by making both sexes more, not less aware of sexuality
2) by putting too much of a burden to resist the entire culture on young girls
3) by inclining men to blame girls and women for their lustful thoughts and feelings
4) by reinforcing the fallen male tendency to try to subdue and dominate women
Inasmuch as these tendencies are at play in modesty talk (and they are), resistance is good—resistance not only on the level of talk, but on the level of action.
And if our response to the resistance is to double down on our insistence that girls should be dressing more modestly, we inspire more resistance, and so on and so forth in a vicious cycle.
Jul. 11 at 11:13am | See in context
If things are done before their time or in the wrong place or with the wrong people then they are done without discretion. The result will be utterly counter productive. That organic development, which DvH so often stressed, will be lacking. The exposition of important things needs the proper context in order to be nurtured. “Do not cast your pearls before swine” Jesus said. Anne Dillard, the novelist, tells how her love of butterflies led to a terrible experience. When she was young she found a cocoon. To hasten the process of development she put a lit candle under it. She was delighted as the cocoon began to break open and apparently a butterfly began to emerge. But she was horrified when she realized the speed up process brought forth a butterfly without wings. The Spanish have this maxim: “No mates la mariposa.” –Don’t kill the butterfly.
What flows from this is the question with its underlying modesty principle: “Is what I am revealing appropriate under these circumstances.”? I think this can be a guideline for modesty in dress.
Jul. 11 at 10:50am | See in context
I’d like to approach the question of modesty in dress from this definition: Modesty is revealing only what is appropriate under the particular circumstances. Thus it would be immodest to speak of intimate feelings amongst a group of strangers or even casual acquaintances. And since clothing is revelation what is modest or immodest here also depends on the circumstances.
Jul. 11 at 10:49am | See in context
I would be aware (now!) that if I were to say something like, "That is way too immodest, march right back up to your room and change or you're not going anywhere," I would be misfiring. I would be embarrassing her, hurting her, and interfering with her own developing sense of self.
I know lots of young women whose way of dealing with parental authoritarianism is to change when they leave home. I mean, change their clothes. The parents have no idea what they're wearing. This is because the parents have (unfortunately) cut off conversation with their older children, who feel they have to hide from them.
Jul. 9 at 3:45pm | See in context
I would never let my 16 year old daughter go to the movies with her 17 year old boyfriend!
I'm half kidding. Happily for me, neither of our daughters had a boyfriend before college. Generally, we discouraged one-on-one dating in high school. We tell our kids that that's too much intensity for that level of maturity. The "theme" of intersex relations in high school should be friendship, not romance. So, group outings are the thing.
But let me try to go with your question.
Parents should emphasize helping their daughters realize their own dignity, mostly by learning from their experience, and through conversation, not commands. If my daughter came down wearing something that I thought drew too much attention to her "sexual values", as JP II put it, I would tell her that. "Sweetheart, I'm worried that that outfit will draw the wrong kind of attention. You don't want to make it too hard for your boyfriend to treat you with respect."
Jul. 9 at 1:13pm | See in context
Your 16 year old daughter is going out to a movie with her 17 year old boy friend. Is there any point at which you would say don't wear that? Why?
Jul. 9 at 12:07pm | See in context
Thinking about the two rules TM was so obsessive about: men have to be clean-shaven and women have to wear skirts.
There are no sexual overtones in the case of beards. The policy (at Dominos Pizza) was justified on grounds of efficiency. Since beards are a long-standing tradition in academia, and since efficiency is not the "theme" of the academic life, the policy was rejected at AM.
I can't find any such justification for the women have to wear skirts rule.
Jul. 9 at 9:07am | See in context
Kate, thanks so much for the link! And for directing that poor woman to EE.
I fear we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on this.
Jul. 9 at 8:43am | See in context
Ian, another feature of "modesty talk" is that it tends to inculcate externalism and judgmentalism. When we grow up with our moral attention constantly being drawn to what we're wearing and what other people are wearing, we typically either rebel or become self-righteous, judgmental types. Busybodies.
Very often, just as men resent that women dress in a way they find sexually bothersome, women resent that other women are apparently allowed a freedom they themselves are not allowed. So they point fingers.
I've seen a lot of this in teenage girls raised in very strict families. They want so badly to be able to wear a bikini or high heels, say. But they're not allowed. So they sit at the beach and talk about how immodest the girls in bikinis are. They cope with their feeling of inferiority by "tearing down."
Jul. 9 at 8:42am | See in context
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