22 November 2006

The Modesty Issue

Ladies are often called "old fashioned" or "prudes" when we dress in a way that we feel is modest. We are told that "our men" or "our religion" (meaning the organized group) is confining us to uncomfortable clothing, suppressing our freedom, or generally treating women as another type of human being. What is so oppressive about dressing and acting modestly?

This issue is coming "back around" again, as we can see by the resurgence of young women to dress and behave more "old fashioned." In this blog, from Elisheva Blogs , is a Jewish perspective on the modesty issue. She states that "It makes me very sad to read that so many ridicule and mock our Rabbis who are trying to do the right thing for us. We lack understanding. We lack courage and strength to stand up for what's right. Too many of us are embarrassed to be different, rather than being proud of it. I for one am proud to be an Orthodox Jewish woman who strives to dress as modestly as possible. I KNOW the value this has - in my own eyes and in Hashem's eyes. I can respect myself now when I look in the mirror. My husband respects me now. He treats me completely different than he used to. Other men respect me and treat me so much better than they used to.
"If only I could make you understand. All I can do is tell you that I have lived both lives and the one I am living now is far far better."

In another blog about modesty, I found a reference to an article a couple of years old in the New York Magazine online. The article, The Porn Myth, is an attempt by the author to explain impact that looser standards in morality by way of pornography is having on all of us. In it, the author refers to moral standards and their benefits, and states that: "feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions." She goes on to relate the following:

"I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blond hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

Compare that steaminess with a conversation I had at Northwestern, after I had talked about the effect of porn on relationships. “Why have sex right away?” a boy with tousled hair and Bambi eyes was explaining. “Things are always a little tense and uncomfortable when you just start seeing someone,” he said. “I prefer to have sex right away just to get it over with. You know it’s going to happen anyway, and it gets rid of the tension.”

“Isn’t the tension kind of fun?” I asked. “Doesn’t that also get rid of the mystery?”

“Mystery?” He looked at me blankly. And then, without hesitating, he replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sex has no mystery.”
Okay, I admit I don't know everything that a man thinks about, or a woman either for that matter, but I have to admit, there is more than just a little sense in being modest, whether it's old fashioned or traditional or even fashionable.

**See also this article in "Wendy's Modest Dress" (scroll down) for a Christian Lady's perspective on Modesty.
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