Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Return To Modesty

One of the challenges that comes with any serious effort to sort through a problem in modern America is that everything is so polarized, and politicized. The sides of almost any debate get boxed into prefabricated categories of liberal vs. conservative. These categories quite simply do not do justice to many issues that get forced into them today. Issues such as feminism, the problems it tries to address, and conversely, the problems it causes, is just such an example. When liberals denounce the patriarchy, they are misguided. Yet they are right in trying to address real problems, like harassment against women, etc. When conservatives dismiss even the underlying concerns of the feminists, they show themselves to be incapable of providing the answers that are truly needed.

This is why I tend to appreciate thinkers who cut through the modern American political and cultural categories set up for us. I appreciate such thinkers and take notice of them, even when I don't agree with them. One that I do agree with, however, and who has a lot to say on the topic of female modesty, is Wendy Shalit. She wrote A Return To Modesty a good decade ago. I read it a few years ago, and lately have been reading it to my wife, to give her some intellectual stimulation as she makes blankets and such. And I am impressed all over again by this writer's thoughtfulness, her historical and literary skills, and her ability to see to the essence of this matter. She writes not from the perspective of a Christian, but from the Jewish perspective. This, then, is not theologically comprehensive treatise on modesty. Yet it represents a significant step forward in the public conversation on the issue.

Oh, and do not be mistaken by the fact that this book came out in 1999. It is still as relevant as it was then. For though you will see in the book a lot of citations for and quotes from publications around the time of the writing of her book, the issues and her analysis are still right on. I highly recommend this book to you. In the past year or so she came out with another book, The Good Girl Revolution, which I have not yet read. You may find her books on Amazon here.

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