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    Quotables: A Return to Modesty

    August 10, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

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    A Return to Modesty:
    Discovering the Lost Virtue
    by Wendy Shalit

    A truly misogynist culture like our own loves to encourage the so-called fatal woman or “b–ch,” because she confirms its suspicion that all women are really evil, and if we were honest, we would admit it. What it cannot bear is a real, living woman–someone with hopes, dreams, secrets, and all of that other schmaltzy stuff with Dr. Klein & Misogyny, Inc. takes as evidence of being “emotionally labile.” {p. 169}

    Modesty damps down crudeness, it doesn’t dampen down Eros. In fact, it is more likely to enkindle it. {p. 173}

    “When teenagers easily dismiss the s*exual side of a male/female relationship and claim to be ‘just friends,'” Friedman continues, “it’s not a virtue or an accomplishment; it’s a sad loss. And what we have lost is our ability to be naturally s*xual.” {p. 179}

    [S]ome say that embarrassment is socially constructed…I would say the opposite–that embarrassment is natural but it can be socially destructed. {p. 204}

    Preventing pregnancy doesn’t make everything OK. {p. 207}

    We don’t believe our girls when they tell us what they hoped for. When they come crying to us in all sincerity or despair, we are annoyed with them and tell them, like Sharon Thompson, that “their distress” is “disproportionate.” They would be better off, as she says, if they took “the romantic equation apart,” “accept[ed] love as ephemeral.” So we put her on the Pill, on Prozac, tell her to try harder, and by the end, it’s her hopes that are dead. Then when she no longer cares about anything, we deem her “mature.” If she’s like me and still cares, then she is “immature.” {p. 208}

    We tell them that the only risk is pregnancy or s*xually transmitted diseases, but it simply isn’t true. Maybe it’s true if you’re the sort of person who loves only yourself, because then you can never lose yourself completely in anyone else, but most girls are not as narcissistic as our culture trains them to be. {p. 210}

    What’s rarely talked about is what it’s like to grow up in a divorce culture even when your parents are not divorced. For even when they’re happy, they always could get divorced… {p. 210}

    No child can ever really rest in our culture of divorce. We have to be careful not to be sick, to be entertaining all the time. If we’re too much of a burden, we could find ourselves all alone. {p. 211}

    [I] see s*xual modesty among my peers as a return to the idea of having private claims, as a way of escaping from the mire of indeterminacy and insecurity. First, by not having s*x before marriage, you are insisting on your right to take these things seriously, when many around you do not seem to. By reserving a part of you for someone else, you are insisting on your right to keep something sacred; you are welcoming the prospect of someone else making an enduring private claim to you, and you to him. But more significantly, not having s*x before marriage is a way of insisting that the most interesting part of your life will take place after marriage, and if it’s more interesting, maybe then it will last. {p. 212}

    Working mothers with small children now say they work “because I have to.” Why do so many women say that? If we have been freed from oppression and are supposed to be liberated, then how has it come to pass that so many women are forced to do what they do not want? {p. 215}

    However particular religious understandings of modesty may differ, all are in agreement that modesty is inextricably entwined with holiness. {p. 218}

    The most common complaint I hear from women my age is that there is no longer any “dating scene.” Young people go out in packs, they drink, they “hook up,” and the next day life returns to normal. {p. 236}

    [C]onsider yourself forewarned: If you refuse to be cured of your sensitivity or your womanhood, if you start defending your right to your illusions, be prepared for people to tell you that you are silly and childish.  Be prepared for some to make fun of you directly, and for others to be more sophisticated about it and try to reduce your hopes to various psychological maladies. {p. 237}

    [Older women] generally take for granted the dating, the courtship rituals, the early marriage they enjoyed, and–what now almost never exists–the lifetime companionship, the simple trust one has with a spouse who was also one’s first lover. To them, “innocence” is always in ironic quotes; it was a word their mothers used. They do not make the connection between this initial innocence and the lasting love that came after. {p. 240}

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Jennifer August 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Those snippets are depressingly intriguing. It makes me want to get this book. Proposal: swap my Deep Nutrition for your Modesty? best book I’ve read on traditional nutrition yet. I literally had to sneak in reading time to finish it because i was so captivated!

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