A return To Modesty : Discovering the Lost Virtue By Wendy Shalit



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Part One The Problem
1. The War on Embarrassment
This chapter covers many of the topics today which evoke embarrassment among many, for example sex-ed in schools.
(Note to discussion leader: This is a fairly easy springboard with which to begin discussion. Everyone has seen evidence of this “War on Embarrassment”. Women will probably want to share stories about personal experiences. This is a good way to open up the discussion as it will get everyone interested and involved. In order to guide the discussion pick a few quotes or key points such as: )
"Today embarrassment is something to "overcome" but maybe if so many girls are still embarrassed, even in an age when we're not supposed to be, maybe we have our embarrassment for a reason" pg.21
What are the pros and cons of being embarrassed which the author points out? Is it something truly to be overcome or could it stem from something real and serve a purpose?

(Note to discussion leader: As previously stated, many of these topics evoke many personal anecdotes. Be aware that this discussion has some direction and purpose, not simply venting about the state of today’s society. For example, there can be some excellent debate on the idea of embarrassment, because it is generally viewed as a negative thing. The fact that Shalit argues it serves a purpose and may even be a “good” is somewhat contradictory to this preconceived idea.)

2. Postmodern Sexual Etiquette, from Hook-Up to Check-up

This chapter paints a picture of the "hook-up culture" often seen especially in college campuses today.


"In the age of the hook-up, young women confess their romantic hopes in hushed tones, as if harboring some terrible secret...She is torn by the need to be accepted by society" pg. 37
We all have witnessed and even lived the hook up culture which the author portrays first hand. Is the author correct in her representation of the pressure women feel to "have many men" (pg. 36) ? In what ways is this pressure beneficial or harmful?
3. The Fallout

The author quotes Tocqueville: "who famously wrote: 'chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and growing power of [America] was due to the superiority of their women" (pg. 39)


She goes on in this chapter to argue that instances of pornography and rape are evidence that this respect for women has declined over the years as the "liberation" of women has increased. Do you see this as true? Is respect something which must be given up in the pursuit of equality?
4. New Perversions
This chapter covers the effects that this decrease in respect has had on women, via eating disorders, infidelity etc.

"Essentially, feminists hope to change the behavior of men without having to change...Conservatives, mostly men...want the women to be ladies while still getting to do whatever they want" pg. 74-75.

Are all of these problems the author points out equally caused by both sexes? On whom does it depend to change the norms of society?




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