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



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Part Two: The Forgotten Ideal
5. Forgiving Modesty
In this chapter Shalit gets into the historical roots of the idea of modesty. She explains how many cultures have different words for the humility type of modesty and the sexual type of modesty.
"A culture that respects a specifically female type of modesty is one that regulates and informs the relation between the sexes in a nuanced…way" pg 97.
What are some her strongest cultural and historical supports for modesty as a virtue? Are they persuasive in arguing against the idea that modesty 'is a projection of masculine shame" (pg. 97)?
6. The Great Deception
This is a more interesting and somewhat controversial chapter in which the author hits on a key aspect of the modesty debate: the sexual desire of women
"You either believe that a woman's sex drive is exactly identical to a men's or that a women are sexless creatures…the reason for modesty is not that women have any less sex drive than men, but that it is a different kind" pg 113-115
Is the first part of this an accurate assessment of most people's mentality? How relevant to the broader issues of equality and morality in society is this question? Does her explanation seem to provide any solutions?
7. Can modesty be Natural?
In this chapter Shalit directs her arguments to those who would believe however historical the ideas of embarrassment and modesty are purely social institutions, but explaining the biology. She quotes a magazine for girls
"When you're embarrassed your nerves send extra blood into the tiny vessels in your skin…Doctors call this vasodilatation. The rest of us call it a blush" pg. 125
Here the ideas of evolutionary psychology are touched on and the debate takes an interesting turn. Are some aspects of our chemical make-up contributing to/there for our social good?

8. Male Character


This chapter explores the ideas of honor and chivalry in men have disappeared in recent years as they are considered condescending to women and a remnant of patriarchal control:
"Today forbidden behavior includes candlelit dinners ("prostitution" according to…Alison Jager), opening a door for women ("sends a clear message that "women are incapable" says philosopher Marilyn Frye) and gestures such as…giving up one's seat" pg 155
Are these ideas shared throughout women or only in the far radical feminist movements? Is the loss of "chivalry" really a significant problem in society? What are the good and bad things about it?


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