Well it’s been a busy couple of days. We were featured on Jezebel.com in an article subtly titled “Modesty is Bullshit” (I’m honestly disappointed we didn’t make the cut for their “F–k You Week” line of articles, maybe next time). This brought us to the attention of a previously untapped audience—angry feminists, who’ve been visiting our blog and Facebook page in droves. So, in the wake of that I’d like to clarify a few things:
We are not out to dictate women’s clothes
Of our posts, only three have dealt with the issue of clothing. Two of those stressed that clothing is only a reflection of modesty, not the virtue itself.
We dictate nothing. We claim no authority
We’re just expressing our thoughts and appreciation of a virtue many people are interested in pursuing and learning more about.
We just want to spread a new appreciation for modesty
Both Christian and secular circles focus the question too exclusively around clothing. We want to refocus the discussion on a broader understanding of modesty.
Modesty is positive and uplifting
Far from oppressing people, men or women, modesty gives the human person the respect it deserves. It’s not a long list of rules, but a fulfilling way of life.
But of course, this all presupposes that one thinks modesty is worth pursuing and the human person worth respecting. Our critics’ moral code seems to be that people can do whatever they want and respecting them means staying the heck out of the way. Now, our page assumes belief in a real system of morals, specifically, traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. If someone rejects all traditional virtue, discussion of one of those virtues in particular is an impossible and futile endeavor.
“He walked by instinct along one white road, on which early birds hopped and sang, and found himself outside a fenced garden. There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girl with the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the great unconscious gravity of a girl. “
– G.K Chesterton
That last phrase of this quote struck me because its something I’ve often observed—that the moments in which girls are most beautiful are usually those in which they have no thought for their looks or anyone observing them, which is somewhat of a paradox given how much time girls often put into their appearance. That other great source of British wisdom, One Direction, points out in his song, What Makes You Beautiful, “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful.” So why is “the great unconscious gravity of a girl” so attractive? I think because in those rare moments, some external action—cutting lilacs, smiling, etc., suddenly makes some internal truth about the person visible on the outside. It’s more or less what I talked about in my last post, about people’s appearance changing as you get to know them, except it all happens in sudden brief flash. Once again, it’s disconnected from the objective attractiveness (if there is such a thing) of the person. In fact, I suspect that had the girls been thinking of their looks at all, they would have thought they looked terrible at the moment. One guy I talked to mentioned how lovely a girl looked walking by carrying a trash bag. Not exactly the moment when you’d expect to be your most glamorous.
So what does any of this have to do with modesty? I’ve been saying modesty is a state of mind, or a disposition; what I would like to add here is that it isn’t necessarily a conscious one. The same way that an immodest girl isn’t actively thinking that she needs affirmation at any cost when she decides to wear something too revealing, so too do modest women not actively need to consider how valuable they are all the time—I imagine they’d become insufferable if they did. I think modesty ties greatly into humility, and humility isn’t about thinking lowly of yourself as much as it’s about not thinking of yourself at all. So the key is to know how valuable you are, act accordingly, and not think too much about it after that.