In the spirit of interfaith dialogue I came across this article from aljazeera.net and thought that it would be interesting for Modesty Zone fans. While the article focuses on Muslim women’s dress and more specifically the abaya- a long and usually black overgarment- it raises some key points on modesty. Do we, like some of the women quoted in the article, practice modesty to avoid unwanted attention from men? Or do we practice modesty to protect the sacredness of the feminine identity? At the end of the article one Muslim man says, “In Islam we value women, like jewels and diamonds. They are so precious that they should be covered. They are not like pieces of broken glass lying on the street.”
Religion and the desire to cover as
extensively as some Muslim women do aside, I think his opinion touches on key
aspects of the modesty movement. As I’ve
written about before, there is this idea of the immense value of women and the
absolute need to recognize and respect that. In our society, I think women are certainly recognized but not
necessarily respected by men or among themselves. Just look at the state of popular women’s
media whether it is TV or magazines. Respect of women (depicting us as intelligent, complex, nurturing, and
creative beings) is sorely lacking in these mediums.
Another element that the quotation brings up is the controversy between modesty and women’s liberation. Some believe that the way for women to express their value is through freeing themselves from the professional and and sexual bonds that they feel have hindered women from realizing their true self-worth. I understand this opinion and agree that women should express their value in such a way that it benefits others. Being in a fulfilling career, being a successful stay-at-home mom, an active student, or a religious sister are some of the ways to do this. Where I disagree with the women’s lib movement is on their overbearing emphasis on the self. Exaggerated self-awareness, self-worth, individual sexual expression (as if one’s sexual expression has no effect on anyone else).
At the heart of all of
this is a narcissistic view of femininity that strays so far away from a woman’s
gifted nature- that of being a sophisticated care-giver (an actual giver of
care and love to those in need)- that it transforms feminist identity into a grotesque and self-obsessed
This phenomenon is similar to really horrible and sometimes offensive contemporary art (don’t get me wrong, contemporary art is one of my favorite types of art) where the artist justifies the painting’s existence by citing it as “self-expression”. No doubt, this is their self-expression but it is neither beautiful nor edifying to others as true art is supposed to be. Such is the case with self-obsessive feminism and explains why it clashes so much with modesty which, I believe, is centered around respecting the value of a woman as care-giver and ultimately “mothers” of humanity.