Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Is modesty an "eternal virtue" or a sexist concept?

At the beginning of the weekend I read La pudeur "vertu éternelle" on the Réforme site. Although there were some interesting points in the interview with Gérard Bonnet who is a psychoanalyst - modesty should not be equated with shame for instance - the whole form of his argument left me feeling angry.
It would seem from what Bonnet says that neither the male body nor the male mind has anything to learn about modesty. All of the concrete examples he mentioned from contemporary society had to do with women blushing, covering up or showing their bodies. (To be fair he does also mention Noah's nudity being covered by his children in the book of Genesis.)
I can see that protecting physical modesty can be important for children growing up. But it seems to me to be a huge leap from there to a discussion of women wearing more revealing clothes or to blame the erosion of the virtue of modesty on "triumphant feminism".
"Le féminisme triomphant a mis à mal cette vertu en voulant que la femme s’affirme envers et contre tout. Certes, il faut que la femme s’affirme. Mais la femme qui s’affirme de façon macho a perdu ses qualités féminines."
Ugh ... the thing that really makes me cross about this is the acceptance of "feminine qualities" as a given and the underpinning assumption that any discussion about modesty is about women's bodies and clothes - and when it isn't about that then the implication is that this supposed problem is the wrong thinking of feminist women. He doesn't even need to state any of that, it is just simply the frame of reference.
Men of course have nothing to be modest about, their bodies and thinking are completely acceptable, virtuous perhaps even - at no point does the article say this but it is for me the unwritten subtext.
It was only when reading Suzanne McCarthy's blog over recent days that I recognised that one of the reasons this article has been making me so angry is that it is psychoanalytical complementarianism. Suzanne and others like Rachel have been writing some brilliant exegesis and some very heartfelt posts on biblical complementarianism and egalitarianism in recent months, as I've mentioned before.
Are men and women esentially different or essentially equal as human beings made in the image of a creator God?


? said...

Thank you Jane - nice to meet you, well, in Cyber-space, that is. I am enjoying your site.

God Bless

Eusebius said...

I've always thought of the scene where God questions Adam & Eve in the garden as "Everyone blame the sentient creature on your left." Adam blames Eve (and God) and Eve blames the snake and no one takes responsibility. Men need to take responsibility for their own actions rather than foisting the blame on women's dress, actions or whatever. (Women need to act responsibly as well of course.)

Any submission of women to men is a result of sin rather than God's plan. The first inequality comes in the curse following the first sin. And if in Adam we all die, in Christ we are all made alive...


Jane said...

Thanks Rachel and Eusebius for your comments.
Sometimes I just get angry and have to get it out of my system.
For me it's about letting the story speak more clearly - rather than putting out as received wisdom something that is based on a very partial understanding of the world (I suppose partial could be replaced by patriarchal actually)

Lac19 said...

I suppose you didn't think that the "burka world-view" belongs only to one religion...