Feminine modesty has a dual meaning

A comment attached by a woman to this photo on Facebook made something occur to me.12592637_998093193614198_1121554081457638914_n

 

“Crystal” wrote: “Be feminine. Dress in humility and modesty.”

It dawned on me that modest dress also conveys modesty in the sense of humility. By contrast, the immodest woman is proud. A sensible woman does not seek to be strident and loud in dress or manner.

Here are some lines from a letter of the poet Keats that seem to the point:

“How beautiful are the retired flowers! how would they lose their beauty were they to throng into the highway crying out, ‘admire me I am a violet! dote upon me I am a primrose!”

 

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Humility is a hard thing for anyone to learn in the modern day. Partly because most modern institutions assume and want the opposite out of you. The same applies to myself, of course – going around lecturing others on the importance of humility would hardly be humble on my own part.

    There is a nice story about a mid 20th century parliamentarian known as “the modest member” – when his leader was asked why he was called this, the leader replied “he has a lot to be modest about….”

    Reply

    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on April 3, 2016 at 1:57 am

      That sounds like Churchill’s (?) gag about Attlee: “A modest little man with a lot to be modest about.”

      Humility is a tricky concept. I do blame America for turning us all into boasters and hucksters. Americans say self-congratulatory things (“I am a damn good nurse!”) which sound odd to my ears. But then I grew up in a time and place which still encouraged modesty.

      As you say, there is a paradox in preaching about modesty. One could call it the Pope Francis Problem. Conspicuous modesty. It reminds me of Linus in the comic who wanted to be a “world-famous humble country doctor”.

      Humility is a just estimate of our own abilities. Women marching down the road with their boobs out, protected by policemen, cause a visceral disgust. And part of that is that they lack both common sense and humility.

      Reply

      • It probably was stolen from Churchill who probably stole it from someone else – it tends to happen with these political zingers

        I am inclined to blame the school-psychology concept of self-esteem for the decline in modesty – whatever the intentions people have in teaching this concept, in practice it is very difficult to distinguish from mere pride.

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on April 3, 2016 at 5:58 am

        Hence the rise of the humblebrag and of virtue-signalling.

        I suppose the old British-Australian modesty could conceal pride and the American boastfulness can be refreshingly honest.

    • Oh yes, there are subtleties in these things…. a couple of old song lyrics put it well – “Lord, it’s hard to be humble” – or the more enigmatic “You’re so vain you probably think this song is about you…”

      Reply

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on April 3, 2016 at 7:43 am

        That latter song is unforgettable for me because it was on the radio when I was in hospital as a teen.

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