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Standards of modesty (also called demureness or reticence) are aspects of the culture of a country or people, at a given point in time, and is a measure against which an individual in society may be judged.[citation needed]

Modesty may be expressed in social interaction by communicating in a way exhibiting humility, shyness, or simplicity. The general elements of modesty include:

  • Downplaying one's accomplishments (see humility)
  • Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency
  • Avoiding insincere self-abasement through false or sham modesty, which is a form of boasting.[citation needed]

A second expression of modesty, isolated from communication and human interface, focuses more on internal perception of superiority and may be expressed in the following ways:

  • through work ethic,
  • motivation for self improvement,
  • and tolerance of others.

Procrastination, for example, expresses that one is confident in possessing sufficient ability to complete the task in less than the time allotted. These internal manifestations of modesty are typically overlooked in the short term but become apparent over time, perhaps because those who exhibit the value in this way are not overt about it.

Physical modesty dominates the social stage. Fashions and fads at times test the limits of community standards of modesty. People can be subjected to peer pressure, both to conform to community standards or to flout them. Community standards of modesty however may be driven by a sense of superiority, which contrasts some definitions of modesty.

Contents

Necessity

At times of public or private emergency expectations of modesty are suspended, or modified to the extent of the emergency. For example, during the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, large numbers of people had to strip to their underwear in parking lots and other public places for hosing down by fire departments, often in front of TV news crews covering the events.[citation needed]

Also, there are occasions when standards of modesty are waived, as in the case of medical examinations.

On the other hand, even in an emergency situation some people still insist on maintaining their standards of modesty.[1]

Body modesty

, showing a mid-Victorian idea of how the hemlines of girls' skirts should descend towards the ankle as a girl ages]]

Standards of modesty usually discourage non-essential exposure of the body. This applies to the bare skin, hair and undergarments, and especially to intimate parts. The standards not only call for the covering of parts of the body, but also obscuring their shape, by means of suitable clothing. There are also standards covering the changing of clothes (such as on a beach), and the closing or locking of the door when changing or taking a shower.

Standards of modesty vary by culture,or generation and vary depending on who is exposed, which parts of the body are exposed, the duration of the exposure, the context, and other variables. The categories of persons who could see another's body could include:

  • a spouse or partner,
  • a friend or family member of the same sex,
  • strangers of the same sex,
  • people of the same social class.

The context would include matters such as whether it is in one's own home, at another family member's home, at a friend's home, at a semi-public place, at a beach, swimming pool (including whether such venues are considered clothes-optional), changing rooms or other public places. For instance, wearing a bathing suit at the beach would not be considered immodest, while it likely would be in a street or an office.

Some critics refer to this type of modesty as body shame[2]. Excessive modesty is called prudishness. As a medical condition it is also called gymnophobia. Excessive immodesty is called exhibitionism. Proponents of modesty often see it as respect for their bodies and the feelings of themselves and others, and some people believe it may reduce sexual crimes[citation needed]. Critics argue that it's not healthy to have a negative attitude toward the human body. Some assert that there may be a correlation between repressive body attitudes and undesirable outcomes such as sexual crimes, violence, and stress[citation needed].

Cultural traditions of modesty

men, wearing trunks and briefs, attract attention for immodesty relative to the local norm in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.]]

The specific practices of modesty vary widely between religions, cultures, generations, occasions, and the persons who are present. Some such specific standards are examined below.

Generally accepted western norms

In general, Western culture expects intimate body parts to be covered in public at all times. Exceptions are made for situations such as public changing rooms, which tend to be single-sex venues, and saunas, which tend to be mixed-sex venues.

Traditionally, there is an expectation that shirt and trousers or dress etc. be worn in public places. In particular, it is generally unacceptable for women to be shirtless in most public spaces, except places designated for bathing or in the vicinity of these places (such as beaches, and on deck near a pool). However, it is common for formal spaces like restaurants, etc., to overlook a beach or pool, in which case the boundary of modesty is spatial, but not visually segregated. For example, at a poolside or beach side outdoor patio restaurant, there is usually a railing. On one side of the railing, barefoot and shirtless people can converse with those dining on the other side, and may even be part of the same group. More recently, multi-use spaces such as urban beaches are beginning to emerge, washing away even the above mentioned boundaries between more and less modest space. Thus it is now, in many places, acceptable to sunbathe in beachwear next to water play fountains located in the heart of a city or business district.

In private homes, the rules may be more relaxed. For instance, nudity among intimate family members in the home is sometimes permitted, especially in the bedroom and bathroom; or wearing undergarments casually, which would not be done outdoors. Elsewhere in the home, particularly when visitors are present, some simple casual clothing is expected like a bathrobe which can be quickly donned when full clothing is not required, or if it is unavailable nearby depending on convenience.

Naturism

Naturists reject contemporary Western standards of modesty which discourage personal, family, and social nudity, and seek to create a social environment where people feel comfortable in the company of nude people, and being seen nude, either just by other nudists, or also by the general public.[3][4]

Gender differences

Men and women are subject to different standards of modesty. While both men and women, in Western culture, are generally expected to keep their genitals covered at all times, women are also expected to keep their breasts covered. However, images of naked soldiers became somewhat acceptable for mainstream consumption during WWII, with publications such as Life magazine showing photographs of them bathing and advertisements depicting this in cartoon form. High-school age boys began to swim in the nude in many schools during this time as well, a practice that was abandoned in the 1970s. Additionally, the dictates of fashion and societal norms, some body parts are expected to be more covered by men than women, e.g. the midriff and the upper part of the back. Also swimming pants are often larger for men than for women. Prior to the 1930s, men were generally prohibited from baring their chests in public, even at beaches. Organizations such as the Topfree Equal Rights Association advocate for gender equality in this regard. In 1992, New York State's highest court accepted 14th Amendment arguments and struck down the provision in New York's Exposure of the Person statute that made it illegal for women to bare their chests where men were permitted to do so.[5]

Traditional indigenous modesty

Traditional indigenous cultures, such as some African and traditional Australian aboriginal cultures, are more relaxed on issues of modesty, though how much exposure is acceptable varies greatly, from nothing for some women, to everything except the glans penis for men of some tribes (see foreskin). In some African cultures, body painting is considered to be body "coverage", and is considered by many an "attire."

Religious traditions of modesty

Religion has always had a strong influence on peoples' attitudes to issues of modesty.

Islamic modesty

Modesty has been and continues to be considered important in Islamic society, but the interpretation of what dress constitutes modesty varies. One traditional opinion is that Muslim women are required to observe the hijab, covering everything but the hands and face, as a sign of modesty. Some Muslims are of the opinion that modesty is not restricted to dress but also depends on the intentions of the individual and that the Quran does not command the hijab or the like. In some Muslim societies, women wear the niqab, a veil that covers the whole face except the eyes, or the full burqa, a full-body covering garment that occasionally does cover the eyes. Wearing these garments is common in some countries with a majority Muslim population.


Though in Islam these expressions of modesty are interpreted as mandatory, most countries do not enforce it by law. However, they are enforced in a handful of countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran.

Likewise, men are required to cover everything from 'navel to knee'; with some men choosing to extend this to the traditional Islamic head covering taqiyah (cap), the male counterpart to hijab which closely resembles the Jewish yarmulke or kippah but is slightly larger in size. The taqiyah cap may vary in shape, size or color just as the hijab does, with many regional differences according to tradition and personal taste.

Jewish modesty

Modesty is also important in Judaism, especially in the case of women. An orthodox married woman is expected by their community to cover her hair in public, and sometimes at home. The hair covering may be a scarf, hat, snood, or a wig ("sheitel"). Some communities have stricter standards and expect women to cover their elbows and legs, with blouses covering the collarbone and sleeves covering elbows.[6] In these communities, skirts are expected to cover the knees as well as slits in skirts are expected to be closed. See-through materials may not be used and clothes are expected not to be tight-fitting, provocative, loud in color, or display texts.[7] Some communities apply these standards to girls as young as three. Non-orthodox Jewish women tend to adopt the fashions of the non-Jewish society in which they live.

There are laws surrounding modesty for men within the Jewish communities as well. Everything that a woman is expected to cover, a man is expected to cover. While some men will wear shorts and short-sleeve shirts, many Orthodox men will not. Additionally, men are required to cover the crown of their head (which also applies to women, but was expanded to include her hair) and they traditionally do so with kippot and, in some cases, a hat.[6]

Christian modesty

Catholic Church

in Vatican]]

Although Catholics are expected to dress modestly[8], there have never been any "official" guidelines issued by the Catholic Church. But, from time to time the Church hierarchy, and even some popes, have given opinions on various matters; although these "guidelines" are not binding on Catholics, many tradition-minded Catholics find them persuasive.[9] Pope Pius XII stated that women should cover their upper arms and shoulders, that their skirts should cover at least as far as the knee, and the neckline should not reveal anything.[10] Another example is Giuseppe Cardinal Siri of Genoa, who stated that trousers were unacceptable dress for women.[11] Many tradition-minded Catholics have attempted to further expand on this latter standard.[12]

Some Catholics have attempted to form cohesive theories of modesty. Sometimes this is from a sociological perspective,[10] while at other times it takes a more systematic, Thomistic approach, combined with the writings of the Church Fathers.[13] Approaches arguing primarily from traditional practices and traditional authorities, such as the saints, can also be found.[14]

The Church also expects men to dress modestly, but the demands are not as strict for them as for women; this is largely because men are often thought to be more inherently susceptible to sexual thoughts.[citation needed]

Other Churches

Many other Trinitarian Christians also consider modesty extremely important,[15] though considerable differences of opinion exist about its requirements and purposes.[16] Amish groups and some Mennonite groups are known for their adherence to modest fashion styles. Evangelical Christians also have strict guidelines on modesty.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued official statements on modest dress for its members. Clothing which can stimulate sexual desires, such as "short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, and shirts that do not cover the stomach"[17] are discouraged, as well as extremes in clothing or hairstyles. Rules on modesty also include women being asked to wear no more than one pair of earrings.[18] This is part of the Law of Chastity.

The Church also requires students of Brigham Young University, its private university, to sign an agreement to live according to these standards of modesty before being considered for admission. Such standards must also be accepted by tenants of BYU housing regardless of the tenants' enrollment status with BYU [19]

Modesty in the arts

(French for Cupid), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1875; the tip of the right wing covers the boy's genitals.]]

In some works of art, the depiction of nudity is reduced, in the interest of modesty, by the use of:

  • fig leaves
  • a piece of cloth (or something else) seemingly by chance covering the genitals
  • with regard to nudity in film, filming a supposedly nude person from the waist up (or from the shoulders up, for women)
  • in a movie, maneuvering (turning, having objects in front) and film editing in such a way that no genitals are seen
  • showing nudity from a distance
  • in a movie, showing nudity only briefly

In cartoons, even in cases where the genital area is not covered with clothing, genitals are often simply not drawn. In the film Barnyard, showing anthropomorphized cattle of both sexes walking on two legs, instead of either showing genitals of male cattle or not showing them, the concept of a "male cow" was used, with an udder. In Underdog a partly animated anthropomorphized dog is shown with penis when a real dog is filmed, and without penis in the animated parts.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ We'd rather die than take our clothes off, disaster planners say, By Dru Sefton, Newhouse News Service, Nation & World: Saturday, May 25, 2002
  2. ^ Body Shame
  3. ^ See 2002-2003 World Naturist Handbook, pub International Naturist Federation INF-FNI, Sint Hubertusstraat, B-2600 Berchem(Antwerpen) ISBN 9055838330 The Agde definition. The INF is made up of representative of the Naturist Organizations in 32 countries, with 7 more having correspondent status. The current edition is * Naturisme, The INF World Handbook (2006) [1] ISBN 90-5062-080-9
  4. ^ http://www.inf-fni.org/index_e.htm| INF web page
  5. ^ Santorelli & Schloss v. State of New York
  6. ^ a b "Modesty: Not Only A Woman's Burden", Patheos
  7. ^ The Laws of Jewish Modesty
  8. ^ See, e.g., The Catechism of the Catholic Church Para. 2521-2524.
  9. ^ See all the following citations, which all expound at least partly upon such guidelines.
  10. ^ a b Modesty and beauty - the lost connection by Regina Schmiedicke
  11. ^ Notification Concerning Men's Dress Worn by Women by Giuseppe Cardinal Siri (1960)
  12. ^ See G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, Part III, Chap. V, for an early attempt (1910); see also In Praise of the Skirt, for a more contemporary one (2006)
  13. ^ The Modesty Handbook (describing the nature of modesty from a Catholic perspective, based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church Fathers).
  14. ^ See, e.g., Those Who Serve God Should Not Follow the Fashions by Robert T. Hart (2004).
  15. ^ See, e.g., Modesty: The Undressing of Our Youth, by Lenora Hammond.
  16. ^ The Modesty Survey: An anonymous discussion among Christians concerning various aspects of modesty.
  17. ^ Mormon modesty guidelines
  18. ^ Id.
  19. ^ The Brigham Young University Honor Code, which includes "Dress and Grooming Standards," agreement to which is required for application.


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Etymology

From modest + -y.

Noun

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Wikipedia

Singular
modesty

Plural
uncountable

modesty (uncountable)

  1. The quality of being modest; having a limited and not overly high opinion of oneself and one's abilities.
  2. Moderate behaviour; reserve.
  3. (specifically) Pudency, prudish avoidance of sexual explicitness.

Derived terms

Related terms

Antonyms

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Simple English

Modesty (also called demureness or reticence) is the name for a number of norms of behaviour a society expects form the individual people that make up this society.

Modesty usually includes:

  • Avoiding attracting attention, by behaving the same way as everybody else, or as society expects.
  • Using clothing that generally follows the same norms.
  • Avoiding boasting with one's own accomplishments (this is known as humility)

Different fashions test the level of modesty. People are usually also subjected to peer pressure.

Different levels of modesty apply in different situations, and to different groups of people.

Contents

Modesty does not apply in an emergency situation

Modesty is a social norm, it does not apply when it cannot, such as in an emergency. In the case of an emergency it is more important that doctors treat those that are wounded. It does not matter that doctors may see those people naked. In some cases, it may be necessary that they take off all the clothes, to be able to treat them better.

Some people still insist on maintaining their standards of modesty, even in an emergency situation.[1]

Different levels of modesty for different groups of people

, showing a mid-Victorian idea of how long girls skirts' should be, compared to the age of the girls who wear them.]]

Modesty usually says that the parts of the human body that do not need to be exposed should not be. Usually, this applies to bare skin, hair, undergarments, and especially to intimate parts. Sometimes, the standards do not only say that the respective part should be hidden, but also that special clothing should hide its shape, what it looks like. Certain standards say how the changing of clothes should be done, like using a towel on a beach or closing (and locking) a door of a cabin that is provided.

Different cultures have different standards of modesty. But standards are also different according to who the other people are, that could possibly see one's body:

  • A spouse or partner
  • A friend or family member of the same sex.
  • A stranger of the same sex
  • Family members of the opposite sex.
  • Strangers of the opposite sex.

Social standing or class can also matter. That way, different rules can apply to people of the same social class than to those of other (or lower) social classes.

Other things that influence these norms include:

  • The place where it happens (undressing at home in front of a partner is different form undressing at the home of somebody barely known)
  • The job the people do (A striptease dancer has different norms to a teacher)

That way, a teacher that would perform at a night club might be seen as bringing the profession into disresapect. Some people say this kind of modesty is body shame[2].

Too much modesty is called prudishness. As a medical condition it is also called gymnophobia. Excessive immodesty is called exhibitionism. Proponents of modesty often see it as respect for their bodies and the feelings of themselves and others, and some people believe it may reduce sexual crimes. Critics argue that it's not healthy to have a negative attitude toward the human body. Some assert that there may be a correlation between repressive body attitudes and undesirable outcomes such as sexual crimes, violence, and stress.

Different cultures have different views

The cultural and religious background heavily influence the views a person has on modesty.

Generally accepted western norms

What is called Western culture expects that Intimate body parts are covered in public places at all times. There are exceptions for places where people change clothes, as these are usually differentiated by sex. This means there is one changing-room for men, and another for women. Other exceptions include saunas, which tend to be mixed-sex (there is one sauna for both men and women) places.

Special rules also apply for places where bathing is common. It might be tolerated that a woman is topless on a beach, or near a pool. If there is a restaurant near the beach or pool, it is usual, that the woman can be topless on the beach, but if she wants to eat something in the restaurant, that she has to cover her breasts. Very often, such restaurants are visually segregated by a railing. On one side of the railing there is the beach, on the other, there is the restaurant.

There are more and more beaches in cities. This blurs the boundary even more. There may be people in swimsuits next to businesspeople in a suit.

In private homes, the rules may be more relaxed. Nudity among close family members in the home is sometimes permitted, especially in the bedroom and bathroom. Wearing undergarments casually may be permitted as well. Elsewhere in the home, family members may be expected to wear more clothes, casually, especially if guests are present. A bathrobe may fulfill the purpose here.

Naturism

Naturists have different views. They want to create an environment, were people can feel at ease, even when they are nude, they can be seen nude, or nude people are among them.[3][4] These values conflict with the current standards of modesty. For this reason, nudists mostly reject the current standards of modesty.

Indigenous tribes

Traditional indigenous cultures such as those in Africa, or the aborigines in Australia have social norms that vary greatly. How much exposure is acceptable varies from nothing for some women, to everything except the glans penis for some men of certain tribes. Certain African cultures think body painting is body coverage. Many think it is an "attire".

Different standards for men and women

There are different standards of modesty for men and women. Western culture expects that both men and women keep their genitals covered. It also expects that women keep their breasts covered, most of the time. There may be exceptions for bathing, or breastfeeding.

Showing naked soldiers bathing became common during the Second World War. Boys in high-school age also swam in the nude, during that time.

Fashion as well as other social norms expect that men cover more body parts than women, such as the midriff and the upper part of the back.

Swimming pants are often larger for men than for women. Before the 1930s, men were generally prohibited from baring their chests in public, even at beaches. Organizations such as the Topfree Equal Rights Association advocate for gender equality in this regard. In 1992, New York State's highest court accepted 14th Amendment arguments and struck down the provision in New York's Exposure of the Person statute that made it illegal for women to bare their chests where men were permitted to do so. [5]

Sexual orientation is a subject that is less and less a taboo. Homosexuality also seems to be more common or more talked about. This has led to stricter levels of modesty in same-sex situations, such as in changing-rooms. In several places, community showers have been converted to single showers, with curtains or doors. Many students no longer shower after exercise. Research has shown a dramatic decline in same-sex sexual activity among adolescent males that correlates with the increasing social visibility of gays and the increasing level of modesty. Related factors are the increasing emphasis on ideal male physiques shown by advertisements and the concern over being photographed and videotaped.

What religious communities think

Islam

Islamic society thinks modesty is important, but there are different interpretations of what dress should be considered modest. Many Muslim women wear a headscarf (hijab) as a sign of modesty. More conservative societies expect that women cover their whole body, except for their hands and their face.

A woman who choses to also cover her face and hands is said to be expressing greater "modesty and holiness".[6] In some Islamic societies, women wear the niqab, an all-encompassing garment intended to conceal every part of the body, sometimes including the eyes. Wearing a niqab (sometimes referred to as a burqa, although this term only technically applies to an Afghan all-in-one garment) is common in some countries with a majority Muslim population.

In most Muslim countries a woman can chose how to express her modesty. More conservative countries such as Afghanistan or Iran do have laws that say what kind of dress a woman should wear. Not obeying these laws can lead to harsh punishments.[7]


Likewise, according to some Islamic interpretations of Hadith, men are required to cover everything from 'navel to knee'; with some men choosing to extend this to the traditional Islamic head covering taqiyah (cap), the male counterpart to hijab which closely resembles the Jewish yarmulke but is slightly larger in size. The taqiyah cap may vary in shape, size or color just as the hijab does, with many regional differences according to tradition and personal taste.

A burqini is a swimsuit designed for Muslim women that covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, that enables them to satisfy the requirements of Muslim standards of modesty while enabling them to take part in swimming activities.

Judaism

Modesty is also important in Judaism, especially in the case of women. An orthodox married woman is expected by their community to cover her hair in public, and sometimes at home. The hair covering may be a scarf, hat, snood, or a wig ("sheitel"). Some communities have stricter standards and expect women to cover their elbows and legs, with blouses covering the collarbone and sleeves covering elbows. Skirts are expected to cover the knees. All slits in skirts are expected to be closed. See-through materials may not be used and clothes are expected not to be tight-fitting, provocative, loud in color, or display texts.[8] Some communities apply these standards to girls as young as three.

Non-orthodox Jewish women tend to adopt the fashions of the non-Jewish society in which they live.

Catholic Christianity

in Vatican]]

Catholics are expected to dress modestly[9], but there are no "official guidelines". Form time to time, priests and popes have given their opinion. These opinions are not binding, nevertheless many Catholics find them useful.

Pope Pius XII stated that women should cover their upper arms and shoulders, that their skirts should cover at least as far as the knee, and the neckline should not reveal anything.[10] Another example is Giuseppe Cardinal Siri of Genoa, who stated that trousers were unacceptable dress for women.[11] Many tradition-minded Catholics have attempted to further expand on this latter standard.[12]

Some Catholics have attempted to make theories of modesty. Sometimes this is from a sociological perspective,[10] while at other times it takes a more systematic, Thomistic approach, combined with the writings of the Church Fathers.[13] Approaches arguing primarily from traditional practices and traditional authorities, such as the saints, can also be found.[14]

The Church also expects men to dress modestly, but the demands are not as strict for them as for women; this is largely because men are often thought to be more inherently susceptible to sexual thoughts.

References

  1. We'd rather die than take our clothes off, disaster planners say, By Dru Sefton, Newhouse News Service, Nation & World: Saturday, May 25, 2002
  2. "Body Shame". http://www.rejectshame.com/. 
  3. See 2002-2003 World Naturist Handbook, pub International Naturist Federation INF-FNI, Sint Hubertusstraat, B-2600 Berchem(Antwerpen) ISBN 9055838330 The Agde definition. The INF is made up of representative of the Naturist Organizations in 32 countries, with 7 more having correspondent status. The current edition is * Naturisme, The INF World Handbook (2006) [1] ISBN 90-5062-080-9
  4. http://www.inf-fni.org/index_e.htm| INF web page
  5. Santorelli & Schloss v. State of New York
  6. Some Islamic interpretations of the Hadith, a collection of quotations and testimony taken from first and second hand accounts observers made on the life of the prophet Muhammad, which describes his interpretations of the Qur'an and expounds on its teachings.
  7. "Video of flogging in Afghanistan for women who publicly removed her burqa". http://www.corpun.com/vidju1.htm. , on 26 September 2001.
  8. "The Laws of Jewish Modesty". http://www.modestworld.com/laws.html. 
  9. See, e.g., The Catechism of the Catholic Church Para. 2521-2524.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Modesty and beauty - the lost connection by Regina Schmiedicke
  11. Notification Concerning Men's Dress Worn by Women by Giuseppe Cardinal Siri (1960)
  12. See G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, Part III, Chap. V, for an early attempt (1910); see also In Praise of the Skirt, for a more contemporary one (2006)
  13. The Modesty Handbook (describing the nature of modesty from a Catholic perspective, based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church Fathers).
  14. See, e.g., Those Who Serve God Should Not Follow the Fashions by Robert T. Hart (2004).







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