Recently, I completed reading a book on Female Nudism being portrayed in Photographs, Paintings and other forms of Art. It pictured erotic nude females quite soberly. I got an excerpt from it: “The whole world loves women so much that we constantly seek to define what a woman should be. The idea of a women; everyone wants it some way to equate her with their own idea, that is an idea which is universal and intimate as well as unique; an idea eternal and yet constantly changing; ultimately, an idea which is obstinately unsatisfying, always needing re-evaluation, from which derives fashion after fashion.” Well its true that fashion changes then and now. Oscar Wilde once said, “Fashion is a form of UGLINESS so intolerable that we have to alter it every SIX months.” Fashion is not the topic of discussion in this blog, but modesty is. My question to readers, Is modesty defined by piece of cloth one carries?
Let me provide you with few facts from the famous Studies in Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis to make it to the answer.
- The New Georgians of the Solomon Islands, so low a race that they are ignorant both of pottery and weaving, and wear only a loin cloth, “have the same ideas of what is decent with regard to certain acts and exposures that we ourselves have;” so that it is difficult to observe whether they practice circumcision.
- In the New Hebrides “the closest secrecy is adopted with regard to the male sexual organ, not at all from a sense of decency, but to avoid Narak, the sight even of that of another man being considered most dangerous. The natives of this savage island, accordingly, wrap the organ around with many yards of calico, and other like materials, winding and folding them until a preposterous bundle 18 inches, or 2 feet long, and 2 inches or more in diameter is formed, which is then supported upward by means of a belt, in the extremity decorated with flowering grasses, etc. The testicles are left naked.” There is no other body covering.
- Of the Naga women of Assam it is said: “Of clothing there was not much to see; but in spite of this I doubt whether we could excel them in true decency and modesty. Ibn Muhammed Wali had already remarked in his history of the conquest of Assam (1662-63), that the Naga women only cover their breasts. They declare that it is absurd to cover those parts of the body which everyone has been able to see from their births, but that it is different with the breasts, which appeared later, and are, therefore, to be covered. Dalton (Journal of the Asiatic Society, Bengal, 41, 1, 84) adds that in the presence of strangers Naga women simply cross their arms over their breasts, without caring much what other charms they may reveal to the observer. As regards some clans of the naked Nagas, to whom the Banpara belong, this may still hold good.” (K. Klemm, “Peal’s Ausflug nach Banpara,” Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1898, Heft 5, p. 334.)
- According to Plutarch, however, among the Spartans, at all events, nakedness in women was not ridiculous, since the institutes of Lycurgus ordained that at solemn feasts and sacrifices the young women should dance naked and sing, the young men standing around in a circle to see and hear them. Aristotle says that in his time Spartan girls only wore a very slight garment.
But these somewhat conflicting, though not really contradictory, statements serve to bring out the fact that a woman’s modesty is often an incalculable element. The woman who, under some circumstances and at some times, is extreme in her reticence, under other circumstances or at other times, may be extreme in her abandonment. Not that her modesty is an artificial garment, which she throws off or on at will. It is organic, but like the snail’s shell, it sometimes forms an impenetrable covering, and sometimes glides off almost altogether. A man’s modesty is more rigid, with little tendency to deviate toward either extreme. Thus it is, that, when uninstructed, a man is apt to be impatient with a woman’s reticence, and yet shocked at her abandonment.
Modesty, which may be provisionally defined as an almost instinctive fear prompting to concealment and usually centering around the sexual processes, while common to both sexes is more peculiarly feminine, so that it may almost be regarded as the chief secondary sexual character of women on the psychical side. Now let me again ask the same question, Is modesty defined by piece of cloth one carries? Surely, NOT.
I have two incidences to share which made me write this blog. Once while sharing about my interests, I talked of Nude Photography. In the discussion we had a girl. I didn’t get much opinion from her side. Its a notion among fair sex that showing their flesh on camera will take away their souls from them. I would like to utter that instead of “soul”, “moment” would be a better word. A photograph captures moment which you, me and others like us miss during lifetime. Sometimes I wonder what made the beautiful Marilyn Monroe say: “The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up.” Whom to blame? My other incidence would make few more things clear. While discussing about women apparel many of the men have a view that its a woman’s fault when she gets unwanted advances from men. They (Men) say that a woman’s way of dressing leads them to make such advances. Does it mean that men judge modesty of a woman by her dress? The one who does is surely not a man!
So, the question of modesty remains perennial. In past we had few incidences where women broke the so called social norms and tried to bring about a change. One such effort was the famous Slut Walk conducted in many parts of the globe including India. In my view, one must understand the true meaning of being modest.
Respect women, be a Man…..