I've read some interesting articles about modesty from a variety of sources in the Jewish-Christian-Muslim arena. Some of the most spirited debates I've personally read are in the realm of the Quakers, who are trying to figure out what modesty and simplicity mean for Western folks. For example, if modesty is designed to not call attention to oneself, is adhering to dress codes that are out of place and thus *do* call attention to oneself still modesty? I'm thinking, for example, of the old-fashioned Quaker plain dress (think mid-1800s dress with bonnet and scarf over chest for women, trousers with shirt and vest and broad-brimmed hat for men), but this could also be easily applied to any sort of traditionally modest religious garb. Is modesty only about sexuality, or is it also about not calling attention to oneself? As a Christian, I'm thinking about the potential interpretations of being "not of this world," Paul's injunction to cover one's head in the epistles (which most Christian women do not do), and the message that we aren't to be too attention-seeking in our faith practices (i.e., if we fast, we should not make this obvious, etc.). But I imagine that in Islam and Judaism, there is also this tension between modesty in the sense of covering up and modesty in the sense of not calling attention to oneself. Another thing I wonder about is the equality issue for men and women. When I've looked at Islam, for example, I know that ideally, both men and women cover up with loose clothing and wear something on their head. I see this in Judaism as well. But in the Western world, it seems very easy for a man to be "modest" and yet blend in perfectly, while for women, the instant you would put a scarf, bonnet, or anything else over your hair, you become conspicuous (unless it is a beanie in the snow, LOL, or a sun hat). Last year, being caught in a pouring rain without an umbrella, I pulled out my neck scarf and tied it over my hair and neck to keep out the rain. I had on a long gray wool coat as well, with a long skirt under it. Suddenly, I looked conspicuous. People looked at me, stared. I think they were trying to figure out what I was. It suddenly made me realize how uncomfortable it would be to do that every day, and this is precisely what many Muslim women choose to do. It was an interesting unplanned experience. I've dressed Victorian goth before and people stare, but it is a different kind of stare. It was an interesting comparison for me. So, do you think modesty rules are equal for men and women, and should there be some insistence that they are, to level the playing field so to speak and get men to experience the same sort of discomfort? Finally, with regards to sexuality... I confess I am skeptical that covering women assists with better relationships between men and women. I grew up in southern California, the land of showing skin, and I've studied a lot of other cultures. Many traditional/indigenous cultures let people run around mostly naked and yet have very few problems with rape or assault, and cultural conditioning seems to work as a fine barrier rather than offloading this responsibility to women. It seems that if you cover various body parts, you may just be sexualizing them, making it easier for men to become aroused when they see them. For example, in Victorian times, showing your ankle or elbow would be immodest and people thought it would incite sexual arousal. In California we show our ankles and elbows most of the year, and no one cares. It would be considered a fetish or unnatural sexual desire if a man were aroused only by an ankle or knee or elbow. So in some ways, by being less covered, to a certain degree we are retraining ourselves not to see the body as a sexual object. Of course, this has limits. At the same time, I realize in my own culture that our "freedom" as women often translates to a prison of worry about our appearance and aging. Women are often ashamed of their bodies' wrinkles, stretch marks, and other signs of motherhood and age, which I find sad. While I am skeptical about the value of loose and broad-coverage clothing for promoting proper male-female conduct, I can easily see how it could promote women feeling better about themselves. Much harder to compare yourself to everyone else if you're all draped. Of course, draping garments just don't seem to work well for some activities. I am thinking, for example, of some of my hobbies- backpacking, horseback riding, mucking out at the barn. Things that are physical work better without a bunch of extra cloth getting in the way. Are women just not supposed to do stuff that is physical if they are "modest"? Isn't that a bit unfair? I seriously contemplated plain dress as a Quaker for a while, but after trying on the clothes, found it uncomfortable and well, plain. I mostly wear white, gray, black, and neutrals anyway, but I'm a girl and I like pretty things. I've bought some Muslim clothing because I find it beautiful, but not because I think it's necessary, and to be honest, while it would work wonderful for everyday activities, again- these floor-length skirts and so forth are lousy for exercise of most sorts. As for head coverings, to be honest, I find the Muslim ones to be most beautiful and feminine- quite alluring really. But I hate the feeling of stuff around my neck and chin, and the skin on my face/neck is so sensitive that it turns bright red when I have stuff on it. LOL This is also why I detest turtlenecks and riding helmets (with that horrible strap under one's chin). I suppose that observant modest folks just deal with it if they hate how their clothes feel, but seems a bit unfair to them? Anyhoo, my varied thoughts. Care to share yours? It's an area I've been entertaining for years but never do find any conclusions.