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Jose Victor Oron Semper, researcher of the group "Mente-Cerebro" del Institute for Culture and Society
Terms and mentalities: modesty
It seems that the term modesty arouses contrary feelings because some people love it and others reject it outright. But what is modesty? Both lovers and detractors of the term would be more or less of agreement in that modesty is synonymous of "cover yourself" (before a exhibition) or "protect yourself" (before an action of another person). Modesty becomes circumscribed to the corporal and to the pretension of controlling the exhibition of the body. Understanding it this way, I am not surprised that detractors arise. Modesty, according to this option, would be the control of the bodily exhibition .
The modesty, thus seen, rests on the NO to something. And that is the great problem of this understanding, because no NO justifies itself. The person needs to know what to say YES to. And from the YES said, the NOES are deduced. The NO is only justified by the YES. That is why, educationally speaking, one should never start with NO. With the understanding of modesty as the cover or protect yourself, one does not know what one is saying YES to. It is not about learning how NOT to relate, but how to relate. It is not about learning how NOT to expose oneself, but learning how to expose oneself. It is not about learning how NOT to touch another's body, but learning how to touch it. When the YES is clear, the NO will be deduced in order to guarantee the YES. But if the person sees the YES, he/she will see the NO. It is not necessary to make anyone see anything, but to help each one to perceive.
On the other hand, UpToYou proposes another way of understanding modesty as awareness of the exhibition of interiority. We have changed control for awareness and corporal for interiority. This implies that the person is aware of the relevance of his or her actions because in them he or she is exposing his or her interiority.
The exhibition of the body is not directly related to the exhibition of privacy. In the hospital, we do not feel that we expose our intimacy to health caregivers. In certain artistic works, something similar happens.
There are other areas where the exhibition of the body does involve exposing intimacy, for example, in the sexual act. In such a case, one can feel the blush associated with the awareness of the exhibition and not for that reason stop exposing oneself. Let us imagine the conjugal act. The two may feel blushing because, thanks to modesty, they are aware of their exhibition and of the transcendence of the act, but they decide to go ahead, since, precisely, what is wanted is the meeting of intimacies.
The topic of modesty, nowadays, gives a lot of play, although in different ways. It is a topic that appears, although it is not mentioned, in the "no is no" slogan. Another area where it appears is in the topic of sexual abuse of minors.
The "no is no" people say it clearly: "even if she is naked, no is no". This position holds that the woman's will must be respected at all times. This is true. But, to pose it so unilaterally raises several questions: Does that mean that any form of exhibition is convenient? Does that mean that the sexual act is understood as a legal contract that requires the consent of the parties? I focus on the first question, since the second one implies addressing the meaning of the sexual act and that would divert us from topic.
Let's imagine a model who is posing nude and is calm, but at a certain moment she feels exposed because she discovers that the artist's gaze has gone from artistic to lascivious. In the artistic gaze, the model does not feel questioned in her interiority. In her interiority, she is treated as a person. In the lascivious gaze, the model feels that her interiority has been denied and her body is simply seen as an object of pleasure. The modesty makes her aware that, in the leering gaze, her intimacy is exposed, but, in addition, it is denied, because the woman is considered only as an object. Anyone who wants to know the negative effects of objectification on women can easily find bibliography . Thanks to modesty we are aware of exhibition.
The other area where the topic of modesty arises today is in the prevention of sexual abuse. Children are taught that there are parts of the body that should not be touched by others and, if someone does it, it is because he or she is a "bad" person and, in such a case, a trusted adult should be notified immediately. In truth, we think, this has nothing to do with educating in modesty, but with educating in fear. This is to put fear into children when parents do not take adequate preventive measures. Avoiding abuse by putting fear is avoiding an evil with another evil. Moreover, there is talk of alerting a trusted adult when there is a possibility that the abuser is precisely the parent. In addition to the error of wanting to prevent a potential evil (abuse) and punctual (in relation to the abuser) with a real evil (suspicion and fear) generalized (to all adults), there is the problem of wanting to prevent a behavior without attending to its causes. Being a parent is not just any old thing and implies an obvious responsibility; but on the other hand, socially, it is seen as a right and, therefore, it seems unfeasible to suggest that before being a parent it is necessary to have a minimum preparation and suitability.
The child should not be asked to do what he or she cannot do. It is not a matter of the child avoiding abuse, but of his or her parents avoiding it. What does make sense is to educate in modesty. I do not think that anyone would deny the goodness of being aware of the relevance of our actions and modesty, in our proposal, is awareness of the exhibition of privacy. Let us see how modesty can be educated. As modesty is awareness of the exhibition of intimacy, it will be educated by being aware that we are intimacy and what it means to expose it.
Let's first see what it is to be aware of being intimacy. One day I was playing with a little boy of about three years old and, after lunch, I rested my head on his back and I said "I'm going to sleep, you act as a pillow" and he said "no, because I am a person, not a pillow". And I said "you are absolutely right". Then I asked his father to find out what his son meant by "I am a person". I told him that when he walks down the street and sees strangers or dogs, to ask him, "Is he a person? And it turned out that the child was very good at telling the difference between who was a person and who was a dog. Then came the test fire. The father asked him if the dog that they have at home and that the child takes care of every day was (or was not) a person. The answer was "it is a person and an animal". Thus, the child expressed the special affection he felt for that particular dog. The child understands perfectly well that with the word person we are referring to a singular reality of special value, because a pillow is used, a person is not. At the age of three, this child is already aware of his inner self.
We are educated to be aware of our intimacy by treating our children as persons. Our way of talking and acting with our children and students reveals that we treat them as persons? How can they be aware of their inner self if we treat them as if they did not have it? When we relate to a child by understanding our relationship as practical (you have to eat or tidy the room) or technical (you have to learn to write or add) we are treating them as if they have no intimacy. When we focus on encouraging or avoiding certain behaviors, we are ignoring their intimacy and preventing him or her from understanding him or herself as a being with interiority. The attention should always be staff. On the other hand, they also see how we treat others. In a special way, the quality of the relationship between the spouses is fundamental for the child's awareness of his or her own identity. The child's identity (identity is the awareness of who I am) depends on the quality of the spouses' relationship as perceived by the child. And in that identity, he or she will be perceived as a being with or without interiority.
At the same time that one grows in being conscious of being intimacy, it is necessary to educate in the conscience of the exhibition of such intimacy. The awareness of exhibition is educated by exposing it. It is not possible to be conscious of something that is not exposed. Intimacy can be exposed in many ways. If you force a child to talk, you are forcing him or her to expose without him or her being willing or ready. Conversely, if a child is not financial aid to express himself or herself, he or she will have many maturity problems at all levels. It is a matter of human development to know how to talk about one's inner self. Parents and educators should encourage sincere and authentic dialogue. Family dialogue should be encouraged in itself and not only when problems or decisions have to be made. It is worth talking to your children simply because it is worth talking to your children. To get to know their way of thinking, to enjoy telling your children about your joys and sorrows. If a parent talks to his child to know and let him know his inner self, the child will discover that he really has an inner self and that there are ways and places to expose it.
It is not possible to be aware of a bad exhibition if it is not with a good exhibition, because NO is a derivative of YES. Therefore, it is urgent that in the family there is an adequate exhibition that begins with the exhibition of thoughts and feelings. There are ways of exposing thoughts and feelings that do not help the interpersonal meeting , which will be decisive in the future to learn to value an adequate or inadequate exhibition. That is to say, the Education in modesty is not enough by itself, because in addition to being aware of the exhibition, it is necessary to learn to assess whether the exhibition is adequate or not, and this is not given by modesty, although both things are educated at the same time.
Little by little, the child discovers that there are places, forms and people suitable for certain expositions and, consequently, others where it does not correspond. He/she discovers how different people, depending on the relationship subject , are greeted in different ways. If, faced with the possible reluctance to greet a stranger, we force him to an intimate exhibition , for example, a hug, we are not helping him to know how to establish a relationship, just as if we allow him not to greet. Perhaps we can encourage him to shake hands (depending on the culture) so that he learns certain forms of expression linked to certain contexts. The child will discover that the appropriate form of expression in each case is the one that financial aid to the relationship. The two extremes, not greeting or hugging a stranger, do not help the relationship with him.
A similar thing happens with the dress, as the child discovers the load of meaning it has. On the one hand, the dress fulfills a utility function: one does not go to high school in a swimsuit because that would not help to focus on what we intend to do. On the other hand, the dress financial aid to signify the body. From the different ways of dressing the body and from the differentiated attention given to the different body parts, a different significance of the body and its parts can be deduced. If everything were exposed equally, everything would have the same meaning. But every reality acquires a specific meaning (see term) by how that reality is introduced into interpersonal relationships. Parents, in fact, transmit their way of understanding the world and of understanding themselves in a multitude of ways. What meaning should be given to the body? Well, each family will know. What everyone should know is that there is no such thing as an assignificatory way of relating to reality (or to the body). There is no neutrality, because every action is always staff.
With the journey made, modesty has been characterized as awareness of the exhibition and I believe that it is always interesting to be aware of the relevance of our actions. But modesty is not enough to know whether exhibition should be given or not. Do you want to educate in modesty? Treat your child or student as a person and have dialogues from intimacy to intimacy according to the different contexts.