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A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue [Paperback]

Wendy Shalit
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Mar 2014
When A Return to Modesty was first published in 1999, it began an important and much-needed national conversation. Wendy Shalit persuasively argued that modesty is not some hang-up we should set out to cure, but rather a wonderful instinct that, if rediscovered and given the right social support, has the power to transform society. Now, in this newly revised edition, Shalit backs up her claim with the latest trends and research to prove that the issue is just as pressing today as ever. Unfortunately, many problems Shalit originally explored, such as date rape, harassment, and most alarmingly, the sexualisation of young girls, have only become more prevalent. Where once a young woman was ashamed of her sexual experience, today she is ashamed of her sexual inexperience. And as we continue to push the limits of what is accepted behaviour, the pressure to overcome embarrassment and discard all sense of modesty is greater than ever. A Return to Modesty is a deeply personal account as well as a fascinating intellectual exploration into everything from seventeenth-century manners to the 1948 tune "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Beholden neither to social conservatives nor to feminists, Shalit reminds us that modesty is not prudery, but a natural instinct-and one that may be able to save us from ourselves.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: ATRIA BOOKS; Spl Anv edition (13 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476756651
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476756653
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 708,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Wendy Shalit s first book, "A Return to Modesty". . . created a storm when it was published nine years ago As a veteran of pro-sex feminism who still endorses pornography and prostitution, I say more power to all these chaste young women who are defending their individuality and defying groupthink and social convention. That is true feminism!" --Camille Paglia

About the Author

Wendy Shalit, a graduate of Williams College, is a contributing editor of CITY JOURNAL and has written for the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant critique of popular culture. 10 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Shalit has done a brilliant job of exposing some of the underlying myths and assumptions that prop up our culture. I could not sum up her book in the 1,000 words Amazon allow for reviews, but here are three particular gems of quotes:
"In this post-sexual revolution era, a young woman may freely cohabit, but she may not choose to wait. If she does, there must be something wrong with her." (p.188)
"Which, really, is the more misogynist view: the view that for all of world history women have been idiots, or the view that gives women more credit, and thinks we have only gone overboard in the blip of the last thirty years?" (p.216)
"I'm struck by how similarly everyone behaves and sounds. It's fascinating, but also a but eerie, because ours is supposed to be a time of great freedom. And yet most people have **ended up letting the culture they live in dictate our choices**" (p.220)
Some will be offended by Shalit's book; but this, I would suggest, is because she has hit a nerve. Her call is not so much for a return to modesty but for a call for women (and men) to take a stand against the heady rush of popular culture and say, 'wait a moment, I want more than *that*'.
I cannot recommend this book more highly; it deserves a wide audience, and it deserves to shake many of us out of our complancency.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! 30 April 2001
By A Customer
This is such a brilliant book I really hope Wendy Shalit writes more books in the near future. She is an incredibly witty writer and thereby manages to expose the confusions of libertarianism, political correctness and radical feminism without in fact being too rude to any individual proponents of these views. Sadly the converse is often not the case due to the insiduous philosophy that 'the personal is the political', which has given many radfems the 'right' to make very bitchy attacks on people with more conservative views rather than arguing seriously with them. Shalit is far, far more perceptive and intuitive than so many contemporary writers on women. Indeed, she has a very intuitive and feminine style of writing which is reminiscent of more old-fashioned Puritan feminists, and is a real breath of fresh air. By means of simply interviewing a range of people on their opinions and personal experiences of the sexual revolution, she is able to untangle all the strings that are attached to libertarian attitudes. There is no judgmentalism or finger-pointing in this book, and that is because it is securely based in essentialist views of gender which hark back to the Enlightenment (and possibly to the author's Jewish background). In other words, the author is secure in herself because her views are objective and not 'personal politics'. There is a problem here though. The author mentions Rousseau as one of the proponents of this essentialism. For all his talk of political freedom, Rousseau propounded a very restrictive education for girls, as did other French 'revolutionary' thinkers. (Liberty, equality, fraternity but not sorority. Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant critique of contemporary immodesty 8 May 2000
By A Customer
This is a brilliant, brilliant book! The cultural and educational etablishment - and those whose behaviour and mindsets have been formed by them - will be outraged ... which is good evidence that Wendy Shalit is right on the money. She shows the devastating effect that late-twentieth-century promiscuity has had on young women: almost unheard-off afflictions from anorexia and bulimia to self-inflicted injuries are now commonplace. So too are psychological problems. And the remedy that culture offers them: loosen up further on your sexuality; be 'comfortable with your body'. Shalit points out that natural embarrassment, when it is not rooted out by a culture that makes war on modesty, exists to tell us something, and that that something is important. A society which bares all (whether literally or metaphorically) is a society in which nothing is sacred and nothing is safe - particularly not women. Modesty makes dignity and 'self-esteem' possible ... without having to try and teach them or build them in after they have collapsed. I mean, isn't all this obvious anyway? How the heck do we imagine our ancestors managed for all these millennia without self-esteem classes to prevent them from cracking up? Answer: they didn't keep throwing their dignity and modesty away!
Of course, all of this is very upsetting for our cultural elite. If Miss Shalit is right - and she is - we will all have to live rather differently. We will recognise the majority of the output of our media and educational systems (to say nothing of the attitudes of government) for the harmful and pitiful trash that they are. Rather a lot of people have an awful lot invested in Wendy Shalit being wrong.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Every feminist should read this book! 8 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Wendy Shalit has done us all a favour by exposing and explaining the results of hard-core feminism. This is a brilliant and challenging portrayal of what's needed to right the wrongs and give women back the dignity which is theirs. It makes so much sense! I hope this book marks the beginning of the return to modesty, so greatly and urgently needed in today's culture.
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