3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last someone calls the emperor naked...
I actually took the time to peruse all the 115 reviews written on the book before I wrote this review and one thing is VERY clear to me: most of the naysayers aren't young women. And I think I know why. It's because the average young woman is afraid to read this book. After I finished it, I was seized by the urge to buy it for all my girlfriends, and then I realized most...
Published on Jan. 22 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent premise, poor delivery
I picked up this book with the notion that I was going to enjoy it. I finished this book disliking it ever so slightly. It would have made an awesome college report, but once you decide to publish it for the general public, the standard changes and the bar is raised. For one thing, I could have done without all the "kind of" and "gotta". This book, so academic, should...
Published on Nov. 29 2001 by Manola Sommerfeld
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last someone calls the emperor naked...,
By A Customer
I actually took the time to peruse all the 115 reviews written on the book before I wrote this review and one thing is VERY clear to me: most of the naysayers aren't young women. And I think I know why. It's because the average young woman is afraid to read this book. After I finished it, I was seized by the urge to buy it for all my girlfriends, and then I realized most of them wouldn't appreciate it, probably would never even open it. Why? Because then they would have to listen to the little voice inside that says something is amiss in today's sexual politics and it's the women that are getting screwed. And then they'd have to deal with it, and that's hard. What Wendy Shalit has done is HARD. You have to be a young woman to appreciate the enormity of it. If you're fifty, or a man, or live in Smalltown USA, I support your right to an opinion, but at least admit that without experiencing what Shalit's talking about, you don't have a real foundation for calling what she says hogwash.
Are some of the criticisms valid? Most assuredly. Her writing leaves much to be desired, and the book often reads like a college paper. And so the research wasn't particularly outstanding, and (as all people making an argument do) she puts her own spin on the quotes on to make her point. I don't even know if I believe modesty is the answer to today's ills, and I definitely don’t support paternalism and a return to the patriarchy. (And, yes her references to her economist father irritate me too; I don't know what that has to do with anything)
BUT, what Wendy Shalit is saying about how today's sexual culture is eating young women alive is DEAD ON. I have spent the last five years of my life watching young women around me buckle under the weight of sexual freedom that defines college campuses and the twentysomething scene (and apparently high school too these days), and it is SAD. You don't have to be religious or conservative or embrace the no-sex-before-marriage ideal to see that Shalit's got a point. Yes women like sex, and they should be free to choose to have it whenever they want. The trouble is, too often, the emotional stakes are higher for women than they are for men. Now you might be getting angry, because you don't want to hear this. I myself used to fight adamantly against the idea that men and women differ in more than just genitalia, but it's the inescapable truth, and I found that by denying it, I was only making it more difficult for myself. Like everything else in life, there are exceptions to this, but in my 23 years, I haven't found any. In fact, all I've found is this: Most of the young women I know who are involved in purely sexual relationships want them to be more, even if there isn't a chance in hell and even if they repeatedly assure you AND the guy that they don't want more. Same goes for most young women in casual relationships or relationships where they're both "seeing other people". And more than anything, I know this: MANY young women who are routinely involved in myriad casual sexual relationships, (and particularly those who claim to be proud of this) are depressed, have body image and self-esteem problems, and are actually pretty good candidates for Prozac. And yes, the sex has a LOT to do with it. Because, you see, sex in any context involves a certain level of vulnerability. When you've got that going on physically without an emotional accompaniment, it can be very disconcerting, and can crush your self-esteem. The men I know are not having these problems; they're having a lot of sex, but not these problems.
Now, I don't propose that we all "return to modesty", and I'm not trying to tell anyone how to live their lives. What I do know is that young women are being emotionally battered on a daily basis by being involved in "relationships" that involve a LOT of sexual contact and very little emotional intimacy and/or commitment, and even if they tell you they don't, most of them want more, CRAVE more, in fact. But we're embarrassed and afraid to admit it, because we're SUPPOSED to be cool with things the way they are. If you're one of these women who are TRULY "cool" with thing the way they are, I applaud you. And I mean that sincerely, because you've got the coping skills to make it in today's sexual marketplace, but most of us don't. And the sooner we admit it, the sooner we'll stop hurting silently inside and come up with some sort of solution. I don't claim to know what the solution is, or even that there is one blanket solution that will suit every woman, but if we're all just honest enough to admit that what's going on here kinda stinks, we'll be one step closer.
Every young woman should read this book. Not right away perhaps, because it's the kind of argument you have to be ready to hear. If you read this book with an open and, above all, HONEST mind, you won't be able to deny that Shalit has a point.
Maybe I WILL buy it for all my girlfriends after all...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Return to Passion and Romance,
Years ago I read an article in "Reader's Digest" entitled "Our Politically Correct Bathroom." It was about the complete abandonment of common sense that had taken place in some college (which one escaped me) where dormitories had introduced coed lavatories--apparently a fad currently in place at many left-leaning, normalcy-rejecting, so-called institutions of higher learning. While I did not remember the college in question or the author, the piece stayed in my mind attesting to its literary strength as much as its sapient thesis.
Buried deep in "Return to Modesty" Wendy Shalit mentions that while enrolled at Williams College, she authored that trenchant exploration of the abdication of standards. Although I failed to make the connection, it is easy to see that the "Reader Digest" article's scribe was blessed with the same insight, articulation, and talent that the author of this bold work demonstrates.
While countless books have been written intelligently arguing on behalf of chastity and traditional sexual mores, most hark back to the antediluvian days when explicit sex was not found in every segment of society. Wendy Shalit may be the first to advocate that these allegedly archaic ideals are not only innovative but truly radical and empowering, and it is that the slatternly standard that has somehow become the norm that truly demeans women. Throughout the book she persuasively declares that modest attire and behavior is far more alluring, exciting, and even downright provocative than the slutty exhibitionism that has slinked its way into the mainstream.
Although her topic is extremely serious, Ms. Shalit skillfully utilizes a great deal of humor to fortify her position. Nowhere is this more intelligently done than in her overview of pornographic sex education that starts in early grammar school. Even though her progressive mother had her dismissed from the salacious indoctrination seminars, she once peaked at a friend's text that contained the inconceivable crack "(an)orgasm is like when you have to sneeze, and then you sneeze." Her fourth grade mind justifiably wondered, "why would I want to sneeze more than I have to sneeze; I hate sneezing." By highlighting the absurdity rather than the depravity of this sick sex ed material, her reasoned suasion is all the more powerful.
Ms. Shalit was 23 when she wrote this cogent book--showing maturity beyond her years. In addition to making an eloquent and difficult to refute argument for the desirability of modesty, it also serves as a harbinger for the distinguished literary career that assuredly lies ahead for her. "Return to Modesty" is definitely worth a perusal, but it must be read with an opened mind to achieve maximum impact. Many sacred tenets of the left are shattered and those unwilling to reexamine their opinions should not waste their time on such a challenging deliberation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Women of all Ages,
This book really changed my life. It changed the way I looked at things and it gave me pride in the fact that I am a woman. Wendy Shalit reveals controversial issues around femininity and why women are the way they are. I read this book right after a tumultuous time as a college Freshman. At that time, I did not even know why I acted the way I did. After reading her book, I figured out how the treatment of women prompted me in my reckless behavior and, also, that I did not need to feel guilty for it.. I just needed to take a step back and learn from my mistakes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Woman and Man Should Read This Book,
Thank you Miss Shalit for this truthful and inspiring book. I am 23 year- old woman who had almost given up with this society. But you have proved to me that being "a good girl" is a positive thing! The media, enterainment, and everyday people always try their hardest to make me feel like I am the weirdo--but all along I had a hunch that there was something wrong with them. Modesty is the answer to so many of today's problems. If only it were possible to leave a copy of this book on every American's doorstep! After reading it, I instantly wanted to become the most virtuous woman I could be. I certainly have respect for myself and I don't advertise it by wearing tube tops that have the words "hottie" or "tease" printed on them. As Wendy mentioned, being "mature" or "comfortable" about immodesty only paves the way for serious problems for women and men alike. Women might not want to face reality, but men depend on us to be honorable. It we change our ways, men will change theirs.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So it's not me that's crazy!!!,
By A Customer
As a 23-year old woman who has spent the last few years looking around wondering what the hell is going on, Wendy Shalit's book comes as a welcome relief. I live in the world Wendy Shalit describes and I can tell you she has hit the nail squarely on the head. In the politics of male/female relationships (or more often, non-relationships) today, women almost always lose, and they lose for precisely the reasons Wendy Shalit outlines, yet we persist in playing this game.
Before you decry Wendy Shalit as some sort of religious freak, ask the young single women you know about their sex lives, about their intimate encounters. Every day, young women all over the U.S. try to play a game they can't win. Yes, there are some women for whom sex is not emotional and who can hook and unhook with various men with ease. But for the VAST majority of young women, this is not the case. And most who claim this is the case are lying. At their core, most young women want commitment, and stability, not the present casual approach to everything. However, when we are told that this is what we are SUPPOSED to want, we will go to any lengths to convince ourselves, often experiencing significant emotional damage in the process. I applaud Wendy Shalit for taking such a bold step in writing this book, in saying what so many of us know deep down inside but are afraid to say.
The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that Shalit's writing wavers between college thesis and casual chit-chat. I also disagree with her insistence that the time prior to the sexual revolution was all rosy. It wasn't, or there would have been no revolution. However, Shalit's right when she says that what we've got now is even worse.
If you're a woman under 30 or are trying to understand what young women are going through today, you MUST read this book, even if you think she's a freak. Don't knock it 'til you've read it; and read with an open, honest mind. At the end of it all, you might surprise yourself.
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent premise, poor delivery,
I picked up this book with the notion that I was going to enjoy it. I finished this book disliking it ever so slightly. It would have made an awesome college report, but once you decide to publish it for the general public, the standard changes and the bar is raised. For one thing, I could have done without all the "kind of" and "gotta". This book, so academic, should have been proofread with that in mind. The casual use of colloquialisms and slang was out of place and detracted value.
Although I share many of her thoughts, I was irritated by some of the liberties she took when presenting them. For one thing, Wendy likes to generalize. She writes about a 19-year old who decided to get married. Wendy praises her decision, and makes a comment on the "words of tragedy" that the young bride had to hear. I too would issue words of tragedy to the vast majority of 19-year old GIRLS thinking about getting married! Statistics tell us that the younger you are when you marry, the higher your chances for divorce. Although the specific case that Wendy mentions might have been different, why does she turn up her nose to the "words of tragedy"? It is a poor idea to get married so young, because your chances for success are stacked against you. This is a substantiated fact. If Wendy had been truly rigorous in her analysis, she should have refrained from criticizing those who objected to such a young marriage, therefore generalizing marrying at 19 as a "swell" idea.
One area that I found particularly offensive is her opinion on antidepressants. Depression is a legitimate mental ailment, that in many cases has a clinical origin. For decades men and women alike have been blown off by their doctors whenever they have complained about feeling "blue". "Oh, you just need to get out some more. Take a vacation, go shopping! You'll see how you'll snap out of it soon!". What can you do if you have a biochemical imbalance in your brain? What would happen if doctors treated pancreatitis with the same cavalier attitude? Once again, Wendy falls prey of generalization, an easy resource for green writers. There might be some physicians out there that prescribe Prozac in the way Wendy describes, but this is no ground to make a sweeping generalization on the use of antidepressant medication.
The episode when her friend goes to the doctor to get a prescription for the pill is sad. Wendy paints the doctor as devoid of any sensitivity, when the only thing the woman was trying to do was her job. I found it downright pathetic the squeamishness that her friend experienced once at the doctor's office, but I find a million times more objectionable the account that Wendy makes of the episode.
Her quotes on Marx are quite ridiculous, which are not improved by her writing. It is almost as if she had reached a circular reference (see page 146).
She is right on when commenting on the loss of manners in our society. I notice an omnipresent lack of respect in our daily life, to the point that someone having a courteous gesture towards you is more of a surprise than the norm. But I fail to see the correlation between lack of modesty and lack of courtesy. Bad manners are an equal opportunity defect, affecting men and women alike.
No matter what, I agree with Wendy Shalit's thesis. As a society, we are oversexed. Women have gotten the short end of the stick after the sexual revolution of the 60's. It is indignant that fourth graders have to learn about masturbation and orgasms. And I am too an essentialist! I only wish Wendy had communicated her message better.
5.0 out of 5 stars Control and Choices,
Isn't it funny how people are determined to make everyone's choices for them? Supposedly women are now free, or more free than they have been, and therefore can now be how they wish to be. This is untrue because society ridicules women who want to be feminine, beautiful and revered. The ideas Ms.Shalit presents are very frightening to some women. I would suggest that those women let it go and do what they are doing. Are they so concerned about my happiness that they must tell me that these ideas are wrong? I have decided to try them for myself. I am from a very religious home and have always been modest. It was refreshing and comforting to read a book that said that modern women could believe in modesty without being freaks. Actually, I have led a very lucky and very happy, blessed life. I wonder about the angry militant women who tell me I should not be the way I am. I am so much more comfortable and happy than they are. I have been well cared for and protected by men. The writing style of this book is very good and Ms.Shalit speaks to us, the young women in a voice we can recognize. The society we have now is very afraid of ideas that go against the accepted norm (free sex, ugly clothes, frightening life choices, etc.) Read this book for yourself. Realize that there are other choices that can be made. Whatever your own position, it should not panic you to read Ms.Shalit's perspective. It is a very thoughtful and exceptionally well put together book. I entirely disagree with the critisisms of the previous reviewer directly below.
1.0 out of 5 stars I began this book half-convinced that Shalit was correct...,
...So it was especially disappointing when I realized what I was in for. Wendy Shalit's book is a poorly written, her information badly analyzed. In her opinion, a lack of modesty and mandatory sex education are the reason for all of (what she perceives as) societies ills, and I do mean ALL of them, from rape to non-commited relationships to anorexia. Her topic is admirably well researched, and she presents many excerpts from valid sources to attempt to prove her point, but crashes and burns when she misinterprets the quotes and hopes the reader won't notice. Equally insulting to the reader's intelligence, and telling of Shalit's naivete, is her assumption that the psyche of women who are profiled in trashy women's magazines are representative of all women. Finally, she cannot decide if her rhetoric is male-bashing or not; she vacillates between decrying men as sex-crazed non-committors (they can't commit because women are immodest) and presenting them as the ultimate goal of modesty.
The most humorous oversight (on the part of Ms. Shalit and her editors), is the anecdote about a young woman from a semi-religious family who chooses to dress modestly. Shalit spends 300 pages trying to convince us that men will stop being so disrespectful if we would only dress more modestly, and then regales us with a tale of a young man sending this newly modest girl harassing notes about what he'd like to do to her because her modesty is so sexy. Wendy destroys her own argument with this tale.
Don't believe the 5 star reviews. If you must read this piece, please, do so with a critical eye.
5.0 out of 5 stars Immodesty caters to the worst male impulses....,
Shalit's book is a must-read whether or not you come from a Judeo-Christian background. She conclusively argues that immodesty (what feminists call "sexual freedom") has only made women less respected and cared for than ever before. I found the chapters on what goes on between the sexes in the modern university shocking and truly disturbing. Now that women have been "liberated," men expect them to act like alleycats and give out whatever men want. The in-your-face sexuality of women's magazines has made modesty odd and even countercultural. But, as Shalit demonstrates through her wide reading, thorough research and personal interviews, modesty protects womanhood and surrounds the modest woman with an aura of respectability. I can attest from personal experience that modesty and femininity in dress does achieve what Shalit claims it will -- men open doors, speak respectfully, halt uncivil or uncouth language and suddenly seem to recall that a woman is something to be cherished, honored and adored rather than cheapened, pawed over and, finally, disdained. Powerful reading, especially from one so young. I look forward to Shalit's future work.
4.0 out of 5 stars Some questions unanswered.,
I appreciate this book, and I do think that the main point is good. But the author leaves questions unanswered. When the discussion breaches questions of religion, her apparent views are fairly inclusive. But I agree with the reviewer who said that the book is interesting but implodes. I am a Christian myself, but I realize that in all of the world's religions there have been tendencies to treat women as second-class and insignificant. That has not always been the case, but it is often so. This is a problem she doesn't address. She says, and I paraphrase, "We tend to assume women in Muslim countries are oppressed. But these women themselves say that this isn't the case." She went on to cite some examples of women voluntarily adopting hijab. But that doesn't mean a thing. (I am talking about Muslim women as an example right here, but this applies by extension to others often.) I have read about Islam frequently, though by no means in depth, and I think that the problem with many books I read is an assumption that Islam is monolithic on this issue. With Muslim authors, it is an assumption that women uniformly appreciate the various forms of hijab. With secular, Christian, and other authors, it is the opposite. Ms. Shalit tends toward the former position. But she doesn't address many issues. A Islamic group in Jordan, for example, declared that "Beating a woman does not hurt her dignity. That is impossible, for she has no dignity." These are common attitudes, and she doesn't adequately tackle the problem.
But despite the problems, this is a good book. I believe that she is an intelligent woman, and hope that she continues to write professionally.
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Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit (Hardcover - Jan. 1999)
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