Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Musing on this

While still in browse-the-fundamentalist mode, I came across this website, Modest Clothing for Women and Girls. No, I'm not gonna start snarking about the outfits. I just wanted to note that I'm struck by this:

What caused the attitude to change from "au naturel"? What caused the need to cover up? The answer is rooted in an understanding of the sin of Adam and Eve.

According to commentators, through the eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, the tendency to do evil was internalized within the human psyche. Previously, man and woman had an intellectual choice between good and evil, but evil was outside of the body, a philosophical issue, not an inner pull or an emotional desire.

Before the sin, a person's soul expressed itself through its body. Body and soul were in consonance with each other. For example, when the soul wanted to pray to God, the body rose early and prayed. When the soul wanted to study and grow most effectively, the body ate healthy foods and took care of itself to provide the necessary fuel and energy for the demanding task. Now, post-sin, a dichotomy exists. Almost a schizophrenia. One's soul wants to pray, his body groans, turns over and shuts off the alarm clock. The soul strives to perfect itself, the body wants to eat chocolate cake, watch television and lie on the beach!

The body is no longer in the service of the soul, it no longer runs to do its bidding. Not only is the body not a reflection of the soul, but they are now working at cross-purposes.

What does all this have to do with clothing, modesty and covering up?

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, their bodies were a mirror of their souls, there was no need to cover up such a pure innocent expression of a person's spirituality, of God's image within a human being.

However, once evil was integrated into man, the body came to represent something antithetical to the soul. Looking at the body could now distract the observer from focusing on his or her internal being and instead focus only on the physical, the external and the superficial.

It became necessary to de-emphasize the physical in order to emphasize the spiritual, to cover up the body in order to let the soul shine through.


It strikes me because, among other things, it is reminding me irresistibly of the argument, as I have seen in various places over the last few months, to one degree or another, that erotica/sex/what have you is irrecovably tainted because we live in a Patriarchal culture.

It reminds me of it in more ways than one, point of fact.

But particularly, the solution: so, okay, our body and soul are at cross purposes. We're tainted. The solution? Load on more shame; reject emphasis on the body and/or various sexual expressions even more. Purify, purify; so shall we reach the Promised Land. Or not. But points for trying. Maybe.

Does it never occur to some people that maybe an attempt at integration, here and now, not in some magical past or future utopia, might be a more useful way to go? Guess not. But why?


Sly Civilian said...

very interesting...i'd never seen such an argument made, but it makes sense in a fundagelical sort of way...which is of course interesting in that this was written by a Rabbi. I could have sworn it was cribbed out of Augustine, but maybe he was cribbing from the Talmud? Hmm.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, this would seem to be an Orthodox Jewish-run site, although they exchange links with fundamentalist Christian sites.

What you do hear more frequently is this general notion of a "fallen creation;" in other words, you could've had a V-8 uh paradisical life here on earth, but you--by proxy, anyway--fucked up.

Dan L-K said...

Shorter modesty propaganda:

It's your own damn fault, bitches.

Amber said...

Looking at the body could now distract the observer from focusing on his or her internal being and instead focus only on the physical, the external and the superficial.

Huh. Well isn't that convenient...

D said...


You sluts need Burqas!

MissPrism said...

The soul strives to perfect itself, the body wants to eat chocolate cake

This is a bizarre conflation of 20th century Health Sin and old-fashioned Sex Sin.

I would have thought that religious types, at least, would grasp that eating cake is not the same kind of thing as being spiteful or dishonest. But sadly not.

I suppose you've also seen the remrkably named

belledame222 said...

I think the sex-sin and health/eating sin come together rather splendidly in the Curves (for women!) gymlet chain. It's a stroke of genius, really: make money off of the cultural need to police women's bodies in one way (keep slim!), and use the profits to police women's bodies in another way (goes to anti-abortion causes). Control at both ends!

quakerdave said...

Good lord, it's no wonder people hate people who call themselves Christians.

This isn't "modesty": it's somebody's weird "Little House on the Prairie" fetish site..

Alon Levy said...

Does it never occur to some people that maybe an attempt at integration, here and now, not in some magical past or future utopia, might be a more useful way to go? Guess not. But why?

Because it a) makes it harder for said people to have power over others by controlling their behavior and attitudes and b) requires said people to do positive things instead of just feel good about themselves.

gandhi rules said...

Quakerdave, lol.

when I read how someone has intellectualized a fucking fairy-tale like the Adam and Eve story, I want to take a crap on their skulls.

But I'm not bitter.

Elizabeth McClung said...

So if I understand this correctly Chocolate cake desires are a sign of the Fallen world? That right there almost turned me athiest (I cannot abide a satanic chocolate cake world view).

From a alternate culture point of view - do these people realize how similar thier "modest" stuff is to fetish, styles of goth or Japanese lolita wear?

belledame222 said...

I seriously doubt it; but personally I'd love it if you or someone would go over there and tell them.

Caren said...

I'm guessing you've not seen this article in the Washington Post, yet, about "modest" swimwear:

Bitch | Lab said...

Quakerdave -- hee hee. That's funny.

It reminds me of a secretary in the sales department at a hotel where i worked. Her daughter married a man and they became Mennonites -- if I'm remembering correctly. It pained Gladys in many ways and the kids and her grandkids lived with them in a big ol' farm house Gladys and her husband bought to fufill her hub's dream of moving out of NJ to retire as a farmer out in the country.

So, Gladys and her mom, her hub, and her daughter and family all shared this huge house.

They'd all made piece over the daughter becoming a Mennonite, but Gladys was sad sometimes be/c she couldn't buy cute little clothes for the kids. They always had to wear browns and grays. The reason, though, is that on their view, God's nature is so beautiful that humans shouldn't do anything to compete with it.

But this frustrated Gladys who said, "Why can't my grandkids wear clothes that mimic the beauty of nature -- look like a bright sunflower or a field of wildflowers or an apple tree in bloom?"

belledame222 said...

I know. It seems so crazy to me.

If you're invited over to someone's house for a feast, do you sit stubbornly in the corner and nibble on a dour little piece of dry toast because you don't want to compete? do you henceforth refuse to eat anything but gruel because...oh, i don't know. the humility thing really gets taken way overboard in my opinion. if you're talking about the All-Powerful Everything; how could you possibly "compete" anyway? and why on earth would the Almighty -need- to "compete?" show your appreciation of the bounty by revelling in it. in my opinion.

belledame222 said... seems to me that the real rationale for puritanism/asceticism (of whatever form), at least on a mass scale, always has to do with class, and a rejection of what's seen as greedy, soulless decadence by the Principals and Powers of this world.

which makes sense to a point; but again: overboard. I think.

especially when you stop limiting it to your own ascetic path (perfectly valid) and start trying to make it into The Path Which Must Be Followed By Everyone (honey, No).

stroppybird said...

Hope you don't mind I am going to use that link (will say its from this site) . I ended up arguing with a commentator on a blog who went on about women needing to be modest -

I did my own post in response

I will add this now.