When I recently received an email from John Horvat of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) asking “Is it immodest to wear deliberately ripped jeans?” the name Modesty Blaise came to my mind. Many older people may have been her fans. She was a fictional character, a kind of female James Bond in the late 20th century, popular in comic strips, books and movies. She certainly was a rebel, had been involved in crime but had become a crime-fighter herself.
How did she get the name, Modesty? As a young girl she had been a nameless refugee in post- WWII struggling to survive. The name Modesty was bestowed on her by a friend. But was there anything modest about her? Or was this a step in a counter-cultural process in this post-modern era that seems designed to confuse us when it comes to positive values, Compare too the singer choosing the name Madonna. How do these names speak to us? Do they have a true meaning for us and for our young people?
John Horvat was exploring true modesty which he describes as “the virtue that safeguards the dignity of a person in association with others. It benefits both the individual and society because it governs the exterior appearance, the behaviour of the person and helps make society civil and harmonious.” It is concerned with dress, a way of speaking, gestures and general presentation. It calls people to standards of decency and decorum that are expected in an ordered society. Modesty is not the same as chastity although it plays a role there.
Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia also refers to modesty and does link it with sexuality. He comments that “some people nowadays regard modesty as a relic of a bygone era. Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used.“ AL282
My point about deliberately ripped jeans is as John Horvat writes, “Wearing ripped clothes has become a fashion statement that supposedly says a person is carefree, uninhibited and self-sufficient.” As a fashion fad it might be fairly innocuous beside the fact that the young buyers are being “ripped off” financially in the proverbial sense. But is it really not also that counter-cultural a statement of lack of respect for common decency and even the kind of lawlessness that is bedeviling our society and our schools? Looking attractive and beautiful does not seem to matter. What do other parents and grandparents think?
I asked myself, would a girl like Modesty Blaise who was always portrayed as sexily dressed but, I suppose one could say, in an attractive way, be seen dead in ripped, tatty and untidy clothes? Did she have her standards to maintain?
TR FAMILY WEEKLY NOVEMBER 13