In Defense of Modesty

Modesty, Oil by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Modesty, like reverence, is becoming a forgotten virtue. Calls for modesty in dress in ultra-orthodox jewish neighborhoods are perceived by some as a violation of human rights. Others, less extreme, view codes of modest dress as stifling individual expression or as shifting responsibility for men’s sexuality from the men themselves to women. Now, it may or may not be a good idea to post signs in the hasidic neighborhoods. And codes of modest dress may indeed be misinterpreted by men as absolving them of responsibility for their own sexual behavior. But regardless, modesty is still a virtue–and one that deserves to be encouraged and inculcated.

We use the term “modesty” in the context of dress and in the context of personal achievement, but the core of the idea is the same Continue reading

Hate or Love Trump, Have a Baby

I watched Trump’s inauguration address along with, according to him, trillions of other people. I was pained by the vitriolic rhetoric and us-versus-them mentality, and then I wasted an hour sinking deeper into misery scrolling through other people’s responses to the event. (See our very liberal, very smart friend’s response to Trump here.) Some were funny. Some were depressing. One, however, really scared me.

I can’t be sure that the post was real, but the woman’s confusion and fear seemed to be viscerally genuine. She wrote that she had been trying to have a baby and had just been to the doctor and been told she was pregnant. She was overjoyed—until she realized that it was Trump’s inauguration day. “Now I’m torn,” (and I paraphrase), “I don’t want my baby associated with that horrible man, so I’m considering getting an abortion.”

I was floored. I am not pro-Trump; I remember telling my husband through tears late on Election Night, “you PROMISED me he wouldn’t win!” as if it were his fault. With David, I understand the fear and pain and worry about the future of the country when someone counter to your views gains political preeminence. But even if we’d elected Big Brother or Hitler or even Dracula to be president, I would never consider having an abortion just because the announcements coincided. Maybe it’s my stubborn Irish heritage, but I could never concede the fight like that: he may have won the presidency…

But I will win the war.

I’m not talking about a partisan war, or even a political one. I’m talking about the fight for goodness, morality and human rights. Women, especially, have a superpower in the war we are all fighting—but it’s not one we generally think about. Continue reading

Against Chronological Snobbery: The Lightweight Modern Values of Equality, Tolerance, and Diversity

Question the Answers by walknboston, on Flickr
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/3526522573/

In my last “Against Chronological Snobbery” essay I introduced the debate between the “progressive” view of American history (that America’s history has been one of clear moral progress) and the “non-progressive” view (that it hasn’t—i.e., that the question is at least subject to debate). I endorsed the latter position. Representing the “progressive view” was Justice Kennedy’s Obergefell opinion, together with Justice Marshall’s assertion that the founders lacked any remarkable degree of wisdom, and that the greatness of the Constitution is its more recent embrace of equality and individual rights. Representing the “non-progressive” view was Justice Robert’s dissent in Obergefell and Justice Scalia’s dissent in U.S. v. Virginia, both of which included a scathing rebuke of the majorities’ chronological snobbery.

In this essay, I hope to continue my attack on the “progressive” view by assaulting one of its citadels—the self-satisfaction of contemporary mainstream culture with regard to its own value system.

Continue reading

Against Chronological Snobbery: The Supreme Court

SalemWitchcraftTrial_large

This is the first in a series of posts intended to expose the snobbery that is often entailed by claims of the “progress” of culture. I hope to attack various manifestations of the view that currently popular moral, social, and philosophical views may safely be regarded as superior to those that were popular in past ages. Subsequent posts will deal with issues such as the alleged progress of our moral ideology, our philosophical understanding of the nature of things, and our ability as a culture of foster human thriving. But here I will attack chronological snobbery as it is found in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence. Continue reading

North Carolina’s HB2 won’t work

Pearl-Jam

North Carolina recently published HB2, a law known as the bathroom law. The reaction has been huge with states and companies starting boycotts. And this morning, Pearl Jam joined the long list of entertainers who have canceled their trip to Raleigh. In short, the law states that people must go to the bathroom of their biological sex rather than gender identity.  The law allows (and encourages) a third bathroom model for people who don’t fit into the traditional genders. This three bathroom model is used in the San Diego airport (not a very conservative place) and so is perhaps not quite as reactionary as it is portrayed. Continue reading

Helping women do worse in school

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Sarah is now earning a Master’s while I work. Soon Sarah will outrank me, but while she has gone farther than me in school and outscored me in a class, there is no doubt that I remain more confident in my ideas. This surprised both of us. As it turns out, this confidence gap is widespread. There’s a plethora of studies, and a whole bunch more articles discussing the issues—all explaining the existence and implications of the confidence gap between men and women.

Explanations are diverse, and quality essays consider several factors including everything from biology (mainly hormones), to patterns of feedback (an idea I find particularly intriguing), and some even suggest the problem is that women are less likely to play sports. Whatever the reason, I am currently wondering why woman’s increasing success at school doesn’t seem to translate into increased confidence. In fact some studies suggest that it hurts. Continue reading