As I was going down SJ Walk today, I passed by a poster that had the following quote by Boona Mohammad, a male Canadian poet: Beauty without modesty is like a conversation without honesty. I just had to stop and stare because I didn’t understand the analogy at all. Now, modesty can mean numerous things. However, since the poster had the symbol of the Student Discipline and Formation Office (SDFO) and it is currently Discipline Awareness Month, I concluded that the word modesty in the poster is speaking in terms of clothes–most likely highlighting the University’s dress code policy. In relation to that, I find it quite ironic actually. I was thinking, “Wouldn’t it be more ‘honest’ for someone to show more skin because they’re hiding less?”
Of course, I didn’t want to only consider my thoughts on the quote and so, I checked online to see how other people interpreted it. I never thought I’d be using Yahoo Answers as a source, but here is an excerpt of the answer of one user, Jenny Lynne: “Modesty is the quality of not being too proud or confident about one’s self, having a regard for decency of behavior, speech or dress, etc. or simplicity. [The] act of being humble (In other words having the decency to not brag, talk, about one’s self—“over doing it”).” In her interpretation, it’s more of modesty when talking about oneself. I am not entirely sure which meaning the poster was trying to imply, but I have a problem with both meanings.
First, let it be clear that I am not in favor of the dress code policy. I don’t see anything wrong with wearing shorts to class. If someone wants to wear shorts, a tank top, and slippers to a freezing Yuchengco classroom, by all means, be my guest. If that is the outfit that helps the person learn and absorb the lessons more, then who am I to judge? My biggest problem with dress codes, however, is how it feels like they specifically target women. This is not to say that I haven’t seen boys turned away at the gate because their shorts are too short, because I have. It’s just that there are provisions on spaghetti strap tops, tube tops, halter tops, and skirts which are garments not even found in mainstream male fashion.
In society, women are expected to cover up and dress ‘appropriately,’ so as not to attract unwanted attention. Those who do otherwise can expect catcalls while walking down the street and whispers behind their backs. What is wrong with showing some skin? Do other people not possess the organ? And I swear, if someone says it’s to prevent people, most importantly boys, from getting distracted, I would like to ask him or her, why does it matter? Why should someone else be responsible for their focus? Why should I or anybody else adjust because some people can’t control their urges? It’s odd how in the world we live in, people would rather pad up potential victims in ‘protection’ rather than teach the assailant not to attack–as if the latter is the more humane and understandable action.
Moving to a whole new spectrum of discussion, modesty in terms of being humble also irks me. I am not one to brag, and I am not fond of hearing others brag; but I do believe that some people, especially women (check Wiebke Bleidorn Ph.D.’s study on the disparity of confidence levels between men and women across 48 countries), tend to undervalue their skills and accomplishments. No one likes a braggart, but I have seen people not recite, apply, or try for things simply because they don’t believe they are good enough regardless of their skills and experiences. Now, I think that is a problem.
Confidence makes people happier. Confidence makes people successful. Have you ever heard of a celebrity who became famous because he or she didn’t believe in himself or herself? I don’t think so. How much potential and how many opportunities are being curbed just because society expects people to be modest? Why don’t people have the right to talk about the things they work so hard on to hone and develop? Why can’t people be proud of their accomplishments? Why do people end up believing they are less talented than they really are and end up surprised by compliments?
Modesty is a problem word. It tends to constrain and oppress people from fully being themselves, hindering both their freedom and confidence.