Monday, January 28, 2008

What determines modesty?

I've been having an interesting discussion on another group about women covering or trying to reveal as little as possible of their breasts while breastfeeding.

There seems to be quite a large cohort that feels that thinking a woman should try to be as "discreet" as possible is an innately "anti-breastfeeding" view. Some even think that by covering up while nursing, women are prolonging the culture's view that the act or at least the body part is somehow dirty or shameful.

This has got me thinking about modesty in general.

Modesty varies so much from culture to culture, and obviously from gender to gender. In some cultures showing one's hair or an ankle is considered racy, while in other cultures nudity is the norm and is not considered sexual at all.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on a few things:

1. What determines modesty in a given culture?

2. What factors bring about changes in the culture's standards of modesty?

3. Should we, in general, try to remain within the standards of modesty of the culture in which we find ourselves, or are there sometimes good reasons not to do so? What would be some examples of good reasons not to, if you think they exist?

4. Is there ever an absolute right and wrong for standards of modesty (i.e. are some standards wrong because they result in abuse or discrimination or because they are simply unreasonable and/or unfair, or is showing certain body parts always wrong regardless of culture)?

5. How much does context determine whether showing a certain body part is appropriate or not, within a given culture? Does the attitude, reason and intent for showing a body part make a difference, or is there purely a clinical, quantifiable standard based on what body part is being shown? Are there situations where unavoidable or necessary exposure of a particular body part would be fine, while purposefully and unecessarily exposing that body part would not be ok? If so, where and how would you draw a line?

6. Why do you, personally, make the choices you do when it comes to modesty?

If you have any other ideas of points to discuss on this topic, feel free to add them. BTW, I'm not necessarily discussing law so much as common practice or what people think "should" be done, but I wouldn't be opposed to a discussion of the ethics of legislating modesty.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Giving to Charity is Profitable?

I have barely read the entire article, let alone tried to find holes in their statistics/logic, but I find the possibility intriguing.

It reminds me of an article I read not too long ago that looked at the differences between the way the rich give and the way poor and middle class people give. The basic premise was that rich people give to preserve their way of life (e.g., symphony and museums) while middle class and poor tend to give to help others with more immediate/tangible needs. Sadly, I don't have a link to that article to see if there is any overlap and perhaps there wouldn't be, since the first study also looked at the giving of time (in addition to money) to see if the correlation held.


Awhile ago I blogged about Russia's population crisis and the bizarre holiday that resulted from this problem. I wrote at the time that I was skeptical the holiday would have any effect because I saw the problem as "a fundamental lack of hope in society and an unchecked march toward cultural suicide."

Apparently, I was seeing the glass as simply half empty while others see this attitude as portending great hope for our planet. Silly me.

Even though I profoundly disagree with these folks' assessment of our situation here on planet earth, I found their ideas interesting to read about. Honestly, though, I have much more respect for the second couple than the first. The first couple strikes me as hypocrites and probably dishonest, while the second couple strikes me as much more sincere and consistent in applying their philosophy.

Reading this article again raised the question for me of why Russia is implementing these featured couple's ideal demographic situation on a nation-wide scale? Personally, I doubt the average Muscovite is truly out to save the planet. Here is my list of possible causes.
1) Saving the planet
2) Improving one's standard of living
3) Not seeing children as worth the hassle
4) Not being confident of one's ability to provide
5) Not seeing hope for the future and not wanting to bring a child into a hopeless world.
6) Your idea.

What am I missing? Are there other reasons that you can think of? Which reason/combination of reasons do you think is driving the drop in fertility in A) Russia and/or B) Western society? Honestly, I have a tough time imagining what would drive such societal trends, since I see children as the greatest joy/hope on earth and wouldn't mind having a whole passel of them. So, please, those of you closer to this pulse (or more able to imagine/envision what would drive it), clue me in. I just don't get it.


HT: Mission Territory who also has a great review up about the book "The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues"