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A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,010 ratings  ·  204 reviews
Revised and updated, this fifteenth anniversary edition of A Return to Modesty reignites Wendy Shalit’s controversial claim that we have lost our respect for an essential virtue: modesty.

When A Return to Modesty was first published in 1999, it began an important and much-needed national conversation. Wendy Shalit persuasively argued that modesty is not some hang-
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ebook, 368 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Free Press (first published January 1st 1998)
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Skylar Burris
Jun 29, 2008 Skylar Burris rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women who think they are alone in their secret desire to have only meaningful, committed sex
Shalit's book offers encouragement to women who are unhappy with the way the sexual revolution has buried the concepts of chivalry and courtship in an avalanche of low expectations, leaving women more vulnerable to sexual pressure, harassment, and objectification. She calls both conservatives and feminists equally to task. She wants conservatives to take the claims of feminists about the modern sufferings of women (anorexia, date rape, harassment, etc.) seriously, but she wants feminists to cons ...more
Kressel Housman
Dec 26, 2013 Kressel Housman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young women, especially those entering college
Skylar's excellent review of this book did make me view it a bit more critically, but for the most part, I think Wendy Shalit has portrayed American society with dead-on accuracy. Her main contentions are these:

1. If women would hold themselves to higher standards of modesty and men would hold themselves to higher standards of honor, we would have a much healthier society overall.

2. The reason for such problems as anorexia and cutting amongst girls is not because the girls themselves are sick bu
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Colin
Stupid stupid stupid stupid. But I could have seen that coming I guess. Uses east coast judaism as an absolute point of cultural reference, alienating the midwesterner in me; typecasts men, alienating the gender I associate with; and then talks a ridiculous game about women, alienating my feminist side. I agree with a few of her premises (I think the way we're taught gender relations is kind of fucked up, to say the least) but this book is so goddamned stupid and constructs such ridiculous caric ...more
Ingrid
A like-minded individual would love this book and question none of it. But as one of those "feminists" Shalit refers to somewhat derisively in her book, I could not help but notice Shalit's casual tossing of completely unfounded statements into the core of her arguments. She has some interesting solutions to a problem that is in fact all-too real, but her solutions fail to take into consideration 1. historical fact (for example, her oft-repeated assertion that rape, sexual assault, and harassmen ...more
Emily
Oct 01, 2007 Emily rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks modesty is a virtue!
I had very mixed feelings about this book. I agreed with just about everything Shalit had to say, and I really enjoyed reading about Orthodox Jewish practices and laws, having had almost no prior exposure to them. Her analysis of the culture is dead-on, and I completely agree that modesty is in danger of dying out -- and that abandonment of it is what has placed us in such an amoral state.

That said, however, I just didn't care for the writing style. I felt out of breath every time I picked it up
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Katie
I originally read this book when it first came out. I was a 19 year old and very earnest new feminist and women's studies major. Everyone around me told me this woman was laughable--and at the same time, incredibly dangerous. Perplexed, of course I had to take a look. I was stunned to find that I agreed with her on many points, and shared her discomfort with the way certain things are foisted on us nowadays--advanced sexual knowledge before puberty, "being comfortable with your body," mixed gend ...more
Nicole
Hoorah for Wendy Shalit! I'm glad someone out there has made a great case for not only modesty in dress, but more importantly, modesty in behavior! In a world that tells us that we are equal to men, in every way except anatomy, I'm glad that Wendy was brave enough to uncover the truth. Through extensive research and often-times shocking anecdotes we discover the disintegration of the virtuous woman, and the great need for women young and old alike, to unite forces and dispel the "popular" versio ...more
Mel
First of all, anyone who thinks there wasn’t rape prior to the sexual revolution is either stupid or lying. Secondly, how on earth did such a juvenile, simplistic, poorly researched book even get published? Thirdly, any woman who posits the theory that we should all go back to wearing long skirts and refusing physical contact prior to marriage is betraying women everywhere. This book actually made me angry, and not many books have managed to do that.
Adrienne
Argh.

If it wasn't for the publication of Shalit's most recent book, "Girls Gone Mild," I'd suggest someone tell her to grow up a bit before writing another.

She has some interesting points, but I definitely get a "blame the victim" sense from her regarding her look at the exploitation of women in media and the trend of sexualizing little girls and adolescents.
Zhao Yi
Actually, the sexual revolution was co-opted by the Patriarchy. The entire purpose of the revolution was to acknowledge that a) women have sexual desires and b) the only person who should decide how a woman's sexuality expresses herself is that woman.

Once again, as in this book, it is somehow the responsibility of women to be the gatekeepers and guardians of how men respond to them. "Dress modestly and men will take you more seriously!" it promises, when in all actuality it is putting the onus o
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Seregon O'Dassey
I can sum this book up in 2 words: Victim Blaming.

While there are parts I agree with, I disagree with most of this book. Yes misogynists and chauvinists should be called to task, but the blame should NOT be placed on the sexual revolution or women's liberation. A woman is not a prude if she chooses not to have sex, but by the same token she is not a whore if she does. Clothes do not dictate what a woman does or doesn't want to do. There's nothing wrong with wearing something that makes your feel
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Heather
Shalit's book is an entertaining, engaging, and clear-eyed examination of contemporary culture's perverse and ultimately misogynistic vision of female sexual liberation and the war on modesty.

Refreshingly, Shalit defies the old stereotypes of both conservative and liberal thinking on the subject of gender roles, sex, and sexual violence and makes an extremely well thought-out and balanced argument. In her estimation, both extremes of thought have failed us -- each by insisting that only one gend
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Reader
Another book I really enjoyed was A RETURN TO MODESTY: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit. Published in 2000, I found her insight prescient and a refreshing counterweight to bombardment of exposed flesh that seemed to have reached a crescendo in the summer of 2004. In commenting on this book I must walk a careful line between sounding like a religious zealot demanding women be covered from head to toe and a letch lurking outside the local high school leering at the teenage girls.

Shalit
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Jaclyn
Another of my all-time favorites. I read this book as a college student in a 'clothing' class (not just a sewing class, but so much more...), and was so immediately struck by how much it helped me to explain my own feelings about modesty in a world where that word has almost no meaning anymore. I really, really think this should be required reading for all teenage girls; unfortunately, there are probably many people in this world (including women--who must not really respect themselves for who t ...more
Crystalin
I was impressed by the author's strong stance in favor of modesty. I liked how she took examples that have been offered up as "art" or "literature" or "normal life" and exposed them for what they are: an affront to modesty. The only caution I would give is that this book is definitely written for a more mature audience. Because of the graphic nature of many examples that Shalit offers, the overall good message of the book might be lost to shock for younger audiences. For a book written specifica ...more
L**
Abusenik. Modestynik. Twinkly. Barely 5 pages in, I asked myself: This woman has a degree from one of the most prestigious colleges in the US? Really? How? It isn't just her simplistic, silly language. Her reductionist assertions and sweeping generalizations create a book awash in trivialities and bizarre statements.

I find it problematic that she wishes society wouldn't judge women who choose modesty and sexual purity so harshly when she condemns women who have had affairs or engaged in "hook u
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Yellow Rose
She exposes "sexual liberation" for what it is and how it has disillusioned, confused and harmed women. She swiftly tackles the myth that women were sexually oppressed before the 1960's, she exposes feminist writing that are inherently sexist. No where else in literature will you find as much hatred for women as in the feminist literature, yet feminists perceive to be "helping" women. All that feminism has done is harmed women, its all about destroying the family ladies Wake Up! In summation I w ...more
Logan
This is a book I just finished reading by a 27 year old woman, Wendy Shalit. I thought it was a really fascinating book. It was based on a theory of sorts that immodesty is at the root of many of the problems in todays society. She discussed the importance of gender roles and how it's important to recognize and accept the differences between men and women and not try to make them the same. She uses a lot of articles and letters from popular women's magazines to drive her point home, exposing how ...more
K
Modesty – whoa, there’s a loaded topic.

Modesty is loaded for me in a particular way. As a graduate of an orthodox Jewish girls’ high school where I felt modesty was needlessly shoved down my throat, I tend to have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I keep all the modesty rules I’m supposed to keep, but without the enthusiasm or zealousness my teachers preached. And I often see other graduates of my school fudging or even abandoning these rules, which I tend to interpret as a direct reaction to the
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Guin
As much as I appreciate the rewards of the feminist upheaval - my education, my career in a male-dominated profession, coming into my marriage as an equal - I often think about whether or not there were losses as well. I didn't ask to give up chivalry; and I hate how some men use the idea that courtesy equates to misogyny to slam doors in our faces or even minimize rape into "just a type of bullying".

Wendy has answers for how our culture has become both increasingly free for and antagonistic to
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Rachel Terry
Shalit offers compelling evidence of the harm done to our society from the 1960's sexual revolution and does a remarkable job of deconstructing common attitudes and phrases bounced around pop culture to rationalize our lack of morals and guidance for young people. Shalit is exactly my age, but she wrote this book when she was just 23, which I think is incredible. It's down-to-earth, well-researched, and very well written. In Shalit's view, modesty is a virtue that has protected women's safety, h ...more
sharon
Poorly presented and shoddily researched straw man arguments that amount to little more than victim-blaming ("If women would just be more modest, men would stop raping them!" Um, NO.) I actually assent to a lot of what Shalit says about importance of respect between genders, disgust at horrifying stories of rape culture, etc, but I both start and end in an entirely place from her in regards to where I think these issues come from and what ought to be done about them. Shalit relies too heavily on ...more
Karen
A Return to Modesty is unlike much feminist literature I have read. I really enjoyed the book and the author has made an intriguing contribution to the sex/gender debate. The main issue I have with the book is with Wendy Shalit's use of historial material. She is often very optimistic in her interpretation of men's "chivalry" and protection of women's modesty in previous ages. But nobody really wants to go back to those times. Women have always been subject to pressures due to their perceived in ...more
Kacie
Four and a half stars, really. I think in some ways the title of the book is misleading, because it makes you think that it will discuss modesty in terms of dress. That is just one point in the broader scheme, which is women and standards, or boundaries, or reserve... sometimes referred to as modesty. It was a fascinating read because it was argued from secular feminist perspective rather than a religious perspective.

Shalit's argument is essentially for the value and freedom of women. Her under
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Jen
I loved the ideas presented in this book. The main idea of the book is that the sexual revolution - teaching sex education younger, making women feel at liberty to express themselves in dress and conduct - has really made society worse off than it was before. I thought she had some great points she made throughout the book - we're a society that expects the men to be gentlemen without the women having to be ladies; and the return to modesty won't work with just a few isolated women thinking and ...more
Kelly
This book is not what it appears to be from the title. We read it for book club and had a great discussion. It doesn't have anything to do with how someone dresses but covers a more broad idea of what modesty is. The book explores the idea that modesty is disappearing in society and what the result from this trend are. It was written by a young (I want to say 27 year old) Jewish women. It definitely caused me to consider ideas I hadn’t thought of before. I thought she was a bit redundant however ...more
Tamsin Barlow
2.5 stars.
I read 100 pages, skipped 85 pages, and felt like Shalit was still arguing the same point. This book was overlong, a bit I overwrought and naïve, a polemic lacking scientific rigor, relying on assumptions, anecdotes, philosophers and fashion magazines to persuade. Regardless of it's limitations, I do agree with the book's main themes and feel that her writing may provide an invaluable service encouraging scholarly research on young adulthood. I'll admit I'm a religious person and beli
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Marilou
Mar 04, 2008 Marilou rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Women; most men, teen girls, mothers of girls
Recommended to Marilou by: David Sandifer
Just finished this book and found it compelling from page 1. My generation, the Baby Boomers, (or should I say Baby Bloopers?) were the first American generation to ditch the ideal of modesty en masse. I remember sitting in high school and college class and steeling myself against embarrassment when the conversation became, shall we say, "immodest." I worked to overcome the God-given attitude of modesty so that I would fit in with my culture! In this book, Wendy Shalit calls us all back to the n ...more
Jennifer
This book clearly articulates so many of the concerns I've had about the negative impact the sexual revolution has had on women. I LOVE that she links modesty to male honor and the lack of fidelity and longevity in marriage. This IS NOT a book about hemlines and sleeves, but a thoughtful and powerful book about the way popular culture is destroying our young women. A must, must, must read for anyone who is concerned about the general psychological, social, and emotional well being of society. Th ...more
Nathan Eilers
Shalit takes on the storm of sexuality in our culture and exposes many of its deceptions and the agendas behind them. An extraordinary book. She is always clear, concise, and spot-on. My only critique is that she places too much of the onus of societal change on the women; men need to do their part also.

Longer review: http://ahabsquest.wordpress.com/2007/...
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“Modesty answers not the crude how of femininity, but the beautiful why.” 36 likes
“The best protection against rape, stalking, and domestic violence is to raise men who both understand that women are different, and would never dare take advantage of this difference.” 21 likes
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