Four Months of Modern Issues, So what?

This one goes out to all my Maoliworld ʻohana who have been following the comments of our Modern Issues class... thanks for weighing in on some of our hot topic issues.

So, now weʻve been in this class since September. Iʻm really not sure I understand modern issues in Hawaii any better than when I started, but at least I have a little bit more context. AND... the most valuable lesson coming out of this semester is that we are each otherʻs best resource. Yup. I thought Iʻd be coming to this class to be told ʻhow it isʻ, but no, we pretty much spent the whole time with high-quality talk-story leading the way. Which is not just walaʻau, itʻs how business gets done. Apparently.

Like when we went to the water commission hearings... most of the important stuff was happening OUTSIDE of the forum room, right? Yeah. Thatʻs where business gets done. Disagreements, reconciliation... change is only going to come from us connecting with each other, one-on-one, issue-by-issue.

My favorite news source by far, after perusing many local sources, is (believe it or not) Maui Time Weeklyʻs one-page ʻcoconut wireless. (Click under news on the top bar and choose ʻcoconut wirelessʻ) This gives a ʻhyper localʻ ʻlocalʻ and ʻnot localʻ overview of major issues of the week and their impacts. Itʻs the best ten-cent ten-second news piece around.

I wish weʻd had more time for other perspectives in this class. I was grateful to have Uncle Maka come and give us his star-being born-again-Hawaiian version of the revivalist movement. (If you were there you know what Iʻm talking about).

So thanks everyone for the roundtable discussions. If you need me for help or support on the following issues, these are and always will be my points of strength and interest:

- Deaf/disability access
- Lomilomi and alternative health care
- Water and its use
- Childrenʻs rights

Eliza :)

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Comment by Kaohi on December 13, 2009 at 9:31am
Etymologically linked to the Latin modestus, ‘keeping within measure’, this term originally signified moderation, as in Cicero's ‘golden mean of living’. Gradually, modesty took on the gendered connotation of a sexual virtue particularly important for women. Sixteenth-century writers commonly portrayed women as more lustful and unruly than men, but Christine de Pisan and other early feminists countered such misogyny with evidence of feminine modesty drawn from the historical record and from the female physique: women were by nature more modest than men because their private parts were covered with hair and did not require handling for urination.

Enlightenment theorists maintained such physical rationale and added a political resonance to the modest woman. According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, modesty was a necessary virtue in women because of their physical and sexual weaknesses: only shame could save women from their ‘insatiable desires’. If trained properly as demure wives and mothers, however, women could attain self control and contribute to national unity by channelling their husbands' drives into socially useful pursuits.

In the 1870s, Charles Darwin conceived a theory of female modesty to resolve an enigma left unsolved by his work on natural selection. Long puzzled by the brilliant plumage of male birds and the dowdiness of females, Darwin deduced that such splendour must be necessary to prompt the female to reproduce. Drawing an analogy between human morality and animal behaviour, Darwin concluded that since females are less lustful and more discriminating, males have to be more beautiful. The interval before the modest female surrenders to her preening suitor contributes to the evolution of the species, necessitating an exercise in cultural improvement that favours aesthetic display.

For nineteenth-century sexologists, modesty was a crucial key to female psychology. Many held that women's apparent lack of interest in sex was due to their innate passionlessness or ‘sexual anaesthesia’. Havelock Ellis, on the contrary, claimed that, under her modest façade, every woman held the capacity for sexual feeling — modesty was merely a delaying device to arouse male desire. With an adept partner, any woman might be drawn out of her habitual reticence into the active enjoyment of sexuality.

Standards of public honour, like fashions of dress, have changed dramatically over time. According to early Christian thinkers, the importance of bodily modesty originated in the Book of Genesis. After eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve knew that they were naked, and thus made themselves aprons of leaves. The injunction to cover the body initially applied only to men, because only in men is sexual arousal obvious. But the Church Fathers soon extended the rule to women as well, for their ability to arouse was feared to lead men away from the spiritual. These religious teachings had a direct impact on bodily conduct: from the beginning of the Christian Era until the fourteenth century, European clothing was largely monochromatic and devoid of ornamentation. Both men and women dressed in full-length tunics or robes designed to conceal the body from sight.

But in the middle of the fourteenth century, the rising commercial classes embraced a new style that hugged the body and celebrated its physical attributes. The Renaissance styles — emblematized by the masculine vogue for the short fitted jacket, tight hose, and prominent codpiece, and the snug busts and daring décolletages of women's clothing — symbolized a shift from the medieval preoccupation with the spiritual to an interest in worldly matters. Such sartorial expressivity — associated with aristocratic splendour — would remain popular until late in the eighteenth century, when the political values of the aristocracy were widely denounced. Breeches, the style of trousers favoured by the wealthy because they revealed the shape of the leg, were then rejected in favour of long trousers that symbolized activity and utility. Male attire became desexualized and austere; colour and ornamentation were relegated to women's clothing.

In the nineteenth century, men who wore artistic, expressive clothing were denigrated as dandies and social parasites. Napoléon III decreed that the only attire appropriate for men was the English gentleman's business suit, the riding habit, or the military uniform. The task of expressing the opulent spirit of the age was thus carried out through female fashions. This era heralds the ideal hourglass figure, which required tightly bound corsetry that caused constant discomfort and wreaked irreparable damage on women's bodies.

Standards of female modesty have undergone countless redefinitions over the years, in response to cultural, political, and economic factors. In recent years the concept has been reinterpreted to reflect women's increasingly prominent role in the public sphere and the problematic morality associated with working mothers. Ruth Rubinstein has shown that in eras when women attain public power, female fashions are dominated by elaborate artifice that masks the sites of feminine sexuality and projects a larger-than-life body image. The ‘power suit’ adopted by working women in the 1970s can thus be seen as a modern-day version of the stiff, high-necked masculine bodices and voluminous skirts favoured by sixteenth-century noblewomen in imitation of Catherine de Médicis and Elizabeth I.

Concepts of modesty are determined by cultural as well as historical factors. The reports of missionaries and anthropologists who have lived among ‘primitive’ or nonliterate groups offer many cases of peoples who walk around naked and seem to feel no shame or guilt. Australian Aborigines, for instance, appear indifferent to nakedness but are deeply embarrassed if seen eating. If caught in the fields without her veil, a peasant woman in some Arab countries will throw her skirt over her head, thereby exposing what to the Western mind is a much more embarrassing part of her anatomy.

— Julia Douthwaite


Laver, J. (1969). Modesty in dress. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Rubinstein, R. P. (1995). Dress codes: meanings and messages in American culture. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.
Yeazell, R. B. (1991). Fictions of modesty: women and courtship in the English novel. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL
Comment by Kaohi on December 12, 2009 at 10:11pm
It is sad Eliza, but in time before we had no deaf and disability, but they did have access to another time and place.

Circulation and distribution in modernity did aggregate business as usual for 2009 as far as health care. Both Kai and Wai moved with a force, but the causes were terra too. We must remove children from harmful environments that are contaminated with harmful radiation, should we want to continue sustaniable life on mother earth. Kaohi

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