With the recent floodgate-opening of “sexual harassment/assault cases” since surfacing of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and others in Hollywood, college campuses, and other settings and workplaces — to get a feel from local people concerning the opinion that follows, on Oct. 30, the writer visited members of the Congregate Meal Program at the Calvin Coleman Community Center in Ellisville on old Roosevelt School campus, where women expressed mixed feelings about Donna Karan’s comments about women vis-a-vis the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The writer’s questions adhered strictly to Karan’s comments on “women’s dress,” not the allegations against Weinstein. The allegations and “dress” are totally separate issues.
Save a young female helper, respondents were Karan’s generation. One male was in the group. All expressed that men have no rights to violate and transgress women under any circumstance. But, the caveat is, though women should be able to dress how they please, respondents expressed, women ought not skimpily, seductively, sensually, salaciously, sexually and provocatively dress to allure men like seductresses, harlots and strumpets. Respondents pointed out several cases illustrating the way some females dress — a lot of flesh exposed, “skin-tight,” dresses too short, like “dangling raw meat before hungry lions” — bordering on nudity in some cases.
As one respondent queried, “What do you expect men to do?” The highly poignant fragrances and almost nudity enhance poet John Dryden’s “bait.” As American humorist Moses Adams noted, “I see the devil’s hook, and yet cannot help nibbling at his bait.” As Dryden admonished, “Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.” Recall evangelical President Jimmy Carter in 1976 saying, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do and God forgives me for it.”
As one lady asked, “What do you expect men to do” with all of this enhanced temptation — way beyond what is natural and biologically reasonable? Modesty used to be the answer. English writer/dramatist Edward Moore, in 1756, wrote: “The maid who modestly conceals/ Her beauties, while hides, reveals;/ Give but a glimpse, and fancy draws/ Whatever the Grecian Venus was.” Modesty is what Karan alluded to Oct. 8 on how women display themselves. Exposed “bosoms” once were covered like “bottoms.”
Salacious, licentious dress by many women has gone too far. They are “flaunting what they got, letting it all hang out.” In 1656-57, French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: “St. Augustine teaches that there is in each man a Serpent, an Eve, and an Adam. Our senses and natural propensities are the Serpent; the excitable desire is Eve; and the reason is the Adam. Our nature tempts us perpetually; criminal desire is often excited; but sin is not completed til reason consents,” as President Carter attested.
Modesty once was the countervailing force that staved off temptation, until commercialization of femininity and modeling female sensuality became preeminent. As French novelist Honeré Balzac (1799-1850) wrote, “Modesty is the conscience of the body.” English Bishop Jeremy Collier (1650-1726) added, “Modesty was designed by Providence as a guard to virtue …” And, Athenian orator/statesman Demades (380 BC-318 BC) proclaimed, “Modesty is the citadel of beauty and virtue.” Wisely, American theologian Nathaniel Emmons (1745-1840) admonished, “Make no display of your talents or attainments; for everyone will clearly see, admire, and acknowledge them, so long as you cover them with the beautiful veil of modesty.” Modesty “… is the appendage of sobriety, and is to chastity, to temperance, and to humility as the fringes are to a garment.” Modesty inhibits overly titillating Eros (Serpent and Adam).
The female sexagenarians/septuagenarians at the Center shared anecdotal experiences of seeing exaggerated immodesty, and, for the most part, they agreed with Karan’s original comments. However, not until further discussion ensued, they agreed to her comment, “They’re asking for it.” As lewd, lascivious, salacious, sensual, licentious and alluring dress was discussed in details, what it does, they contextualized Karan’s original comments — too “sexy,” exciting Pascal’s “Serpent.”
The writer agreed with Karan’s original comments from the outset. At 69 years of age, mother of a successful-business daughter, plus 353 million dollars in her purse, with residences in New York, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and, yet, considered a leader in the designing industry — from the catbird seat — her vantage point fosters her opinion that ruffled some feathers from the “Big Apple” to “Tinseltown.”
And, from Hollywood to New York, a backlash of glitz, glamor, immodesty, movie stars and the American film industry brought pressure to bear on Donna Karan in a skewed way. Ignoring women’s immodesty, the celebrity world and media personalities like Megyn Kelly ignore the bigger, intricate picture way beyond the Harvey Weinstein ilk, and scathingly castigated Karan as “against women,” who are wearers of the likes of Jennifer Lopez’s super revealing green Versace and Emily Ratajkowski’s black Versace, exposing “boobs” and legs that, in a frame online — in The Sun, A News UK Company — a big White male onlooker seemed mesmerized watching Emily at a party in Paris in July 2017 — type of scene to which Karan alluded. It is the “raw meat” analogy.
Karan’s opinion was right. As members at the Center illustrated, a silent majority agreed. But, under socioeconomic pressures, she recanted her original assertion after the scathing backlash from Hollywood to NYNY, that her views on modesty hurt women.
As Thomas Paine asserted, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis shrink from.” deep-lying postulates under socioeconomic pressure. Karan deserted her principles under criticism.
At 69 years of age, Karan knows the ropes. As a shrewd entrepreneur and “one of the most famous New York designers of all times,” she is familiar with the lifestyles of Hollywood and New York stars and aspiring-to-be-stars and their dress and acts to reach their goals — sometimes “by any means necessary” — sex, hook or crook, dog eat dog.
So, based on her professional experience — since childhood days around celebrities with her designer mother, and, haberdasher/tailor father — Karan would say, alleged victims, “may have been ‘asking for it’ by the way the women act and dress. … I think we have to look at ourselves, … but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?” Look at the “J-Lo” and Emily Ratajkowski “wannabe’s.” Widespread sensuality induces perpetual slaves to prurient interests.
Now, from her vantage point, Karan’s questions did not “just pop out of the blue.” As Ramsey Lewis sang in 1965, “I’m in with the in crowd/ I go where the in crowd goes/ …I know what the in crowd do.” Her questions are experiential/empirical. So, Karan’s comments are well-founded. Her questions of “sensuality and sexuality” and super ex-posed bodies warrant discourse on remedy. Fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and decent-minded men ought to stress modesty in view of the crisis of “sexual harassment.” Hence, cause and effect of salacious dress and behavior–as a topic–ought to be discussed and considered in terms of Pascal’s “Serpent, Eve and Adam.” Like promiscuity, teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births lead to poverty and degeneracy.
Harvey Warren lives in Laurel.