Modesty In An Inappropriate Society // Aurelia Gooden, MA, MS

Imagine yourself as a young, unmarried woman living in Iran.  One day, you began to notice a strange, lower abdominal pain.  You suspect that it is a reproductive system problem and you make an appointment for a doctor’s visit.  Upon arriving, the nurse asks you to disrobe, but you find out that the doctor is male and there are no female doctors available.  It is against your religion and culture to be examined by a male doctor, especially before marriage, but there are no other options.  You must decide if you will allow the visit to proceed as planned and possibly ruin your chances for marriage later due to your culture and religion, or leave the clinic not knowing if you have a life-threatening reproductive system issue.

This is an issue for many women worldwide.  Women have varying degrees of modesty and, unlike popular belief, modesty is not simply a fear of being judged by mankind.  It can be a fear of being judged by God.  It can be a fear of turning one’s back on her culture.  It can also be a simple respect for her husband and allowing him to have a special access to her body that no one else has had or ever will have.  Yet, all too often, society expects women to suddenly abandon all religious beliefs and disrobe immediately when a male doctor appears in the examination room.  This expectation has been responsible for the deaths of women due to reproductive system cancers that were advanced by the time that the women were rushed to the emergency room.

There is no easy solution to this problem.  However, even beyond the twentieth century, male doctors have continued to outnumber female doctors in clinics and hospitals.  Therefore, we must reach the next generation by supporting organizations that provide scholarships to women in medicine.  We must also support organizations that provide educational programs to encourage more women to enter the field of medicine.

We cannot and should not try to change the religious and cultural beliefs of any woman. A woman’s body belongs to her and she should be able to decide the circumstances under which it can be viewed. Nevertheless, we can change the expectations of society so that the norm conforms to and provides for the needs of women.  

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