I’ve been reading a bunch of “how to be the perfect conservative religious woman” books as research for a few projects. For the most part, said books aren’t generally that bad. Sure, the relationship advice is usually questionable at best, but there are usually good intentions and at least vague points in the right direction and… okay, I really do hate self-help books and the addition of Bible verses does not change that one bit, but most of that genre (at least that I’ve read so far) is at least… not as horrific as it could be, I guess??
But all categories have exceptions, and the first one I’ve found in this particular one is A Return To Modesty by Wendy Shalit.
I almost feel bad writing negatively about that book because like… when it’s good, as it is in places, it’s really good. There’s a chapter about how a significant part of the problem is that we as a culture are not socializing our sons to be decent human beings, which I appreciated and did not expect to find in a book that’s otherwise all “BLAME THE WOMAN!!”. And even when Shalit goes some questionable places, she has extensive citations, so the book isn’t just personal opinion gone awry.
Unfortunately, another of the chapters is devoted to the strangest conspiracy theory I’ve ever come across, which Shalit believes completely – doctors are putting young women on psychotropic medications to take away their natural femininity.
Remember, y’all – I grew up on the fringes of the homeschool movement. I have seen and listened to some weird shit (for example, a longtime family friend is convinced that the iPhone is the Mark Of The Beast). I am usually much more accepting of heartfelt-albeit-unusual beliefs than the average person. But that one?! I just… I don’t have words.
Like, I’ve seen that argument used about why birth control is evil. Not frequently, because people who believe that generally have way more interesting rationale, but I have seen it. Never before about antidepressants, though.
And sure, maybe I’m a bit biased. I’m coming up on six years on-and-off meeds, mostly and currently on, so maybe my particular cocktail’s warped my opinion of everything holy. But like, I’ve heard a lot of the super-religious arguments against the mere existence of mental health issues and… this is still new and bizarre and I can’t even.
Seriously. How damaged does one’s brain have to be in order for one to believe that?!
A Return To Modesty was published in 1999, so hopefully Shalit’s taken some time over the last two decades to reassess some of her views and minimize her confirmation bias, but… I’m not holding my breath, nor do I think the odds are good enough for me to poke around online and find out. Congratulations, though – a nonobservant Jewish woman (not a religious tradition I generally associate with this scale of crazy) managed to impress me with the audacity of her bullshit. Well done, lady, well done.