Virtuous Women Hand to Hand

Merriam-Webster defines Virtue as follows:

1 a: conformity to a standard of right: morality b: a particular moral excellence; 2: plural: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy; 3: a beneficial quality or power of a thing 4: manly strength or courage, valor; 5: a commendable quality or trait: merit; 6: a capacity to act: potency; 7: chastity especially in a woman

  I especially like number 1 because it is so ambiguous. A woman of virtue conforms to an established standard of right.

My question as I contemplated the definitions is who defines right for the rest of us? Am I only virtuous if I conform to the vague standard that others establish? What should I do if I believe these standards are counter to my best interest as a woman? Do I simply ignore them and live my life in my own best interest, outside of social boundaries? Should I silently allow others to cast aspersions on me because I do not agree to their definitions?

Is there a super-secret list somewhere?

I wondered about this and so went looking, my curiosity was aroused, what I found was enlightening.  Originally, there were four Virtues Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance these came down to us from Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of Christianity, they were expanded to including four Cardinal and three theological virtues to offset the seven deadly sins.

  1. Chastity <=> Lust
  2. Temperance <=> Gluttony
  3. Charity <=> Greed
  4. Diligence <=> Sloth
  5. Patience <=> Wrath
  6. Kindness <=> Envy
  7. Humility <=> Pride
 

Wapedia.mobi

 

Acelebrationofwomen.com

After looking at the list, I searched for how these might directly apply to women today. The search was long and aggravating, all to often running into the historical references and more general terms, I even found reference to more modern video games. Eventually, what I found was women and the application of any virtue usually came back to Chastity, Obedience (huh?) and other strange manipulations to fit expectations of how women should behave within the context of religious characterizations. Historically, virtue was intended to carry women unerringly from their father’s house to their husband’s house to widowhood.

     

My Fathers House

Medieval Practice of Giving away the Bride

All Images Google

Widows Weeds

This took my mind down the path of what about?

What about the duality of expectations between the genders, something that despite all the other social / economic and cultural changes remains consistently set in our minds. Why must women be chaste yet men need not be. Okay, let me rephrase the question, why is it that if women are unchaste there are distinct classifications (slut, bitch, whore, ho) which are lightly to extremely uncomplimentary, while if men pursue an unchaste lifestyle they do not qualify as anything other than STUD, with a wink and a nod.

Why is obey still an option in wedding vows? Sometimes not an option at all but a mandatory part of the vows a woman must recite. Would most men consider including this particular piece in their vows to their future wives? Somehow I suspect the answer is no. I am aware many women choose not to include it in theirs, but the fact remains it is still there. There are even national figures, women who stand in the spotlight of our political debate today who say  with pride they ‘obey’ their husbands and follow they ‘commandments’ in things as crucial as career choice and body privacy.

I am a woman of compassion. I have merit in my own right for my accomplishments. I have the capacity to act for good or ill and try always to act for good. While I do not have manly strength, I have strength, courage and valor. I am a survivor; truly, I am a victor over circumstances that might have left others bereft of joy in life. I know many other women like me; other women who have managed to thrive in a society that does not often look upon us with gladness or welcome us warmly to the hearth fire.

Women and virtue, are these still relevant today? I think they are but perhaps not in their original meanings. How do we then define the virtues so they are easily understood and capture the essence of who and what we are.

I struggled with the direction of this blog for the past week. This is the direction I am taking for now. I hope you follow and offer your thoughts.

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