What does modesty really mean.
To a lot of people, especially, to Christians, it means wearing clothes that don’t show off their body. I’m not here to bash Christianity, I’m a Christian myself. I am here to bash the sexism that the phrase “modest is hottest” implies.
For a couple years I spent a lot of my time on a website called Project Inspired, which is honestly a terrific concept. Project Inspired is basically a site for (mainly) young Christian girls to talk, ask questions, and encourage each other in a godly way. However, I ended up leaving the site because it was just too much. They had an article that would either come out weekly or bi-weekly, I don’t remember. This article was “Modest is Hottest! We Give One Star a Makeover!”
Now, if the only intent of these articles was to provide modest clothing, that would be fine. Honestly I would have liked that. Instead these articles became a way to judge stars on their clothing choices. There was one time I remember that an article came out, and a lot of bashing went onto the star directly, not just her “immodest” clothing.
“When I first saw the ‘Modest Is Hottest’ article, I was quite pleased that Ms. Gaouette was showing young women that it’s okay to dress modestly, that they didn’t have to go with the crowd. By showing PI users pictures of celebrities dressing modestly, you were showing that following your convictions about appropriate dress didn’t make you a loser. I’m all about challenging social norms! However, when I got to the ‘Modest Makeover,’ I felt like the entire purpose of the articles had been turned on its head. First, we were being taught not to be ashamed of our manner of dress, and then we were being told that we SHOULD be ashamed if we dress in a certain way. I felt (and still feel) like this was just creating another ‘crowd’ to be followed, and that’s not right.” (Eurydice)
This Eurydice was one of the girls on the Project Inspired site. Let me tell you, she is fantastic, and I may not always agree with her ways, but I definitely agreed with her in her plight to get the Modest is Hottest section removed or reformed. This is what part of her email that she sent to the writers said. I myself wrote a letter to them, although I don’t actually remember what I said. I do know that my email was never replied to.
An article that she directed me to was “If You Don’t Want Girls Judged by Their Hemlines, Stop Judging Them by Their Hemlines.” This headline stood out to me particularly. One thing in the article that really stood out to me was this quote:
“Telling women to cover it up is just as surely a form of sexual objectification as telling women to take it off. Either way, you’re reducing a woman to her sexuality instead of considering her as a whole person.” (“If You Don’t Want Girls Judged by Their Hemlines, Stop Judging Them by Their Hemlines.”)
A woman is not just how she dresses. She is not defined as how long her skirt is, or how low her shirt is. It doesn’t matter if you can see cleavage, shoulders, or butt. It doesn’t matter. That is not what she is defined as. Wearing those clothes do not, and I repeat, do not, make her a slut. A lot of girls are bashed for their clothing and sex choices. The problem is that no matter what choices a girl makes, she will get bashed. If she wears clothes that are too long or cover up, she’s a prude. If she doesn’t have sex with anyone, she’s still a prude. Now, if she wears more revealing clothes, she’s a slut or a whore. If she’s even slept with one guy, she can still be called a slut. How exactly is this fair?
To me, I don’t see modesty as covering myself up. I see modesty as to why I’m wearing the clothes I’m wearing. Am I trying to look nice? Or am I trying to get guys to stare at my butt.
If I’m wearing shorts that happen to make my butt look nice, but I’m wearing them for the sake that: it’s either hot outside OR that they make me look nice, whoop-de-do. I find that modest. Now, if I’m purposefully trying to make a guy think lustful thoughts about me, and purposefully trying to make it hard on him, then maybe I’m not so modest. I don’t think it’s so much of the clothes, as the reason.
Now, I’m also going to address the issue of girls being blamed for when a guy thinks lustfully about them. I’m sorry, but I don’t care what a girl is wearing, a guy can still think lustfully about them. When I was fourteen I was in soccer with a guy friend of mine. I assumed that because I wore big baggy shirts and big baggy sports shorts that guys wouldn’t think of me in that way, and I liked that idea. Turns out they still thought of me that way. These boys would go into the locker rooms and talk about what girl they would have sex with and whose boobs were bouncing when they ran. I’m sorry, but how the heck is it my fault if they thought that about me? There’s only so tight of a sports bra that I can wear to get my breasts to stop moving.
Maybe girls shouldn’t be taught to cover up, maybe guys should be taught not to look at us as if we’re pieces of meat. It’s the same thing as telling a girl that she was “asking for it” in the way that she dresses. A girl never asks to be raped, if she did, it wouldn’t be rape. A way that she dresses is not an invitation. Modesty isn’t about how or what clothes you wear, but why you wear them.
If I want to wear a dress because it’s fucking adorable, I’m gonna wear it. I don’t care if you assume it’s too short. If I’m comfortable with it, I’ll wear it. If it’s cute, I’ll wear it. I’m not going out to try and make guys look at my legs (why are they so special anyways..?) I’m going to wear them because the dress makes me look goddamn adorable.