Is “Modest Is Hottest” The New Black? Let’s Break It Down…

teen-girls

There have been some raging debates on the interwebs recently about the over-sexualization of teen girls on social media, and how some adults are promoting confusing messages.

Most teenagers today are digital natives. Meaning, they have grown up in a world of social media and digital devices from birth, as opposed to the rest of us. It is normal to post all of your after-school activities and lunch time selfies on facebook. For me, the most social I got was writing a hand written note in class and delivering it (you guessed it, by hand) to said person.

These days, thanks to social media, issues like online sexual harassment, cyber bullying, and cyber stalking are very real for children and it is still something that most judicial and authoritative systems are finding out ways to regulate. It is also something that parents have to be aware of and take charge of early on.

There is a phrase that has been circulating called “modest is hottest”. I see it regularly on Christian blogsite for teen girls Project Inspired. Started by former model Nicole Weider, she told us back in 2012 that her mission is to see a generation of girls who truly know their worth in God’s eyes, and not as the world sees women: as sex objects. The site regularly does a “modest is hottest” poll where they show pics of 2 celebrities dressed in a classy manner and ask readers to pick their faves. The idea is that they want to teach girls to dress modestly, and not to flaunt their bodies just to get the attention of boys, that there’s more to life than that. I’m cool with that.

Whether you are Christian or not, it’s awesome to see a young woman who is fighting for young girls’ dignity with a positive motivation. She doesn’t teach them that being sexual is bad, or that they should be ashamed of their bodies. That would be wrong, in fact, that is the very thing that is wrong about that “modest is hottest” phrase.

It is sometimes promoted as a way to teach girls A) that being “hot” should be something to strive for, and B) the only way to achieve said hotness is through modesty. This is where things can go wrong, and messages get skewed in a dangerous way.

An example of that being taken out of context and delivered in a harmful way to teen girls is the case of the Principal at Lakeland Senior High School in Florida. Arthur Martinez apparently addressed his assembly of students recently to tell them “Modest is hottest” and “boys will be boys” in an attempt to tighten up dress code standards.

One female student and blogger Marion Mayer was so outraged by the ridiculous message he was sending out, she basically schooled him on his ignorance on her blog, which also went viral. (Gotta love being a digital native, their messages have the chance to go viral, unlike ours back in the day!)

She responded with incredible maturity and logic. It’s not hard to see why Mr. Martinez not only refused to comment to the media, but couldn’t even give her a worthy response in person.

“You are literally sending the message to young girls, who are already struggling with self confidence, that hiding their body makes them more attractive. You are establishing a sense of shame in these young, developing minds and bodies. A human has the right to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. Showing less skin doesn’t make you any more attractive,” she starts off.

“At what point in your career did you find it appropriate to define my “hotness”? Why are you at all concerned with how “hot” I am? You are teaching us, through modesty, to be objects of sexual arousal. I’m sorry, but I don’t dress myself to look “hot” for anyone. I dress myself as a way of expressing myself and my body.”

Now keep in mind, she is not condoning dressing sexy if she so chooses, she is pointing out the major flaw in the way the principal presenting this phrase, putting all the responsibility on the girl and telling boys they can do whatever they want.

“When the few people that do sexually harass people happen to be male and you use the excuse “Boys will be boys.” you are not only excusing their behavior, you are condoning it. It’s this “Boys will be boys.” mentality, culture, and attitude that condone sexual assault. Whenever the excuse “Boys will be boys.” is used, it’s just an exercise of male privilege. It’s this attitude that condones sexual assault. You are giving them a free license that makes it okay for them to be sexually violent, that says “Well I’m a boy, it’s just who I am.”

“The false idea that men can’t control themselves is so unfair and completely ridiculous.”

After Marion’s post got the attention of the media, she was called to the principal’s office to discuss it with Mr. Martinez, and the most pathetic part is that, according to her blog update, he didn’t even want to read her post or hear her points. However I have no doubt he went home and read it, because he would literally have to be the world’s biggest imbecile and wrongly appointed principal if he didn’t.

“I asked him what he meant by the phrase “boys will be boys” and he explained that if a girl is inappropriately dressed that it can lead to inappropriate, sexual touching and staring (sexual harassment). If a boy chooses to sexually harass someone, it’s his choice no matter what his gender is.”

He also went on to demonstrate that he should not be given a platform to spread any sort of messages to teens anywhere, because he apparently thinks in general, all boys are more aggressive and all girls are reserved, and so that is why he feels the need to tell girls to dress modestly, because boys just can’t help themselves.

modesty

Wow. What a sad tragic world we live in when a guy like this doesn’t even realize his words are giving hundreds of boys in a Florida high school the green light and justification for sexual assault on a girl. Good job Mr. Martinez!

While I could spend more time talking about everything that is wrong with this guy’s message, you get the idea. Someone is blatantly taking it out of context, and in one fell swoop demonizing girls for the way they dress and giving the confusing message that they need to aspire to “hotness” and telling boys it’s ok to assault a girl if they dress like that because that’s just the way they are built.

On the flip side, I have also read the “modest is hottest” plea from a couple of mothers, who give some very good, and sound reasons why girls shouldn’t just aspire to “flaunt it” if they’ve “got it”.

A popular blogger and friend of mine, FaVe Mom writes about her own daughter’s struggles with modesty.

“Let me tell you why my teenage daughter will dress appropriately regardless of how angry it makes her. In 2007, the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls linked early sexualization with mental-health problems of girls and women. They are the three most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

I like where this is heading…

Instead of just blaming the media, fashion and advertising industries, FaVe Mom points out that the ultimate responsibility lies with parents and the messages they teach their kids.

“What parent thinks, ‘I wish my child looked like a hooker today. That’s cute!'”

“Seriously, you can blame companies but I’m putting the blame where it belongs. On the parents that allow their children to look like street walkers because they think it’s cute. I’m putting the parents on blast. NEWS FLASH AND PSA: NOT CUTE! NOT SEXY! TRASHY!!! Idiotic parents that think dressing their children like hookers is cute are the ones that allow these companies to continue making sexy lingerie and pumps for kids.”

“Someone has to say enough is enough. Not fashion stores, not celebrities, and not teenagers that think they know better and are adults. No the actual adults have to say enough is enough and that’s you, the PARENTS!!!”

OK so if the responsibility lies with the parents first and foremost, then that is a lot of pressure to get it right. But seriously it couldn’t come from a better source: from someone who cares and loves for these young humans more than a teacher, a celebrity, the media or even a friend.

teen-girl-selfie

Here is another blog post which went viral. It was written by a mom of teenage boys who was so sick of seeing the girls at their school post scantily-clad pics of them on social media. Mrs. Hall is a mom who monitors all the social media use of her teen boys, and instead of just brushing these girls off as little ignorant sluts, she used the opportunity to give them positive reinforcement.

She was disturbed to see pictures of girls without a bra on, draped only in a towel after having a shower, and posing in suggestive ways in their bedrooms. I mean, c’mon, these are not the types of pics anyone should be posting on social media, let alone a teen girl!

Before telling them what’s wrong with their pictures, she calls them “insightful and often very funny.” Always good to start off with positive reinforcement.

“That post doesn’t reflect who you are at all! We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart. But, we had to cringe and wonder what you were trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to say?”

“I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you? Neither do we. We’re all more than that.”

“I know that sounds so old-school, but we are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

“Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake, RUN to your accounts and take down the closed-door bedroom selfies that makes it too easy for friends to see you in only one dimension. You are growing into a real beauty, inside and out. Act like her, speak like her, post like her.”

Now this is how the message “modest is hottest” should be handled. I don’t even think the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” should come into play in any young woman’s life before she is an adult and can navigate cultural messages with maturity and realize the bigger implications of sexualization.

Modest is hottest is a good message. Why? Because it should be intended to show girls that they are worth more than just what their bodies look like and are not on this earth simply to exist as one-dimensional sex objects. Their value comes from their intelligence, their kindness, their drive, their ambition, their love, their care and other like-minded attributes. And that is the only type of “hot” that should be preached. That it is more important to be smart than it is pretty.

Dear girls. Let’s do away with all the confusing messages and re-evaluate who we are as humans. We have so much to contribute to the world, more than just our looks. I truly hope this post resonates with someone. Anyone!

To all the moms out there. Keep fighting the good fight, and be responsible for ensuring your daughters grow up in a world excited for the possibilities their face as young women, not as victims of a cycle of depression, eating disorders and self-loathing.

 

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