swimsuit video spurring vibrant discussions on modesty on Facebook and elsewhere, I would like to offer my concerns behind an oft-hackneyed phrase reiterated among Mormon and other Christian youth: "Modest is Hottest."
This may be surprising for some: "modest is hottest" is a seemingly innocuous (and catchy) phrase that can drive women to cover their bodies properly. Moreover, I recognize that most who say it do so with good intentions behind it. So what are the underlying problems?
1. It is still reducing women to simply a body. As I explore in a previous post, women have primarily been judged by their level of attractiveness. Today's women are generally in a much better position to be judged by their intellect, rather than their physique, than ever before. Yet phrases like this one reverts to this historical problem, forcing women to largely define themselves by how they look and what they do (and don't) wear .
2. Women should dress modestly only to gain male attention. Equating modesty with "hotness" reinforces the notion that women are only a societal relation to men (a historical problem that I explain in an earlier post). I enjoyed this post from "Beauty Redefined," explaining that women should dress modestly primarily as a means for empowerment and benefit to themselves. As I have stated before, I view the body as a divine stewardship, and I seek to show my respect and love for God through covering myself appropriately.
3. The phrase restricts modesty's definition to refer to the body alone. I've come to realize that modesty is much more than hemlines, necklines, and the degree of tightness. It means demonstrating a sense of propriety in my manner of speech and behavior. It is showing a sense of humility, rather than pretentiousness, when experiencing achievement. Modesty is about acquiring a sense of refinement, as well as an unassuming nature. Covering the body appropriately, while important, does not capture the overall essence of what modesty really means.
4. It teaches women to perceive their body in a negative way. Teaching women that it is "hot" to cover themselves propels a sense of shame about their body. We don't cover our bodies because we are ashamed of this God-given gift. As Mormons, we teach the body as being a temple, or a sacred space where the Holy Spirit can dwell. Women can be taught that seeking to dress modestly can strengthen their relationship with God, as they are seeking to view it as God views it.
I don't know another cutesy catchphrase that succinctly captures my thoughts on this subject. But I hope that we can reconsider how modesty is taught.