Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Modest is Hottest

"I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me - dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt. It’s nothing to do with protecting the Hermione image. I wouldn’t do that. Personally, I don’t actually think it’s even that sexy. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder. - Emma Watson

I've seen this around on facebook the past few days, with the added caption of "Modest is Hottest" and it kind of drives me crazy.  She never said "Modest is Hottest" and is truly talking about something much different: being her own beautiful self.  This also reminded me of a subject I've been meaning to write about and haven't yet. So here we go.

Here's the thing: "Modest is Hottest" is a huge contradiction. 
mod·est  (mdst)
1. Having or showing a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities, and value.
2. Having or proceeding from a disinclination to call attention to oneself; retiring or diffident. See Synonyms at shy1.
3. Observing conventional proprieties in speech, behavior, or dress.
4. Free from showiness or ostentation; unpretentious. See Synonyms at plain.
5. Moderate or limited in size, quantity, or range; not extreme: a modest price; a newspaper with a modest circulation. (emphasis mine)


1) Having extreme sexual attractiveness. (emphasis mine).
See? How can one be "unpretentious" or "not extreme" in any area while also "having extreme sexual attractiveness"? Modest, ergo, cannot be hottest! And in practice, aside from the linguistic contradiction, this is a problem. Women are told to dress modest to detract attention from males. But if we are hot, are we not attracting their attention as well? So we cover up to be modest and keep those easily swayed men at bay. And then, in being modest, we become the hottest, directly attracting the attention of those same men! What's a girl to do? How can you keep yourself from being a sexual object? For in being modest, you are hottest, which is directly correlated to being sexy and a sexual object of lust.

Another problem I see in this: only women are told "Modest is Hottest." If you were to see two teenagers walking down the street, both in shorts and a tank top, one a boy and one a girl, who is immodest? The girl. They're showing the same exact thing. 

In my experience, I have generally heard men, or boys, saying this phrase. Men are telling women what to do, how to dress, in order for men to find them "hot." Why do women have to dress for men? Can they not dress the way they want? Yes, sometimes covering up is much more sensual than a naked body. But that is something entirely different. There is a beauty to being yourself, that's what Emma Watson is talking about. Not that modest is hottest.  Yet now women are throwing around this phrase that their modest clothes are what makes them so hot. Clearly they are more righteous and more deserving of male attention.

I also have a problem with the young-ness of people bantering about this phrase. I know I was told it once in high school; we went to parent-teacher conferences (rather, my mom did and I went to the basketball game) after dance class and I was in a tank. The tightness of the tank and my dance pants were not the problem. My "undeniably sexy" shoulders were the problem. The boys were the first to say it, but an older sister of one of the boys also chimed in. I couldn't help but think she was jealous as she was a little overweight and I was at my prime. Couldn't they mind their own business? I was promptly given a shirt to wear. And I was wearing appropriate clothes for dance class. I was showing the same amount of skin, or less, than the girls we were watching play basketball. Where was I wrong?

"Modest is hottest" needs to be disbanded from our current jargon. It is a contradiction. It is harmful. And it is  relegates women to being consistently and solely sexual beings.  Aren't we done with that?


  1. Now I feel awkward because I'm pretty sure that I helped put together a page in the high school year book that was titled "Modest is hottest." I can see how the wording may not be correct, but the message they are trying to give is that the kind of men you want to attract will be attracted to your obedience to the commandments and your whole self, instead of just your sexy shoulders and belly and legs or whatever....

  2. To be clear, I do not oppose modesty. Just the sexualization of it and the contradiction within "modest is hottest." I think modesty is great, when you choose to do it for you.