“Modest is Hottest.” It’s the theme of many “purity talk” nights in youth group, and it was the title of a satirical video Matthew West made last week as he sang about wishing his girls would be “a little more Amish, a little less Kardashian.”
What started as a light-hearted video quickly turned into a typhoon of backlash against the singer. The criticism? That Matthew was perpetuating the dangers of purity culture by putting all responsibility for men’s behaviors on how women dress.
I want to start by saying that I truly don’t believe this was Matthew’s intent. When he first posted the now-deleted music video that featured his daughters, he captioned it by calling it his “ridiculously silly way of reminding them that their appearance doesn’t define them.” He’s a dad to teen girls, and he’s fantastic at coming up with songs for anything. The song almost wrote itself, and I’m not here to criticize Matthew for posting it.
What I do want to focus on is why there was backlash and why “Modest is Hottest” can be problematic, regardless of intent.
When I was in high school, my Christian school divided the boys and girls up for a little purity chat. The girls went into a classroom where a school administrator rolled a giant mirror across the front of the room to show what the view was if we weren’t sitting “properly” in our skirts. We were lectured on how we presented ourselves to the world so that we didn’t cause our brothers to stumble.
I later asked a male friend what the boys talked about in their session.
They played hacky sack.
If you’ve been baffled as to why there’s hurt around “purity culture” or why Matthew West faced backlash for a lighthearted song, that’s why.
It’s because there’s always been a double standard.
It’s because I’ve heard so many female friends tell stories of feeling violated by a man only to get the question, “What were you wearing?” or, “What did you do to encourage it?”
It’s because for some reason, men’s lust has been blamed on how a woman dresses or acts.
Men, I think more highly of you than that. I believe in you to control yourself, no matter what’s put in front of you. I don’t think that there’s a monster lurking beneath the surface that has no option but to come out if a bare shoulder crosses your field of vision.
I already hear the arguments, “But you don’t know how guys think! Guys are visual creatures! God made us this way!”
If we’re going to go that route, God (Jesus) also said to gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin. (Matthew 18:9) You and you alone are responsible for your sins, sexual or otherwise.
It’s not crazy that dads like Matthew West want to teach their daughters to respect themselves and others. That’s a good thing.
The problem comes from a lot of hurting people who are victims to the one-sided messaging. At the end of the day, both men and women are meant to respect ourselves and others. We’re all responsible for our own actions, and each have the ability to practice self-control.
We’re more than our clothing, and what we wear isn’t to blame for someone else’s misconduct. And that’s a message that should go out to our daughters and sons.
Because in a world where more people are stepping away from the church because of church hurt and perceived hypocrisy, it’s time to examine all the areas where we’ve let double standards live for far too long.