In an effort to get women to quit exposing their bodies in the wrong way, there’s a new body image philosophy out there now called “Modest is Hottest.” The message aims to let girls and women know that they don’t have to wear revealing clothing, show quite so much cleavage and even do things like post nude or semi-nude photos of themselves on social media to get attention and approval of their bodies. And while the idea here is admirable, not everyone thinks this is a body-positive message. In fact, Lexie Kite and her twin sister, Lindsay Kite, founders of the Beauty Redefined Foundation which aims to help girls and women navigate the often negative media messages about body image, say “modest is hottest” actually perpetuates negativity about our bodies. So we sat down to talk with them to find out why.
There is obviously a trend today where women and girls feel like their worth is tied to their body. Why is that?
Through Beauty Redefined, Lindsay and I are able to teach people about the world we are growing up and growing older in – a world surrounded by profit-driven media’s fixation on bodies – from “Perfect Your Parts, Perfect Your Life!” billboards to always-photoshopped magazines and TV obsessed with judging what women wear and how much cellulite they have. Get this: The average person spends four to six hours a day watching TV and movies. Do the math and that means by the time we reach age 70, we will have watched seven to 10 years of TV and movies alone! Our research and the work we cite tells us the messages we get from those sources–not just the advertising,but the “entertainment”–powerfully shapes how we see our reality. Our feelings about everything including our bodies, beauty, worth, potential, etc. are formed as our media choices whisper (and often YELL) what we should believe about ourselves. Most often, those voices tell us women are to be valued for their sexual appeal and thinness, they should spend their lives striving for those ideals, and they cannot be loved and desired without reaching those goals (which are unattainable). No wonder girls learn to display their bodies as something to be looked at.
Some females even go so far as to dress in very revealing clothing or post nude photos of themselves online–why do you think they do that?
Once a girl is introduced to this inescapable culture of women as bodies, first and foremost, she will be taught to spend her lifetime focused on fixing the parts of her that are not “ideal,” and emphasizing the parts of her that she has been told give her power. Last year, the Institute on Gender in Media found that among children’s G-rated movies, of the females characters that exist, the majority are highly stereotyped and/or hypersexualized. Startlingly, the female characters in G-rated movies wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as the female characters in R-rated movies. So is it any wonder that young girls post revealing pictures of themselves and wear revealing clothing for attention, or that grown women do?
There has been discussion about the philosophy “modest is hottest” when it comes to encouraging women how to dress. First of all, how do you define modesty?
The stance Beauty Redefined has on the definition of modesty is that it varies from person to person and that must be taken into account. But when we fixate on the inches showing, we are missing the point. When we judge girls and women for the skin they are or are not showing, we are minimizing them to their bodies and repeating the same lies that females are only bodies in need of judgment and fixing. We are even perpetuating the shame-inducing belief that female bodies are sinful and impure, and must be covered to protect boys and men who can’t be held responsible for their thoughts or actions.
It’s time to stop shaming people into covering themselves and start teaching truths that need shouted from the rooftop: We are capable of much more than being looked at! We are more than bodies. When we begin believing that, we begin acting like it, and female progress in every imaginable way will move forward.
I know you are opposed to the “modest is hottest” stance–why is that?