Modest is hottest …?

Sharon Hodde Miller at her.meneutics writes:

How ‘Modest Is Hottest’ Is Hurting Christian Women

…I still wholly affirm modesty as a biblical practice for men and women, but now I hesitate to embrace the “modest is hottest” banner. Those three words carry a lot of baggage. The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.

This particular approach to modesty is effective because it is rooted in shame, and shame is a powerful motivator. That’s the first red flag. Additionally concerning about this approach is that it perpetuates the objectification of women in a pietistic form. It treats women’s bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden. It is the other side of the same objectifying coin: one side exploits the female body, while the other side seems to be ashamed of it. Both sides reduce the female body to a sexual object.

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Hoddes makes some good points. But her article makes me wonder how her part of Christendom got their definition of “modesty” whittled down to something about bodies? That sounds like the way some folks’ “Christian Morality” consists solely of “No Gay Marriages.”

Modesty is the winsome virtue of not seeking attention. It’s an opposite to arrogance, brazenness, conceit and egotism. Modesty is the virtue of keeping your virtues private — being known by others for what they experience of you, not for what you say or display about yourself.

Dressing modestly doesn’t mean body-consciousness or covering your shameful harlotry; it means dressing in a way that doesn’t seek attention. What’s the point of obsessing over whether you look too sexy, if your dress and mannerisms still say “Hey, look at me”?

Modesty is attractive in that it says you’re not so needy you require affirmation and approval. It’s a kind of humble strength that suggests you would make a good, wise friend — or maybe a spouse capable of love without manipulation.