Last week, the internet was buzzing over the latest controversy.
(Shocker right?? When is the internet NOT buzzing over some controversy?)
And this time it happened to be Matthew West’s recent song “Modest is Hottest.”
Now I’m not here to take sides on whether the song was good, bad, or mediocre as far as messages go. I get the feeling it was mainly intended as humor/satire (he says as much in this article), but I don’t know the man personally and I don’t make any claims to read his mind.
What I want to talk about right now isn’t the song itself, but the actual phrase “Modest is Hottest” which is NOT original to West. It’s been floating around the Christian community for a few years now, and honestly, it’s one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard.
Let me explain.
First off, the phrase is patently untrue. And I don’t just mean it’s untrue by experience (though I think most of us know deep down that wearing less clothes looks “hotter” than wearing more). I mean it’s untrue by definition. And you don’t have to be a word nerd like me to figure this out. Anybody with a dictionary and a light grasp of logic should be able to see it. (Am I having a small rant? Yes. Yes I am. Don’t mess with words people. Words are my passion.)
In the Cambridge English Dictionary, Hot (in this context) literally means “Sexually Attractive”.
Meanwhile, the same dictionary defines Modesty as “The quality, in women, of dressing or behaving in such a way that is intended to avoid attracting sexual interest.” (emphasis mine)
Did you catch that? According to the dictionary, to look “Hot” means you are attracting sexual interest, and to be “modest” means you are NOT attracting sexual interest. That means that “Modest is Hottest” literally translates as:
“Clothing that is NOT sexually attractive is sexually attractive.”
People, this is the definition of a nonsense sentence. Have you ever heard of something being “True by definition?” It refers to a sentence like “Frozen water is ice.” or “Bachelors are unmarried men.” They are automatically true because they are literally just expounding on the definition of a word.
Well, “Modest is Hottest” could be classified as “False by definition.” It’s like saying “Frozen water is non-frozen water.” WHAT?
You cannot take a thing and define it as both sexually attractive, and NOT sexually attractive at the same time.
But even if we ignore all that and pretend it makes logical sense, I still have to ask…What the heck are they even trying to say here? Is attracting sexual interest a good thing or a bad thing? “Modesty” in this definition implies that I should dress modestly in order to AVOID being sexually attractive. Presumably because being sexually attractive is BAD, right? And yet the incentive it gives me for for being modest is that doing so makes me MORE sexually attractive. Which means….sexual attractiveness is now the goal??
You can’t have it both ways, people. You can’t make sexiness both the goal and the thing to be avoided. We can debate whether looking sexy is good or bad. We can debate whether modesty is “best” or “most beautiful” or “more God-honoring” or whatever. Those are all things that could be discussed. But you CAN NOT argue for modesty by claiming it is “hottest.”
As a Christian, I do believe that modesty is a good thing, for both men and women. Not just sexual modesty (which is actually rarely addressed in scripture) but also modesty with our wealth (1 Tim 2:9), in our behavior, etc. Modesty in this sense is closely linked to humility. Christians are called to be humble, NOT to spend our time flaunting ourselves (whether what we are flaunting happens to be our body, our money, our intelligence, or whatever). We should be drawing people’s attention to Christ, not to ourselves.
SO. That being the case, if I truly am desiring to be modest/humble as a Christian, than being “hot” shouldn’t be my main goal in the first place. The goal of my life isn’t to be sexually attractive, it’s to be conformed to the image of Christ and exhibit the fruits of the spirit. “Modest is Hottest” tells me I should be modest in order to attract men’s attention, but spending my energy on attracting men’s attention is absolutely NOT what I should be focusing on as a Christian woman.
In other words, “Modest is Hottest” is false in every possible way. False by experience, false by definition, and terribly false as a goal for Christian women.
It’s not helpful, it’s not truthful, and it’s not biblical. It is a meaningless, self-contradictory collection of words that does absolutely nothing to promote a truly Christian worldview.
We need to read our bibles (and our dictionaries) and stop talking nonsense.