"Let Me Dress How I Want, But Don't You Dare Ogle Me"
Lindy West wants it both ways. In an article headlined, "Hey, Girls, ‘Modesty’ Is Bullshit" she says in breath "Ladies. You do not need to be covering up your tittayz" and then says "I am against the hypersexualization and objectification of teenage girls" in a long-winded yet empty complaint against one high school girl starting a Modesty Club at her high school.
"Saige Hatch, 15, launched the South Pasadena High School Modesty Club in September to combat the proliferation of short shorts, miniskirts and bare midriffs. Hatch blames popular culture and peer pressure for sexualizing women and girls."Women have fought for their rights, liberty, and honor more in the past 200 years than in all recorded history," reads a statement on the club's website, www.modestyclub.com. "Our bright, heroic women are being made the fool. A fool to think that to be loved they must be naked. To be noticed they must be sexualized. To be admired they must be objectified."
"Fine, fine, yes, sure, fine. Sounds pretty good so far. I am against the hypersexualization and objectification of teenage girls, and I don't love it when I come downstairs and find my 11-year-old stepdaughter watching The Real Housewives of Gonorrhea Island or whatever. I've done my share of railing against gratuitously "sexy" Halloween costumes. I get it. Also mini-skirts are gross because your vagina touches the chair!!! Unfortunately, further research into the philosophy behind Hatch's Modesty Club makes it clear that this isn't some thoughtful, progressive anti-objectification thinktank—it's more like the South Pasadena High School Slut-Shaming Club, or the South Pasadena High School Uphold the Patriarchy Club. Great.
No, Ms West. This club is not the Slut-Shaming Club; far from it. It is a club dedicated to looking like a student. Asking pledges to wear "shirts and dresses that cover [the] stomach, lower back, breasts and shoulders" sounds like common decency more than it sounds like "slut-shaming." Let's remember that this is about young people aged 14-18. Maybe it's my time spent in South Korea--where the kids come to school in uniforms--but a school is place of learning. It is not about showing off the mid-riff or rocking the latest style trend. No, it's about learning some knowledge and using your brain. School's the great equalizer and to come to school dressed for attention instead of education wastes everyone's time. West would do well to remember that she's talking about a high school club, especially one that essentially restates the dress codes of other US high schools. All this girl's doing is pushing for "neat and clean appearance[s]" it just a bit more, and I applaud her. Having a "neat and clean appearance" stands as essential to the educational process for either sex.The club asks girls to pledge they will "wear shorts and skirts at knee length," "shirts and dresses that cover my stomach, lower back, breasts and shoulders" and "not ask, persuade, or allow a boy to do anything with me that will jeopardize the code of chastity."
Boys have less to worry about, but are called on to keep "a neat and clean appearance" and "maintain the utmost respect and honor for the virtue of girls."
Hatch is right to criticize society for sexualizing young girls. She's right to encourage girls to dress better and to take care of themselves so they can protect their reputations. I saw enough of my peers (male and female) use their bodies to get ahead in high school that I'm glad someone spoke up for it. And yet West sees fit to castigate Hatch for taking the initiative to speak up? Aren't feminists like West supposed to laud young girls for taking action? Apparently not.
West rails against the idea of modesty because she wants a Bizarro world in which people can walk around like Lady Gaga or cavemen (gotta include both sexes) and not take any flak for it anywhere or any time. West may invoke what she surely deems as the evil patriarchy, but truthfully, modesty has its place in the world. She fails to understand that Hatch simply wants people to take stock of how they act and how they appear in public. Hatch's actions show fortitude, and as an educator, I applaud her. She's after students dressing like students, and I think we can abide by that.