Days after posting his troubling ode to Purity Culture, Christian singer Matthew West has tried to wipe his song “Modest is Hottest” off the internet, deleting it from YouTube and Facebook and getting rid of the clips he posted on Twitter.
Does a copy of the video still exist online? Yes. Yes it does. He’s not throwing it down a memory hole that easily…
The song — which is still publicly up on Spotify (oops) — was described by West as a “light-hearted take on an age-old struggle”… which is a cutesy way to tell young women that their self-worth and ability to attract good men is entirely dependent on whether they cover up their bodies.
The lyrics made it clear that West wasn’t actually joking about his underlying premise, with lines like “What the boys really love is a turtleneck and a sensible pair of slacks,” “All the parents be saying their prayers, that all their girls they be wearing more layers,” and “What the boys really love is a one piece with a raincoat over that.”
It prompted all sorts of well-deserved backlash from people, including Christians, about how a woman’s worth isn’t connected to what she wears, how women shouldn’t be blamed for how men act, and how even dressing “modestly” doesn’t prevent sexual abuse.
For his part, West hasn’t publicly apologized for perpetuating that Purity Culture rhetoric. Instead, he blamed the world for not being amused by his attempt at humor.
— Matthew West (@matthew_west) June 25, 2021
I’m blessed to be the father of two amazing daughters. I wrote a song poking fun at myself for being an over-protective dad and my family thought it was funny. The song was created as satire, and I realize that some people did not receive it as it was intended. I’ve taken the feedback to heart. The last thing I want is to distract from the real reason why I make music: to spread a message of hope and love to the world.
Nowhere in that pseudo-apology does he admit he’s wrong about modesty. He doesn’t say he shouldn’t have tied a girl’s worth to her clothing. He doesn’t acknowledge how he’s contributing to a problem so many evangelicals and exvangelicals have been speaking out against for years.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. As Bob Smietana points out at Religion News Service, “satire” doesn’t always work out so well in Christian circles:
Christian attempts at satire have backfired in the past, most notably in the case of the Babylon Bee, which started out as an Onion-like publication poking fun of evangelical church culture only to become part of the culture wars and fake news disputes of the Trump era.
While West’s video was more of a mistake (compared to the Babylon Bee’s intentional awfulness), it’s clear he still doesn’t really understand why people had a problem with it. It’s not the subject matter itself or a dad’s attempt at humor; it’s the underlying message.
There’s nothing wrong with a woman who chooses to dress conservatively if that’s what she wants, but if she enjoys dressing like Cardi B instead — someone West uses as a foil in his song — then more power to her and to hell with all the men who can’t deal with it in a responsible way.