A teenager’s call for her peers to lose their tight or revealing outfits and show restraint in their dress has prompted city officials to declare Dec. 3-7 Modesty Week in South Pasadena.
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.
Hatch is following in the footsteps of older brother McKay Hatch, who made national headlines and appeared on “The Tonight Show” after founding a No Cussing Club at the school in 2008.
South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti, who will proclaim Modesty Week during Wednesday’s City Council meeting, declared a No Cussing Week in March 2008 to honor McKay’s efforts.
Brent Hatch, a real estate agent and cousin of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who is father to Saige, McKay and five other children, said he initially was hesitant about his children taking their campaigns public for fear of the backlash they would face.
“It’s nerve-racking. As a parent you want your kids to fit in and get along with other kids,” said Hatch, 50. “I told my son what might happen, and everything I said happened and worse.”
McKay Hatch received threatening or profane telephone calls and emails at the height of attention for the No Cussing Club. Surprise pizzas and unrequested service calls came to the house in the middle of the night. The family briefly was forced to stay with relatives after receiving a bomb threat.
A week after Saige started the Modesty Club, vandals egged and left graffiti on her father’s van, she said. The website has also received a few nasty messages.
“Some people get angry about it,” Saige said. “I’m just trying to bring awareness. I’m not trying to force anyone. Obviously, they have their right to choose.”
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.”
The guidelines are more strict than the dress code at South Pasadena High, which among other prohibitions requires that skirts extend at least halfway between the hips and knees.
In addition to digital members around the world, 17 South Pasadena High students have signed up for the Modesty Club, said Saige.
Seven students actively attend meetings. Except for Saige’s brother Dakota, a junior, all are girls.
Saige said the group aims to petition against sexualized images of women and is planning a local shopping excursion to explore alternative fashion choices.
Cacciotti said he believes in people’s right to dress as they wish, but he supports Saige’s call to resist social pressures.
“Encouraging people to dress with dignity and respect and modesty is a good option” said Cacciotti. “Part of this is an educational process about respecting other people’s opinions and working together in a constructive way. It’s a learning experience, I think.”