Op-ed: Hot girls seek to redefine American values

Erin Vetter, contributor

As summer is underway, so are the cries for “hot girl summer.” The term, popularized early in the summer of 2019, comes from rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who calls herself “Hot Girl Meg” and her fans, “hotties.” The rapper often opens her songs with “real hot girl shit,” and she released a track named “Hot Girl Summer” at the end of the season in 2019. With the return of the seasonal catchphrase for the third year in a row, hot girl summer cemented itself as a facet of popular Gen Z culture. As a student of religion and a member of the prime target group for the mantra, I realized the message is notably different from the one that was promoted for centuries in the United States: purity. Hot girl summer is the antithesis of evangelical purity culture. I, for one, am extremely glad the confines of purity are being released, as I am ready to be in a new frame of mind. 

Evangelical purity culture is largely based around the notions and virtue of, well, purity. The primary idea is that purity comes from one’s virginity, so virginity needs to be protected. Purity culture is maintained through the social shaming of promiscuity. One way this manifests itself is that women are encouraged to dress modestly and conservatively, so as to not tempt men into wanting to break the will of God. For both men and women, the notion that the contamination of sexual relations is irreversible spreads around. This creates an in-group, out-group situation where only the “pure” people are in, and the “impure” others are not. With these unfair exclusionary practices, women’s social situations are constantly at risk. Exiting the “pure” category and being considered “impure” could instantly negatively impact one’s life. Worse, there is no coming back from being deemed by others as “impure.” The idea of the hot girl summer trend rightfully gives women the freedom to break away from these confines and expectations, allowing the unfair shame that accompanies impurity to be almost nonexistent. 

Hot girl summer reflects an entirely different and more positive mindset. For all of the shaming of promiscuity in purity culture, hot girl summer encourages it. This mantra gives women the freedom to be promiscuous, something that was never truly encouraged in popular society before. Stallion defined the phrase as “women — and men — having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you and not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it.” Though hot girl summer doesn’t necessarily promote promiscuity, the message is about not caring if other people have negative opinions regarding your actions. This change of mindset from purity culture has amazing implications for women. Women are often shamed for the same things that men are praised for, such as earning a lot of money, hooking up, having attitude and exuding confidence. The different standards for men and women when it comes to purity are sexist, and this phrase attempts to even the social playing field when it comes to sexual promiscuity.

Further, while purity culture values chastity, hot girl summer is all about confidence. “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU,” Stallion said. The mindset allows for anyone to embrace their hotness. You don’t have to be conventionally attractive, you just have to love yourself. With the phrase being so popular, it is hard not to see hot girl summer motivating others and feel the motivation for yourself. That is the beautiful power of the phrase — the empowerment message that is attached to hot girl summer is infectious. 

The implications of the phrase could have positive effects on our campuses. Think of the Northeastern University student body. There were a total of 10,960 undergraduate female students enrolled for fall 2020 who reported their gender. If all of us employed the hot girl summer mindset of confidence, there would be an overflow of empowerment. More women might speak up for themselves with their confidence, a change that could help to reduce gender-based discrimination. With the most popular colleges at the undergraduate level being the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, College of Engineering and the College of Science, these areas could benefit from our female students feeling empowered and speaking up for themselves. 

Even if the trend of hot girl summer is short-lived, the popularity of the phrase is proving that it is possible for a new mindset to compete with evangelical purity culture values — a change that could mean more social freedom for everyone. Everyone could feel more confident, empowered and free to define themselves without worrying about others. People recognizing their full worth could lead to new ideas, developments and possibly even movements. Individuals are itching for a new mindset to take over and start redefining American values. Those who don’t agree with purity culture should attempt to do what they can to break out of its pervasiveness and start defining themselves with the new and positive hot girl summer. 

Erin Vetter is a second-year combined sociology and communication studies major, with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. She can be reached at [email protected]