Religion and women’s health have had a longstanding violent and bloody battle (I heard those crazy feminists were coming out of the woodwork trying to kill all men). Unfortunately, this debate has infiltrated governments, organizations, and communities globally. It is a conflict that has recently reappeared in the United States because of the Affordable Care Act, political arguments over the states’ abortion rules and most recently the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. While each religion has the authority to determine their stance on women’s health issues (where is the debate on men’s health?) and practice what they believe, controversy arises when those beliefs are unwanted and imposed on others.
There is a fragile line between religion and women’s health. Tackling such a subject is typically a lose-lose situation. However, within the past few weeks the media has highlighted a contagious phenomenon—“purity balls”(the name ironically sounds explicit). These “balls” are father-daughter ceremonies and dances where pre-teen, typically eleven and twelve year old girls, pledge their virginity to her father, and he in return will guard it for her until she is married. The father featured in the Nightline clip states repeatedly “your father is your boyfriend”. These “events” are a plague across America, occurring in 48 states in the name of Christianity. While the daughter is taking part of the act as a sign of her religion, wanted or unwanted, it is imposing on her development as an adolescent, individual, and girl.
A List: Why Purity Balls are Destructive, Degrading and Disgusting
1. Being twelve years old is hard. Being a twelve year old girl is harder. You are telling her that her only worth is the state of her hymen at marriage. The only thing of importance about this beautiful growing intellectual human being is her virginity. She may excel in schools, sports, theater or music but it does not matter because the only thing she should be proud of is her virginity.
2. Where are the sons? Are they pledging virginity to the mothers? He is free to engage in sex before marriage? Essentially your daughter can marry a man who has had multiple sexual partners yet that is okay? This is not only a double standard and teaches your daughter that she can be used by her father and husband. (The married young male in the video was not a virgin).
3. At an age where development of self-esteem is all too important, young girls are marginalized because of their biological sex and therefore something they cannot control!
4. Even if a woman chooses to remain a virgin until marriage, you are telling her that is she not strong enough to protect it herself—that she is not capable of being independent or safeguarding her OWN BODY. It belongs to someone else.
5. Claiming “your father is your boyfriend” not only gives off an incestuous tone, it teaches her that she must always be with a man of some sort and that she can’t ever stand on her own two feet without a man there to catch her.
6. Why are twelve year olds pledging their virginity but still wearing makeup and fancy hairstyles? This is contradictory because the point of wearing make up is to make oneself more attractive.
7. Research shows that taking a virginity pledge actually less likely to use a condom when they break the pledge or get an STI screening, which increases the risk for contracting an STI.
Everyone wants to protect and lookout for children, especially their parents. Teaching girls about healthy relationships, self-esteem, and self worth can enable a girl to become her own advocate for her body and personal decisions.