I was talking to a dear friend years ago and she explained how girls grow up experiencing "routine" menstrual pain from a young age and that sets us up as women to accept that pain is just part of our reality. Girls learn that their body experiences pain and that there is no real help for that because it's "normal." If Midol isn't enough, you're kind of screwed. I remember the desperation I felt when I could not keep my pain under control. What can you do? Go into an ER and have someone laugh at you? Have a medical professional hear your situation, tie it to menstruation and say AND? That is the female experience.Read More
With the emergence of all the allegations being made about Harvey Weinstein, I'm finding myself a little bit frustrated. And I'm not quite sure how to explain what I'm feeling without crossing a line into dishonoring the incredible courage it takes to come forward and share about sexual assault. Here's where my concern lies: in our valiant efforts to support victims who come forward (which we UNDOUBTEDLY need to support), sometimes a subtle shaming subtext takes place for those who choose not to come forward.Read More
As an adult, I've worked intentionally to shed any shaming around my body that I learned from modesty/purity culture. This was not easy! Many of my girl friends grew up in purity culture but I don't think they took it as hard as I did because I was such a serious kid. I was the teen in a one-piece and a t-shirt! I genuinely believed that if my body was too exposed, it would harm my guy friends ability to follow Jesus. It was my responsibility to protect them from temptation. I was not about to get in their way. And while that's sweet, how incredibly harmful. And now that I think about it, it was probably why I became such a care-taking adult. It was taught to me as a spiritual value.
Through our years in youth ministry, I was required to confront teen girls about their clothing. People would whisper to me their concerns and then I was expected to be the heavy. I tried to be cool while executing this duty (I've always been more of a "good cop" even as a mother), but it was awkward. It definitely exacerbates mean girl culture when women are tasked to judge each other's clothing, especially for spiritual reasons. It creates piety. It's also wildly subjective to try to enforce a dress code (girls with certain body types get targeted). I have so many big feelings about purity culture, about how it shames women for being beautiful, how it plays into rape culture by blaming the objects of lust for being lust-able rather than the ones doing the lusting, how it cripples boys into believing they're incapable of self-control and frankly, how it sexualizes children. I don't want any part of it and I don't want my 8 year old to be taught to be self-conscious about her perfect, little girl body. And yes, I don't intend to change my stance when she gets breasts.
Once we got out of ministry, I started giving myself to permission to express myself more with clothing. I've written about art classes I've taken and that has encouraged me to identify more as the artist I've hidden. I've also tried to explore my sexuality more (which is incredibly repressed) though I haven't written about that as much as it's so personal. I might have the courage to discuss that more in the future because I know I am one of thousands who are sexually repressed because of their conservative upbringing. It's really kind of a bummer, to be honest. We were told for so long to be as asexual as possible in hopes of gaining the admiration of a godly man. And then as soon as you make a lifetime commitment to each other, you're supposed to become the exact opposite of what you were taught. Alluring, sexually available, skilled --- fully empowered. How does this happen, exactly? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm trying to engage in more sex-positive language, read more books and articles about sexuality, rape culture, feminism, etc. It's been a slow unpacking but I think it's a worthy fight, to relinquish responsibility for others' thoughts, to take back your power and to feel sexually confident. Well looky here, I guess I wrote about it. I'd love to hear anyone else's experience with purity culture. Drop me a line if you want to be heard! Maybe we'll figure some of this out as a community.