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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

 
Charming Patriarchs

by digby

Over two years ago, Maria Hinojosa of NOW on PBS did a story on father daughter purity balls. I wrote about it and it remains one of the most linked posts I ever did. People were uniformly appalled. It smacked of regressive male dominance and a more than slightly inappropriate involvement by fathers in the sexuality of their daughters:

HINOJOSA: LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, YOUNG GIRLS FROM AROUND SOUTH DAKOTA CAME TO SIOUX FALLS FOR A SPRING BALL. THIS ONE IS CALLED "THE PURITY BALL" IT'S A YEARLY EVENT RUN BY LESLEE UNRUH'S ABSTINENCE CLEARINGHOUSE.

THE IDEA IS THAT THESE YOUNG WOMEN COME WITH THEIR FATHERS. TO CELEBRATE THEIR SEXUAL PURITY.

UNRUH:We think that its important for fathers to the be the first ones to look into their daughters eyes and To tell her that her purity is special, and its ok to wait until marriage.

HINOJOSA:IT MIGHT HAVE ALL THE TRAPPINGS OF A REGULAR PROM... BUT THIS ONE ENDS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY.

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:"I make a promise this day to God...

HINOJOSA:
THE YOUNG WOMEN HERE ALL MAKE A PROMISE TO THEIR FATHERS THAT THEY WONT' HAVE SEX UNTIL THE DAY THEY GET MARRIED.

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:...to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me...and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.


Apparently TIME just heard about this thing and they sent out one of their anthropologist/reporters to investigate these real Americans. And what do you know? She came back mightily impressed with the whole thing:

Leave aside for a moment the critics who recoil at the symbols, the patriarchy, the very use of the term purity, with its shadow of stains and stigma. Whatever guests came looking for, they are likely to come away with something unexpected. The goal seems less about making judgments than about making memories.

[...]
Purity is certainly a loaded word--but is there anyone who thinks it's a good idea for 12-year-olds to have sex? Or a bad idea for fathers to be engaged in the lives of their daughters and promise to practice what they preach? Parents won't necessarily say this out loud, but isn't it better to set the bar high and miss than not even try?


Here's what Daddy preaches:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.


Some of these little girls are only six years old. They don't even know what their "purity" means until daddy tells them that it belongs to him, the "high priest" in his home. And no, it's not a good idea for dads to be this involved in their daughter's nascent sex lives. In fact, it's completely inappropriate and weird for a daughter to pledge her virginity into her father's keeping for him to "give" to her husband. Are we really going to pretend that the "memories" they are making with this sick shit is something to celebrate?

This reporter Nancy Gibbs leaves her cushy urban world to venture out in to the hinterlands and report on what the rustics are doing to deal with the sex in our culture. And what she finds is something she takes completely at face value as a charming, primitive ritual, sort of like an African fertility dance, only with heartland dads and their daughters. And even if she knows that this is a somewhat startlingly barbaric return to ancient patriarchal norms, it stems from a religious belief and therefore, must automatically be granted respect.

But people like her would no more ask their own kid to do this than they would suggest she join the Hell's Angels, and any husband and daughter of her social circle would thinks she was nuts if she even tried. No, this lovely rustic ritual is for the little people who are "authentic" and "natural" and have Better Morals Than Us.

It's that phony Village provincialism running amok again spreading patronizing, anti-intellectual drivel that allows these elites to wallow in salt of the earth moral superiority that they do not personally possess but take credit for by writing glowing paeans to primitivism and barbarity that nobody but a few fundamentalist weirdos actually believe in. And it isn't harmless. Not only does it hurt those poor little girls to have this archaic practice foisted upon them, it leads to truly atrocious policy like this:

The Bush administration is up to its old tricks again, quietly putting ideology before science and women's health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is poised to put in place new barriers to accessing common forms of contraception like birth control pills, emergency contraception and IUDs by labeling them "abortion." These proposed regulations set to be released next week will allow healthcare providers to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.

If you read my original post on this you will find that the "purity balls" were conceived by a scary, anti-abortion zealot in South Dakota. It's all part of the same heavy tapestry of guilt and repression that only looks "charming" if you aren't subject to its suffocating weight.


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