The Purity Myth

4 Jan

The other day a friend sent me this video.  Please watch it.  It’s short and well worth plugging in your speakers or just saving to watch another time.

The argument in the video is that by convincing girls that their virginities are their most important assets fundamentalists are telling women that their virginities are their only assets.

Please just watch the video.  I would say that Jessica Valenti says it so much more gracefully than I can but the truth is that Jessica isn’t nearly as compelling or frightening as the clips of celebrities and more importantly politicians who not only believe this crud but are trying to use it to make laws about my body and yours.

As I was watching this trailer I thought about another article I read recently from a fantastic blog called broadblogs.com.  That article was about how modesty objectifies women’s bodies as much as nudity can.

You may have heard about Egyptian blogger, Aliaa Mahdy, posing nude for her blog calling her action a scream “against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”

I’m too saddened to paraphrase, Georgia Platts writes:

But how could modesty objectify? Consider the most extreme example:

Women who live in Taliban-controlled provinces of Afghanistan are expected to cover themselves head to toe with mesh across their eyes. There, a woman’s ankle is thought incredibly sexual, as are her arms and face and eyes and hair. Every part of her body becomes sexualized through extreme modesty.

But the entire body needn’t be covered for this surprising effect to arise. One young Christian woman found that less radical modesty objectified her, too:

Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing.

Modesty made me objectify myself. I was so aware of my own potential desirability at all times that I lost all other ways of defining myself.

The purity myth tells women and men that feminism is a dirty word.  That a return to “traditional” values, where they can laugh alone with salad

and pop out children like the Duggers will make women happy.

It tells us that if only we dressed modestly we wouldn’t provoke good men to rape us, yet in countries where women wear burqas

…83% of women reported having been sexually harassed. Almost three-quarters of Egyptian women who said they had been harassed were veiled and 98% of foreigners said they had been intimidated or groped.

That if we let men choose us like cattle or Michelle Bachman’s daughters

Recalling her senior year of high school, when she didn’t get asked to the prom, Bachmann told radio host Sean Hannity that back then, girls didn’t ask boys, so Bachmann simply didn’t go. But Hannity invoked his own 13-year-old son and said times have changed.

“Our girls are not allowed to do that in our house,” Bachmann said. “They have to wait for the boy to call.”

then we will be free.

That if we pledge our virginities to our fathers or the church

then we’ll be safe from pedophiles and rapists.

That if we’re given an abstinence-only education

then we’ll wait to have sex until we’re old enough and straight-married enough to raise straight, successful, non-teen-pregnancy-statistic children.

That if we have sex before marriage we’re “going to end up sterile or dead!”  As though we’d be any less likely to die from sex if we were wearing rings.

This war on women must end.

Now is the part where I get kind of sappy.  I started writing this post nearly three weeks ago and at this point I got so depressed that I had to put it down for another week or two and ask some friends to read the above and give me a suggestion for a way to make the ending non-suicide-inducing.

My wonderful friend LillianLemoning gave me hope again:

Jessica Valenti (if I remember correctly) has a  significant other. The most painful argument that feminists receive is the idea that sure, you can be a bitch, but you’ll be alone. What we forget is that there are men like Mr. Valenti (whoever he may be) and Ryan Gosling and Bill Clinton and my father (and [name removed to protect the innocent], swoon) who get it. Who really, really get it. The other myth they’ve created is that those men are extinct, or that they were never there in the first place. But they are and they’re turned on by smart, powerful, kind women who are sexual and enjoy sex. Every man like that, that there is is a battle against patriarchy that we won. Look, Rick Perry, Ryan Gosling is a feminist and he doesn’t have to be, but he is. He wants women to enjoy sex and he knows feminist theory! That’s hopeful to me because it’s one thing for the oppressed minority to say they’re being oppressed and it’s another to have members of the oppressors look around and say “No. This is bullshit.”

So a way to fight back is to Lysistrata that shit. Decide that you’re not sleeping with a man who doesn’t value both your personhood and your sexuality.
Thanks Lil!  And Thanks Ryan.

3 Responses to “The Purity Myth”

  1. swimmingtonowhere February 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    hey, you know my crazy christian mother? when i was younger, i wasn’t allowed to call boys. If i wanted to talk to a guy i had to start a phone tree. i called a friend, they called the boy, and then the boy could call me. yep this woman was really friends with your mother.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What A Sexy Piece Of Colorful Laundry On That Wall There « Female Gazing - March 30, 2012

    […] an article I’ve mentioned before we see exactly how extreme modesty objectifies women’s bodies. Women who live in […]

  2. Mr. Valenti is Andrew Golis, Thanks Wikipedia. « Female Gazing - April 8, 2012

    […] few weeks ago I wrote a post called The Purity Myth which got an overwhelming reaction (thanks!).  In it I quoted one of my very best friends, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: