Feminism and Purity: Combating the Evangelical Message of How Women Are Valued
In honor of my last post as one of your weekly Opinions columnist, before I ensue my role as co-editor in chief, I figured it was time to share with my faithful readers, yes all five of you, my thoughts on this issue that seem to be the talk of Christians lately, purity and feminism.
If you remember back to Shalom last spring on April 16, George Fox Professor Melanie Springer Mock, and Texas Wesleyan University Professor Kendra Irons spoke on the message of purity and its harmful effects on young women.
In Evangelical culture, a woman or young girl’s purity is this highly protected treasure that should only be given away to her husband. Purity balls, purity rings, and even purity bears have all been created to help young women and men cling to their future value as a spouse, their purity.
I wouldn’t say that I grew up in an Evangelical house in any way, but I remember that talk from youth group. That if I cling to my purity long and hard, that God will reward me with one hot, godly, strong, and pure man, someone just like me. But what happens when you’re still waiting for this knight in shining armor to come rescue you from the horror of being single in your twenties?
What if you’ve done everything you were supposed to, said a firm “no” to any boy trying to deflower you, and Mr. Hot and godly still hasn’t rolled around?
That’s the problem with the purity message. Instead of valuing a woman’s spiritual gifts, her purity or lack there of becomes what is valued. Looking back to that awkward night at middle school youth group all those years ago, granted the talk of STD’s and accidental pregnancies was plenty to make anyone paranoid, the idea of a man looking down on you or seeing you as less whole if you were to partake in pre-marital sex permanently scars young women.
The thing they don’t teach you at youth group–because of course if you keep yourself pure, then your spouse will be pure as well–is that what happens if you have guarded your purity, and your spouse didn’t? Surely if you remain pure, God would bless you with an equal pure person to be tied to for forever. It creates an entitled attitude for young women, that if they waited they only deserve this perfect man that in reality does not exist.
This is exactly why we need to stop telling young women that if they do end up, for lack of a better term, deflowered before they are married, they are still valuable women created in God’s image. That’s the beauty of God’s grace, that we do sometimes fall short, that we do sometimes throw away something we cling so tightly to for the heat of the moment.
The Evangelical church has created a scenario that instead of practicing God’s grace towards each other, we practice a culture of guilt and shame when it comes to purity. If you sleep with a man before marriage, you will never be whole again. Granted when you do make that decision to partake in sex, emotions get tangled up, hearts get broken, but you can be whole again, thanks to the beauty of believing in an all-loving God, full of grace. He comes in when we are broken to help make us whole again.
The point to all of this is that we can’t keep killing young women’s confidence by telling them they have been made dirty by sin, or that they can no longer earn that hot and Godly husband of their dreams because of their actions in the past. That’s why we need to practice showing God’s grace to each other, and not preaching a gospel of shame and darkness because of our impurities.
How can we go about changing this? This most certainly will not happen over night, but we can encourage young women to guard their purity for as long as possible, and stop teaching that we all should spend our teens and twenties waiting for that man of our dreams to knock on our door, baggage free, and ready to be our husbands. It all starts with teaching young women to value themselves as an individual, as strong and powerful women, and not the status of their purity.