Showing posts with label patriarchy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label patriarchy. Show all posts

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Not Going Back, Nu-uh, No Way

When George W. Bush was re-elected, some people in the Pacific Northwest expressed a longing to secede from the Union, perhaps incorporate with British Columbia and form a new state:  Call it "Cascadia." 

We were joking.  Kind of.

A recent post by The Practical Conservative reminded me that the impulse to break away from the mainstream and form utopian communities is an enduring theme in American history.

My mother's family were Mormons, my father's were Anabaptists, so I come from a long line of people on both sides who were utterly convinced that there was "one correct way" to live, and I was weaned on tales of the hardships they endured, the sacrifices made,  to achieve their utopian visions.  I am the offspring of two people who escaped from religious-based communities governed by rigid patriarchal ideals, and who never looked back. And I don't want to go back either.  In fact, I would be willing to sacrifice everything to maintain my individualism.  And if I had to be dependent on a community where people like SSM or the Queens set the standards of socially acceptable behavior, I'd take my chances on surviving in the wilderness.

This I believe:  There is more than one way to be a human being on this earth.  There is no one "correct way" to live. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fathers, Daughters, and Purity Balls

The other day PZ Myers had a brief post about the incredible ickiness (that's the clinical term) of Father-Daughter Purity Balls.  These are celebrations in which a teenage girl pledges to remain a virgin until her father approves her marriage.  Everyone is dolled up as though for a wedding, with men in tuxes, and girls in fluffy bridesmaid dresses.  Well, that's not the weird part.  Quinceaneras are superficially similar rites of passage, and they don't strike me as creepy at all, maybe because, while the original purpose was to announce a girl was available for marriage, the modern function of these celebrations seems to be to introduce the daughter of a family to her community as a young adult while also honoring her cultural heritage; a quinceanera marks her debut into greater society. 

At Purity Balls, on the other hand, Daddy and His Little Princess participate in a formal ceremony during which they exchange rings and kisses on the mouth after she promises God & everyone else present that Daddy will be her "boyfriend" until she is given away to her future husband.

This is the belief system underlying patriarchy taken to its logical extreme: that a woman "belongs" to a man (a father, a husband, possibly later a son) who controls her sexuality.  For all the problems and social injustices we face in the 21st century, most of us have come to recognize that no one can legitimately claim ownership of another person's (living) body.

I can almost guarantee that if my own father were still alive, he'd find "Purity Balls" as viscerally abhorrent as I do although he would have had a hard time articulating exactly why.  Even attending my Campfire Girls' annual Father/Daughter Buffet was excruciating for the poor guy, although he enjoyed sharing activities in which our gender difference played no part (riding motorcycles, camping and boating).  My father, for all his faults, was a man who absolutely respected his daughters' sexual and physical boundaries.  (He could be a little uptight, in fact.  Once, having returned home after a two year absence, I flung my arms around him at the airport and he was so mortified that it was like embracing a marble column.)

Neither did my father ever tell me I should expect to find a man who would treat me "like a queen."  In fact, to the extent to which he advised me about my future, it was to nag me to take more math and science classes and quit wasting my time with my head in a novel, and not get married too early. Once, during a long car ride home from college, he confided that he hoped I would find a job I liked because "working would have made your mom a happier person." 

In other words, my father more than anyone made me a feminist. 

Someday, if I can do so tactfully, I'm going to ask my fundamentalist Christian neighbors what they think about these "purity" covenants. Or maybe I won't because... well, maybe there are some things I just shouldn't know.

Meanwhile, the little girl below is clearly having none of this nonsense!