In honor of the small group of men who have made abortion illegal in South Dakota, the Abstinence Clearinghouse is sponsoring A Celebration of Purity for Daughters and Fathers , April 7 in Sioux Falls. This organization, which supports state anti-abortion legislation, opposes all birth control efforts of any kind, and fights against women's choices in health care, is ecstatic with the new law. For them, it lays the groundwork for overturning Roe v Wade. And because the anti-abortion movement has always been about controlling women, this group also works against any family planning because its idea of contraception is indoctrinating young women against kissing before marriage. Yes, I said "kissing" before marriage.
Here is the message on the brochure promoting the Purity Ball 2006:
Studies show fathers hold the key to a better future for their daughters. Showing your love today will help her be a better-adjusted person, with a successful life and family tomorrow. This night is a dinner and ballroom dance event which celebrates your "little girl" and her gift of sexual purity. This night will help you impress upon your daughter that abstinence until marriage is the expected standard of behavior. It is a lifechanging, life-shaping experience!
Who should attend?
This event is for fathers and daughters aged 11 and older. Stepfathers, uncles, godfathers, grandfathers and other significant male figures may bring the young lady in their life.
Think about that. All these men, some of them "significant male figures" (does that mean brothers, boyfriends, pastors?) are bringing their "little girls" to a dance to celebrate (perhaps "worship" is a better word) her "gift of sexual purity." I don't know about you, but that gives me the creeps. (As a friend of mine has noted, for the astonishingly large number of girls who have been abused by fathers, step-fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, godfathers, and other significant males, the idea of all these men bringing their 11-years olds to a "Purity Ball" that focuses on their little girl sexuality is quite more than creepy.)
Amber Davidson is the keynote speaker whose address is entitled Why I Saved My First Kiss for Marriage. Apparently, abstinence now includes kissing. No more cute little boys kissing little girls on the cheek at birthday parties. No more making out anywhere at all for anyone not married. It's a world of imagination and a perversion of reality that boggles the mind.
I wonder if anyone at this conference is going to answer the question I can't seem to get an answer for from anti-abortion activists: namely, if they are successful in overturning Roe v Wade, what kind of criminal penalties do they propose for all the tens of thousands of women who will continue to find ways to have abortions, in violation of federal and state laws? I doubt the subject will even come up.
Will any of these daughters ask their father why a young woman who is raped by her father or uncle or brother or grandfather, or even by a stranger, should be forced to carry such a fetus to term, why she should have no choice, why men do the choosing for her?
Will any of these daughters ask their fathers, or uncles, or grandfathers about why young men are not being held responsible for their behavior, why young men don't have purity balls?
Will any of these daughters wonder why their mother was not invited to celebrate their sexual purity? why the men in their lives have left out the very person on whom most 11-year old girls depend?
Will any of these girls ask why it is mostly men who are telling them what they can do with their bodies, how they should behave, and what kinds of health choices they can make?
Organizations like Abstinence Clearinghouse are the ones which will rejoice when Roe v Wade is overturned. It is one of the organizations which will find comfort in a world where girls and women are behaving as they should in a patriarchal dominated society. "Purity" will be the driving force in a world where girls and women are judged harshly for not conforming, a world where intact hymens are sacrosanct, where men are able to direct their daughter's lives and development to suit their own aims, where "purity" will be the only measurement of young women's lives. A world not unlike the one the Taliban built.
It is not an accident that organizations like Abstinence Clearinghouse concentrats its efforts on young women, not young men. Even the artwork on their main page reflects this focus: a pretty young woman, large and clear, with an unfocused smaller young male image in the background. There is the female, right up front. She is the one responsible, she is, foremost, the one who must conform and carry the pure and chaste image. It's also revealing how they have a website with a link, for members only, to what they call their War Room, sounding much like any fundamentalist jihadist organization. Their war on women is as real as it gets. Their advertising slogan says Networking people for abstinence, but it is clear their target is girls, not "people."
This is the fundamentalist Christian idea of how to make society work. If you can control the women, in this case girls, you can make the Christian family (read: the American family) work the way they think it should.
Who sits on the Advisory Council of the Abstinence Clearinghouse? Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women of America, Heather E. Cirmo of Family Research Council, and Peter Brandt, of Focus on the Family are among the many right-wing, fundamentalist, Christian and dogmatic leaders of organizations that work against women's rights.
Isn't it time that Americans, who believe in democracy and freedom, send a message to these reactionary forces that we will not allow them to wage war on women's rights and legislate their religious beliefs? The anti-abortion movement in this country has always been about controlling women. This "Purity Ball" is an outrageous example of a male patriarchy at work.