Friday, March 30, 2007

Purity balls' and fundamentalisms in the United States

Photo: an artist's parody of the famous photo taken by Eddie Adams on Feb 5th, 1968 of a South Vietnamese officer summarily executing a Viet Cong prisoner. Here the artist (unknown) has the officer shooting George W. Bush. I found this artwork in Subeez Cafe in downtown Vancouver. It is approximately 9x9ft

BELOW: An article by Rochelle Jones from the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)

In the United States (US) a phenomenon is increasing in popularity. Dubbed 'purity balls' these gala events are formal rites of passage for young women and girls where they pledge to their fathers, abstinence until marriage. A bigger agenda to examine is the global flow-on effects of fundamentalisms for women and girls. AWID considers some of the issues.

By Rochelle Jones

'Purity balls' are ceremonies where girls, some as young as 10 years of age, promise their fathers to remain virgins until they wed. Fathers sign a covenant vowing to 'protect' their daughter's chastity until they marry, and the daughter promises to lead a life of 'integrity and purity' under her father's watchful gaze. A journalist for a popular young women's magazine who attended a purity ball in the US described the ceremony:

"When it's time for dads and daughters to take the pledge (some informally
exchange rings as well), the men stand over their seated daughters and read aloud from parchment imprinted with the covenant... the men inscribe their names and their daughters sign as witnesses..."

Later in the evening,
Pastors "stand at the cross with heavy rapiers raised and announce that they are prepared to "bear swords and war for the hearts of our daughters". [1] Abstinence for who? Situated at the extreme end of the abstinence movement, 'purity balls' were the brainchild of Randy Wilson from the 'Generations of Light' ministry in Colorado Springs. The idea, he claimed, was to "create an event that celebrates the bonds between father and daughter" [2].

Since then, the
phenomenon has expanded, mainly throughout the Southern states, with around 1400 purity balls taking place in 2006 alone [2]. Not unlike some interpretations of Islam where 'honour' allegedly resides in the bodies of women to be regulated by men, purity balls are an opportunity for fathers to reinforce in their daughters that their sexuality is something that should be controlled by men - first by their fathers, and then through the contract of marriage (to a man of course - heterosexuality is a base assumption).

The covenant reads:
"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 my family as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come." [3]


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