Empowering Women with Options
I was four years old when a friend of the family molested me, not once, but multiple times. Withdrawing, I lived in silence–believing this man would make good on the promise to harm me more if I spoke to anyone about it.
In the years that followed, I sat up straight in my seat as people at church talked about “purity” and “saving yourself”, but mentally I was curled up in the corner with my fingers jammed in my ears. My mind had repressed most of the horrific memories, but I knew enough to feel I wasn’t “pure”. Even more, the word repulsed me.
Not long ago Elizabeth Smart revealed in her book, My Story, how the Mormon concept of purity affected her decision to stay with her kidnapper and rapist. She writes about a lecture on abstinence which compared girls who weren’t virgins to a used piece of chewing gum:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
While I highly doubt Elizabeth’s family would never have wanted her to come to this faulty conclusion, as a young child she could only draw on fragments of information during a traumatic situation.
I’m Not Elizabeth, but Part of Me Understands
I cringed when the marketing world recently branded my book as a “purity” book. There was no way around it; without that popular word, parents wouldn’t know the book was about grace-driven abstinence, and bookstore owners wouldn’t know where to place the manuscript on the shelf.
But as I checked “okay” on the last draft of the book, I couldn’t help but think about the girl I used to be–curled up in the corner, despising that word.
My goal was to help my readers out of that place, not drive them into it.
You Are Irreplaceable and Valuable
The excerpt from Smart’s book definitely made me reconsider my wordage while talking with teen girls even further. If we want to empower women by presenting them with the option of abstinence, we need to be careful about the words we choose. In the words of Madison, a contributor to The Bare Naked Truth,
“It is imperative that girls know their worth and their value is not derived from their innocence. That it is not earned from anything they do or refrain from doing. We are valuable because God says we are. He loved us, created us, and called us His children.”