Illinois: Girls Hear Message of Self-Acceptance, Abstinence
March 31, 2010
Some 700 girls and their mothers recently participated in a celebration of self-acceptance and modesty at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. The local event was part of the national "Secret Keeper Girl Tour," based on a series of books by Christian writer Dannah Gresh.
The program uses Bible-based messages to counter pervasive media images of sexualized young women. The Elgin meeting opened with a fashion show, and its speakers stressed that females are individuals to be admired - differences and all.
"God never intended that we all look like Barbie," said Suzy Weibel, a performer at the gathering. "Barbie is every little girl's dream and every grown woman's nightmare."
Several mothers in the audience said they wished they could have experienced the program when they were young girls.
Even as they praised the production's emphasis on self-acceptance, however, some observers questioned other aspects of the show's message. Sexual abstinence is not directly discussed in the show, though it is something Gresh emphasizes for young women.
"The minute it spills over into You must keep yourself abstinent for that one man God gave you, [that] sets them up for failure," said Carolyn Bronstein, an associate professor of communications at DePaul University and the author of an upcoming history of the US feminist anti-pornography movement.
Bronstein said "history has shown pretty persuasively" that abstinence campaigns "instill sexual shame in girls, so when they inevitably become interested in sex in the adolescent years" they act without "seeking responsible advice about safe-sex practices."
The Rev. Ghana Cooper, a Protestant chaplain at DePaul, said the program could help lay a solid foundation for girls entering adulthood. She noted, however, that the responsibilities of males should also be addressed. "How do we expect young Christian girls to live such practices when many of our young Christian boys are still pressing them for sex?" she asked.
03.29.2010; Amanda Marrazzo