I’m quite possibly the last person who cares to in the blogosphere to write about this appalling Time magazine celebration of purity balls, but I have to say that I’m not as surprised as I should be. Time has decided to embrace a retrograde patriarchal agenda, and not of the soft patriarchal sense of assuming that women just name themselves after their husbands and hand-wringing articles about the horror of women who draw their own income, as bad as those things are. No, we’re talking the patriarchy of the anti-choice movement, the adulteress-stoning kind. The kind that treats the literal male ownership of women’s bodies as a cute, sentimental way to organize society. That’s far to the right of even mainstream sexist society. That’s to the right of guys who like to go to Hooters, and assholes who argue that women get paid less because they don’t work hard enough, what with the babies and all. This is the third example in very recent memory of Time shilling for the idea that women should be treated like male property and severely punished if they stray from patriarchal sexual norms, which is enough to start getting past “sloppy journalism” into the “open agenda” territory.
Egregious bullshit quotes that indicate not just sloppiness, but agenda:
The Abstinence Clearinghouse estimates there were more than 4,000 purity events across the country last year, with programs aimed at boys now growing even faster.
What they fail to tell you is that in the fundie world, boys don’t have “purity”, which is a word that describes an object that becomes ill-suited for use because of contamination. Water and food are pure, and Ivory soap is pure. Similarly, women are “pure” or “sullied”, i.e. not humans but fuckholes whose usability is determined by whether or not someone has already used the property. For boys, they honor their agency by having integrity balls, where boys are chastened not to fuck someone else’s fuckhole in the same way you don’t wipe your ass with a hand towel and put it back.
But this is an article where girls’ sexual self-agency is put in scare quotes, with the excuse being that they’re quoting some other article. Scare quotes. Girls (and women—the first woman mentioned in the article is 18 years old) don’t have this “agency” that you speak of.
The one I see quoted everywhere:
So what, exactly, does all this ceremony achieve? Leave aside for a moment the critics who recoil at the symbols, the patriarchy, the very use of the term purity, with its shadow of stains and stigma. Whatever guests came looking for, they are likely to come away with something unexpected. The goal seems less about making judgments than about making memories.
A memory that reinforces not even a judgment exactly, but a social rule stating that men own women, and should be able to control their sexuality as they see fit. But I like how the reporter Alexandra Silver says, “Leave aside” the patriarchal elements, which is like writing an article about Watergate and saying, “Leave aside the burglary and corruption, and let’s talk about G. Gordon Liddy’s tie.” Of course, I suppose that’s standard in journalism now. “Leave aside the fact that Bush lied to get us into a war, and let’s talk about how he grins so charmingly at reporters.”
Buried at the bottom of this article is some reluctant acceptance of the reality that all this is a farce in the face of much more sexually free society, but it seems wistful, all the same. But I promised evidence that this is moving from “sloppy” to “agenda”, and here’s what I’m thinking. Time magazine also celebrated the adulteress-stoning patriarchy in an article about crisis pregnancy centers that falsely stated that such centers offer support for women carrying pregnancies to term. They don’t; at best, you get some diapers and what they’re really hoping to push on you, a pamphlet explaining why you shouldn’t use contraception in the future to avoid another calamity pregnancy. They were also the source of the myth about the “pregnancy pact”. If you read the article—including the blame put on the schools for offering day care services—it’s clear that the implication of it is that when young women are promoted from the status of property to human beings, they act like complete heathens.
This sort of sentimental bloviating on behalf of the patriarchy causes me no end of despair. Sentimentality, along with religion, papers over more cruelty and abuse of human beings than you’d ever think possible. The implication is that granting men control over women’s bodies results in a paradise of men spoiling their woman-pets, while controlling their behavior for their own good. The reality is more like this.