In a matter of about 5 minutes on Facebook, I came across two gut-wrenching, rage-inducing links. The first was about Purity Balls in the States and the second about the mothers of some 200 girls who went missing from a Nigerian physics classroom staging a protest. I clicked on them in reverse order…
“The protest was held after news broke that many of the girls are reportedly being married in mass ceremonies and sold…”
married and sold. stolen from a physics classroom, married and sold. The fact that “just 2,000 naira” $12 USD is the going price doesn’t fucking matter to me. These girls’ lives are priceless. You can buy into the story of OMG, TWELVE DOLLARS? but that’s just a diversionary tactic that supposedly shows how worthless a girl’s life is. The reality, though, is that you cannot monetize a life. You just can’t. Slavery attempts to. Capitalism tries to all the time. Healthcare tries to all the time. It doesn’t really work that way, though. If these girls really were worthless, then why were they stolen at all? These girls are precious and those men know it. The money exchanged is just a part of a propagandist story that attempts to reinforce the worthlessness of women. Except that the joke’s on all of us because it’s not true. Women are far from worthless. You can sell me and treat me like a piece of furniture, but if I know my own worth, then your actions only show how blind you are, how off the mark you are.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” and they’re a militant Islamic jihadist terrorist organization in northeast Nigeria. “Western education is sinful” really calls to mind the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. It really calls to mind Malala Yousafzai. She writes in her biography, I am Malala:
“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”
To sin means to miss the target. The etymology of the word ‘sin’ is misleading, so don’t go by that. Go back to the original source and check which word got translated into the English word, ‘sin’: khata. Aramaic. It’s apparently an archery term that means to miss the target. To be off the mark.
If education is education, as Yousafzai states, then Boko Haram is completely missing the mark. Their actions are so beyond ironic as to be self-parodic without even realizing it. And once again, women and girls are paying the price. Also ironic since it was the girls who were sold for a pittance.
Nothing about this makes any fucking sense, and I feel absolutely devastated. There’s a Change.org Petition available to sign to help push the Nigerian president into actually making an effort to find the girls and return them to their families.
The next link I came across on Purity Balls was one that I skimmed over, since it was just a bunch of photos. But creepy freaking photos they were:
There was PolicyMic link suggested under this one on FB, so I clicked on it, hoping for an actual article, which I got: The Creepy Way Fathers Across the Country Are Controlling Their Daughters’ Virginity Highly worth the read. Particularly for the following quote:
“…it’s ironic that the method they’ve chosen to combat the hypersexualization of girlhood is, well, the hypersexualization of girlhood.
When you get down to it, Purity Balls are literally all about sex. If your worth as a human being is invariably tied to what you do with the parts between your legs, who you are becomes defined by your sexuality; you’re either pure, or impure.”
The Facebook tagline for the article reads, “You’re married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend.”
You’re married to the Lord AND YOUR FATHER IS YOUR BOYFRIEND. Let’s push the bounds of father-daughter relationships right towards incest, shall we? Let’s overtly tinge that relationship with sex. Yes. Let’s. That’s totally the way to create healthy boundaries and a solid sense of selfhood, agency, and self-determination.
When I was looking up sin and khata for this post, I came across this beautifully apt quote from the Bible: “What goes into the man from outside cannot defile him.” (Mark 7:18) It’s a really potent quote. What goes into the woman from the outside cannot defile her, either. Yes, in context, Jesus was talking about food and how food only touches the stomach and not the heart, so it is eliminated, leaving you untouched. HOWEVER, the greater meaning here is that when our heart — our core — is pure, then we are not defiled. If we have a strong sense of self, then we cannot be defiled. We cannot be tainted by someone else.
If we are purely ourselves rather than trying to be someone else in order to please another, be accepted by another, be loved by another, then we value ourselves for who we are rather than who we can pretend to be. And like the notion of selling the Nigerian girls to Boko Haram officials, this whole concept of a lack of sex making someone pure and the presence of sex making someone impure is yet another ridiculous piece of propagandist bullshit from the patriarchy.
Sex is how we get onto this planet. But we’re born pure? How can we be pure if we got here by supposedly impure means? And where are the virginal boys and the Purity Balls for them?
Really, between the stolen girls in Nigeria and the Purity Balls in the States, I’m feeling really flattened. Did we just travel back in time several hundred years? Because that’s what this feels like. It feels like we’re dredging all this shit up from the Collective Unconscious. All our sociocultural skeletons just fell right out of the damned closet and we’re staring at them all, aghast. Bad Family Secrets right out there in the open. So here’s an idea: Let’s just throw all the shit on the table so that we can actually deal with it.
Which means we have to actually Deal With It.
You cannot stick your head in the sand any longer. There’s too much bad in this world. So if you’re going to LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU, then you’re totally part of the problem and I really have no time for your shit. Doesn’t mean I don’t have time for YOU. It means that I have no time for your bullshit and neither do you.
Men, if you can’t step up as allies and unlearn all the bullshit society has taught you, then fuck off. Get off my goddamned lawn. Women, unlearn that shit, too. It’s not about a goddamned ring — marriage, purity ball or otherwise. It’s not about sex. It’s not about money. IT’S ABOUT VALUING WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON. NOT WHO YOU CAN MOLD YOURSELF TO BE IN ORDER TO BE LOVED AND ACCEPTED.
Value women. Value them for who they are on an individual level. Not for what they can do for you. If you value them, truly value them, then you will support their own agency. You will support their autonomy and grant them full self-determination. None of this paternalistic crap of telling them what they’re allowed to learn or how they’re allowed to use their bodies. Show them that they are valued no matter what they do. They ain’t here to serve you men and your overblown ideas of what has value.
All of these skeletons that we harbour are getting pulled out for us to examine. These practices of Purity Balls and kidnapping girls from school, selling them off to be married against their will are still acceptable because women are not yet valued as people. Do the hard work of valuing who you are. We are always unfolding and transforming. We are a work in progress and loving that is also a work in progress. But it’s really goddamned important work that will serve every person on this planet. Help others value who they are as people. Accept how awesome you are. Accept that you still need work. Accept that it’s TOTALLY OK because it damn well IS. Ain’t nobody perfect. And everybody’s shit stinks. That’s realism. And that’s what makes it fabulous.
Throw that shit on the table and deal with it. This is how we purify ourselves. This is how we remember that we are already undefiled. This is how we return to ourselves, men and women both.