This is not going to be a popular post, and I’m sorry. This is an issue about which I feel very strongly.
When I was a little kid going to church meant learning about the stories in the Bible. The summer I was nine I went to two summer camps. The one my grandma sent me to did not allow girls to wear pants or shorts and had no pool. We went swimming at the city pool once; they made the city kick all the boys out because they didn’t believe in “Mixed bathing”.
I was nine. Nine.
We also had a whole class at that camp that year about our Changing Bodies. It was led by a man that to this day gives me the creeps. Why was a paunchy middle aged guy teaching nine year olds about vaginal discharge? You know, the more I think about that the more disturbed I get. But that’s changing the subject, and no one touched me funnily or made me uncomfortable.
But from that point on being a Christian Girl meant that it wasn’t going to be about Bible Stories as much anymore.
That was also the year I found a copy of Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex in our basement bookshelves, which I read cover to cover. My parents let me and only said to see them if I had questions. When I did have questions they answered them straightforwardly. My parents weren’t big into body guilt or body shaming. Thank Jesus.
Unfortunately a lot of the other people in my universe WERE into that sort of thing. As I mentioned here before I sat through many a class and lesson about how I was to not lead the boys astray with my heaving bosom and naked knees.
This is what passes for “Girls’ Ministry” in a lot of circles. They call it “ministry”. They call it “a take on Modesty”. What it really is is body-shaming. It is making a woman view her body as a sinful tool instead of a blessing.
Yes, I believe wholeheartedly in modesty. Anyone who sees the way I dress knows that. But I think there’s a way to teach it that emphasises the positives–the virtue of self-respect, the beauty of shared intimacy with your selected lover–instead of driving the constantly negative point of “Your boobs cause boys to sin”.
Girls’ Ministry needs to stop being about the dangers of our bodies and start being about the wonders of our gifts. God made each of us uniquely talented and wonderful and assets to the kingdom. Let’s talk about that. I cannot remember a single “girls’ ministry” class that talked to me about using my writing for the Lord or my memory skills or my love of animals or my healing abilities. I remember dozens of lectures about keeping boys on the straight and narrow. As though my only role in the church is to not let some guy have dirty thoughts about me.
I’m not even keeping this post coherent. Instead I’m ranting about something that won’t ever change.