The Perpetuation Of Misogyny In America And Why It's A Problem

by Stephanie Sharlow

Misogyny: It’s an ugly word with a repulsive meaning and some horrific events that have surrounded it as of late.

From the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls to the gang rape of two teenage girls in India to the last month's tragedy of the Santa Barbara shootings, it seems that the worldwide discussion surrounding this word and its implications isn't going away anytime soon.

Part of the world seems to be finally taking a stance, saying that sexism and violence against women is not acceptable; that all people have the right to feel safe in their day-to-day lives.

That women — no matter what they wear or how they behave or with whom they sleep are not required to give anything to anyone else, especially a man.

But, there is another subset of individuals: those who have generally good intentions but poor execution, who are setting women back and inadvertently promoting misogyny. These individuals participate in purity balls.

While I knew of purity rings and their partnered pledges, I first learned of purity balls a few weeks ago when I stumbled across an ABC News investigation online (and, subsequently, an Elite Daily piece on them).

As each installment buffered on my laptop, I sipped my green tea while my anger grew. I stood taller and taller on my salty soapbox, but I couldn't look away. I couldn't stop watching. I was engrossed in this antiquated tradition and the people who advocate for it.

So, what are purity balls, exactly? To strip the concept down to its bare bones, purity balls are father-daughter dances that celebrate a young girl’s abstinence until marriage and a father's quest to protect his daughter's virtue.

Abstinence is not limited to sexual acts, but instead, encompasses everything from handholding to dating to kissing. Many of these girls — some who are as young as 10 years old — believe dating (and, by default, breaking up) is practicing for divorce.

Many even refer to their fathers as their “boyfriends,” while their mothers sit by quietly in agreement.


I admire these parents for trying to instill principles and modesty in their children, growing up in a world filled with casual hookups and sometimes-questionable morality. It’s hard to be mad at them for trying to protect their offspring, but their efforts are all wrong.

First and foremost, where are the mother-son purity balls? Why, if virtue is so important, are young men not encouraged to attend dances with their mothers, who have the responsibility of protecting their sexual integrity? Why are we encouraging backwards-thinking traditions?

Why are we teaching young girls that their worth is determined by their sexual activity? As people, our worth should reflect our intellect, our God-given talents and the good we bring into the world. What happens between the sheets does not matter when it comes to societal worth.

Why are we teaching young girls that they need to determine their sexual lives before they've even exited childhood? My elementary school finally decided to have the “deodorant talk” when I was 10. These girls are contemplating sex, marriage and divorce at the same age.

Why are we teaching young girls that dating leads to divorce?

In fact, adolescents of all ages should experience dating because it teaches how to maintain high-functioning, healthy relationships with the opposite (or same) sex, and to determine the qualities that we need and desire in a partner. How else — if not for dating — would we find these things out?

Life happens. The kind of stimulating, intellectually challenging man I envision now is not the same boy I envisioned when I was young, and it only changed thanks to my dating experiences.

Most importantly, why are we teaching young girls that they need a man at all?

If a woman desires to remain celibate or sleep around, it is her prerogative; she has the right to do with her body as she pleases. We need to be educating young women that, should they choose abstinence, no one needs to protect their virtue but themselves.

It is a personal choice, and they don’t need their daddies or their husbands or their brothers to ensure the hypothetical chastity belt around them stays on nice and tight.

Instead, we need to teach girls that they are strong and independent, and not only do they not need to justify their life choices regarding their bodies to anyone, but also the only ones who should tighten or loosen those chastity belt should be themselves.

Things such as purity balls perpetuate misogyny in America. Society needs to encourage young women to reflect on their personal ideologies and religious affiliations and decide for themselves where their personal life will go.

There is a difference between having a man who takes care of you out of his own volition and needing a man to take care of you. It’s high time we teach young girls the difference, before everything our foremothers fought for is reversed.

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr