I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Mrs. Hall of Austin, Texas, and her body-shaming message for teenage girls. I’ve read so many great responses to her puritanical post, and felt really emotionally bolstered by the fact that so many women are willing to speak up in defense of girls so that younger generations don’t have to grow up with the kind of confusing mixed messages and sexual objectification that we have lived through. But then I read this, the story of a Christian college student who “bled to death after delivering a stillborn baby alone in her dorm room” at Benedict College this week. And I thought immediately about Mrs. Hall, and why she needs to change her approach to Christianity and sex, stat.
See, when we body-shame girls before they start having sex and then slut-shame them after they start having sex, we set them up to feel oh-so-alone and in trouble for being human and having the human feelings and urges that humans have in order that we might experience love, pleasure and the propagation of our species. Then what happens is, these good little Christian girls who can’t live up to the model of chastity and purity they are expected to – because no one can – they get accidentally pregnant because they don’t know anything about birth control except that it’s from Satan. And they are so scared of being shunned by everyone in their religious community for being pregnant because their female religious leaders have made it clear that one screw up means you’re out, so they don’t tell anyone they’re pregnant. They hide their pregnancy and then give birth to a stillborn baby and three days later they die. The story goes that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his death. But this 19-year-old girl isn’t going to do that. And neither is her stillborn baby.
Now, I should make it clear that I can’t say for a fact from reading one report that this girl’s pregnancy was hidden, but I do know that she chose to give birth alone in a dorm room rather than go to a hospital and that she didn’t call 911 after her baby was born and she was bleeding profusely, so it seems pretty obvious to me that she was intensely ashamed and afraid of what might happen if others knew what she was going through. What I can say for certain is if this kind of scenario is something Christians don’t want to live with, women like Mrs. Hall and certainly male leaders in the church might want to reevaluate their teachings on and understanding of pre-marital sex. Here’s what Christian preacher Nate Pyle is teaching about teens and sexuality and respect for women. Pyle’s respect manifesto is one of the most beautiful, most feminist, loving things I’ve ever read. Let’s hope the other 19-year-old scared pregnant Christian girls who need someone like him can find voices like his when they need them, before it’s too late.