I admit I’m late to the party. I haven’t read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti or seen any relevant documentaries. But sometimes you see something out there in the world and you realize that there isn’t time to know everything–you just have to speak out. So, yeah. Here I go.
Someone recently pointed me to this article at Focus on the Family’s super-crappy website claiming to explain to anyone who is wondering why chastity is so important in the eyes of the Lord. It doesn’t actually quote any scripture to back it up–just makes a number of statements about Christian* life meant to be accepted as fact. Most of this I can politely disagree with and move on. But one item…well, it seriously pissed me off.
It’s Not My Body
Chastity is important because it involves how we comport our bodies — and through faith, our bodies are no longer our own. In faith, you have become part of Christ’s body, and it is Christ through the Church, who must give you permission to join His body to another body.
In the Christian worldview, we have no right to sex. The place where the Church confers that privilege on you is the wedding; weddings are specific acts that grant us permission to have sex with one person.
As you can imagine, I have some issues with that worldview and the way it sets girls and young women up to believe that from square one their bodies are out of their control. When I was a child, the idea of God was terrifying anyway. A gigantic white man who, in my mind, wore all black (even a black turtle-neck–I was born in the sixties!) and lived in the sky looking down on us seeing everything we did even when we hid? How terrifying. But if my parents had told me that my body was not my own, but belonged to that man in the sky? Honestly, I can’t even imagine how that might have felt as a little girl. Would it have made more sense to me, or less, when adult males in my life sexually abused me? Hard to say, but how on earth can a worldview like that raise young women with any real sense of themselves as human beings?
(Note: I realize that the page referenced above is ostensibly aimed at both sexes. But let’s be honest, shall we? In this worldview–and unfortunately, in our culture–the responsibility for remaining pure lies with the girl and then the woman she becomes. Boys play offense; girls play defense.)
The worldview illustrated by the Focus on the Family article is responsible for the fact that little girls all over the country attend “Purity Balls” and pledge their virginity to their fathers in some kind of sick mockery of a mass wedding. Seriously? I pledge my VIRGINITY to my FATHER? “Dear Daddy, my virginity is yours to have and hold in Jesus’ name until such time you and he decide I can have sex.” Holy shit, people, there’s something really wrong about that, isn’t there? It can’t just be me.
It terrifies me that a generation of girls is growing up in this subculture that–in the 21st century!–teaches them they have no say in their lives. It baffles me that anyone thinks these Purity Balls are anything but a way to manipulate little girls by letting them dress up like princesses and marry their daddies. Calling Doctor Sigmund Fucking Freud. It makes me sick that these girls will grow into women who believe that God and the men in their lives know what’s best for them while they do not, and that their bodies do not belong to them–that they have no real choice when it comes to sex, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood…except to do what their churches tell them Jesus wants them to do.
Will Smith, in a recent Parade interview, had this to say on the subject:
We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.
*I’m not a Christian, but my boyfriend is. He’s read the bible. Studied it. And when he read the Focus on the Family page I linked above his first words were, “Yeah, this is just evil.” I asked him to tell us more in his own words:
Jesus never said a single word about sex. Not one word. Jesus’ core teachings were about legalism, injustice, and hypocrisy.
In the Bible, there are four accounts of Jesus’ teachings that are directly *related* to sexuality, and one of those (unfortunately) is a later addition, but does demonstrate how his early followers understood his thinking. Those four passages are:
(Matt 5:31-32, Matt 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18) If a man divorce a woman and marry another, it is adultery. — This is admittedly a challenging claim, one that almost no Christians in any era have taken as the last word on remarriage. It should be noted that this passage is pointedly in the context of old testament law and is being directed at the hypocrisy of legalist teachings about that law.
(Matt 5:27-28) If a man look on a woman with lust, he has committed adultery with her in his heart. — Another challenging claim, but one that is generally taken as a koan, not an instruction. The koan is intended to point to the intent of the heart as the essence of the morality, not adherence to the letter of the law.
(John 4:16-18) Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman: Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. Some things to note about this: in the first place, Jesus is passing absolutely no judgement on this woman. He is not denouncing her as an adulteress or rebuking her in any other way. It is additionally important to note that Samaritans were not Jews, and many Jews would not even speak to Samaritans. They were like an untouchable class of Israel. Secondly, in the conversation that follows, Jesus and this woman discuss the nature of prayer. This is widely thought to be a true account of Jesus, and it shows that despite what sound like very hard lessons about adultery, he really doesn’t give a shit. Sexual ethics are not interesting to him.
(John 8:1-11) The woman caught in adultery. A famous passage that turns out to have been added fifty years or so after Jesus died. It demonstrates what some of his closest followers thought of him: a woman is about to be stoned to death for the sin of adultery. Jesus intervenes, asking “you without sin to cast the first stone.” There are a number of reasons why this is known to be a later addition, but again, it demonstrates that the people of Jesus time understood his primary teaching to be one of compassion and honoring the heart and the connection to God over any form of legalistic prescription for behavior.
In all of this we see one consistent theme: Jesus doesn’t like a casual divorce, and Jesus is not bothered by what people of his day considered sexual sin.
More important than what he did say is what he didn’t. These are four short passages across four pretty long texts. Jesus had an *enormous* amount to say about the failings of his society. In order to find a mature, Christian understanding of sexuality we need to look to other teachings of Jesus that we can apply to our sexual lives. Every generation of Christians has come to understand that Jesus was bringing a new understanding of God to the world: the understanding that God is love. Jesus had exactly and only two commandments to his followers:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
“All the Law and the Prophets” — this means everything in what we call the Old Testament. All of the old testament and all of the new testament can be seen as elaborations on these two commandments. For someone who follows Jesus, this is the only law. Everything else is interpretation, explanation, elaboration. A point of conflict between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe this *supplants* all other law. That all other efforts of law, particularly in the Old Testament, are flawed attempts to codify these simple commandments.
Paul made this abundantly clear to the Corinthians: All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify. (1 Cor 10:23)
In short: there is nothing prohibited to a Christian. Legalistic efforts to limit action always fail to capture Jesus’ simple commandments. There is no law that restricts Christian action. Whether an action is the right thing to do in the moment is between you and God. It comes down to the intention of your heart. It comes down to the embodiment of Jesus’ commandment to love.
Must Christians be “chaste”? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Do we have a “right” to sex? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Is any sex before, outside of, or after marriage an “embodied apostasy”? All things are lawful. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Perhaps the most egregious and anti-Christian thought expressed in the Focus on the Family piece is this sentence: “The place where the Church confers that privilege on you is the wedding.” This is so anti-Christian in any and every sense as to be mind boggling. In every view of Jesus from the very conservative to the very liberal, Jesus came to break down the barriers between humans and God. Jesus taught, over and over, that every human is in direct relationship to God. There is no intermediary. There is no role for anything that calls itself a Church to confer anything on anyone. Each of us may pray directly to God — not through a priest, not through a temple, not through a church. Each of us is baptized directly by God with the baptism of the Spirit which connects our heart to God. I don’t care whether it’s about sex or anything else: each individual is guided in his or her responsibilities to God only by that first commandment: to love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.
Any person who teaches anything else must beware of another, darker point that Jesus made:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
This will be a rant. You have been warned.
When I saw this flag, I had one of those YES moments. It sums up so much using so little real estate, and yet, it reminds us that it represents the tip of the iceberg because it stands for a nation that still accepts sexism as normal. That is not to say we like it, or that we support extremist efforts to roll back women’s rights. But in a society that treats women as less in so many subtle ways, it’s difficult to avoid becoming a participant in the abuse.
Some well-meaning folks who believe they are feminist allies unfortunately aren’t self-aware enough to learn from criticism that tells them their behavior is part of the problem, so they perpetuate that behavior amongst their well-meaning, feminist-ally circles and make things worse. (Poster-child for Progressive Sexism: Bill Maher.) And even the best of us (and I’m far from that) find–when we’re honest–that we contribute now and then. In a climate like that, how much easier must it be for the true misogynists, the powerful men who fear powerful women, to propagate their ideologies?
It’s just a few wingnuts, some people say. Well, I call bullshit. When you’ve got Pat Robertson on national tv telling husbands to move to Saudi Arabia so they can beat their wives, when judges set rapists free and blame victims or claim that silence=consent, when advertising LITERALLY reduces women to their parts, when women can’t walk the streets and feel safe, when girls and women experience multiple assaults throughout their lifetimes and it’s not even uncommon…well, I just don’t see how anyone can deny that there is a deeper problem than a few extreme right-wing politicians and religious fanatics (not to be redundant).
What are we going to do about it? Here’s one suggestion:
And as long as we’re solving the country’s (and the world’s!) problems using only viral Internet images, here’s another:
As I wrote last night, I participated in Occupy Seattle, and I continue to occupy in my own ways (this blog among them). I met a lot of different kinds of people, and some of them had extreme ideas that I understood but wasn’t really ready to buy into. Among these were the Anarchists. Now, to start with, I want to clarify that when I say “the Anarchists” I am not lumping anyone together with anyone else, I’m just saying that I met people who self-identified as Anarchists. And I want to make sure you understand that the people who dressed in black and broke windows were almost certainly different “Anarchists” from the ones I’m going to talk about (if the vandals self-identified as Anarchists at all). Like Feminism or any other group, Anarchism doesn’t operate as a unit. There are many shades and definitions. And all that said, I’d have to say that I’m not an Anarchist. Yet.
But that doesn’t matter at all, because people are being imprisoned for the crime of not speaking. In Leah-Lynn Plante’s case, the official charge is “civil contempt,” meaning she didn’t cooperate with the Grand Jury convened to get to the bottom of all her Anarchist literature, artwork, clothing, and beliefs.
Natasha Lennard writes in Salon:
“Writing for Truth-Out in August about the Northwest grand juries and those resisting cooperation, I noted that grand juries “are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system.” The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resistors, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-cooperators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury.”
Watch Leah’s video explaining her position and her readiness to go to prison:
You might not agree with her ideals or her lifestyle, but Leah-Lynn Plante’s only crime is refusal to cooperate with an investigation into those ideals by government she doesn’t recognize as operating in the her best interests or those of her fellow citizens–i.e., Leah is currently imprisoned for remaining silent and will very likely remain incarcerated for the next 18 months. Commenters on various websites miss the point when they ask, “Why not cooperate if you have nothing to hide?” Perhaps it will crystallize when a Grand Jury convenes to investigate their DVD collection.
I’m not an Anarchist, but I believe a person should be charged with a crime before an army of police invades their house and takes their stuff. I believe that a person should be found guilty of a crime before the government imprisons them. And I believe that Leah-Lynne Plante has the right to remain silent.
I’ll leave you with this famous quote from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
This is one of those sammiches I feel like I have to make for all the people out there who either a) don’t understand what rape culture is or (especially) b) don’t believe rape culture exists. Let’s start with a mini-lesson from a post called Rape Culture 101 over at lifelovelauren:
As children we are told not to talk to strange men who offer us sweets. As teenagers, girls are told ‘you’re not going out looking like that’. As adults, women are told to keep their doors and windows locked, not to walk anywhere alone after dark, not to look at men ‘in the wrong way’, not to open the door to strange men, not to wear short skirts or low cut tops, not to give a guy their number, not to take public transport or a taxi alone, not to sleep with multiple people, not to drink too much, not to live alone, not to be weak, not to get raped. Because if we do any of these things, well, it was our fault wasn’t it? We led him on, we asked for it, we wanted to get raped. That’s rape culture.
I’ll add that “we” above refers to girls and that we as a society do relatively little (when compared to how much time we spend preparing girls not to get raped) to prepare boys not to rape. Something is terribly wrong with this equation.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen stories (related to the one I shared from Mandaray this week) that lit a fire of rage inside me which has smoldered and sparked and grown hotter with each passing day as more and more stories come to light. These are stories of institutionalized rape culture in the United States of America. Stories about how our system makes victims responsible for the crimes committed against them, but only if those crimes are sexual and the victims are women. As someone said recently of racism (which must be considered in any discussion of inequality), this is not something laws will change. WE have to change.
We have to change how we think about rape as it relates to how we think about women. Yes, I know, rape happens to men, too, but everyone agrees that’s a Bad Thing. Men who get raped are not generally subjected to criticisms of their wardrobe choices because no one believes that what a man wears has any bearing on whether he gets raped. Think about that for a moment. Why are women imagined to be responsible for how men react to their state of dress? Do we really think that all men are born rapists with no control over their actions? I know I’m not the first to ask this question. Hell, I’m probably not the first to ask this question today. But it must be asked because it is the very definition of a double standard and this is one that hurts us as a society possibly more than any other.
So, stories. Here’s one you’ve probably heard, because it happened a couple of weeks ago. A judge in Arizona (I know, shocking) let a cop go free after a jury convicted him of sexual assault. Read that sentence again–I’ll wait. Here’s what Judge Jaqueline Hatch had to say to the victim of the (no longer alleged) assault (via ThinkProgress):
Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.
“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.
Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.
“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”
Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.
The fact that this victim-blaming-shaming bullshit came from the mouth of a woman makes it seem all the more evil to me. Oh, and by the way? While officer Robb Gary Evans was fired due to his conviction, he is not required to register as a sex offender. Neat, huh?
Yeah, that story made me want to punch things. This next one makes me want to punch people.
Today the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned this man’s sexual assault conviction. No one questions that sex took place, but see, this man had sex with a woman who was physically and mentally disabled. She has cerebral palsy, and while this is not always or even usually the case with CP, she is severely mentally retarded. Sinking to a new low in victim-blaming, the court ruled that the victim was capable of communicating her lack of consent, so you know, consent was a given.
The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that [the] victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies:
When we consider this evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, and in a manner that is consistent with the state’s theory of guilt at trial,we, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.’
So, pay attention, ladies: If you don’t say “No,” whether it’s because you’ve got a sock stuffed in your mouth or you’re just paralyzed with fear, your lack of non-consent equals consent. Got it?
Remember the girl in Texas who was told she had to cheer for her rapist at sporting events? What about the one who was court-ordered to write a letter of apology to the man who raped her because the court didn’t convict? The eleven-year-old child who news commentators accused of dressing older than her age? Does no one remember The Accused?
When are we going to put our collective feet down in thunderous unison and say ENOUGH?
Sigh. That’s all I’ve got energy for today. Over to you, readers.
by Amy Sisson
Author’s Note: “Patriot Girls” is my response to news stories showing that statistically, our wars have a disproportionate impact on poor and uneducated young men, the ones for whom the military may be the only viable option. But what if our wars outpace enlistment? What if twenty or thirty years from now, even a draft doesn’t provide enough soldiers for whatever wars we may find ourselves in whether we want them or not?
Tuesday, May 16
IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, but by this time tomorrow I’ll be a Patriot Girl. Ma tried to talk me out of it, and begged me to finish the school year at least, but I’ll be sixteen so there’s nothing she can do. I told her I have the right to do what’s right for my country. And besides, everyone who’s anyone is a Patriot Girl.
Me and Alicia are taking the bus to Austin to register tomorrow. You get free bus fare when you join up. Alicia turned sixteen a month and a half ago but waited for me so we could go together. It was really nice of her, especially since her sister Mary has already been a Patriot Girl for a year and a half. So I printed my birth certificate off the net and packed one small bag, which is all they let you bring. You don’t have to take much, because they give you clothes and everything else you need.
Friday, May 19
I’m a Patriot Girl! We took our vows the day before yesterday, but they’ve kept us so busy I didn’t have time to post until now. First they had an orientation assembly for the new recruits. They explained that our main duty is to support the Patriot Boys who are about to go off to War. These boys are already heroes because they give up everything to defend our freedom, and we need to let them know how much we appreciate it.
One girl, Callie, I think her name was, asked how many of the Boys will come back. She said she heard that most of them don’t last more than six weeks. But Sarge Grayson said that was just a rumor, and it didn’t matter anyway because a Patriot Boy is a hero no matter how long he survives. I thought Callie was dumb to ask that. Everyone knows that our Boys are smarter than the enemy, and they’re gonna come back when the War is over and we can all settle down.
Alicia’s sister Mary, her Boy’s been gone a year already, but he sent her a letter last week saying he’s safe and will be back in a few months. Right now she and little Ben live in one of the dorms for Wives on the other side of the campus, and she keeps busy helping out with the new Girls and taking care of the little ones.
They told us there’s a dance every Friday where we can meet the Boys. Me and Alicia are about to go get our dresses and then get our hair done. I hope I can find a green dress, but I heard that the newbies get the leftovers.
Saturday, May 20
So last night was our first dance! I was a little nervous, because I haven’t been around boys for ages, and I wasn’t sure what a real Patriot Boy would be like. But the dressers fixed us all up to look nice and even gave us perfume. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so pretty before. The dresser who helped me was a little bit older than us. She said I had beautiful red hair, and she even put a flower over my ear, and then she said I should just be myself and I would be fine. When we were all ready, the Sarge called us together and told us to have a good time, and then we got on the bus to the dance hall across campus.
Alicia was nervous too. I’m glad I had her for company! Some of the new Girls didn’t know anybody else when they got here so they’ve had to make friends fast, but I’m lucky because my best friend is here with me. I even got a green dress! At first when I tried it on it was a little too big, but they fixed it for me by the time we got dressed. Alicia got yellow. She looks good in yellow, but thank God I didn’t get that dress, because no Boy would ever look at me twice in that color.
When the Boys got there, I just about had a heart attack! They’re so good-looking! They all stand so straight and tall in their dark green uniforms, and they looked proud but a little nervous too. They stared at us like they’d never seen girls before, and I guess maybe they hadn’t for a while. Alicia grabbed my hand, and I could tell she was as excited as I was.
One of the officers introduced the band. Can you believe it? Our first Patriot Girl dance and we got Faith Rock!
Alicia and me were standing together by the punch bowl. These two Boys came over and told us their names were Nick and Jason. Nick asked Alicia to dance, and Jason said he’d like to dance but wanted to talk to me first. He said to call him Jase. He asked me where I was from and I told him I grew up in Galveston before we all had to evacuate, and now my Ma lives in Spring, on the north side of Houston.
Jase told me he’s from San Antonio. His father was a Hero who died when Jase was only five years old. Jase has an older brother who’s already overseas, and a little sister who’s nine who can’t wait to be a Patriot Girl. It sounds like he has a real patriotic family, which is more than I can say. After the War is over, he wants to be an aircraft mechanic. It was kind of hard to hear him over the music, but it was fun talking to him just the same.
I was glad when he was finally ready to dance, though. There were some Chaperones on the dance floor, older ladies in gray uniforms. They had minibooks, and I wondered if they were taking our pictures or something. One of them said something to Alicia and Nick, but it must not have been anything bad because Alicia still looked happy. She and Nick went back over to the sidelines and got some punch. I tried to keep my feet out from under Jase’s. He’s cute but maybe not the best dancer!
Then a Chaperone tapped Jase’s shoulder. “Having fun, kids?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” we said together.
“If you want to take a break after this dance, there are rest areas where you can get something to drink and sit down for a bit. Just through that door,” she said, pointing.
Jase looked at me and I nodded, so he took my hand and led me through a doorway at the end of the dance hall. My heart started beating faster. One of the male officers was standing just inside the door.
“Hi kids,” he said. “Names?”
“Jason Stewart and Margie Campbell,” Jase said.
“Right,” said the officer. “311 is free—fourth door on the right. There are refreshments in there, and it’s a little quieter so you can hear each other talk.”
We went in, and boy, they weren’t kidding! They had all kinds of drinks and snacks—lots better stuff than I get at home. There was a flatscreen in the wall showing music vids with the sound turned down low. Jase asked me if I wanted a drink and I said yes, so he got me a Coke out of the wall fridge. Then we sat on the couch, which was long and all comfy, like you could sink into it and disappear. Jase put his arm around my shoulder and played with a piece of my hair.
“You’re awfully pretty, Margie,” he said. I was happy but kind of embarrassed. We talked for a while and had more drinks, and then Jase was kissing me. I was worried at first that someone might come in, but Jase said he could lock the door from the inside. I don’t think I was ever so happy in my whole life. And no, I’m not going to tell you all the details!
Thursday June 1
I meant to write this weekend but I ended up going to a special picnic on Saturday to welcome another batch of new Girls. On Sunday afternoon I tried calling Ma but I couldn’t get a good connection, so I t-mailed her instead. I haven’t heard back from her yet.
Jase and I went to the dance again last Friday. That was the first time I’d seen him since the last dance, because he’s been tied up with training and the Girls have been busy with all kinds of med and psych tests. Nothing that hurt, just lots of hypos drawing blood and stuff. And all kinds of silly test questions, like what do these pictures remind you of, and what weighs more, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers. Anyone could get that one!
This time I had a kind of silvery dress for the dance, and one of the dressers helped me put my hair up. Jase said I looked beautiful. We even got the same room as last time to take a break from the dance, so Jase joked it was our room and I should think of 311 as our secret code number. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow night!
Sunday June 4
I was really happy yesterday, because Jase and I had a great time at the dance again, but then this morning I found out he’s shipping out. He sent me a t-mail and said he would miss me, but he’ll be back on furlough in a few months and he can’t wait to meet me in 311 again. He signed it Jason instead of Jase, and I laughed because I’d almost forgotten that’s his real name. But then I stopped laughing because I’m scared I’ll never see him again.
I ran to tell Alicia, and she just heard that Nick is going too. He and Jase are in the same unit, so it makes sense, but it’s such bad luck. I told Alicia that we could keep each other company at the next dance. I mean, I would maybe dance with another Boy since they need us to help them take their minds off the War, but I’m not doing anything else until Jase comes back.
That girl Callie bugs me. She said one of the Girls who’s being sent home for breaking curfew told her the Boys always say they’re coming back for furlough and then they never do.
“Well, duh, it’s a War and their schedules get changed sometimes,” Alicia said. “Anyway, Janice said her sister Linda’s Boy came back home to Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.” Callie said maybe but she didn’t look convinced. I don’t know what her problem is.
Saturday, June 17
No dance for me last night after all, and I didn’t get to go last week either. Alicia got to go both times, but last week Sarge told me they needed me to help organize some events for the Wives, and last night they wanted me to be here for another Orientation, to welcome some new Girls coming in from the west side of the state. I was kind of bummed. I’ve been down about Jase being gone and I was looking forward to the dance just to get out for a while. I’ve written to Jase every day, but I know I can’t expect many letters when he’s in the field.
Alicia said she had a good time last night, even though she still wishes Nick were here. She met someone named Brent who she said was nice. She says she didn’t do anything with him, but I’m not sure I believe her.
Monday, June 26
Today I found out why I’ve been getting called for more med tests than the other Girls. The Nurse told me this morning that I’m going to have a baby. I was so scared I started to cry. I thought they would send me home for sure, and my Ma would be so ashamed of me.
The nurse was sweet. “Don’t worry, Margie. Everything will be fine,” she told me.
“But I don’t know what I’ll do,” I cried. “I don’t know if my Ma will even take me back. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong!”
The nurse looked at me like she wanted to say something else, but she didn’t. I came back to the dorm, and before I even got a chance to tell Alicia, Sarge came with a letter from Jase. And can you believe it? He wants to marry me, and he doesn’t even know about the baby! He said he misses me so much, and he’ll be able to handle being out there in the field better if he knows he has a Wife waiting for him back home. I showed the letter to Sarge right away and she said she had to check some paperwork, but she was pretty sure we’d be allowed to get married. She said that the Head of the Patriot Girls is something called in loco parentis, like a legal guardian for the Girls under eighteen, so I won’t even need Ma’s permission to get married.
I wish Jase could get back for the wedding, but the timing just isn’t right. His letter said he got emergency orders to deploy to a new location, and he doesn’t want to wait to get married. But he said not to worry, because intelligence found out if they strike at this one spot right away, there’s a good chance the War could be over in a few months. That means Jase should be back before the baby comes. I can’t wait to write him about it.
Sarge says I’m special, because not many Girls get a proposal after only a couple of dances. I remember back when the recruiters talked to us in school, they told us the best thing a girl can do is get married and have children so we have real families in this country instead of mobs of people who only think about themselves. Even after I told her about the baby, she said she was real proud of me. She said that Jase’s proposal proves that God wants us to be together.
Alicia and Mary and all the girls from the dorm are coming to the wedding next week. I t-mailed my ma a little bit ago to see if she’ll come up for it. After the wedding I get to move into the Wives’ dorm. Mary said she’ll help me settle in. Poor Mary is being a really good sport, considering she just heard a few days ago that little Ben’s father isn’t coming back. She’s proud he’s a Hero, but I can tell she’s sad. She said her Sarge told her she’s still young and she can move back into the Girls’ dorm and go back to the dances if she wants. They can take care of little Ben in a special kids’ dorm to make it easier for her, and Mary can see him whenever she wants.
Tuesday, September 12
I haven’t written in ages because things have been kind of dull, but today I found out I’m having a boy for sure! I was hoping for a boy because I think that will make Jase happy.
The only other thing that’s happened recently is that Callie went AWOL. I heard a rumor that she’s pregnant, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.
Friday, February 2
The other Wives are throwing me a baby shower this Sunday. They’ve been teasing me, asking me if I’m sure it’s going to be a boy, and saying they’re going to bring pink baby clothes just in case. They said they don’t get enough chances to buy pink clothes because not that many of the Wives have had girls lately.
The bad news is that Jase probably isn’t going to be back before the baby comes in March. I wish he could be here. I get a letter every couple of weeks, but it’s hard not being able to see him.
I’m also kind of worried about Alicia. I don’t see her that often since she’s still in the Girls’ dorm, but I talked to her a few days ago and I can tell she’s kind of depressed. I think it’s because she keeps meeting these Boys and then they leave. Thank God I have Jase! I don’t want to be mean, but I wonder if there’s something about Alicia that keeps the Boys she meets from wanting to marry her.
Alicia’s going home to visit her mom for a few weeks. We were both going to go home for Christmas but there was a fuel shortage and they had to cancel all non-essential travel for a while. So she’s going for her Ma’s birthday instead. She told me that Sarge said the dorms are a little overcrowded right now so Alicia doesn’t have to come back right away, and they may need to postpone her re-enlistment a little while until they get the housing shortage figured out. I don’t know what Alicia’s going to do with herself back at home.
Thank God I don’t have to leave. I mean, it’s a little dull right now and I miss the dances, but once I have the baby I can at least go and help the Girls get ready and watch the dances from the sidelines. But I’m a Wife and I’m about to be a Mother, and that’s more important than anything else. And when the War is over Jase can get a job as an airplane mechanic and we can get a house and we can watch little Jase grow up. It shouldn’t be too much longer now.
“Patriot Girls” originally appeared in the End of an Aeon anthology now available from Fairwood Press.
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We shared a house on the West side of Queen Anne hill in Seattle, and from the balcony we’d soon note the utter lack of planes in the clear blue sky–all except one lone AWACS jet that probably lived at nearby Boeing Field. The sky seemed so blue in those days after, and my job downtown ensured that when planes flew again, I’d see them framed with the buildings of my city in ways that never bothered me before but were now NOT OKAY. I never wanted to see another plane and building together again.
We watched the news together that morning, Mom and I, while my daughter fought traffic to and from the airport to pick up a passenger who wouldn’t fly today or any day soon. She listened on the radio and we watched on t.v. as the buildings fell. Then we all came together and wondered what we should do. We drove to the local Red Cross office hoping we could be of some help to someone, somehow. They were…clueless. Not sure why we were there. “Oh, that. Yeah, we don’t know.”
I don’t have any conclusions to offer. I’ve watched my country become a security state, if not a police state. I have written, I have spoken, I have occupied. I don’t know what the answers are, but I believe that working together, we’ll discover them, or reveal what we already knew.
Don’t give up.