The Covering

by

I need to come clean after reading an article, “Striking Portraits of Fathers and the Daughters Whose Virginity They’ve Pledged to Protect”, that abutted a memory—one sending me on an expedition, opening boxes, to find the baby book my mother wrote in until I was 20. I was looking for a particular entry:

Missy, you and Laura had the WCTU White Ribbon tied on you at Mrs. Phil Foster’s annual meeting. With this White Ribbon you are pledged ‘I promise, God helping me, not to buy, give, drink or sell alcohol, while I live. From all tobacco, I’ll abstain and never take God’s name in vain.’ I hope and pray you will let this pledge become a guiding light in your life.

I was three when I took this oath. And it was semi-effective. I kept that pledge for about nine years—until my two best friends and I smoked a pack of cigarettes one hot summer afternoon. Sorry, Mother, I say, glancing out at the sunlight. There’s not one no-no in that pledge I haven’t violated, even selling alcohol, since I order by the case to share with Laura and accept money from her when she takes her six bottles. But back to that article. The portraits appearing with the piece are among those taken by photographer David Magnusson for his book Purity and show daddies and their daughters, girls in dresses (some dresses resembling wedding gowns), fathers in suits or military uniform with their arms wrapped around their girls, holding them close, feeling their hips, a pair of daddy hands placed precariously close to a daughter’s virginitalia. Eww, this is soooooooooo creepy. Plus, the author mentions purity balls. I had a visual before realizing those balls are proms. Then I hit Google to learn more about the bashes. My, my, this is a national movement, now in 48 states. The big night includes a dinner, a dance, lots of mansplainin’ about the necessity for chastity, entertainment, the pledge—a pledge that may differ among the many groups, but here’s an example:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and my family as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

It’s obedience training. And what’s with ‘covering’? Never mind. I just read that it means ‘which authority are you submitted to.’ That this doctrine is based on misinterpreted biblical texts, “misapplied and misconstrued.” And it “continues to grow in the fertile soil of the charismatic movement given its anti-intellectual and anti-scholarly bias.” Submission is mandated, formalized during the ceremony. There’s a touching (literally) moment when the daddies form a circle around the girls and place their hands on their daughters, “praying for purity of mind, body, and soul … “ Moving back to the other site, I saw “What about Boys” and clicked, because I was under the impression that this was all about daddies and their daughters. Wrong. Boys have a manhood service, when they’re 12. Called Brave Heart of a Warrior, it’s imbued with—what else? Warrior symbols. Onward Christian soldiers. Now, get a load of this: Although most of the girls are at the age of menstruation, they can be as young as four when their Daddies pledge to protect to control their fresh flesh and they in turn agree to remain chaste until marriage. I guess the tykes know about as much as I did at that White Ribbon ritual. If God didn’t want Daddy to protect his daughter from her boyfriend’s penis HE wouldn’t have called it menstruation. The distillate is that the value of a female human being hinges on an intact hymen, so much so that Daddy’s the hymen keeper. If God didn’t want Daddy to protect his daughter from her boyfriend’s penis, HE wouldn’t have called it a hymen. It’s the father’s right to choose for his daughter, because she’s a mindless, delicate XX chromo requiring the powerfully strong XY to make important decisions about her body. (God/Daddy forbid she’s a lesbian.) And those portraits—they really send icky, skin crawling vibes. Whew, I need a hot, soapy shower. Feel as if I’ve watched some reality TV show called Daddy Does Daughter. While the young males prepare for war and the day that they too can pledge to protect their daughters’ virginitalia. Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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