WARNING: This article is gut-wrenching in its implications.
I couldn’t find it in myself to maintain the customary jovial tone of this blog.
The teachings I want to address today enable pure evil.
If you’re here for the laughs, you won’t find them today. Come back tomorrow.
But if you’re here to learn WHY I’m doing this to start with, please read on...
Trigger warning for sexual abuse.
This is the third part of an ongoing series deconstructing the teachings in Dear Princess. If you would like to start at the beginning, click here.
In the third installment of this series, we take our first steps into the heart of the horror.
You may think that I am being overdramatic here, but I assure you that I am not. The teachings that we will explore in this article are horrifying, and, wittingly or not, lay the groundwork for a culture rife with abuse.
But before we get to that, I want to address another pertinent issue. The cognitive dissonance that pervades this book is breathtaking.
“Erma is always finding fault with the other girls. Clara laughs too much, Erma says, and Erma reminds her continually that she is not being sober. Barbara’s dress is not long enough, Erma keeps telling her, and Helen should surely know better than to play a certain childish game…”
“Where is Erma’s love? Is it possible that she does not see how sinful she herself is?”
The cognitive dissonance here is almost mind-breaking. Every one of Erma’s criticisms of her friends are criticisms that the author herself levels at young girls throughout the book, warning them of the evils of too much laughter, short dresses, and the evils of older girls playing.
Yet when the author finds fault with girls that do these very things, she is acting as a saintly mother figure, intent on instructing them in the ways of truth and righteousness.
“Where is her love?” My dear sir, she’s doing it out of love!"
But I digress, let's talk about the real problem today.
"Now Be a Good Girl"
Chapter 9 of our book begins with this paragraph:
And now we come to goodness. And how shall we define it? Perhaps we can learn from a simple illustration.
'Now be good,’ we tell little sister. What do we mean?
We mean that she should obey that which is right for her to do. She should obey all instructions that have been given her. If she does this, we tell her she was a good little girl.
Oh yes, my friends, good girls do what they are told.
Good little girls follow all the instructions that have been given to them.
Does she always understand why she is asked to do or not do certain things?
But to be a good little girl she must still do everything that she is told to do.
If you can read these paragraphs without a sense of revulsion, you have never spent time talking to a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
Teaching children to be obedient is noble. But this goes far beyond mere obedience. “Good little girls do what they’re told. No matter what.”
Imagine a little girl coming home from a friend’s house, where she submitted without question to hideous abuses perpetrated by one of the boys in the family.
Mother asks, “Were you a good little girl?”
Translation: “Did you do everything you were told to do?”
“Yes. Mommy, I was good. I did everything they told me to do." (That makes me good, doesn’t it?)
Of course, the chapter gives lip service to the idea that we should obey God first, and never, ever obey anyone who says to go against the Bible.
But the rest of the book makes it abundantly clear that little children can’t understand enough to decide what they should do, so the already weak defense against abuse is completely eviscerated.
The theme of mindless, dronelike obedience is hammered again and again, with dire warnings about what will happen to those who question or fail to heed.
There is no warning given, no caveat. No protection for good little girls who want to obey, but are in the clutches of a perverted person. There is no teaching given, that those who truly want to keep you safe will protect you, and not defile you.
There is nothing more essential in your life than obedience. There is so much sin in the world that the tender young girl cannot begin to know and understand all that she might face when she is out of the protection of her own home. The very forces of hell are arrayed against her.
Many of these dangers cannot be explained to her, because her experience and understanding are not sufficiently developed. So often she must obey without fully understanding why.
Only this: You must do what you’re told, whether you like it or not. That's what good girls do.
“Good girls do what they’re told. You want to be a good girl, don’t you?”
With teaching like this being handed to preteen girls, is there any wonder why there is such an epidemic of sexual abuse in conservative Anabaptist circles?
These girls come pre-groomed!
And that's why this site exists. To expose this rottenness at the core, using their own words.
"For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words, thou shalt be condemned."
This post is part of an ongoing series. To read the next installment, click here.