"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Friday, September 21, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: The Education of Shelby Knox

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This documentary ended up not being quite what I expected. Rather than focusing specifically on the content of the "abstinence only" sex education being taught in her Texas high school, it dealt more with a young girl's struggle with reconciling her consevative Christian upbringing with her emerging liberal views. Which I found fascinating, because I can totally relate.

Luckily, I didn't grow up with parents that made me pledge my virginity to them at a formal event, and they never blatantly told me that they thought homosexuality is a sin, but they (along with most of my hometown) were conservative, church-going Republicans, and it felt revolutionary to me when I started to have my own thoughts and realize that I was, in fact, an atheist and a feminist.

The scene where the school board prays together before their meeting hit especially close to home. I can remember accompanying my mom to PTA meetings as a very small child and watching all the parents bow their heads to say the Lord's Prayer before getting down to business. I suppose I shouldn't be at all surprised that this is still going on, even though it's so obviously a violation of the separation of church and state.

I wish that the film would have told more of the facts. That the filmmakers would have made sure to include the real truth after showing footage of the ridiculous pastor/"abstinence educator" spouting lies about condom use and STI prevention.

I also wish that Shelby (and her parents in their process of coming around to her ideas) didn't harp so much on the idea that she was fighting for comprehensive sex ed so that, even though she was still waiting for marriage, all those other kids who don't have her kind of home life and parental support will know how to be safe when they have sex. That bothered me a little, even though I can understand where she is coming from I'm sure she felt (and still feels) plenty of unspoken pressure to make sure that her parents still know that she intends to remain "pure" for them and for God, even while fighting for better sex ed at her school.

But I liked the movie. I liked watching her think for herself and stand up to some pretty powerful religious conservatives, asserting that they have no right to tell her she can't reconcile her liberal views with her faith. I liked that LGBT issues were addressed along with sex ed. I liked that Shelby became an ally in the cause of her fellow students who were fighting for the right to have a Gay/Straight Alliance at their school, despite the wariness of her parents and peers. I like that she didn't compromise.


Jeff Pollet said...

One of the things that I found fascinating was that, even though her parents showed their homophobia and such, and they taught her such that she wanted to do a commitment ceremony with her father (icky), they also seemed to genuinely want her to make decisions for herself, to find her own way, and they did seem to try to support her even when she disagreed with them. It gave me hope that some socially conservative folks do understand that they may not have all of the answers...

Tracey said...

Jeff - Yeah, that's a good point. Overall, her parents were generally supportive of her, even though they disagreed with her views. I hope that there are more people out there who raise their kids that way.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this, but I'm happy to see sex ed moving beyond the usual mechanics of sex and STD stuff that is usually taught and moving into the direction of respect, healthy relationships and stuff like that.

Further, I think sexual violence prevention and awareness should be a big part of any sex ed class.

Anonymous said...

This is a great film. Shelby Knox is an inspiring woman. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

cripchick said...

thanks for the recommendation, will have to check it out.