Monday, 25 June 2007

Please don’t try to have sex with me.

That’s what 16-year-old Lydia Playfoot is very openly telling people through the medium of a small, silver ring. This shiny, innocuous circle has cause a huge amount of debate, and, no doubt, a huge amount of free publicity for The Silver Ring Thing.

There are a few issues this case. The biggest of which is freedom of expression. Schools should either allow you to express yourself and your ideas, or not. Those ideas can range from your religious convictions to your sexuality.

For some reason, religious freedom is given a greater priority over other forms of freedom of expression. Playfoot's ring is mainly a statement of a sexual nature. But why are turbans acceptable and her ring isn’t? Are the school trying to say that they only value a child’s right to express their religion and religion alone? Do only members of organised religion deserve the privilege of self-expression? Are all other ideologies somehow unimportant? Would a pin depicting support for a charity be disallowed? What about Make Poverty History bands?

And what exactly is acceptable as a religious expression? The school claim they’d allow her to wear a cross, but would they allow symbols of Satanism or other such cults?

Using that argument, Playfoot stated that since Sikhs can wear turbans and Muslims can wear hijaab, she should be allowed to wear her ring as an expression of her faith in Christianity. Now, whether or not this ring is a requirement of her faith is open to debate. What interests me is the fact that schools (and other institutions) try far too hard to accommodate minorities. I once went to school with henna on my hands and my teachers didn’t say a word. If my friends painted their nails, they were handed some acetone and a cotton ball. Nobody questioned whether decorating my hands was a religious requirement for me, they just assumed or were too scared to say anything for fear of offence. Playfoot, on the other hand, is having her motives behind wearing the ring scrutinised just because it's a lot easier to ridicule Christianity than it is any other faith. There is far too much positive discrimination in schools, and it is grossly unfair.

How can her school disallow her quite discrete ring, whilst they let other students wear very obvious declarations of their religion?

On the other side of the debate, there’s the issue of the philosophy behind the ring, and whether or not a promise to God helps you keep your virginity for longer. I don’t know if it does, but I do know that abstinence only sex education is highly ignorant. These sorts of initiatives work to scare you into not having sex and will particularly detail how unreliable contraception is. That means that if the people involved are eventually tempted, they’ll be more likely to engage in unprotected sex than those who’ve been educated about contraception. I admire Playfoot’s convictions at such a young age, but I hope that she doesn’t deny herself a well rounded sex education just because she thinks she won’t have any. I also hope that all this publicity around her ring won't cause her embarrassment if she eventually decides to take it off.

I do resent the notion of "purity" that she is putting across, by implying that anyone who does have sex is somehow impure. It's almost the reverse of people making fun of other people for being virgins. Again, I respect what she is doing, but not at the expense of saying that all those who have sex are filthy buggers with no self respect. It is perfectly possible to find a balance in the middle of virginity and indiscriminate sex.

And now that I've flirted with the debate, I'll just put the whole thing in perspective. At the end of the day, it's a frigging ring. It's barely noticeable and threats of expulsion over it are absolutely ridiculous. The court case itself seems to be a pointless waste of time (and donation money), especially as Playfoot no longer attends the school. This whole media circus reminds me of the Shabina Begum case, which was equally as ridiculous. She was also being used for a publicity stunt (by her brother who is a member of HuT), as is Playfoot by her organisation.

What people wear is still taken far too seriously by some.

1 comment:

Kook said...

Ohhhh you're blogging again!

btw sort the design out!! some font is in dark colours against dark background. and you need a bloody menu on the right not a mile away at the bottom!