OK, first I am going to say that I am angry. I am really furious. Lately I’ve been reading this awesome book by Naomi Wolf called Promiscuities about growing up in the 60′s and how confusing and hurtful (as well as amazing) becoming a woman in modern society can be.
And then I hear about this: a program being run in Sydney by Christian evangelist group Hillsong, called SHINE, which brainwashes young women to adhere to ‘traditional’ Christian values. This program targets girls as young as 10 (going up to 20) and is PAID by schools for its services.
Here is some more information about the program, which is sure to make you as mad as me!
The Christian evangelist organisation “Hillsong” has developed a program which is being delivered in schools nationwide. The program statement released on 26th July 2008 claims that it is non-religious; delivered by qualified staff from the areas of youth work, community work and welfare; does not reinforce gender stereotypes; and uses “personal care” topics merely to break down barriers for the discussion of issues such as peer pressure, self-esteem, bullying and other challenges of adolescence.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Some much-needed support for young women in a time when they receive countless conflicting and sometimes damaging messages about the body and self worth.
However, look closer.
The 9 week program objectives are to equip high school girls to “discover themselves as valuable, precious and beautiful; make good decisions; change and impact any situation by investing into it; dare to dream, see a preferable future, and move confidently towards it”. The first 4 sessions (out of nine) are dedicated to skincare, make-up, hair-care and nail-care. Two more sessions incorporate lessons in good posture, “sitting pretty” and diet.
The according to the program statement the SHINE program is “delivered in a non-confrontational, non-religious way to young women from a range of backgrounds.” However, on a Youtube video of the program Jesus In The Real World a SHINE representative says: ‘I want to see these young girls come to a knowledge of salvation “to get to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour …”
The program also encourages girls to aspire to professions including waitressing and hairdressing. It is being used by Alexandria Park Public School and originated at the former Cleveland Street High School in Surry Hills in 1997.
One teenage girl said Shine was heavily promoted at her school. “I always got a bad vibe from the Shine program, which was pushed relentlessly at assemblies and year meetings until enough people joined up,” she said.
According to the Waterloo health worker, Hillsong uses Shine for recruitment. “These young woman who run Shine are very good looking and well dressed and charismatic, their heart is in the right place, but their ultimate aim is to recruit members to the church.
“I have had situations here [local women's health centre] where Shine people have come in and harassed girls, the girls have said to me: “I don’t want to go with them or talk to them”, and I have had to ask the Shine people to leave.”
And to make matters worse, SHINE has a brother program called STRENGTH (*retch*). Now, of course, you might expect STRENGTH boys to be given similar lessons about pretty nails and how they should aspire to be hairdressers. But no (shocked expression) the STRENGTH program activity descriptions include exhortations to:
Learn the power of motivation and endurance.
Never give up…Never say die!
Confidence, Know who you are…
Learn practical ways to deal with anger…
Young women deserve more than this – they deserve to be taught that their self-worth does not depend on their virginity, they deserve to be taught that they can aspire to any occupation they choose, they deserve to be taught that looks or what make-up you wear shouldn’t matter – it’s what kind of person you are that does.
Now, I would like to give a big feministing community F**K YOU to the people promoting these programs. I find it disgusting that people would try to exploit growing young women by forcing Christian gender values onto them, while calling the program non-religious and saying it does not reinforce gender stereotypes.
See this Association of Women Educators document for more details.