Opinion: "Girl, Defined" YouTube channel is problematic and promotes unrealistic purity

Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird, youtube stars with the handle 'Girl Defined,' started their channel to promote their experiences with what they call 'radical purity.' Noticeably, they don’t shy away from the word radical, a word with a very heavy connotation in today’s society, naming one of their books “Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity and Identity”.

Two of their more popular videos that I want to talk about are  8 Reasons We Aren’t Feminists and The Modern Woman’s Struggle with Sexual Sin. In other videos they talk about issues such as dressing modestly and the sacrifice of comfort girls must make in order to cover their body in summer months. In one of their videos they shame girls for being “desperate flirts” while discussing what seems like totally normal pre-teen behavior. Their religion is not the issue here, as religion is often a positive influence. My issue with Kristen and Bethany is the unrealistic ideal of purity they promote to vulnerable young girls who then punish themselves for falling short of this impossible promise.

Right away when I began watching their video about sexual sin, a few things stood out to me. First off and most evident is the reference to sexual activity as “Sexual Sin”. The girls appear to define sexual sin as anything from physical acts to just thoughts about sexual activity. This idea of sexual activity being “sin” promotes unhealthy and disordered behaviors in young women, who are being told by their religious community that perfectly normal feelings and desires are impure and shameful.

What stood out to me about Kristen and Bethany is that while some followers of the Christian faith will wait to have sex until marriage, Kristen and Bethany waited to even kiss or hold hands with their partners until marriage. While that is their personal choice and seemed to work for them, it’s a pretty unrealistic expectation to preach to young women. However, with the rise of youtubers and instagram influencers, vulnerable young women are turning to figures such as Kristen and Bethany as role models. While it has been argued that this has lead to the sexualization of girls  from a younger age, here we see the other side of the spectrum.

Kristen and Bethany promote archaic ideals for women that are unachievable for anyone other than the most pious in our society. Shaming young girls for their sexuality has been proven time and time again to lead to women with unhealthy views of their desires and lends itself to them having negative sexual experiences in their future. In contrast, we should be empowering women to embrace their sexuality and teaching girls that their feelings are normal and healthy.

At first when watching these videos, I thought the girls were at least trying to be subtle about their clear disdain for the modern woman’s lifestyle. However, I then came across one of their videos, “8 Reasons We Aren’t Feminists”, and to be quite honest I was interested. I’ve always wanted to hear the explanations women have for purposely branding themselves as non-feminist, as to me it just makes sense as a woman to want equal rights. This turned out to be one of their main grievances; they don’t want equal rights. They believe that men and women (the only two genders in their world) were created to be different and should be treated as such. Women were created by God to be “beautiful and feminine”, that’s all. This sends the message to young girls that their appearance is the sole factor that gives their life value. I for one would rather my younger sister hears about her capacity to accomplish great things in her career, regardless of her appearance.

Kristen and Bethany take issue with the ways in which “all feminists” are “proudly posing naked “ with no morals or boundaries. In reality, the recent rise in feminists posing naked is actually more to do with reclaiming women’s bodies as their own, and not an object for the male gaze. Another reason they list, which to be honest I never thought I would hear women take issue with, is that feminists promote female leadership and in doing so “discourage” male leadership. Kristen and Bethany believe that women should be promoting male leadership and supporting men while taking a passive role in the workplace. One of the most abhorrent reasons to me was simply that feminists had the “radical idea” that women should be in control of their own actions. This is everything sexism stands for,  stripping women of free choice and action. Without mincing words, people like Kristen and Bethany are the reason men still believe it acceptable to see themselves as superior to women.

Teaching young girls to be submissive to men and reject the ideals of a free and independent woman is detrimental to their confidence and growth. I think this, combined with the messages of sexual repression promoted by Kristen and Bethany leads to a generation of Christian women who feel shamed and repressed by their faith. These women could instead feel that their faith compliments their lifestyle and empowers them to make choices that they feel align with their own moral compass as opposed to those imposed on them by these perfect and pure figures on their computer screens.