Purity culture was born out of conservative evangelical teachings like abstinence and complementarianism. Complementarianism is a biblically based gender ideology that God created men and women as equals in worth but distinct in the roles they are meant to play in the home, the relationship, and the church. Purity culture gained popularity in the broader United States in the 1990s due to an increase in federal funding for abstinence-only sex education as well as its appeal to the heteronormative patriarchal culture already instilled throughout the United States. While purity culture fell out of fashion in the broader U.S. by the 2010s, it remained the norm within conservative evangelical churches and still does today in 2022.
Digital feminism has allowed the creation of safe platforms for women to come forward and share their stories of abuse online. #MeToo is a famous example of how a simple hashtag can become an international movement. In 2017, Emily Joy Allison created #ChurchToo and, similar to #MeToo, it functions as a way for women to share their stories and expose the men who abused them. #ChurchToo is unique in that it was created as a platform specifically for women who endured abuse within their churches.
This hashtag has contributed to the rise in awareness of how toxic teachings like complementarianism and purity can be for the young women who grow up indoctrinated in conservative evangelicalism. My project will explain what purity culture was in the 1990s and how it still impacts evangelicals today through the telling of Haley’s story, a young woman from Bowling Green, Kentucky, who used #ChurchToo to share her story and gain justice after her church failed her. This project will also illustrate the significance of #ChurchToo.
Advisor(s) or Committee Chair
Tamara Van Dyken, Ph.D.
History | Religion | Women's Studies
Alexieff, Grace, "#ChurchToo: The Movement Created to Expose the Toxicity of Gender Roles and Purity Culture in Modern Day United States Evangelicalism" (2022). Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects. Paper 961.
Available for download on Friday, April 21, 2023