Reality Show Takes Slut Shaming to New Level

Lifetime's new Preachers' Daughters focuses on church girls and sex while letting boys off the hook.

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Preachers' Daughters cast member Taylor Coleman and her father, Ken (Lifetime)

(The Root) -- There are few places where we can watch the spirit of liberation and the scourge of oppression coexist naturally, even harmoniously. One of them is hip-hop. Another is dance.

But perhaps the most notable, the one that touches the most lives, is the church. And in the middle of that circle of beauty and burden are women, urged to believe that all things are possible through Christ, but smacked down into place by age-old Christianisms that have much less to do with Jesus and everything to do with patriarchy.

That's the conflicting dynamic that informs Preachers' Daughters, Lifetime's newest stab at reality TV. I knew from the first time I saw the commercial for it that I was going to have an issue. A couple, actually.

The title alone gave me reason to take pause, because it's conveniently not Preachers' Kids or Preachers' Children or Preachers' Offspring (as if anything under the sun could justify such a terrible name). The focus on girls implies that young ladies are the only ones acting crazy, when, in actuality, it's more appropriate to surmise that they make for a more salable product.

That it's girls gone wild -- the more placid, churched, teen version -- does have some shock value. Lord knows, producers have already figured out that capitalizing on ratchetness among womenfolk -- whether they're toddlers in tiaras or grown women in Atlanta -- boosts ratings, pulls in Web traffic and produces heavyweight checks. But there wasn't any more room in the television canon for a reality show about a wife, an ex-wife, a common-law wife, a sister wife, a used-to-be girlfriend, a jump-off, a baby mama, a first lady or a Honey Boo Boo, so producers targeted the next generation. Literally.

Unfortunately for us, but more profitably for them, that imbalanced focal point also hands preachers' sons a boys-will-be-boys pass and suggests, by the sheer absence of a similar storyline, that the shenanigans of guys are more acceptable and hence aren't worth the camera time.

If a young lady grows up in a household anchored by her parents' adoration of the Lord and has a standing appointment to celebrate that love on the Sabbath, she's a church girl. As such, she may be a graduate of the junior usher board or the Little Sunbeams children's choir. She's more than likely able to rattle off the names of all the apostles and the books of the Bible in chronological order, thanks to some diligent Sunday school teacher. She might have gotten her first awkward experiences in public speaking, whether she was called on to pray or read a Scripture.

At one point in the pilot, one of the mothers tells her daughter -- who is ready to date, like a gajillion other girls her age -- that she needs to focus just on school. Coleman's father, so afraid he'll give his child too much freedom, is adamant about not letting her date at all. As pastors' daughters, the show's three young stars have even more pressure on them than average church girls to be virtuous and pure (although one already has a child). Of course we all want that for our kids, no matter their gender, in hopes that they don't end up slanging their private parts all willy-nilly.

But conversations between parents and sons have traditionally been more relaxed and less restrictive. Parents might halfheartedly plead with them to wait until marriage. They might warn them about getting a girlfriend pregnant and contracting the assortment of sexually transmitted diseases lurking out there.

Few and far between are the guys who are browbeaten with threats about chastity. Instead, they have breathing room to make personal decisions based on hormones and impulse because men, as a whole, are given more room to be less virtuous. Young ladies, meanwhile, are simply forewarned to keep their legs shut and their patience focused on marriage. That message is impossibly unrealistic, especially with matrimony on the decline.

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