Ask Shelby

Michael in New York asks: I am very interested in the power of cinema and media and their effect on people's lives. I was wondering how the film has changed your life?

Devin, Paula, Shelby and Danny Knox in 2004

Devin, Paula, Shelby and Danny Knox in 2004

Shelby Knox: I am so excited and grateful to be part of such a wonderful project. I am proud of the final film; I believe it is an accurate and honest representation of my experiences as an activist in Lubbock. I have been lucky enough to travel across the nation to different film festivals, screening the film and participating in question and answer sessions, as well as to organizations that have an interest in showing the film. I feel as if I have learned more than I ever could in a classroom about the social and political dynamics that shape and control American society. As I travel, I realize that we are truly a purple nation, with many people bridging the divide between the red and blue stereotypes that the media has created.

Jessica in Idaho asks: I, too, am a Christian Democrat (poli. sci. major) who has asked many of your faith questions and more. Where are you now in your faith journey? I'd love to hear more about how your faith and politics interact.

Shelby: I believe that the love of Jesus Christ was indiscriminate, and that His example is one of tolerance and respect for all individuals. I strive to live up to this example, and I feel my liberal and social views are in line with that goal. I also believe that it is not up to me to judge others; God is the only one with that power. As humans, it is our purpose to be kind to others and foster goodness in this world. Because of this, I have come to believe that there is a spiritual connection between all people, even those who vehemently disagree. As for my own faith, I no longer identify with any denomination of the Christian faith. I am simply a Christian who is working to live in His example.

Sam in Colorado asks: How do you go about speaking openly, honestly and lovingly to other Christians in a way to keep dialogue open even though you have major disagreements?

Shelby: I believe that, essentially, we all have the same goal in mind, just different means of reaching that goal. In my dealings with Pastor Ainsworth, I had a great deal of respect for him because we were both working for the health of teens. We simply had a disagreement as to how that goal should be forwarded. I always try to remember that the person who disagrees with me believes as strongly in his/her conviction as I do mine. Therefore, I try to approach situations with respect and a degree of understanding.

Melissa in Texas asks: As a parent and a Girl Scout leader of twelve 11-year old scouts, what advice do you have for me and my girls at this age regarding self-examination of one's convictions and the dogma that is typically impressed upon the girls at this age? I am particularly interested in your advice regarding "thinking for oneself."

Shelby: At about fifteen I realized that I had to take a closer look at my convictions. I didn't want to subvert the opinions of my parents and community; I simply wanted to make sure my views corresponded not with popular opinion but with my own thoughts and ideas. My parents were extremely supportive of me during this process, allowing me to develop my own set of ideas instead of taking the easier route of adopting theirs. I would encourage all teens to do this, and all parents to remain supportive of teens as they try to find their own way. Young women are often charged with being the moral conscience of society all while our media is instructing them to be sex objects at age ten. Young girls need strong female mentors to guide them by example into being women who are not afraid to assert their opinions. I applaud you for being a role model to young girls. I hope that many women across the nation will take it upon themselves to mentor a young woman.

Savannah in Minnesota asks: What would your advice be to someone who is struggling with no sex?

Shelby: Media today insists upon using sex to sell everything from shampoo to hamburgers. It's hard for any young person to sort through the contradictory messages we are getting from society. If you choose to remain abstinent it is important to understand that you are not wrong or odd for making that choice. Each person must decide for himself or herself when sex is right, and no one can make that choice for you. I think that one of the most important ways to maintain a commitment of abstinence, if that is your choice, is to talk about it with your boyfriend/girlfriend early in the relationship. A clear definition of boundaries can alleviate tension and allow both people to express their expectations for a relationship.

Eli in Arkansas asks: Did your school have health ed classes that had both boys and girls in the same class? Where I live they are not, welcome to the dark ages... I think this a big problem if you are going to be having sex/relations with the opposite sex.

Shelby: We did have single sex 'health' lectures in fourth grade. However, they consisted of handing the girls tampons and pads and the boys soap and deodorant. Unfortunately, there was little instruction, for the girls at least, about why we would need the offending gifts or even how to use them. Health class in high school is co-ed, and is a survey course on everything from hygiene to nutrition and cooking. The sex education part is often minimized to one class period, with little discussion of the transmission and prevention of sexually transmitted infections and a lot of emphasis on their terrible symptoms, complete with pictures. Of course, the school district considers the abstinence-only lectures by Mr. Ainsworth our main form of sex education. These are conducted in the school auditorium, once every year in junior high and the week before the junior and senior prom. I believe that sex education should be taught in a co-ed setting at all levels, with all topics open for discussion. If the teachers are unembarrassed by the topic, students will naturally feel comfortable enough to ask for information.

Amit in Michigan asks: What is your source of mental courage in the midst of so much adversity?

Shelby: I am lucky to have the most supportive parents imaginable. The knowledge that they will love and support me in all that I do gave me the courage to speak my mind. Also, outrage at the lack of responsibility on the part of educators gave me strength to go up against them. I felt that if the adults were not willing to stand up for the health and well being of students, it was up to me to use my voice. I suppose the knowledge that I was helping other students was comforting, as well.

Barney in California asks: How can people who live in my area try to raise awareness in a manner that is going to be heard and understood in places that are not as tolerant of differences? Or do we assume that we are not to be heard and continue to feel helpless as our country moves to more of a fundamentalist religious stance? Or more importantly, are we being just as judgmental as those we wish to enlighten?

Shelby: I have come to think that the nation is not necessarily moving as far to the right as we might think. In fact, I feel as if the media is creating a larger divide by constantly pitting the red against the blue. With that said, I also think that it is important to express your opinion, no matter what it is and where you are. Everyone is heard on one level or another, even if it is in making one person reconsider his or her thoughts on a certain issue. I have said before that I always try to remember that the other side believes just as strongly as we do and we have to respect that. I think that delivering a message is all about the way it is approached, and is not judgmental if we try to have a bit of understanding. As for sex education, one of the most important issues is awareness. Many parents believe, because they got good sex education in school, that their students are also receiving a comprehensive sex education. People also need to understand that a lack of sex education is a problem in every state and something that must be dealt with at every level.

Rachel in North Carolina asks: What are the opportunities in other states to become a part of what you are doing? You've done a great thing and I am behind you one hundred percent.

Shelby: One of my most fervent hopes for this film is that it will spur people to action on the issues of sex education and gay rights. However, I also hope this film encourages teens to become active on any issue for which they have a passion. I would encourage everyone to check out the resources provided on the POV website. There is in depth information on both abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education programs, as well as links to organizations that are working on these issues. There was also an act recently proposed in Congress that would provide matching federal funding for any state that wishes to implement a comprehensive sex education program. Please encourage your representatives to support the R.E.A.L. Act (Responsible Education About Life) that would put this policy into effect. Thanks for your willingness to speak your mind!