Shelby Knox made a name for herself at the age of 17 when she was the advocate for sexual education at her high school in Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is the second most conservative city in the United States, but it also has some of the highest STD and teen pregnancy rates in the nation. In her school, sex education was an abstinence only program, and people who had sex before marriage were said to be a “dirty toothbrush.” Knox realized that her high school was not educating students about safe sex, and it inspired her to take action. Knox started to talk to city officials to try to get better sex education programs into the school, but everyone said the same thing. “You are not an expert.”
The media caught wind and soon she appeared on national news channels shedding light on the abstinence-only sex education in Lubbock. National coverage of the sex education program in Lubbock high schools made parents all around America question what their own children were being taught in those classes.
In 2005, “The Education of Shelby Knox,” a documentary and coming-of-age story about Knox and her campaign for better sex education in high schools in Lubbock, won multiple awards at film festivals.
On Tuesday, March 6, Knox spoke at Memorial Auditorium about her journey from campaigning for sex education at the age of 17, to her life in the present day. Since her high school days, Knox has been traveling, talking to different audiences about politicians, feminism and her life as an activist. With the upcoming presidential election, she disagrees with some of the candidates’ views that deal with women’s rights, and believes the “‘War on Women,”’ is just control over women, mostly by men. Although Knox never originally considered herself a feminist or activist, but instead just “really pissed off,” she knows that there needs to be a shift toward more women voicing their opinions.
Knox’s definition of feminism was not about bashing men, but “hearing your pain and struggle in another woman’s voice and suddenly realizing there’s nothing wrong with you or her, but something wrong with the world making you think there is,” she said.
Knox believes that anyone can make a change in the world, and all it takes is one voice to make a difference.