I don’t typically post a whole lot about current events, but every so often my brain zeroes in on a particular aspect of a particular news story and it seems appropriate to write about it. Or perhaps it simply strikes me that it would be so much more cathartic to get it down on paper. Either way, it means I’m writing.
So anyway, there’s this family in Arkansas that has a reality show on TLC and there are a whole bunch of kids (19 to be exact, but who’s counting…?) And this family is practically the ultimate (painfully public) example of uber-conservative, right-wing, bible-worshipping religion (although perhaps the fruit-nuts wandering the not-so-hallowed hallways of the Westboro Baptist Church have them beat by one or two horribly and willfully misinterpreted parts of scripture).
So yeah, the Duggars. And in any case, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about: one of the older (and married) Duggar boys apparently spent some time in his teens having some extremely inappropriate contact with more than one as-of-yet unidentified and underaged girls while they were sleeping. Some are even concluding that the victims were his own sisters, which to be honest, makes sense since it’s not likely he would have ever been allowed to be in a situation where he could do this sort of thing undetected.
The story has only been out for a couple days now, and no doubt, there are about a zillion bloggers and op-ed folks out there letting the fingers fly across their keyboards as the media/social network feeding frenzy intensifies seemingly by the second. I suppose I’m just one of ’em, which is one of the reasons why I don’t delve too much into current goings-on as fodder for my writing – most of the time, there really is no need to say what is already being posted about a thousand times a minute.
But as I drove to work this morning, having earlier checked the latest developments and taking them in with the largest grain of salt possible, I got to thinking about the Duggar girls and women, all nine of them. Which really, if you think about it, is where most of the attention should be focused right now. Because even if just a few of them fell victim to their brother Josh’s “unfortunate, teen-aged mistakes”, all of them are victims – every single one.
They are victims of a systemic and deeply unhealthy religious doctrine that says essentially that they are not equals to men in the eyes of God and whose lives must be absolutely controlled by whatever dominant male happens to be in the forefront – either father or husband, whichever one is in play (and a husband will always be in play at some point, because getting married is pretty much the only choice you have).
Those who provide power to this doctrine (and they are everywhere, not just in the Duggars’ circle) can spout all they want about how complimentarianism is a good thing and that it’s the way God set it all up, but at the end of the day, this doctrine in reality maintains unapologetically that women are inferior to men and pretty much exist only to be submissive housewives and mothers, period. It also demands complete sexual purity, whatever the hell that is, and covertly implies that if one has sex outside the boundaries of marriage, that person is ruined – unless of course you confess that filthy sin to Jesus who makes you all white and pure again. And homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Let’s just not even go there, ok?
There was a time that I was merely fascinated by this family – who they were and how on Earth they managed with all those children. It didn’t take long to become completely nauseated by their worldview and by what Jim-Bob and Michelle were (and still are) teaching those poor kids. And the sympathy I’ve always felt for Michelle is palpable – she has been either pregnant and/or nursing an infant for her entire adult life, and to hear it told, she’s probably not done yet. Think about that for a moment, seriously.
To be honest, I’ve never watched a full episode of their show – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t actually get through all 60 minutes without wanting to throw a very heavy object at the TV. But I’ve watched enough snippets, and I’ve poked around on their website just enough to understand what is going on under that roof in terms of religious indoctrination. And I think indoctrination is too kind a word to use here…brainwashing is more apropos.
And the girls? The women? Michelle?
I think they are brainwashed to the point that if one was to approach the older ones and actively provide a safe, secure and guaranteed way for them to get out from underneath their parents, perhaps to…
…go to (preferably a non-religious) college
…choose their own books to read
…have unmonitored and unchaperoned (literally) access to the Internet
…go unchaperoned to secular social events with their friends – concerts, plays, festivals, dances
…not have to be responsible for raising their younger siblings
…choose whether or not to get married or have children…
It would be pointless.
IF it was possible to offer them these choices, free and clear, with no strings attached – I predict most if not all of them would refuse. It makes me so very, very sad that they are probably so entrenched in this poisonous, misogynistic culture that they would never seriously consider the alternatives, even if these alternatives were somehow handed to them on a silver platter.
Now, with everything that is coming to light about this family, with these huge cracks that are finally (and inevitably) forming in the ridiculous facade they have been maintaining, I am also very sad to think that these same women – especially the younger girls – probably feel as if they have no choice but to continue accepting their lot in life – and the reality of sexual abuse on top of everything else they’ve already endured all their lives.
But I really hope I’m wrong about that.