I have issues with the common poster of the Quiverfull-practising and publicity-seeking Duggar family which uses a tag about a clown car. Inspired by a discussion about the poster in this Pandagon discussion thread (Amanda’s post is spot on, I just dislike the tagline of that poster), I offer an alternative.
NB: I have edited this to make this poster smaller in response to some comments below. It’s not fair to emphasise the children themselves so much.
My tagline is a bit long to really sing. Any better suggestions would be much appreciated, especially if we can work in something about how their much-spruiked “debt-free” lifestyle involves a whole lot of taking from the community around them and very little giving back. They don’t even pay property taxes because they have declared their home to be a church, and they sell their tips on frugal thrift to others, they don’t share them freely.
I have second-cousins who were born into large families. I know that there is a special sense of belonging together amongst the siblings which they treasure, and although my environmental side views more than 2 progeny per couple as ecologically irresponsible, I can understand the emotional attraction. But amongst my relatives there wasn’t such an emphasis on having as many kids as physically possible – reportedly Michelle Duggar deliberately stops breastfeeding her babies as early as she can so that she can fall pregnant again at the earliest possible opportunity, which must be affecting her ligaments and joints as they never fully return to normal in between pregnancies. She is likely to become arthritic and even crippled at a relatively early age because of her devotion to rapid-turnover breeding, which seems astonishingly imprudent for a family that claims to value family life and caring for each other so much.
Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, relationships
Enters my wife once a year. I have proof.
SEX WITH A WOMAN
I’ve had it more than a dozen times.
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But you’re confusing caring for the family with caring for Michelle. This is a common error since outside families like these the mother is part of the family. Here, however, she is not a member of the set that gets care, she’s a member, the ranking member, of the set that gives care. And all her darling daughters are being moved into that set as soon as physically possible.
She’s supposed to give until it hurts, that’s the only way that she can make up for being born female. When I look at them all I just want to cry.
I know exactly what you mean. Another expression of how much Mama doesn’t really matter is the way that all the kids have names beginning with Papa’s first initial, J. They couldn’t have alternated J names and M names? Or J names for the boys, M names for the girls? M names for middle names even?
Nope, it’s all about him and his sperm.
Amanda and Brooklynite – both excellent suggestions.
100 percent agreed on the “Want to cry” factor.
And, uh… this line from the article on the Duggars:
At 8, it’s baths followed by “Bible time with Daddy.” Bedtime is 10 p.m.
Really unnerves me for some reason.
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I’ve gone with a combination of Amanda and Brooklynite’s suggestions, with a more up to date photo (includes the latest (17th) child):
Perusing the Duggars’ own website (which is much improved, the older kids must be getting more clueful IT-wise) I came across their slideshows, and I have to share this one, especially for the captioning:
I understand that they mean that sincerely, that to them that is indeed his primary role for which he is due special respect. But it sends a shiver down my spine.
Whose willing to bet that most of the Duggar children will not have kids of their own after a life like this
I have had so much fun reading these blogs. I’ve never blogged. OK, I’m old. but I just didn’t have an outlet for my passionate hatred for this arrogant couple who think it is OK to burden the world with children who will most likely be screwed up from the lack of an intimate relationship with either parent, which is physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible with that many children!
I couldn’t agree more Annie. My beef with them is that they get the older kids to look after the younger ones and basically ignore their roles as parents to be producers of seemingly endless children. If there was a god I suspect he/she would rather that parents love and look after their children, not mindlessly pop them out.
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To tell you the truth, any taglines on this photo make me uneasy. I too, completely agree with Amanda’s point in the thread you linked, and while I can see that you’re attempting to transfer the focus from the woman’s reproductive capacity (to which she is reduced), and onto the man’s need to “prove” himself with his magic sperm, I can’t help but feel that the transfer doesn’t quite work.
I’ve read a lot of Heart’s posts about being Quiverfull and getting out of the Quiverfull movement, and in addition to that there are also several Quiverfull blogs that I read regularly. My strong impression from all of this is that in these families, just about any criticism directed at these families is interpreted as a criticism of the woman, even if it is directed at the man. And when it’s about the number of children, it hits especially hard, because of the way that a woman’s ability to procreate is held up as the essence of her being. This, in turn, I think leads them to be even more hostile to feminism than they already are, because they feel that feminists negate them completely, and it means, I think, that they’re less likely to feel that feminism could be a refuge for them if they ever do try to escape.
This is NOT in any way to say that feminists shouldn’t criticise the Quiverfull lifestyle– of course we should! But I think that the image of the Duggar family is so iconic for so many Quiverfull families (many of whom are poor, and do not live off church handouts and tax dodges) that mockery of them is taken very personally, and it does little to help the women who want to get out of that life.
Beppie, I hear you – but I’m not convinced.
Having also read Heart’s posts on being a Quiverfull mama, the only thing that got her out of the movement and into considering feminism at all was the fact that her religious community sanctimoniously shunned her following her marriage break-up AND her pastor and other elders colluded in an attempt to sabotage her business by fraudulent representations to the customers that she relied upon to provide for her children.
Without the shock of being abandoned by her “friends” and betrayed by those people whom she trusted and honoured as her spiritual leaders, Heart would not have come to feminism at all, remaining an honoured role-model of a productive submissive wife. I don’t see how what feminists actually say is going to compete with the demonisation of non-quiverfull women generally and feminists especially for their rebellious witchy ways. The only way Quiverfull women will learn the truth about feminism is when they actually manage to get out and spend some time deprogramming.
I admire the strength of spirit of Quiverfull mothers. That more of them don’t snap and commit violence speaks to exceptional discipline, and I just wish that they were allowed to use that discipline to satisfy some purely personal ambitions instead of subsuming all ambition into the achievements of the male members of the family.
I agree that most (if not all) Quiverfull women are probably not going to get to the heart of what feminists are saying until they have started deprogramming, regardless; but that deprogramming is a process, and it doesn’t happen all at once. I just feel that if these women are pushed out of the Quiverfull movement and abandoned by family and friends, it’d be a tragedy if they felt mocked by feminism for their previous involvement in the movement. The presence of these taglines probably makes zero difference while they are still actively part of the movement, but if they are forced out of it, then it could make a difference.
I’ll say again, I have complete sympathy with your goals here– to mock the way that the patriarchal figures of the Quiverfull movement are honoured and privileged– I just don’t see how that can be done in a way that can’t be interpreted as some sort of mockery of the women involved too, at least when images of the whole family are involved.
Mind you, I don’t have the visceral reaction to your new taglines that I have to the “clown car” thing; and I’m happy to agree to disagree on this. 🙂
Thanks Beppie. I can see that my new taglines are not entirely unproblematic, I just wanted to get away from the, as you say, visceral distress I feel over the clown car tagline.
Hm, I wonder if I can find an image of Jim Bob on the campaign trail holding up a picture of the kids?
the only thing that got her out of the movement and into considering feminism at all was the fact that her religious community sanctimoniously shunned her following her marriage break-up AND her pastor and other elders colluded in an attempt to sabotage her business by fraudulent representations to the customers that she relied upon to provide for her children.
Without the shock of being abandoned by her “friends” and betrayed by those people whom she trusted and honoured as her spiritual leaders, Heart would not have come to feminism at all, remaining an honoured role-model of a productive submissive wife.
While I think it is epiphanies about the role of women in the world that makes any woman a feminist (which is one reason I think a lot of women who identify as feminists don’t really “get it,” they haven’t always had these epiphanies), it isn’t accurate to say I wouldn’t have become a feminist apart from my treatment by the Religious Right. I was on that road long before I separated from my ex, and I knew the risks I was taking but took them anyway. It wasn’t really a shock. By the time I broke ranks, I couldn’t do anything BUT break ranks. I was in a horribly abusive marriage which I had to end for my and my children’s survival. That’s what made me a feminist. My treatment by the Religious Right was just value added.
In fact there are many women who have left the Quiverfull movement and I work with them all of the time. They face incredible difficulties in that they leave with many, many children to care for, no references, often excommunicated and shunned and have been out of the job market for many years, in almost every case. These women flourish as feminists when they encounter feminists who are interested in their lives. When they encounter scorn, derision, namecalling (“godbags”, “breeders,” “clown cars”), when they are made fun of by feminists, feminists and feminist communities won’t be appealing to them, even if they are, in fact, feminists.
From my perspective posters which include children in the course of mocking their parents’ decisions are counterproductive. Children are real, living human beings– some of the kids in those posters are teenagers. They aren’t the evidence of their dad’s strong sperm or their parents having sex. They will have a hard row to hoe in the world, especially if they leave it (I also work with those women/teenagers), and being made fun of, and felt sorry for isn’t helpful. If anything, it will drive them back to the only community they know which can be depended on to support them so long as they tow the line.
I realize it’s hard for outsiders to understand this particular group of people. Just realize they are flesh and blood, the children have nothing to do with their parents’ actions and the women are usually trapped. They stand in need of support, practical help, and compassion more than anything.
Thanks for dropping by to clarify, Heart. My apologies for oversimplifying your story to downplay the role of your abusive marriage in your journey. In retrospect, and this should be an alarm bell for someone who writes on feminism as much as I do, that part of your story was too commonplace for me to have remembered it in the same way that I remembered the actions of the Religious Right against you.
I wanted to produce an alternative to that horrible poster tagline, one that emphasised the control-freakiness of the patriarch, and I’m finding it hard to do it in a way that works effectively, because of the problems Beppie raised and you have confirmed: the emphasis still ends up being on the wife and the children.
One thing I’ve especially noticed as I’ve searched for pictures of Jim Bob alone is the way he uses his family to shield himself from scrutiny in public appearances. It’s almost impossible to find a shot of him addressing people in public on his own – he always has at least Michelle on his arm, and because her hair and her modest style of dress is so unusual compared to his standard business dress, she becomes the focus of people’s gaze.
Obviously, within the Movement she would not stand out in the same way, except for the number of children. I presume that in likeminded gatherings the children serve to reflect attention to Jim Bob rather than deflect it away.
“From my perspective posters which include children in the course of mocking their parents’ decisions are counterproductive. Children are real, living human beings”
Spot on – that is exactly what I had found cringeworthy about this whole thing. Making fun of people isn’t really very productive, and making fun of children even if it isn’t the intention is just unfair.
Yep, the combined arguments of Beppie, Heart and Fimail have convinced me – it isn’t acceptable to include the children as part of a poster campaign, although I’d argue that “making fun of people isn’t really very productive” isn’t really as true politically as we idealists might like it to be.
So, how does one manage to focus on the patriarchal point-scoring and control-freak nature of the Quiverfull movement without mocking the women (and their children) who are recruited into it?
P.S. to Heart,
This was an “A-Ha!!!” moment for me.
P.P.S. I also think it is entirely possible for a man to fully accept the Quiverfull patriarchal mindset without being a monster (some use it as a license to abuse, but not all). Many are more accurately described as misguided and unconsciously lacking a certain fundamental compassion for women. I’m sure that it is entirely possible for Quiverfull wives and daughters (and sons) to reject the movement because of the constraints it places on women (and men) without being required to hate their husbands/fathers.
For instance, I highly doubt that Jim Bob is actively abusive to anyone in his family. Abusers generally camouflage themselves, they rarely seek publicity. I can argue that his morals differ from my own ethics so much that I find him to be a damaging and oppressive influence on the public discourse, but that’s a different thing.
“Making fun of people isn’t really very productive”
I’d argue that making fun of people is actually an extremely productive act, politically. Exposing something – or someone – to ridicule can show the world the fundamental flaws in it (or them) and thus undermine their power. Look at Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler impressions. Or political satire generally.
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