Things that are not our business, Duggar edition.

I don’t suppose anyone has a cite for this?

“Every time you have a pregnancy, the placenta implants in the uterus and that implantation site cannot be used again because it’s scarred,” said Dr. Diane Harper of the University of Missouri in Kansas City.


There’s also a bizarre statement about how the “weakened” pelvic floor that can occur after several births means that the doctors “have greater difficulty keeping the woman from delivering” in the case of premature labour. Ah, no. You don’t wait for the cervix to be fully dilated, then put sandbags against the perineum and cross your fingers, dudes. Just … wut?

The reporters writing this story have clearly rung around all the obstetricians they could find, mining for quotes.

Everyone’s really, really, really hooked on the idea that Duggar is taking “irresponsible risks with her health”, meaning, of course, her uterus and vagina, and furthermore that this is our business. Really, folks? Aren’t there any balls we could play, here?

Poking our noses into people’s reproductive choices on the basis of whether or not we consider them “healthy” is not ok. This is a bit of a pro-choice trial by fire, I think. There are lots and lots and lots of valid critiques of the Quiverfull movement. LOTS. The idea that a particular woman, who gives every appearance of having made a free choice to use her uterus and vagina in a particular way, should not do so simply because she might wet her pants now and then, or because a future pregnancy might be “higher risk”, even though she is fully aware of and accepts these risks, is not ok.

Can you see the similarities here? Do you really want it to be ok to hate on people who choose pregnancy despite having had a previous C section? Do you want it to be ok to hate on people who choose pregnancy despite having a disability? Do you want it to be ok to hate on people who choose pregnancy even though their fetus has, or might have, a disability? Do you want it to be ok to hate on people because they choose pregnancy even though they are over 35? Do you want it to be ok to hate on people who make a free, informed choice to say “no” to obstetric procedures, or “no” to contraception, or “no” to sterilisation? Does “no” really mean “no”, does “yes” really mean “yes”, to you? Or do you place limits on that? Do you think people’s reproductive autonomy is none of your business only right up until a certain point, with that line being drawn at “the health of the mother/fetus”?

Because all these choices, and all these “no”s, have been used as excuses to perpetrate hatred, and discrimination, and State- and medical-sanctioned violence upon marginalised bodies. Do you want to be part of that?

Hypocrisy. Don’t do it just because they are.

[Note: no, this post is not a prompt to sneer or crack jokes about this woman’s vagina, or any of her other body parts. I think I’ve outlined the topic fairly clearly; please stick to it.]

Categories: gender & feminism

Tags: , , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. I’m gonna go with no. Disliking the Quiverfull folk because they argue all people with uteruses should use them as they do? Perfectly valid basis for disagreement. That ghastly thing about clown cars I see so many places? Is not in fact funny or appropriate.

  2. k0: my thoughts exactly, only you managed to do it in fewer words. o/

  3. Re the implantation site, a search turned up Momberg and Conaway, (1956) “The Distribution of Placental Scars of First and Second Pregnancies in the Rat”. A skim of the article doesn’t seem to suggest that the scar is a different type of tissue entirely, but an area of pigmented tissue. Overlaps of the scars from first and second pregnancies occured in about 1/10 of the observations if I’m reading it right.
    From which not much can be concluded: I don’t know how good a model rats are for human uteruses and placentas. But it’s certainly not corroborating evidence for Harper’s claim. People with better med-research reading skills than me can take the term “placental scar” and run with it though, although you’ll get buried in a mountain of Caesarean scar results.

    Because all these choices, and all these “no”s, have been used as excuses to perpetrate hatred, and discrimination, and State- and medical-sanctioned violence upon marginalised bodies. Do you want to be part of that?

    It really bugs me how little recognition of this there is. That slope is so slippery you’re at the bottom before you’ve realised you’re sliding. Same with the general “people should have to have a licence to have children!” ‘utopia’ people casually fling around. Yeah, you reckon? State control of reproduction has a long and entirely ignoble history.

  4. Mary: yes, it’s not like State-forced sterilisation is a super novel idea for the 21st century. “Hey, we’ve never tried THAT before! Let’s get right on it!”

  5. Thank you thank you thank you. And that people are mocking someone at a difficult time in her life (Michelle and the baby’s.) So tired of the hate.

  6. No, I do not and will not be part of it and I’ll call it out whenever I hear or see it. It’s hateful and does nothing to help the women it’s directed at.

  7. I also chose NO.
    That clown car thing – hey let’s find ANOTHER thing to laugh about women’s vaginas – children come out of them, it’s HILARIOUS *barf*
    And the medical sanctioned violence – I have a post brewing (that will take me forever to edit to a manageable size) about the violence perpertrated against women because they’re bodies are apparently incapable of doing their jobs!
    However, I have been guilty in the not too distant past of mocking women who have a larger then the average amount of children. And what right do I have to do that – none, none at all. Thanks for helping me to see that.

  8. Same with the general “people should have to have a licence to have children!” ‘utopia’ people casually fling around.
    ARGH ARGH ARGH PET HATE. Today in email a friend of mine cracked the whole “should have to do xyz before having children” line and it was all I could do not to be very caustic (or make catty “it’s ironic when a person who is X starts the eugenics talk” comments) in my response. But of course it’s different when they say it, because they’re just talking about stupid people or really lazy (i.e. fat) people.
    A second pet hate in relation to the Duggars is the good old “when you have to do XYZ to carry a pregnancy to term, it’s God/the Universe’s way of saying STOP BREEDING” line. But of course it’s different because they’re talking about medical things and just thinking of the baby!

  9. I’m struggling with a comment on this one. Because on the one hand, I really don’t want to hear any more about the Duggars; as you point out it’s none of our damn business. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I agree with the statement that “she is fully aware of and accepts these risks”. The whole Quiverfull movement strikes me as oddly oblivious to the actual source of the risks involved, what with their assertion that if God wants them to have healthy babies and healthy pregnancies, then they will have them.
    Placed in the context of the Quiverfull movement, the Duggar family is just a deeply uncomfortable subject for me.

  10. Thankyou. This was the topic of the last dinner table showdown at my folks’ place, the last time a woman hit the international headlines for unauthorised uterus use.
    The argument ran, “She was immoral because she can’t afford to support all those children,” swiftly followed by, “Now she’s selling the story! She did it for the money!” No apparent awareness of the contradiction there. Condemned for poverty and for attempting to alleviate it in the same breath. Charming.
    I really do fail to see why reproductive choice of one person gets headlines.

  11. The Duggars aren’t actually part of the Quiverful movement. Or so I have read elsewhere…

  12. Slave2tehtink: I think that in this particular case, this particular woman is as informed as any of the rest of us are.

  13. Family dynamics are interesting things. I’m the eldest of two, my mother was the eldest of three, and my maternal grandmother was number seven or eight of ten (her mother died giving birth to number eleven, who didn’t survive either). I can remember as I grew up, I used to hate being made responsible for my younger brother (to the point where I quite sympathised with Cain). My brother recalls being compared to me by teachers and older kids, and he used to dislike that rather intensely as well. My mother’s Uncle Nick was the eldest boy of his family, and he had to quit school at about age twelve to start working, so he could help support the family. He came out to Australia in about the 1920s, and subsequently paid for several of his siblings to emigrate as well (my grandmother was one of them – she came out here on the boat when she was fourteen). The eldest of my grandmother’s sisters wound up raising their youngest sibling (along with being the effective mother-figure for most of her younger siblings) because he was barely more than a baby when my great-grandmother died.
    My maternal grandmother’s birth family wasn’t exactly the ideal family model – they were working-class folk in the north of England (county Durham), and surviving with a large family on a single wage wasn’t easy. But then again, my mother’s family wasn’t the most brilliant one either (fundamentalist Christian long before the term was in popular usage), and neither was mine (two depressed parents plus financial hassles). I call this the Larkin Rule (”They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad/They may not mean to, but they do”) and figure it’s an inevitable part of living.
    No family is necessarily perfect. Nobody is one hundred percent sane. Everyone has their flaws.
    As such, I don’t think any reproductive choices are necessarily right, or necessarily wrong. If two people want a large family, then let them have one – some people are just happy with more children. If they don’t want a large number of children, so be it. If they don’t want any children, well, that’s their choice. The choice is only immoral when it’s being made by someone else who’s never met me on my behalf. According to the stats, as a childfree woman by choice, I have a higher risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer than someone who has borne a child. Of course, if I get pregnant tomorrow, given I’m thirty-eight I have a 25% chance of miscarriage, and a higher chance of giving birth to a child with Trisomy 21 (aka Down’s Syndrome) than someone even three years younger. You pays your money and you takes your choice. I’ve chosen not to have children. Mrs Duggar has chosen (with her husband) to have many. I’m not her, she’s not me, and to each their own.
    It’s her body. I hope she is in a position to get better quality medical care than my maternal great-grandmother (who died of a puerpal haemorrhage), and I’m hoping her kids all grow up healthy and happy. Besides, given female incontinence is apparently a large enough problem in the general community for incontinence pads to be on regular sale next door to the menstrual variety, getting vicariously exercised over the quality of someone else’s pelvic floor muscles strikes me as the height of pettifogging prod-nosery.

  14. You know what else? People (and these are always men, IME) can cut out the “throwing a hot dog down a hallway” cracks any goddamn time now. It’s revolting — every woman has to maintain maximum perceived fuckability even for men she’ll never meet, or she’s considered worthless.

  15. “Making a free choice to use her vagina and uterus in a particular way?”
    Um, no. It’s her husband’s choice.
    In a fundamentalist Christian community, women have very little say over anything, including their own bodies. (If she and her husband weren’t involved with a church, I might support you on that, but I’d still be really suspicious of the husband.)

    • @Politicalguineapig,
      While I don’t doubt that there are some fucked-up dominance dynamics at play here that are reinforced by the institutional traditions of their church, Michelle Duggar still does have free will. She’s obviously intelligent enough to have realised that since they got on to the publicity train that she could easily achieve financial independence overnight from exclusive-interview deals if she decided to leave him, and would probably earn even more if she decided to have her tubes tied and he then decided to leave her. Even without that, she supported the family for years by giving music lessons, and could do that again.
      It’s fine to criticise religious fundamentalist communities for unfairly constraining the choices of women in their families. It’s not fine to say that the women have no choice at all.

  16. This example of medical threats of violence against a pregnant woman just popped up in the news.
    Mom won’t be forced to have C-section
    A woman, pregnant after a previous C section, was refused access to her local hospital to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C section). The hospital threatened her with a court order so that they could forcibly restrain her and operate on her should she refuse C section. She had to move to another city – away from her family home – to escape this threat and access a hospital that wasn’t threatening State-ordered violence.
    She subsequently had an easy birth after a four-to-five-hour labour.
    This is not an isolated example.
    The second article finishes with advice to threatened folk on how to try to escape the threat while remaining polite and deferential. There is no advice to doctors not to threaten people, no advice on how “no means no” when it comes to our bodies.
    And this is a person who was privileged enough to be able to move and to access care that would be out of reach for many people; and it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of abuse of pregnant people who are detained or incarcerated.

  17. It’s not a choice if you don’t know your options. I seriously doubt many women in the Quiverfull movement even know contraceptives exist. Duggar- maybe, but how intelligent can she be if she allowed herself to get brainwashed into this?

  18. Politicalguinepig, your most recent comment is completely unacceptable here. Take it to one of the Michelle Duggar Hate Club sites. They’re not hard to find.

  19. I think she knows full well what she is doing, and is doing exactly what she wants to do. She seems to me to be a woman whose life revolves completely around her husband (SotBO that is not to say she doesn’t love her children) and that their way of life suits her to a T. She may be endangering herself by having a large number of children – but not being a medical person I wouldn’t know, but I’m pretty sure she’s doing it in the full knowledge of the risks she is taking and has made her choice.

  20. I still see a major case of Stockholm Syndrome going on there.
    It’s not that I hate Michelle Duggar or the Quiverfull movement, but anyone who risks their health because “God told them to” needs to take a major step back and think for a second.

  21. Politicalguineapig: if you truly in your heart believe that she is a victim (which I do not, as I said, anymore than the rest of us are), she deserves your compassion. How is this remark remotely appropriate in the context of victimisation?

    maybe, but how intelligent can she be if she allowed herself to get brainwashed into this?

    After your three failed attempts to address the topic appropriately, you are not welcome back in this thread.

  22. Yeah not a great choice of words in that last statement of politicalguineapig’s that was quoted, but the point being made was still valid. Feminists can manage to tread the fine line between condemning the unjust social structures and forces that push women into making certain ‘choices’ while still offering support to individual women who fall for them. The reason we can do that is because we’re capable of holding two thoughts in our heads at once. Pretending that Michelle Duggar made her ‘choice’ in some kind of vacuum, independently of patriarchal/religious propaganda, is ridiculous. Deriding her for those ‘choices’ is profoundly misogynist – but it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  23. Linda Radfem: No. Politicalguineapig’s point was that Duggar is stupid, which is not a valid point. If you have a problem with my moderation, as always, you can tell me about it off boards. Our comment policy is clear on this.
    No one here is pretending that anyone makes a choice in a magical vacuum, independently of the kyriarchy. Not Duggar, not you, not me, not anyone here. That would be “the ball” that I speak about in the post. Pretending, however, that it is ok to sledge Duggar on the basis of “risks” she is supposedly taking with her ‘health” with her reproductive choices, and to speak in terms of disgust and mocking about her vagina (or, as it happens, her brain), is not ok, which is my entire point, and is what the post is about.
    There is no shortage of “Duggar is brainwashed” threads about the ‘sphere. I’m sure you can find one if you’re looking for one. This one’s not about that. This one is about societal ideas of interference with reproductive choice based on someone’s assessment of “risk” – someone who is not the person concerned.
    This ties in very closely to my writing about disability. I was kinda hoping people would pick up on that, instead of just reading “Duggar” and knee-jerking into the same old conversations.

  24. “This ties in very closely to my writing about disability. I was kinda hoping people would pick up on that, instead of just reading “Duggar” and knee-jerking into the same old conversations.”
    Well I guess ‘people’ let you down there didn’t they? It’s tricky when you want total control over the direction of a forum discussion, not to mention stifling.

    • @Linda Radfem

      Well I guess ‘people’ let you down there didn’t they? It’s tricky when you want total control over the direction of a forum discussion, not to mention stifling.

      Isn’t it just as well (phew!) that you have your very own blog where you can shape the discussion of things that are not our business to your very own liking?

  25. I’m with the “none of my business” crowd; if she had no religious feelings at all and still wanted twenty babies, it would be none of my business. Why she chooses to do what she does is not an excuse to belittle or mock her or call her stupid. The public fascination/disapproval with women who choose to have many children is simply the flip side of the same emotion shown to women who choose to have no children; it’s just easier to make hateful “jokes” about women with many kids, and calling them “superbreeders” is somehow okay.
    It reminds me of the disapproving/salacious articles the Daily Mail used to run with “Dad on the Dole welcomes 21st child”-type headlines, with a picture of the entire family surrounding Mum in hospital. It’s none of our business, but we do love to gossip about things even when we have no idea about the actual situation.
    Personally, I’m without children, but my husband has three by a previous marriage, so I can dodge the “why don’t you have children?” question, but all such questioning of reproductive choices is intrusive and antifeminist. All choices have consequences, yes, and nothing is ever chosen in a vacuum, but people with no connection and no stake in a person’s choices have no right to pass judgement.

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