(The above image of of the Duggar family was posted to a blog of a woman who seems to be, in general, a decent person.)
Found on various blogs via a quick Google search on “Duggar Family”:
The mother has a mullet. Please, someone from TLC, give the poor Duggar woman a makeover. That would be a huge money making show. I am sure millions would tune in. Get her looking less matronly. She looked normal and attractive when they started out, now it’s Little House on the Prairie with a hint of Nascar. Yet a makeover may cause more Diggley Duggars, Jim Bob might just go crazy with his willy. Bang, bang, bang. I digress.
She looks brainwashed. It takes about two years for your internal organs to get back into their cozy natural state after pregnancy. The article below sites that she has been pregnant ten years of her life. Right now her spleen is probably floating near her armpit and her liver on her knee
The Duggar family of Hicksville Arkansas welcomed their 17Th child! And this beastly woman will likely get knocked up again! It gets easier as it goes, as now the 3rd eldest child has a newborn to take care of, as he gets home schooled in the art of child rearing.
…Birth control – just do it, or don’t do IT, get it? I feel bad for the husband, but it can’t be that great after child 17 just popped out, no problems.
I think it might be a worthwhile exercise to do some thinking on why it is that Michelle Duggar seems to be fair game for pretty much everyone, including for feminists. It’s open season on the woman– mock her, make fun of her hair, her appearance, her clothes, her body, her reproductive organs, other of her internal organs, her vagina, attack her, depict her as a pig, call her brainwashed. (If you haven’t seen this, then look here for the latest, also here, here, here, and sadly, here and be sure to read the comments.)
Consider these photos:
This is a Hindu family which recently converted to Roman Catholicism.
This is a Muslim family.
This is a Rastafarian family.
An Amish family
A Conservative Mennonite family. I corresponded with the mother in this picture when I published my magazine, and she occasionally wrote articles which I published. She’s an amazing, wonderful woman, brilliant, warm, funny and a great writer. I miss her.
Somebody — anybody — tell me with a straight face that feminists would do to any of the women in the above photos what they have done and continue to do to Michelle Duggar — even if instead of having six or eight or 12 children, as the women above do, they had 16 or 17 children, as Duggar does.
This would not happen and it will not happen, but if it did, it would be sharply, quickly, immediately — and correctly in my opinion — called out, challenged, and denounced.
Why is this not so for Michelle Duggar? Is the reasoning that Duggar’s religious beliefs or faith are not as central to her life, or as valid, or as worthy of respect as the religious beliefs of Muslim women, Hindu women, Amish women or other devout women? (And men.) How so? Why are the beliefs which undergird the choices of other women of faith which result in their bearing many children understood to be valid or respect-worthy in ways Michelle Duggar’s are not? But if none of the belief systems which support the bearing of many children is valid or respect-worthy, then why is it that Duggar is singled out in such a hateful manner whereas the other women above would not be and have not been?
And why does it seem to be the consensus amongst feminists that Duggar must be brainwashed, stupid, a mindless shill forced to breed, whereas the women in the other photos are likely to be viewed as devout, their beliefs and intelligence respected, their decisions understood to occur in the context of a particular culture or religion? If the view is that it’s somehow acceptable to target Duggar because her husband is a conservative Republican and hence is anti-choice, lesbo- and homophobic, and so on, well, does it occur to anyone that the women in the other photos likely hold similar anti-choice, lesbophobic/homophobic views?
Most importantly, does anybody stop to consider how the ongoing public trashing of a woman like Michelle Duggar by feminists might read to women in groups like those represented above? Does anybody think trashing Duggar makes feminism appealing or an attractive option or a possible refuge to women like those in the above pictures, or their daughters, who in fact someday might want out?
Michelle Duggar, as is, in my experience, true of many, many women in conservative and fundamentalist groups, probably enjoys pregnancy and bearing and raising children. Some women do, hard as that is for other women to understand. I know that I did. I had 11 children, one at a time, the first when I was 19, the last when I was 46. I was in abusive marriages and abusive fundamentalist churches throughout most of my childbearing years. That didn’t mean that I didn’t love having children, love being pregnant, love giving birth, love breastfeeding, love raising, homeschooling, and spending time with my children. I loved it, even when I was scared, overwhelmed, exhausted, weary. Even when I felt trapped. Even when the burdens and work were so great I was not sure how I could continue. That never kept me from loving or enjoying my children or being a mother. I think one hallmark of intelligence and maturity is the recognition that truths which at first appear to be in conflict with one another can nevertheless exist alongside each other. As parents most of us know this. As human beings we know this. We can love our children, love our partners, love our friends, and yet at times feel overwhelmed in various ways by our relationships with them. Is it so hard to fathom that there are women in the world who love bearing and raising children despite the hardness of their lives in fundamentalist or other sexist communities? Or that women inside of these communities enjoy their lives as mothers for other reasons, for example, because they find ways to make community with other women like them, and that these relationships make their lives rich and nourishing in ways it is hard to replicate apart from community in a world which is hostile to women?
I was not brainwashed, and neither is Michelle Duggar, and neither are the women in the photos above. Speaking for myself only, in entering into fundamentalist religion I cut the best deal I believed I could cut at the time, given all of the circumstances of my life*. I believe this holds true for many to most women in conservative and fundamentalist religion throughout the world, particularly mothers or women who want to be mothers. They are cutting the best deal they can. There is one place, and one place alone, where women who want to be mothers can go when they don’t have support, don’t have supportive community, and especially, when they don’t have money, and that is into fundamentalist religious cultures. There they will be accepted, honored, protected, defended and supported in every conceivable way, and in ways they will never find support outside of fundamentalist community. Do they exchange their freedom and their personal autonomy and their right to pursue both for what they will receive in fundamentalist community? Yes, they do. Does that make them dull, stupid, or brainwashed? Hell no. It makes them shrewd, resourceful realists who at the very most might be unable, for many reasons, to see beyond a certain set of life choices**. Do they pay for what they choose? Yes, they do. Sometimes with their lives, always with their bodies, their hearts and their souls. Does every woman exchange something in this male supremacist world in order to survive in it? Yes, we all do. Do we pay for what we choose? Hell yes. Sometimes also with our lives, bodies, hearts and souls. Of all people, as feminists, we know this.
So why do some of us treat Michelle Duggar as though she isn’t a woman, just like us?
Instead of scapegoating this one woman and targeting her as though she is the enemy, why not make it our business to critique the real enemy– systems and institutions of male heterosupremacy which make the choices Duggar and women like her have made the best deal they feel they can cut?
* For a detailed, eloquent, brilliant discussion of the choices of right-wing women, read Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women.
**Janja Lalich, an expert on women in fundamentalist religion, has done good work on what she calls the “bounded choices” of fundamentalist women. She has published articles and books which you can find if you do a search on her name.