Inside the Quiverfull Movement

Kathryn Joyce, one of my favorite writers, has a new book out called Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. It looks, in a word, awesome. Joyce has been studying the Christian patriarchy movement for years, and has written about it extensively. I haven’t read her book yet, but it’s on my list. In the meantime, she has two articles that are worth checking out — this one in Salon, and this one in MoJo.

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23 comments for “Inside the Quiverfull Movement

  1. KL
    March 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Thank you, Quiverfull movement. You just reminded me to call Planned Parenthood. It was probably that line about “deliberate childlessness was ‘moral rebellion’ against God.”

    I’m just a rebel at heart, I guess.

  2. Laurie
    March 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

    The book is a fantastic introduction to the most conservative, patriarchal strains of the Christian Right — the ones who make Focus on the Family look liberal.

    Most of the information comes from the publications and public statements of people associated with Vision Forum, Debi Pearl, and the like. There are some more personal, fascinating stories from people who exited the movement, like Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff who now runs the radical feminist blog called Women’s Space but who was once a big wheel in the movement. Kathryn Joyce also managed to befriend a couple of regular folks who have been somewhat drawn in.

    The book is mostly descriptive, though many of Joyce’s observations are quite pointed. The chapter containing the most critical commentary is the illustrating the link between submission and buse. I really appreciate though how Joyce manages to show the movement for what it is, while maintaining a respectful tone towards the women who have been or still are caught up in it.

    There seems to have sprouted quite a few websites criticizing quiverfull and Vision Forum by conservative Christian women, including women who have been involved in or are associated with people involved in these extremely patriarchal groups. True Womanhood in the New Millenium seems to be the biggest on-line forum for these women to discuss their concerns. There is also a site called Overcoming Botkin Syndrome, dedicated to criticizing the philosophy espoused in Visionary Daughters, the site run by the Botkin sisters.

  3. March 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    This is the first time I am hearing about this book. I really want to read it though. It sounds fascinating. In truth these people scare me quite a bit. When I see families like the Duggars celebrated I cannot help but notice the subjugation of Michelle the wife and mother. At her sons wedding she seemed to want to stress repeatedly that her new daughter in law know that her job was to submit and do her husbands bidding. I am sorry I simply cannot believe that this leads to a happy life.

  4. Tiffany
    March 16, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I was inside of that movement, and watched my friends and family go through indoctrination into it. Often they were already in a marriage with a couple of kids and unhappy, and they made the decision between leaving for an uncertain life or giving up and submitting so that they didn’t feel the constant pressure of being the decision maker. I had a toe into the lifestyle before I realized my husband was not the sort of man who was capable of making good decisions for me and my children, and I also felt that God had different plans for me beyond having lots of babies. I got a divorce, and most of the women I knew who were part of the movement ended up divorced too. One thing that rarely gets mentioned is the abuse of power men with submissive wives are prone to: affairs, spending sprees, denial of basic needs to their families. So many women end up divorced with four or more kids to take care of on their own.

  5. March 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I live in a “heavily-quiverfull” area, so to speak. I see these women very regularly. They mostly appear just plain BEATEN DOWN and EXHAUSTED, for lack of better terms. Just TOO TIRED to complain about anything. Remember, they don’t just give birth to a parcel of kids, but they have to homeschool them, too.

    It’s a bad, bad, bad movement.

  6. AshKW
    March 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I think Vyckie Garrison’s point about this being the Bible taken to its logical conclusion is what terrified me most. It makes me sad people would willingly choose this lifestyle for themselves or their children.

  7. March 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Just one question—with all the recent scholarship on the Quiverfull movement, has there been any research regarding Quiverfull attitudes on race/racism and ethnicity? Most of the work I’ve read—like the articles above—make no mention of race or of people of color in the movement.

    With Quiverfull leaders’ proposed goals of turning back the clock for women’s self-determination, I wonder which women they have in mind when they’re talking about ending universal suffrage and equal employment access. I just can’t picture a bunch of right-wing white Protestant dudes pushing for non-Anglo women/women of color to stay in the house with the kids. Ever since I can remember, they’ve been fighting for the reverse.

  8. Ellid
    March 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Yolanda C. – from what I’ve been able to gather, the Quiverfull movement is largely confined to white evangelicals of the Dominionist/Reconstructionist stripe. Has anyone read the Joyce book to see what she says?

  9. March 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Yolanda, I have met some WOC who are Quiverfull, although they identified as Pentecostal rather than Baptist, so that is an interesting distinction.

  10. March 20, 2009 at 9:38 am

    But, but, but! Newsweek told me that the Quiverfull movement is the “Wholesome” side of the Octomom controversy. The only information provided about Quiverfull in that blurb btw was that they reject feminism and believe that gender roles are from God. Gosh, that IS wholesome! I assume whatever man ghost wrote this book will withdraw it in shame thanks to their excellent reporting. (Seriously, Newsweek is the worst mainstream rag out there).

  11. William
    March 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Yolanda: Granted, we’re talking about a fairly small sample here, but I had a client who had been caught up in the Quiverfull movement for awhile. The impression I got from him was that it there was definitely a racial component to the philosophy, at least in his area (he was from the Southwest). He mentioned “out-breeding Mexicans” being part of the behind-closed-doors justification. A big part of that could have been that the area in which he lived had some pretty serious racial tension to begin with, though.

    Still, Quiverfull is tied up with Dominionism and ultra-conservative Christianity. While not necessarily intrinsic parts of the movements, theres a lot of racist overlap in those groups. I’d be surprised if some of that didn’t spill over into Quiverfull.

  12. TMOM
    April 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    OK, I came across your blog while searching for a house plan for my large family and couldn’t pass this up. I am 31, have 8 children and LOVE my life. My husband is a dream and my children are blessings. They are not burdens. I assure you that I am not subjugated or entrapped. In fact, I am highly educated and intelligent. This is the life that I chose because I believe that I am obeying God’s word, the Bible. True joy is found in giving your life away, not in seeking your own pleasures.

    The racial aspect is absolutely absurd. Absolutely. I know dozens, maybe hundreds of “quiverfull families” and have never heard any racist comment or perceived the slightest bias towards any race of people. Christians are called to love our neighbors (no color distinction here) as ourselves. Quiverfull families are by nature loving and nurturing, accepting of all of God’s beautiful chidlren. Quiverfull families racist…no way.

    A question for all the ladies so offended by this quiverfull movement…why is it so threatening if other women want to love their hubbies, have lots of babies, and raise them for the glory of God? Shouldn’t we be celebrated? Is it that you feel that we don’t approve of your 9-5 lifestyle? Do you feel condemmed? I assure you that is not the case. We are simply seeking to please God in every area of our lives. For those reading this that are Christians, I challenge you to read the Bible and see what It says about motherhood, femininity and wifehood. We are valued “far above rubies.” Our calling is HIGH!

    TMOM Lovin’ my God and family for the glory of Jesus Christ!

  13. TMOM
    April 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    One more comment…sorry. If you saw me in the mall, you’d never know I have 8 little ones and homeschool them all. I believe strongly that I need to “make this look good.” I dont’ feather my hair into funny configurations or wear plaid wool skirts. I definetly don’t fit the stereotype and neither do 90% of my likeminded friends. Just an afterthought…

  14. Momof9
    April 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    TMOM, I have to agree. My husband has always been an amazing man who love his wife and children. I have always believed this way and he didn’t until recently. No one even believes I’ve had children let alone 9 of them! My children always look nice when we leave the house and so do I. I’ve seen women with NO children look awful in public, tired and unkempt. It proves nothing.

  15. Michael
    May 22, 2009 at 3:05 am

    This movement is really irresponsible.

    Back in the days that the bible was written, people were dying by the millions by plagues, famine, wars, inquisitions, ect, and this behavior would be acceptable.

    I don’t know if this movement will have a huge affect, but you know. You put your kids here, they drain welfare, which leads to other parents getting even less money from the government for THEIR children, our resources get dumped away at incredible rates, overpopulation, more pollution.

    We don’t need every family have 12 kids, we can’t even get off our own planet and now these childish people want us to start drowning in their kids?

    This movement is childish, ill thought-out, and irresponsible

  16. Debbie
    June 4, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Okay, I have to add this! I’m a mother of 9 who has been in this movement. If you are married to a controlling, selfish, emotionally abusive man your life is a living hell. The reason you stay is fear of consequences.

    I’m in the midst of a divorce and, guess what? My husband has convinced my children I am evil. I am being shunned. Why? The entire focus of this lifestyle is the woman giving up her right to make any decisions. They are all left to God and her husband. The most difficult thing on earth is for a woman involved in this to actually get out.

    Just my 2 cents.

  17. temom
    July 19, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    I am a mother of many who has a loving husband and am in no way supressed. I have an education (secular college), was raised in a major US city by a single mom and simply choose this lifestyle, to obey God’s word. It was so freeing to embrace my calling as wife and mom. We do not fit into what some would consider a “typical” QF family to be. I have many friends with large families and we are all uniquely our own. Glory to God!

  18. Azalea
    July 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I tread lightly on things like this for several reasons, including but not limited to my belief that women should be trusted with making their own decisions and those decisions should be respected. No matter how much it goes against the grain of mainstream thinking, if its legal and she isn’t violating another person’s civil rights she’s fine.

    I know I have made decisions many women would not have made but those decisions were made for *me* by *me* and had *my* best interest at heart, mind, body and soul. Who am I to ridicule or belittle another woman’s choices just because I would have made a different decision? There will always be women who are genuinely happy in situations like these as there will always be women who seriously regret choosing or believing in this lifestyle for themselves. But the same could be said of many choices women face. They all deserve respect.

  19. A.Roddy
    July 30, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Feminism is misunderstood. There are other paths to take besides motherhood. You can also choose NOT TO MARRY or NOT TO HAVE children and be Christian and spirutal. What if you cant physically have children? So many cant. What Quiverfull dont understand is sometimes to have no child or the single life aren’t by choice. This is the 21st cwntury but yet folks act like you are a child hater or terrorists or something if you choose a different life. For everyone well off like the Duggars there are those who live in or near poverty. It is very selfish to put children in danger of going without the basics. For me anymore than 3 or 4 would jeopardize them of that in my current financial state. And anyway at my age, Im pushing my luck having one or two.

  20. S. Collins
    September 15, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    How about we live and let live…Why do we have to ascribe to some philosophy or idealism about having children? I am a conservative christian, (my husband is a southern baptist minister), and we have 4 children. I had my tubes tied at that time. I have them because I wanted them…nothing more. My husband has never forced me to do anything I didn’t want. Some people want to have as many as God wants to give them, which is fine as long as they take good care of them. Many women can’t have children, which is fine to since so many children need good homes and they can adopt. Some women want to pursue a life of their own and a career, which is their business. That’s between them and God. When we start judging non-christians by our personal convictions then we’ve crossed the line. We’ve got to stop stereotyping people we don’t understand and start trying to understand one another and respect our freedoms that our country (and God) gives us.

  21. Coffeegirl
    October 20, 2009 at 8:39 am

    A.Roddy says:

    “Feminism is misunderstood. There are other paths to take besides motherhood. You can also choose NOT TO MARRY or NOT TO HAVE children and be Christian and spirutal. What if you cant physically have children? So many cant. What Quiverfull dont understand is sometimes to have no child or the single life aren’t by choice. This is the 21st cwntury but yet folks act like you are a child hater or terrorists or something if you choose a different life…”

    I don’t see how this is a failure of Quiverfull people to understand. And I haven’t seen any Quiverfull or Christian readers respond with such accusatory hostily and venom as you describe. The venom, in fact, is almost 100% coming from your side. This discussion we’re having is in reply to a extremely critical and mocking blog post about the movement.

    Those of us who live or defend the movement are the ones being ridiculed and attacked. Your remark up above (that I quoted) looks like classic projection to me. Like TMOM suggested, I suspect it might have something to do with thinking that since we live differently than you and make no apologies for it, that somehow our very existence is a silent condemnation of your own lifestyle? I could be wrong, but that’s the impression I’m getting.

    I personally am Catholic and I don’t “officially” suscribe to this movement in any way…but it does describe my philosophy and worldview and how I plan to live my life. I am going to be married in 3 weeks, and my husband and I plan to have as many children and God wills to bless us with. We have a traditional relationship. I do and will submit to my fiance/husband and in return he provides for me and is willing to sacrifice for me and put my needs before his own, always. I love him and respect him more than anyone else in the world. He loves, respects and cherishes me likewise.

    My difficulty is I think– since yall are feminists– why don’t you celebrate women who are happy and fulfilled and are doing exactly what we want to do with our lives? We’re all individuals. Don’t assume that the examples of submissive women who have been abused or istreated are the norm; I could bring up many similar examples involving “enlightened” and modern couples but it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say that those examples completely discredit feminism, would it? Don’t assume that the women are doormats and the men are brutes. Don’t assume that we’re all racist. (I can’t decide if that one is an ad hominem or a straw man…:p) And don’t assume we’re all on welfare of some kind. It’s simply not accurate.

  22. Sheelzebub
    October 20, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Coffeegirl, I’ve seen plenty of hostility and vitriol towards feminists from Quiverful folks and conservative Christians. I’ve been called a castrating bitch, a whore, ugly (by people who don’t even know what I look like), and blamed for the fall of Western Civilization (which, BTW, hasn’t fallen) because I don’t have children and like working outside of the home. Many quiverful and conservative Christian people have openly stated that people who choose to not have children are immoral and sick. That’s pretty hateful.

    If all you were about was digging being a mother and a wife, I wouldn’t care. Have at it. But there’s a lot of hatred coming from your side. I’ve been on the receiving end of it more times than I care to count.

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