Who had November 8, 2011, in the office pool?

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Michelle Duggar and her husband Jim Bob are expecting their 20th child, the couple revealed exclusively to TODAY.

“We are so excited,” Michelle Duggar told TODAY Moms before the broadcast. Now three and a half months pregnant, the mom of 19 says she was actually surprised to discover that she’s expecting again at 45. “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.”

In all seriousness, though, the newest Duggar always prompts debates across the feminist blogosphere about the appropriateness of criticizing women who choose to have large families. And certainly it’s generally accepted that it’s antifeminist to tell a mother how (or in what volume) she should parent. And it’s certainly a woman’s choice to be (or not be) a stay-at-home mom, have babies, have tons of babies, and/or measure her proudest accomplishment on the success of her family. (No snark intended there–God knows the world would benefit from a well-rounded and educated next generation.)

But concentrating on that aspect of the large-family discussion misses one essential element of the Duggar superfamily debate: the patriarchal, fundamentalist Christian dogma that influences women like Michelle Duggar to carry 20 pregnancies, particularly in light of #19, which was traumatic (verging on fatal) for both mother and micro-preemie baby.

It’s not that the subject of biblical patriarchy never comes up. When the “personhood amendment” came up–and, gloriously, went down–in Mississippi, it was a clear sign from fundamentalists that a potential life was more valuable than the walking incubator that carried it. But put that same mentality in the context of an actual family, and a mother willing to “lay down her life” for her next baby, we back off, afraid to be perceived as judging the Duggars and questioning their choices.

And I absolutely agree that judging the Duggars for choosing a large family is wrong–particularly Michelle Duggar, who as the “helpmeet” part of the marriage would have no power to stop reproducing even if she wanted to. But it’s not wrong to examine that choice in the context of a religious movement that espouses that same fetal primacy that we feel comfortable criticizing anywhere else.

So no, absolutely don’t judge the Duggar family. No “clown car” jokes. Don’t speculate on the amount of “spring” in Michelle’s uterus (seriously, ew). And don’t offer instructions on how not to get pregnant–believe it or not, they know.

But in our current political environment, where the belief that birth control is murder and the life of a woman is less important than that of a zygote is received with so much serious consideration that it’s appeared on not one but numerous ballots, we can’t ignore the fact that such beliefs are integral to movements like Quiverfull and biblical patriarchy. We can’t ignore the fact that the entire thing started with the uninformed belief that birth control pills cause miscarriage.

It’s hard to raise the topic without triggering a flood of judgmental comments about Michelle Duggar’s mental state or physical health. (Oddly, Jim Bob Duggar seldom receives as much targeted criticism.) Any discussion of biblical patriarchy vis a vis the ever-growing Duggar family has to be very carefully moderated to avoid that path. But we can’t avoid the subject entirely for fear of stumbling into the feminist minefield of parenthood and choice.

This isn’t about choice–it’s about not-choice. It’s about religious beliefs that take choice away from women and leave their lives and lifestyles up to God through the vagaries of the human reproductive system. It’s about a conservative movement that would never directly identify with movements like biblical patriarchy, yet tries to impose it on every woman in the U.S., willing or not, state by state or the whole country in one fell swoop. And while the mascot of that movement is the cuddly little cooing baby, the reality is a lot closer to a woman being airlifted to a hospital to save her life.

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207 Responses

  1. MH
    MH November 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    I totally agree, I’m uncomfortable with judging any individual or family’s choices about the size of their family.

    However, I’m also uncomfortable with one other aspect of this story: the repeated statement from both parents that “God” is “blessing” the Duggars with pregnancy.

    In general, this form of submission on the part of religious conservatives bothers me, and not just as it affects pregnancy. I remember as a child often being told “we all have our crosses to bear,” which was code for “shut up and deal, we’re not going to help you.” Effectively, this whole system of thought disempowers individuals and frequently prevents them from making their lives better.

  2. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen November 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

    Like any good anti-feminist, Michelle Duggar and her Quiverfull allies believe the “phantom threat” of maternal mortality and pregnancy complications is nothing but left-wing propaganda, invented by radical feminists to promote abortion under the guise of “women’s rights” while covering up the single greatest threat facing women today: the “medical dangers of not having children.” Yep, modern women’s refusal to submit to their traditional gender roles is what’s causing breast cancer and domestic violence these days.

  3. Tina
    Tina November 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    “Now three and a half months pregnant, the mom of 19 says she was actually surprised to discover that she’s expecting again at 45. “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.”

    Wait a minute. Does she even understand how women are impregnated? Or does she consider the scientific facts a myth, like climate change and evolution? HOW IS SHE SURPRISED? I just don’t understand.

  4. toritan
    toritan November 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    If this poor woman dies in childbirth one day, who is most culpable? Who should be indicted for murder? Her good for nothing parasitic husband? Church “elders”?

    Of course, it is pointless speculation. In fact what would happen is: the words of respect and adulation that men failed to give Dugger in life, would pointlessly be spoken by men over her corpse in death.

  5. sabrina
    sabrina November 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm |

    I don’t think any of the criticism should be lobbed at michelle. She is just doing what she has been told to do under fear of eternal suffering. On the other hand, I hold jim bob in utter contempt. He is a despicable human being who is brain washing his daughters with the same rhetoric that he brain washes their mother. That man is responsible for the most disgusting form of domestic violence and gets away with it because waaa waaa waa religious freedom. He belongs in jail.

  6. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil November 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm |

    HOW IS SHE SURPRISED?

    Probably because she’s 45?

  7. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    okay, I might get yelled at for doing this, perhaps deservedly, but just to move it down to pop culture commentary and confess that I find this show oddly compelling, and to leave aside the spot-on critiques of Quiverfull ideology:

    Michelle chose the life that she has as an adult. From everything I’ve seen about their biography and narrative, Michelle in particular had a conscious, intentional, adult conversion experience to the life she is living, and she looks *very* pleased with it. She didn’t grow up in the kind of house she now heads, and because of that I don’t think she has a lot mental baggage around “submission” or whatever with Jim Bob: they jointly decided, as adults, to perform this particular kind of existence. They seem genuinely happy, with a hard-edged gleam. No victims there.

    But, oh, gosh. The daughter in law, Anna, *kills* me. She totally did grow up in that kind of household, seems smart and nice but so trained-to-be-humble, and her husband (the Duggar’s oldest kid) is exactly the sort of clueless, entitled nightmare that… aiyay yay — I just feel like she never had a chance, you know?

  8. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen November 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    No, every time Michelle Duggar opens her mouth and promulgates her misinformation and lies about the real risks of pregnancy, she endangers the health and lives of women who lack the background or knowledge to fact-check her lies. We have every right to hold this liar (and her partner) accountable.

  9. Emily
    Emily November 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm |

    Some of the first few comments fall into exactly the rhetoric the OP tried to cut off judging this woman’s individual choices. My understanding is that MD did not grow up in this particular type of fundamentalist environment and chose it as an adult. I don’t think it’s confusing why she would think it likely at 45 after a difficult pregnancy that she would not conceive again. But agree that there are troubling aspects of these subcultures worthy of criticism. For example, how free are females born and raised in this philosophy to choose a different path? How and why are these minority values and lifestyles being pushed through law on the rest of us? Is the only way to have that conversation to practice heavy moderation of comments?

  10. Brigit
    Brigit November 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    @Sabrina: Agreed, both on the fear of eternal suffering used as a weapon of control and Jim Bob’s culpability in the very real, actual suffering he and his beliefs put the family members through – all in the name of the lawd.

    The risk that almost every member of that family is going through with this pregnancy is scary as hell. She’s 45, had preeclampsia on her previous pregnancy serious enough to threaten her life and the life of her newborn — this significantly increases the chances of having the same happen, with more severity, this time around. Not to mention that it increases the chances of the fetus having developmental problems.
    Would the needs of developmentally challenged child be truly met on a household that large? Would those of the rest of the kids be met under such circumstances? And what the heck would they do if Michelle, the helpmeet, can no longer do her “duties” because the pregnancy left her incapacitated? Or much worse, if Michelle passes away and Mr. “Manly Man that Needs a Helpmeet to do all of that Child-Rearing Stuff” Duggar is left solely responsible for providing for the material and emotional needs of the kids? It’s like regardless of the outcome she the kids loose, quite dramatically, and all in the name of patriarchal religious dogma.

  11. Erin
    Erin November 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

    But, oh, gosh. The daughter in law, Anna, *kills* me. She totally did grow up in that kind of household, seems smart and nice but so trained-to-be-humble, and her husband (the Duggar’s oldest kid) is exactly the sort of clueless, entitled nightmare that… aiyay yay — I just feel like she never had a chance, you know?

    @Kathleen. *This.* Exactly this. But it’s the problem I don’t know how to get around. How do you let adults choose whatever lifestyle they decide is best for themselves and not end up with brainwashed children as a result?

    As someone whose first 21 years were completely enveloped in evangelical, fundamental Christian circles, I am very sympathetic to the draws of that lifestyle. I absolutely understand why adults can choose to follow those beliefs. But adults sometimes have children. I’m one of those children. And I don’t know how to expect people who honestly believe that my eternal soul will burn forever to be openminded and accepting, much less to teach their children to think for themselves.

  12. Tina
    Tina November 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    Emily:
    Some of the first few comments fall into exactly the rhetoric the OP tried to cut off judging this woman’s individual choices.

    Hmm, now you’ve got me doubting myself. Still, though, to choose to have sex and not use birth control as part of your religious belief is one thing. Great, that’s your choice, own it. It is another to be surprised by getting pregnant when you make that choice. Wasn’t that kind of the point of the entire practice? To have as many children as possible? To act surprised at this point strikes me as ingenuous. Clearly, she has been fertile for the past 25 years and unless she had completed menopause, it’s not really that unexpected to get pregnant. Even if you are 45. Why not stand firmly by your beliefs if you really believe them?

  13. Libby Anne
    Libby Anne November 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    Thank you for this! You hit the nail on the head. I grew up Quiverfull (I talk about it on my blog), complete with twelve younger siblings. The thing to remember too is that the children have no choice here. The daughters especially. They are essentially indoctrinated by their parents, isolated from outside influences and taught from homeschool textbooks that integrate fundamentalist religion into essentially every subject. The girls are taught that they must obey their father – even after they become adults – and that their sole role in life is to marry (through a parent guided courtship) and procreate. Furthermore, the older daughters are literally raising their younger siblings – I know because I’ve been there too. Michelle is NOT raising her nineteen children – her older daughters are. This I have a problem with – if you can’t raise all of your children YOURSELF, you have TOO MANY. With nineteen children, there is absolutely no way they all get enough personal attention from their parents, so neglect because automatic. AND – the children are being raised on the teachings of Bill Gothard, who teaches that any emotion other than happiness is a problem. So OF COURSE you see them all smiles, but that speaks NOTHING to what is going on inside. So while it’s true that an adult woman’s choices are her own, in this case there are children involved, and her choices affect them in significant – and problematic – ways.

  14. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    The ideology that a woman should have as many babies as God “sends her” deserves to be criticized.

    A woman should have as many babies as she wants, if that turns out to be the number of babies she ends up with by never using birth control, mazel tov.

    If Duggar really wants a twentieth child and she’s prepared to undergo a high-risk pregnancy, that’s entirely up to her.

    However, I reserve the right to criticize the ideology that Duggar says is guiding her choices. It’s profoundly irresponsible to deliberately leave the size of your family up to the vagaries of biology and luck. I’m not talking about an unplanned pregnancy, which can happen to anyone, I’m talking about the ideology that says that family planning is wrong, per se.

    The Duggars seem to want a Biblically large family for its own sake and they’re fortunate enough to be able to provide for all these kids. But not everyone who shares their religious beliefs is going to want, or be able to take care, of a huge family. The doctrine that women should let nature decide how many babies they have is anti-feminist and morally reprehensible.

  15. Emily
    Emily November 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

    @Tina – I think this is really a semantic question of what “surprised” means. Surprised can be happily surprised like a surprise birthday party. I don’t think MD was shocked to be pregnant or confused about how it happened because she said she was “surprised.”. And it certainly seems like to her it is a welcome surprise rather than an unwelcome one. I think it’s likely that she thinks each child she now bears could be her last and/or she’s experiencing symptoms of menopause and was a bit surprised to be pregnant again. Lots of women have been “surprised” by change of life babies.

  16. Lindsay
    Lindsay November 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    Libby Anne:

    The girls are taught that they must obey their father – even after they become adults – and that their sole role in life is to marry … and procreate. Furthermore, the older daughters are literally raising their younger siblings – I know because I’ve been there too.

    This is what I think, too. She’s not just choosing a life of domestic servitude for herself, she and her husband are conscripting their daughters into it, too.

  17. Marksman2010
    Marksman2010 November 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    Apparently, there’s a Christian dogma that dictates its followers should procreate. In that part of the United States, if you don’t get married and have children then there’s something wrong with you. And you WILL be ostracized from mainstream society if you don’t comply. Yes, it’s really that bad.

    Work, church, and family. What else could anyone possibly need?

  18. Jennifer
    Jennifer November 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    On the one hand, yeah, you can choose to be an idiot, have as many kids as you can, etc.

    On the other hand, I wonder WHEN, not if, she will die in childbirth at this point.

  19. karak
    karak November 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    I don’t have a problem with judging Jim Bob (largely Jim Bob) and Michelle for repeatedly choosing to endanger Michelle’s life. And since her pregancies are wanted, the life of their possible-child.

    But there’s a difference between saying, “I think your choice is a poor one, internally incoherent, and possibly suggests you have some really weird issues going on, and I would discourage ANYONE from repeating your choice.” and saying, “people who make this choice are going to Hell and should be institutionalized and should be stopped by law.”

  20. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date November 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    Provided that Jim Bob consents, Michelle is free to choose to have potentially-pregnant-making sex with Jim Bob, as much as she wants. Provided that Michelle consents, Jim Bob is free to choose to have potentially-pregnant-making sex with Michelle, as much as he wants.

    Meanwhile, I am free to criticize their (evident) ideas that a. God is giving them these babies and b. the proper role of women is to have as many babies as possible, as much as I want.

    Is that appropriate criticism?

  21. Wendy
    Wendy November 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    As a woman who is pro-choice, I completely support her legal right to control her body. I still disapprove.

  22. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm |

    Jennifer:
    I wonder WHEN, not if, she will die in childbirth at this point.

    I suspect that she and her husband would see this as the perfect way to go out. I have to wonder if that isn’t part of the plan.

    The Duggars are free to choose their family size. I agree 100% that the clown car jokes, etc, are anti-feminist (though I see it made by both feminists and anti-feminists. I think some people are just squicked out by the whole thing and don’t think their jokes through).

    What disturbs be about the Duggars is totally the religious and political element. I don’t watch their show any more, but I remember an early one (16 kids?) they visited another “superfamily” and the difference was like night and day. The other family didn’t all wear the same clothes, their kids were actually playing and enjoying being kids, they went to college and everything. In short, they seemed like a normal, albeit large, family compared to the Duggar’s creepy “Von Trapp’s meet the Branch Davidians” clan.

    In short, I don’t think they are wrong to have 20 kids (probably… as Libby Anne said above, you have to consider just how much attention they get). I think they are wrong to raise a family of isolated culture warriors.

    But Michelle and Jim Bob are never going to listen to us. I can only hope that some of their kids manage to see the wider world and learn that they DON’T have to live that life if they don’t want to.

  23. vanessa
    vanessa November 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm |

    I am going to go ahead and put on my Bad Feminist Hat, because I absolutely judge the Duggars. Completely and without shame. I think that what they are doing is dangerous, plain and simple, and is part of a larger push within certain fundie circles to make women and children more or less expendable, or only useful as part of some kind of army (see also: child abuse w/i fundie families).

  24. R
    R November 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: Probablybecauseshe’s45?

    she’s obviously incredibly fertile, and aware of the fact that she is still menstruating. i, too, wonder how she is surprised.

  25. NancyP
    NancyP November 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    And why shouldn’t we judge her choices? So far as I am concerned, a woman who has had a life-threatening problem in the previous pregnancy and who has children (special-needs too? what about that micro-premie?) already owes more to her existing young children than the fetus. Why tempt fate? I see more family values in tying the tubes after #19 and staying healthy than in risking leaving her young children motherless. To my mind, if you are going to make a life devoted solely to motherhood, you ought to keep the big picture in mind, and give up the pleasure (and pain) of young babies after a while.

    Furthermore, I feel perfectly free to judge both husband and wife for raising children to be Christian clones insulated from the world and the necessity of making independent decisions. If nothing else, this seriously stunts spiritual growth of the children. If you look at the lives of Jesus, the apostles, a lot of the widely recognized mystics and saints within the Christian tradition, you see a lot of re-evaluation and rejection of existing religious status quo.

  26. Rebecca
    Rebecca November 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm |

    I think that one thing that continually gets overlooked when talking about the Duggars is their connection to ATI/Bill Gothard and Michael and Debbie Pearl.

    On their website, the Duggars promote No Greater Joy Ministires, which is the sick brainchild of the Pearls.

    My guess? Those kids probably aren’t being treated quite as well as we think they are on the show.

  27. Katherine
    Katherine November 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    And it’s even worse that so many Christian fundies with two, three, four kids watch this and keep getting depressed when the pregnancy tests looks them in the eyes and says, “No, you’re not pregnant.”

  28. chingona
    chingona November 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    R: and aware of the fact that she is still menstruating

    I’m not there yet myself, but my understanding is that a lot of women on the cusp of menopause will have very irregular cycles, and I think fertility can decline quite a bit even in women who are still menstruating. (Just being informational.)

  29. Drahill
    Drahill November 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Brian Schlosser: What disturbs be about the Duggars is totally the religious and political element. I don’t watch their show any more, but I remember an early one (16 kids?) they visited another “superfamily” and the difference was like night and day. The other family didn’t all wear the same clothes, their kids were actually playing and enjoying being kids, they went to college and everything. In short, they seemed like a normal, albeit large, family compared to the Duggar’s creepy “Von Trapp’s meet the Branch Davidians” clan.

    Yes, this. That to me, is THE critical distinction. Large families, even supersized ones, are perfectly fine (assuming that they are by design and the family is able ad willing to care for them). I come from a pretty large family – because my parents wanted a larger family. The problem with the Duggars is that they believe their way is THE way – like, the only or best way possible. If I recall correctly, part of the Quiverfull ideology is that mass reproduction is necessary in part to try to sway demographics and voting – so that they can move towards a country that mimics their own ideas. It’s frightening, in that regard.

  30. Athenia
    Athenia November 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm |

    What makes me feel really uncomfortable about this whole thing is the “product” of the pregnancy/x number of baby. I mean, what if she has a miscarriage? What if the baby dies? What if she dies?

    What’s the narrative then? Is it “god’s will”? Is that “entertainment”? Cuz what we are looking at here is her giving birth to as many babies as possible and it’s entertainment. (which of course, isn’t usually so different than other things out there, but this is an on-going thing. This is a series that doesn’t end. It fact it’s precisely the reason she’s giving birth birth to 18+ kids which makes this scenerio consumable.)

  31. Bushfire
    Bushfire November 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    It’s fine for one family to decide to have 20 kids, but it’s not okay to pretend this is what people SHOULD do. With twenty kids, as has been noted, the older daughters are raising the small ones, and the family cannot afford to feed them all without other people donating money. Obviously, not many families can do this. If we all had 20 kids, there wouldn’t be donations coming in to feed them all, there would be a lot less people in the work force, it would totally change the way society is organized. Michelle and Jim-Bob are free to have as many as they want, but claiming this is realistic for the average person is just lying.

  32. akeeyu
    akeeyu November 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm |

    Athenia:

    “I mean, what if she has a miscarriage? What if the baby dies? What if she dies?”

    One of my least favorite things is feeling like I have to defend a person or idea that I actively dislike. I don’t like the front that the Duggars present. I don’t like their ideology. I don’t like the fact that their family is being used (let’s be fair: they’re in on the using) as entertainment for the masses.

    However, I don’t like where you (and a large number of the previous posters) are going with that comment, either.

    All of your What Ifs apply to virtually all women. Statistically, Michelle Duggar has a pretty excellent track record with pregnancy. It’s considerably better than mine. Women with more serious physical challenges than Michelle Duggar have children (or attempt to do so) all the time.

    If we judge her for wanting to have more children after one pregnancy went badly, don’t we have to judge all women who have had unsuccessful pregnancies in the past?

    By all means, criticize her for her choice of husbands, her choice of religions, her choice of hairstyles (dear God, her hair), but really, I think her obstetrical history should be out of bounds. It smacks a bit of paternalistic ableism, and it is a poor argument against her.

    If my math is correct, she’s been pregnant 18 times and has 19 live children. These numbers do not really cut against her.

    I’ve been pregnant four times and have two live children. The only successful pregnancy I experienced was an epic train wreck to the point that neither my husband nor myself will never entertain the thought of trying to have more children. Ever. The thing is, that’s our business and our decision. If we decided to toss common sense to the wind and attempt another pregnancy, that wouldn’t be an invitation for the world at large to critique our decision.

    Do I think the Duggars should stop having children, take their existing children out of the limelight and just…STOP? Yes. A thousand times, yes. There are just better arguments against them than a single (very) bad pregnancy and delivery.

    When it comes to criticizing the Duggars, there is so much material to work with; I think we can leave her obstetrical history out of it.

  33. EG
    EG November 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm |

    And I absolutely agree that judging the Duggars for choosing a large family is wrong–particularly Michelle Duggar, who as the “helpmeet” part of the marriage would have no power to stop reproducing even if she wanted to.

    I disagree. Michelle Duggar is an adult who is making her “personal” choices in a particularly public way in order to promote a misogynist, poisonous kind of thinking. If she wanted to pick up some of the younger kids and walk out, she, unlike many women in her situation, would have a ready-made source of income (selling her story) and access to excellent sources of support (is there a feminist group around that wouldn’t fall all over itself helping her out? I think that’s all to the good, actually, but with her media access, she’d have far more ability to get in touch with them than other women in her situation). She is making choices, and I absolutely judge her. I judge her choice of ideology, I judge her values, I judge what she is subjecting her children to, and yes, I judge the fact that she prioritizes her own welfare and her existing children’s emotional welfare below that of a barely-out-of-the-first-trimester fetus. These are misogynistic choices that she is advocating; they are damaging to her, and her promotion of them is damaging to other women and girls as well as to our cultural discourse. I judge the hell out of her.

    akeeyu: If we judge her for wanting to have more children after one pregnancy went badly, don’t we have to judge all women who have had unsuccessful pregnancies in the past?

    No. Judging is a choice. Nobody has to judge anybody. That said, I do judge the values of people who think that a woman’s life is less important than her ability to reproduce.

    akeeyu: If we decided to toss common sense to the wind and attempt another pregnancy, that wouldn’t be an invitation for the world at large to critique our decision.

    If you were to give an interview to the Today Show about your decision, though, that would be an invitation to the world at large to critique your decision. When Michelle Duggar goes on the Today Show to announce that she is pregnant, she is promoting a product. It’s not like she’s Michelle Williams, a woman whose talents and skills and ambition took her into acting, who promotes the productions that she is in, and who happens to have had a kid. The Duggars owe their fame and whatever influence over people they have to their repeated pregnancies. Paparazzi aren’t following these people as they hide behind dark glasses, wishing they could just live their lives in peace even while pursuing their chosen careers. They voluntarily do a reality show and voluntarily give interviews to major media outlets specifically in order to promote their decisions. That means those decisions are indeed open to public critique.

    Jim Bob is also a total asshole with scumbag values, in my opinion, of course. I judge him to for his choice of ideology, I judge his values, I judge what he is subjecting his children to, and I judge the fact that he prioritizes the welfare of his wife and the emotional welfare of his existing children below that of a barely-out-of-the-first-trimester fetus. I loathe them both.

  34. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    Michelle Duggar is a propagandist. After the controversy over her 20th pregnancy erupted, I decided to watch a couple of episodes of what was then “17 Kids and Counting.” I was appalled. The opening credits consist of Michelle introducing herself, her husband Jim Bob, and her 17 kids. “Somehow, we make it all work,” she gushes. If we know in advance they’re going to make it all work, what’s the point of watching the show?

    Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this propaganda pitched to Christian mothers. Have 17+ children, be a hero and a celebrity. The first two episodes consist mostly of strangers marveling over the Duggar clan. In one episode, we hear oohing and ahhing from a guy in Central Park, a guy in Times Square, two guys in a pizza parlor, and two uniformed NYPD officers who recognize them on the street. We get a couple voiceovers of the kids talking about how amazing their mom is, how lovingly she disciplines them, how they’d be nothing without her. Michelle announcing on the Today Show that she’s pregnant with kid #18. Finally, Michelle gets an award from a hotel on Mother’s Day because she’s an icon of Super-Momdom. Then they all have Mother’s Day brunch and give her presents.

  35. Bacopa
    Bacopa November 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Part of me hopes that something goes wrong and the Duggars have to face the possibility of a so called “partial birth abortion”. I say “part of me” because I am almost certain Michelle would do something stupid and put herself at great risk. I don’t really want to wish death on Michelle Duggar.

    I’m saving all my death wishing for the coaching staff of Penn State.

    We should all remember that the Duggars have a policy of stopping breastfeeding at six months. Why? The revelation of God in nature suggests two years or more is a better time frame. Gorillas, who are very anatomically similar to humans, go way longer than six months. No they picked six months because they want to run a freak show. The LAM method should never be regarded as reliable birth control, but it is often reliable birth curtailment. It could have easily cut the 19 Duggars down to 7-13 kids. I cite my father’s mother as evidence. Eleven children born when she was 19 to 44. My dad says my grandmother nursed the heck out of his two youngest sibs until they were four. The six month cutoff is just a way for the Duggars to run their freak show.

    BTW, I do not mean for this comment to be taken as breastfeeding axe grinding. Breast milk is an awesomely cool food for very young humans, sometimes it is not the right choice for some women. Hell, I’m a guy so it’s not like I got skin in the game.

    On a further note, women out there contemplating later childbearing might take inspiration from Flo, alpha female of the Gombe chimps. A few years ago she had a baby just shy of her 42nd birthday. I grew up watching Flo and her sons rise to the top of the heap in the seventies and eighties.

  36. Anonymouse
    Anonymouse November 11, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    EG, awesome post! And, really, this very blog calls women out all the time for the “I choose my choice!” rhetoric, but this loathsome couple who are making a televised spectacle of her pregnancies and their children because of their need to promote their cult-like ideology is off limits? No, I will judge the hell out of them.

  37. Jessica Mason
    Jessica Mason November 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm |

    While Michelle Duggar as had quite a few kids, it is her choice. Like it was mentioned in the post, it would be anti-feminist to ridicule her for having twenty children when it essentially her decision and her body. And I agree that it is worthy to evaluate the ties between religion and to the number of children she has conceived. The idea that religion encourages women to fulfill their natural destiny of procreation is wrong. Women can have as many children as they like but is unfair to expect women to become mothers. Also a part of me feels pity for those twenty children in one family. It must be difficult for the parents to take care of all of them and I wonder how the parents can give each of them the full attention they deserve.

  38. Matt
    Matt November 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    This is a stupid discussion. How are Jim Bob or his wife any less brainwashed than their children were? This ridiculous insistence of feminists assigning autonomy only where it supports their cause is inane. Some day people will finally accept pressure theory as the normative psychological GUT. Boy will science get a jump start then. Some days I think radical ideologists will be forced to create a working AI just to prove a basic principle of human mental processes because its the only way to get people to admit their insistence on arbitrarily assigned personal autonomy is ridiculous. Do you have any idea how tedious and boring it is to write enough lines of code to mimic the lower order brain functions necessary to support full sentience is? Its like billions of lines of code… And half of it isn’t even interesting problem solving stuff, just code “grinding”. Of course even if we did it the Jesus freaks would just light us on fire and progressives would pull a catholic laity/students at penn state style move based on time investiture. At least we could turn on the irony alert. I do so love the irony alert.

  39. Aydan
    Aydan November 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    Whatever one’s opinion of the Duggars, nothing justifies wishing they have to go through an abortion, or calling them a freak show.

    As a Christian, I’m really uncomfortable when Christianity is co-opted for things like this. If a family wants to have 20 kids– and can raise them all healthily without delegating child care onto the older kids, which doesn’t seem to be the case here– well, that’s one thing. But saying this somehow makes them better Christians or more in line with the church? And as an environmentalist, I just find it… an unfortunate trend, to put it mildly. Yes, it is their choice, but I can consider some choices healthier than others. As a feminist… it’s very hard for me to imagine choosing a lifestyle like this, but if it doesn’t hurt anybody, well. But, as others have pointed out, their kids DIDN’T choose this lifestyle, and neither did all the other kids in the families that are trying to be the Duggars, whether by having lots of kids or schooling them a certain way or whatever.

  40. sidhe3141
    sidhe3141 November 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    Bacopa:
    Part of me hopes that something goes wrong and the Duggars have to face the possibility of a so called “partial birth abortion”. I say “part of me” because I am almost certain Michelle would do something stupid and put herself at great risk. I don’t really want to wish death on Michelle Duggar.

    Please don’t do this. Yes, it’s possible that there will be complications at some point. Yes, if there are, she will likely do something stupid. But you still shouldn’t wish misfortune on people.

    As for my own take, yes, she has opened herself to criticism by going public like this. But if that criticism takes the form of “clown car” “jokes” we’re really no better than the people who think “shut up, cunt” is a valid argument. We can treat this as a case study in the kind of harm “Quiverfull” and the like can cause, but to do that we have to discuss this like adults.

  41. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm |

    wow — I’m with akeeyu here; the degree of vitriol here is astonishing.

    One thing that actually makes me sort of obliquely sympathetic to the Duggars is that they’ve really consciously thought through what kind of family life they want to have, unusual as it is. With Erin, though, I worry about the fact that the conscious choices of the parents become the water the kids have to swim in (um. I’m wondering how to mix that metaphor a little more … eh, I’ll leave it in the tangle it’s in).

    But how is that not the case with my children? There are all kinds of choices they are unlikely to make after I finish raising them, and perhaps some of those choices would bring them a lot of pleasure.

  42. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 11, 2011 at 11:03 pm |

    seconding sidhe 3141.

  43. akeeyu
    akeeyu November 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm |

    EG:

    “No. Judging is a choice. Nobody has to judge anybody. That said, I do judge the values of people who think that a woman’s life is less important than her ability to reproduce.”

    I thought I was pretty clear, but I’ll try again.

    Want to judge Michelle Duggar’s choices? Go for it. Her views and opinions? Be my guest. Her exploitation of her children? You have my blessing. Her choice of men? Oh, I am right there with you, believe me.

    I do have a very specific problem with people standing on the sidelines and disingenuously wringing their hands over her health and/or pregnancy. It’s patronizing, the slippery slope problems are pretty much built in (exactly how physically perfect DO you have to be before society deems you fit to reproduce?) and for God’s sake, it’s lazy.

    I don’t believe that there is a statistically significant number of people who changed their opinion of Michelle Duggar’s choices based on her last pregnancy.

    I’m fairly certain that those of us who think it’s inadvisable and/or ethically questionable and/or just plain idiotic to have that many children would have maintained that belief whether her last pregnancy went of the rails or not. Can you honestly say that you (or any rational person) would have said “Well, gosh, I thought having 18 children was nuts, but now that she’s had 19…heck, she must be right!” Of course not.

    There are so many incredibly legitimate reasons to dislike her choices. There are so many good points to be made about that whole creepy Quiverfull business. You could write thousands of pages on the social and ethical issues involved.

    Going for the low hanging fruit (a bad pregnancy/delivery) in an argument like this is just…lazy. I don’t know how else to describe it.

    It also seems like poor debate technique. You can’t use the bad outcome of one pregnancy as evidence against her without acknowledging the successful ones.

    She uses those pregnancies and resulting children as proof that she is right.

    I’d rather not stoop to her level. I’d rather keep the focus on what’s in her head.

  44. akeeyu
    akeeyu November 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm |

    Sorry: “…whether her last pregnancy went OFF the rails or not.”

  45. EG
    EG November 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm |

    sidhe3141: But you still shouldn’t wish misfortune on people.

    Not that I particularly wish misfortune on the Duggars, but why shouldn’t somebody? Wishing harm to befall others doesn’t actually make it more likely to happen. It doesn’t actually hurt anybody. Unlike what the Duggars do.

    akeeyu: You can’t use the bad outcome of one pregnancy as evidence against her without acknowledging the successful ones.

    I don’t understand that. She is knowingly and purposefully putting her life and health at risk in a way that she wasn’t before. Given that the first risk factor for pre-eclampsia listed on the Mayo Clinic’s website is a personal or family history of pre-eclampsia, and the list includes being over the age of forty, she is at significantly more risk now than she was with the earlier, easier pregnancies. That demonstrates a set of values I find noxious. So I certainly can use what happened recently as evidence that she values her own health/well-being and the emotional health/well-being of her children less than that of a barely-out-of-the-first-trimester fetus. She does.

    akeeyu: She uses those pregnancies and resulting children as proof that she is right.

    That doesn’t make any sense; it’s not close to being the same thing. They would be proof that she were right if her argument was “it’s possible to conceive, gestate, and give birth to many children.” But since nobody disagrees with her about this, that’s clearly not her argument. Her argument is that this is something that we should do, and with regard to that, her ability to do so is irrelevant.

  46. EG
    EG November 11, 2011 at 11:45 pm |

    akeeyu: exactly how physically perfect DO you have to be before society deems you fit to reproduce?

    Given that nobody is advocating using state power to prevent her from reproducing, I don’t see any slippery slope at all. People can make reproductive choices, and I can say that those choices are foolish and/or fucked up and/or putting their health at risk. And when a person goes on a national TV show in order to publicize his/her choices, those choices become open to public critique. They want a shitload of handwringing and concern; it brings them more and more publicity, and thus gives them more and more opportunities to mouth off about how much more important fetuses are than Michelle Duggar.

    Come to think of it, that may be the only argument I can buy for not reacting to or judging what they do. The more people roll their eyes and say “Well, fuck ‘em,” and change the channel, the less attention they’ll get.

  47. Brennan
    Brennan November 11, 2011 at 11:47 pm |

    Aydan: As a Christian, I’m really uncomfortable when Christianity is co-opted for things like this. If a family wants to have 20kids–and can raise them al lhealthily without delegating child care onto the older kids, which doesn’t seem to be the case here–well, that’s one thing. But saying this somehow makes them better Christians or more in line with the church?

    Word. I find it very weird to hearing them attribute it all to serving God when there’s little scriptural or historical support for their lifestyle. It’s important to remember, though, that they didn’t come up with this ideology; it was aggressively pushed on them and so many others by certain factions of the church with something to gain. Basically, the fundamentalist movement is a case study in the dangers of co-opting a religion to push a political and social agenda. And if that agenda is itself runs contrary to human rights . . . so much the worse. Sadly, this does make them more in line with a particular church–one that’s primarily concerned with silencing women.

  48. EG
    EG November 11, 2011 at 11:50 pm |

    Kathleen: But how is that not the case with my children?

    Because you’re not exploiting their domestic labor or pimping them out on a reality show for publicity? There’s a difference between passing on values and forcing somebody to do labor for you, and there’s a difference between letting your kids take on after-school jobs when they’re teenagers and agreeing to let cameras film them as they try to go about their daily lives when they’re too young to exercise good judgment and impulse control. Some choices are better and less exploitative than others.

  49. josephine.e
    josephine.e November 12, 2011 at 12:12 am |

    But how is that not the case with my children? There are all kinds of choices they are unlikely to make after I finish raising them, and perhaps some of those choices would bring them a lot of pleasure.

    the difference is whether or not your require your kids to make the same choices you made. and coercion=force, here. if you tell your kids that they’re going to hell if they don’t make the same choices you make (sorry, christians, i just can’t get past this one), then you are coercing them, and imho, doing them much harm.

    i have very strong beliefs about life. i even have a strong religious/spiritual practice. but all of my kids know that they have the freedom to disagree with me and to live their lives as they chose. even at their young ages, they exercise that right. of course, if the belief that i have the “right” to chose has something to do with not allowing basic respect to kids (or women, etc), then i would have a hard time with this. personally, though, i don’t think anyone has the “right” to chose lifestyles that blatantly or implicitly denies the rights that children have (to respect, autonomy, unconditional love and acceptance, etc.)

    i also want to cast my hat in with the leave her pregnancy history out of this camp.

  50. akeeyu
    akeeyu November 12, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    EG,

    The Quiverfull people think that children are a blessing from God. They don’t mean it figuratively. Michelle Duggar believes that God is personally passing out the children on this planet. You don’t think that she’s giving herself extra pats on the back for being “blessed” so many times? You don’t think she considers 19 children as evidence that God thinks she’s right?

    “Given that the first risk factor for pre-eclampsia listed on the Mayo Clinic’s website is a personal or family history of pre-eclampsia, and the list includes being over the age of forty, she is at significantly more risk now than she was with the earlier, easier pregnancies. That demonstrates a set of values I find noxious.”

    Attack the values, then.

    Unless you’re railing against ALL women over forty who have had pre-eclampsia and want to have more children, it is STILL irrelevant to the discussion.

    The fact that Michelle Duggar is choosing to risk her life to have more children is not the issue. A lot of women do that, regardless of political views.

    The issue is what is MOTIVATING her decision, not her decision.

    Attack the paternalistic and misogynistic bullshit that surrounds and makes up the Quiverfull movement, and society for cultivating these attitudes.

    We all have enough to go on without saying “…but pre-eclampsia!”

    If she hadn’t had pre-eclampsia during her last pregnancy, it wouldn’t have made her more RIGHT. Having had pre-eclampsia during her last pregnancy doesn’t make her more WRONG.

    Being WRONG makes her wrong.

  51. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 12, 2011 at 1:11 am |

    Lol @ Christianity being “co-opted” to impose a sociopolitical agenda…

  52. Kes
    Kes November 12, 2011 at 1:12 am |

    I read some time ago that, in the opinion of a woman who walked away from the Quiverfull lifestyle (I believe it was on Nolongerquivering.com), more often than not it is the wife that becomes interested in the idea and urges or encourages the husband and the rest of the family to embrace it. And Michelle Duggar is of course now the go-to example of how it can be done, and you can do it too! It’s easy with god’s love!

    I know the Duggars always put it about that they chose to do it together, but I’ve always wondered whose idea it was originally.

    Also, re: judging women for their fertility choices: I don’t see why not, since I judge people for everything else. I make no effort to be non-judgmental. That’s my personal choice and you can’t criticize it!

  53. Disgusted
    Disgusted November 12, 2011 at 4:35 am |

    I have to say I am utterly disgusted by the comments left on this post.

    All of this judgement coming from the very crowd that screams about how you shouldn’t judge a woman for having 20 abortions whilst denouncing a woman for having 20 children. Yes, women should be trusted to make choices…unless they’re ones that you disagree with. Then you should have a say in other peoples lives so you can tell them how to live and how evil they are.

    This coming from people who say that women are strong and intelligent, whilst stating that one woman is weak, brainwashed and oppressed just because her choices are not the ones you would make. AND you say that she doesn’t know what is best for herself and her family. YOU know better than she does. YOU know what is best for EVERYBODY.

    All of this hatred for a family that is raising their children as they see fit, which is their RIGHT. How would you like it if people said that you’re “brainwashing” your children into being liberal, into being feminists, into being atheists? It’s not brainwashing, it’s called imparting your values onto your children. I’m sure many, many people find YOUR values abhorrent, and find YOU immoral, and find the way YOU raise your children to be awful.

    Maybe you’re all just threatened by the fact that the Duggars have many children, and their many children will have many children with similar values and being that most of you have no children and don’t want children, or those of you that do have children have very few children and your few children will grow up to have very few children or not have children, thus people like the Duggars will inherit this country and then within a few generations people like you will cease to exist. One can only hope.

  54. samanthab
    samanthab November 12, 2011 at 6:54 am |

    Yeah, actually I do feel like it’s damn anti-feminist to judge her choices. Is there a reason we need to focus on a woman whose made choices different than ours instead of the individuals that try to control our bodies through anti-choice legislation? It’s absolute rank hypocrisy to insist that women should be able to do what they want with their bodies unless it’s, err, what *we* don’t want them to do with their bodies. It’ still her fucking body, and it’s none of our fucking business.
    Her baby isn’t a mascot- it’s a goddamned life. It’s incredibly dehumanizing to suggest otherwise, and frankly I think it shows deep insecurity and a lack of committed conviction if we feel threatened by a goddamned baby.

    Nevermind that the the media’s role in this is being ignored entirely here. You wouldn’t so much as know this woman’s name if they hadn’t exploited the fuck out of her. They’ve turned her baby into a mascot and dehumanized her family, and you’re all too happy here to take the bait. And you’re all too happy to throw your putative commitments to bodily autonomy out the window just because a woman’s not playing by your set of rules. If you want to take on fundamentalist biblical patriarchy, fucking take on biblical patriarchy. Directly. Don’t fucking attack a woman who, on the one hand you want to cast as a victim, and on the other hand judge her own convictions. If she’s a victim, why the holy fuck are you all attacking her for it? Or does victim-blaming only exist when it’s a woman you can identify with, who you can imagine yourself being?

    When you have those kind of logical consistencies in your argumentation and moral principles, you become your enemy. You’re the same as the anti-choicers who attack abortion and and yet are pro-death penalty. Yeah, you may be cleverer about how you word your arguments. You may display the markers of your education and your class. (And don’t even try to tell me there’s not a fuckload of implicit classism in this post and thread.) But you’ve damn well lost the philosophical high ground through your inconsistencies, and you’re disingenuous just like they are.

    And the argument that she’s risking her own life is of course filled with hypocrisy, too. Any woman who sleeps with a dude without a condom, provided that dude hasn’t shown her the results of an AIDS test, is taking her life into her own hands. And guess what? The vast majority of women getting abortions slept with condom-free men. That’s fairly self-evident. So there are wide swathes of women you aren’t judging for the risks they take to their own bodies, but somehow this woman’s different?

    Again, I have no issue with anyone attacking fundamentalist biblical patriarchy. But you’re not fucking doing that. You’re attacking another woman who you say is already a victim, and so, by your own logic, re-victimizing her. You don’t see her as one of your own- she’s a little bit trashy; she’s not well-educated and well read; you think her beliefs are inappropriate- so you’ve fucking thrown her under the bus. That’s pretty lousy behavior, and it’s pretty lousy feminism.

  55. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 12, 2011 at 7:59 am |

    What’s striking about this is that the girls, being unpaid helpmeets for their parents, are probably unlikely to ever get their parent’s blessing to get married (and continue in this lifestyle on their own). There are just too many young children for them all to care for.

  56. SarahJ
    SarahJ November 12, 2011 at 8:21 am |

    Yes, you should absolutely judge the Duggars, not necessarily for the size of their family, but for their motivations. Like a few commenters above, I also grew up in fundamentalist Christianity, and finally left the church when I was twenty. Fortunately my family isn’t Quiverfull-my mom’s always been adamant that two children is enough for her-but I did attend college with kids who were from that background, and since I was also homeschooled for a long time I’m familiar with the rhetoric and the organizations that manufacture it.

    They have large families because they want to establish a theocracy in the United States. They’re taking America back for Jesus one baby at a time, in a deliberate attempt to outnumber the “ungodly” element they so fear. It’s extremely foolish not to criticize them, and it annoys me deeply to see comments on feminist websites that condemn criticism of the Duggars in the name of reproductive freedom. These people don’t give a shit about reproductive freedom, and they’re deliberately producing children who will eventually vote to take yours away. So do your research, and criticize away.

  57. vanessa
    vanessa November 12, 2011 at 8:23 am |

    This is so fascinating a discussion, because while I see what you all mean, I am still judging the fuck out of the Duggars. And yeah, I think its irresponsible to attempt to have another baby given her last pregnancy. It might well kill her and then 19 kids will be without a mother. (19. jesus). I realize that this is a slippery slope: I also think that dismissing arguments on the slippery slope is bullshit.
    So yes, I judge the Duggars. I judge their choices and their motivations and their parenting style. And I feel no shame in that. I do not think it is anti feminist. We all judge people, all the time.

    And this wishing harm on someone business? Eh, a wish is a wish. I don’t go around wishing folks were dead, but come.on. It’s a WISH, it isn’t going to make anything more likely to happen. It’s not like I’m calling Michelle Duggar and saying I WISH YOU HAD A LATE TERM ABORTION or something.

  58. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein November 12, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    Samanthab, what I’m judging is the idea that a woman should “let God decide” how many children she will have, instead of making up her own mind. If she wants 2, or 20, or 0, that’s fine by me. It’s not up to me to tell her how much medical risk she should accept.

    However, I am disgusted by any religious doctrine that requires a woman to give up control over her body and her life. Someone–namely Michelle Duggar–should be making decisions about how many children she wants and how much risk is too much.

    The backbone of the Christian patriarchy philosophy is female submission, not pro-natalism, per se. You’re supposed to hope that God sends you a lot of babies, but the larger point is that what you want is irrelevant. This is about submission. It’s not a bug in this system that the number of kids you want, or the risks of pregnancy you’d be willing to accept will diverge from what “God sends you,” it’s a feature.

    The larger religious point is that women must submit and accept their religious/biological destiny, even when they really don’t want to.

  59. EG
    EG November 12, 2011 at 9:54 am |

    akeeyu: You don’t think she considers 19 children as evidence that God thinks she’s right?

    Irrelevant. The fact that she has been able to have nineteen children isn’t going to convince anybody who isn’t already Quiverfull that she’s right.

    akeeyu: Attack the paternalistic and misogynistic bullshit that surrounds and makes up the Quiverfull movement, and society for cultivating these attitudes.

    I really think you’re splitting hairs, here. She is an active proponent of this misogynistic, paternalistic bullshit, and one of the ways she is promoting it is by making and publicizing this decision. Ideology doesn’t just float around in the air infecting people; people believe it, promote it, and act on it; that’s what gives it power. Michelle Duggar’s latest pregnancy is an example of this, and the fact that she’s wanting to go through with it despite the risks to her health is part of that ideology.

    akeeyu: Unless you’re railing against ALL women over forty who have had pre-eclampsia and want to have more children, it is STILL irrelevant to the discussion.

    Wanting is different from doing, first of all (see comments on how it doesn’t actually hurt anybody to wish harm on them). Second of all, I will indeed judge all women over forty who have had pre-eclampsia who go on national television to talk about how risking their lives to have more children is the best and moral way to operate. Just let me know of another one, and I’ll judge the hell out of her as well.

    samanthab: Is there a reason we need to focus on a woman whose made choices different than ours instead of the individuals that try to control our bodies through anti-choice legislation?

    It’s not an either/or situation. I have enough judgment to go around. Further, legislation is not the only way that women are controlled and coerced. Religious ideology such as that which the Duggars promote is another huge factor.

    It’s absolute rank hypocrisy to insist that women should be able to do what they want with their bodies unless it’s, err, what *we* don’t want them to do with their bodies.

    Is anybody here trying to prevent her from doing what she wants with her body? Anybody? Has anybody suggested that she be abducted, taken to a clinic, and forced to undergo an abortion? No? So…how is this hypocrisy? People make decisions I think are stupid all the time, and I judge the hell out of them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to make those decisions.

    It’ still her fucking body, and it’s none of our fucking business.

    And this would be true if she weren’t going on national television specifically to discuss it. You know what? I would love not even to know who the Duggars were. As noted in a recent thread, I rarely know who any current celebrities are, especially reality show celebrities. I have no idea, for instance, of the names of anybody who has ever been on Teen Mom or Toddlers and Tiaras (my sister watches them). The fact that I know about the Duggars is not an accident. They want publicity.

    samanthab: Nevermind that the the media’s role in this is being ignored entirely here. You wouldn’t so much as know this woman’s name if they hadn’t exploited the fuck out of her.

    How are they exploiting her? My understanding is that she is a grown woman who signed all of the waivers, who does not seem mentally incompetent in any way, and who, if I understand correctly chose to enter this lifestyle. How is that exploitation?

    samanthab: And you’re all too happy to throw your putative commitments to bodily autonomy out the window just because a woman’s not playing by your set of rules.

    Again, judging her decisions does not mean attacking her right to make them.

    samanthab: If you want to take on fundamentalist biblical patriarchy, fucking take on biblical patriarchy.

    Michelle Duggar is part of fundamentalist biblical patriarchy. She actively sells it. Do you think having a vagina gives someone immunity?

    samanthab: Don’t fucking attack a woman who, on the one hand you want to cast as a victim, and on the other hand judge her own convictions.

    I don’t believe I’ve cast Duggar as a victim. Other Quiverfull women, women who were born into or raised in the lifestyle, sure. Quiverfull women who do not have access to the resources she has, yes. Quiverfull women who are not taking part in reality shows promoting their misogynistic bullshit, yes. Duggar? I’m having a hard time buying that.

    Furthermore, even if Duggar is a victim, which, as noted above, I’m not buying, being a victim and causing harm are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible to be/do both. For fuck’s sake, women are the majority of the population. If we didn’t collaborate in our own oppression, patriarchy would fall apart. And when a woman is collaborating to this extent, I fucking well will judge her.

    samanthab: Yeah, you may be cleverer about how you word your arguments.

    I can only shrug. Words matter. They determine the meaning of arguments. Wording one’s arguments correctly is important.

    samanthab: Any woman who sleeps with a dude without a condom, provided that dude hasn’t shown her the results of an AIDS test, is taking her life into her own hands….So there are wide swathes of women you aren’t judging for the risks they take to their own bodies, but somehow this woman’s different?

    Quite frankly, I’m not interested in rooting around the internet to dig up stats, but I strongly suspect that the risk to a 45-year-old woman who had already had pre-eclampsia of another pregnancy is significantly higher than the risk to a woman of sleeping with a condom-less man. Further, if some woman were to go on national television in order to extol the virtues of condom-less sex, and to claim that having sex without a condom was so very important that even if she contracted AIDS and died, leaving her family bereft, you can be damn sure I would judge her too.

    What you are not getting is that the Duggars are not private people. They are public figures. That is by their own choice. And their status as public figures has been built on demonstrating their poisonous values. Nobody’s following them around, shoving microphones in their faces and demanding to know the contents of Michelle Duggar’s uterus. They are using what she does with her body in order to accrue fame and to promote misogyny.

    They have been on Larry King Live, The Today Show ten times, and Say Yes to the Dress, among other shows. What do you think they’re promoting, their newest Broadway show? They’re there to talk about Michelle Duggar’s body and what she does with it. That makes those decisions not private any longer.

  60. piny
    piny November 12, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    Samanthab, what I’m judging is the idea that a woman should “let God decide” how many children she will have, instead of making up her own mind. If she wants 2, or 20, or 0, that’s fine by me. It’s not up to me to tell her how much medical risk she should accept.

    Especially if your God’s approval is defined as having a baby doesn’t actually kill you this time, quite. Seems like a pretty low bar.

    This woman is also a political activist on behalf of the Quiverfull lifestyle. This lifestyle does not involve reproductive choice. It advocates training girls to be nothing but mothers and helpmeets, and ordering them under penalty of shunning and hellfire to have no other life. It also advocates forcing women to conceive and bear children. It also advocates repealing laws against marital rape–indeed, making the whole concept a legal impossibility. It also advocates destroying all social barriers to patriarchal abuse, including spousal abuse, child sexual abuse and forced marriage. It also advocates depriving women of commonsense medically viable reproductive health care. It also advocates depriving women of medical and sexual privacy. It also advocates forcing all Americans to live in a Christian theocracy based on Christian patriarchal theology.

    And as other commenters have pointed out, it supports a vision of maternal responsibility that boils down to, “Have children until it fucking kills you.” That’s when she gets to stop: not after a series of miscarriages, not after a series of life-threatening pregnancies, not when she has twenty kids, but when she dies of childbearing.

    This woman is not limiting her influence to her own household, family, or body. She’s trying to force all of us to give up our own rights and to bear girl children without rights.

    So, yeah, I’m going to fucking judge that. And although she is certainly a victim within her own family and culture, she is also a woman with a brain and a heart, and she has the moral authority to do wrong.

  61. Athenia
    Athenia November 12, 2011 at 10:22 am |

    akeeyu:

    You’re right women have miscarriages and die in child birth every day. My point isn’t so much “omg she’s gonna die!”–cuz like you said, with all those healthy pregnancies the likilhood is of disaster is small.

    I just get really uncomfortable that her pregnancies are a narrative that are bought and sold—specifically the narrative that it’s “god’s will.” No, it’s not God’s Will. It’s you fucking. Sure, “god’s will” is something even the most casual Christian might reason—but when it gets to the point where you’re announcing your pregnancies on National television for $$, the narrative and “god’s will” it comes f’ed up. I mean, if she were to have a miscarriage (if she hasn’t had one already), is she going to announce that too after she has announced it on TV? Isfshe or the baby dies, are they going to sit there on the Today Show and say it was “god’s will”?

    And if they do, does that promote the idea that the women and children around the world who die in child birth every day is “god’s will” and not poverty, war, lack of healthcare, sexism etc?

  62. piny
    piny November 12, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    You’re right women have miscarriages and die in child birth every day. My point isn’t so much “omg she’s gonna die!”–cuz like you said, with all those healthy pregnancies the likilhood is of disaster is small.

    Well, actually, it’s not that small. She had health complications resulting from her last pregnancy; she did almost die, and so did her child. Pregnancy is physically stressful. And she’s forty-five. And she hasn’t given herself any time to recover between kids. This is one reason why “family planning” became such an important issue for social progressives in the states. “Have children until God gives you your discharge papers in the form of lethal complications,” wasn’t just a fringe movement back when.

    Also…she and her husband are indicating that they will keep having children unless and until disaster strikes.

  63. piny
    piny November 12, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    Attack the values, then.

    Unless you’re railing against ALL women over forty who have had pre-eclampsia and want to have more children, it is STILL irrelevant to the discussion.

    The fact that Michelle Duggar is choosing to risk her life to have more children is not the issue. A lot of women do that, regardless of political views.

    The issue is what is MOTIVATING her decision, not her decision.

    I don’t agree. If you divorce her ideological commitment to a whole lot of pregnancy from the actual real-life consequences of a whole lot of pregnancy (medical complications, lethal complications, cumulative risk of complications, physical pain and hardship, financial hardship, financial dependence, other power disparities within marriage, marital and relational stress, a large number of dependent children), then you give her most of the argument.

    It’s not like she’s saying that God wants her to collect stamps or raise cymbidia. The reason this ideology is so insidious is that pregnancy is no small thing for any woman–no matter her circumstances or beliefs, bearing a child is a life-changing and potentially life-threatening task.

    Her demands on other women’s lives are objectionable for their focus. If pregnancy could be restricted to its best outcomes or mildest risks–if it were really possible for any woman to avoid all of these potential consequences–then patriarchy and motherhood would be radically different concepts. They would, more specifically, more closely track the operating definitions that the Duggars want to use in their arguments. Patriarchy without control, childbearing without danger: this is radicalism without moral responsibility. This is a plan for women that has no bearing on women’s lives or mortal bodies.

    We have a responsibility to all women to evaluate these plans at the other end of the curve: to acknowledge that they can kill, and force women to accept an unusually high risk of maternal death as God’s will (really, God’s plan, given that Quiverfull-to-completion means having children until your body rebels and sends you to the ER). They don’t want us to make those points, but we are obligated to.

  64. Cluisanna
    Cluisanna November 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    I recommend you visit Libby Anne’s blog, it’s very eye-opening. http://lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com/

    Kathleen:
    wow—I’m with akeeyu here; the degree o fvitriol here is astonishing.

    Say what?
    Noone here has insulted the family. The only thing people do is critique them, and that is everybody’s right. No one here is saying we should take her ability to make choices away, but we can critique her choices. Isn’t that the basic principle of human decency? Don’t judge people based on factors they have no influence on (i.e. race, sex, to some extent class), judge them based on their actions. And why shouldn’t we?
    This isn’t about attacking a person; this is about attacking a person’s choices. What is wrong with that?

    Also, samanthab, you seem to be kind if misguided.
    No one her said we should outlaw having a large family. The only thing that was said was that certain commentators didn’t like what the Duggars were doing (wether the reasons they had for that are valid or not is a different discussion). Like I said, everybody has the right to question and critique the choices other people make (especially if they affect innocent people, like their children), as long as you don’t limit other people’s choices based only on your own opinions (i.e. anti-abortionists).

    If she’s a victim, why the holy fuck are you all attacking her for it? Or does victim-blaming only exist when it’s a woman you can identify with, who you can imagine yourself being?

    Like has been said, she is a grown woman who wasn’t raised in this culture. So she may be some sort of victim, but not in the same sense as a rape victim or the children of that family.

    When you have those kind of logical (I guess in-)consistencies in your argumentation and moral principles, you become your enemy. You’re the same as the anti-choicers who attack abortion and and yet are pro-death penalty. Yeah, you may be cleverer about how you word your arguments. You may display the markers of your education and your class. (And don’t even try to tell me there’s not a fuckload of implicit classism in this post and thread.) But you’ve damn well lost the philosophical high ground through your inconsistencies, and you’re disingenuous just like they are.
    (…)
    Again, I have no issue with anyone attacking fundamentalist biblical patriarchy. But you’re not fucking doing that. You’re attacking another woman who you say is already a victim, and so, by your own logic, re-victimizing her. You don’t see her as one of your own- she’s a little bit trashy; she’s not well-educated and well read; you think her beliefs are inappropriate- so you’ve fucking thrown her under the bus. That’s pretty lousy behavior, and it’s pretty lousy feminism.

    That makes me so fucking angry. There are no logical inconsistencies. I judge “well-educated and well read” people by their actions and choices too. Everybody can and should be judged for their choices.

    Conclusion: I don’t know where exactly you got that straw man, but you are giving it quite the beating.

  65. Natalia
    Natalia November 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm |

    Or does victim-blaming only exist when it’s a woman you can identify with, who you can imagine yourself being?

    You’ve touched on a major problem that exists within virtually any progressive movement.

  66. karak
    karak November 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    @akeeyu–

    I think Athena’s quote was in the context of her being on a reality show. There IS something very upsetting about the idea that Michelle or her unborn child might die or be seriously injured, and people are going to be home watching it with popcorn and making ugly jokes. This is her life, and while she chose to share it, her tragedies shouldn’t be Friday night entertainment. However, I put the blame on soulless people in the audience and not Michelle or Jim Bob.

    And in reply to your other comments, I DO judge people for stupid choices. I judged the fuck out of my cousin. Why? She had a serious family history of breast cancer and refused to breastfeed her son, merely because she didn’t want to (breastfeeding helps lowers your risk of breast cancer). I wanted to leap across the table and strangle some brains into her. But I didn’t. I didn’t make her life a living hell, I didn’t nag her, I didn’t advocate for laws to stop her from doing that or tell her that her immortal soul was in danger. I said, “that’s a stupid choice, and here’s why” and then shut my mouth and went on my merry way.

    There’s nothing wrong with judging, or even hating someone’s choice, or even hating a person for their choices, as long as you’re willing to say, “this is a choice, however fucking stupid, an adult should be allowed to make.” As long as the choice isn’t actively destroying anyone but the person making it, oh well. (Beating your kids or harassing your spouse are choices you should be punished for, because they actively hurt other people. Simply being a shitty parent or a shitty spouse sucks, but is allowed).

    My grandma’s on her second attack and still smoking. So’s her husband. My anger and judgement are so intense it actually gives me heartburn. But that’s her choice, I suggested she should stop, and now I need to shut my mouth about it.

  67. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    akeeyu & samanthab, thanks for saying exactly what so desperately needed to be said in this thread. Thank you thank you both.

  68. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin November 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm |

    The GOP will always give lip service to conservative Christianity. Religion as they define it has a degree of social order and control. But much of the posturing on both sides is entirely insincere. Evangelicals have added additional politicized laws and rules on top of the basic teachings. Jesus said nothing about abortion or whether a woman should have even one child. That is the primary issue here. Both Republicans and fundamentalists use each other for their own ends. They claim purity but are hypocritical. I would really like to explore the strategies of the Christian left , many of whom, like me, are pro-choice.

  69. cookies
    cookies November 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    I think Athena’s quote was in the context of her being on a reality show. There IS something very upsetting about the idea that Michelle or her unborn child might die or be seriously injured, and people are going to be home watching it with popcorn and making ugly jokes. This is her life, and while she chose to share it, her tragedies shouldn’t be Friday night entertainment. However, I put the blame on soulless people in the audience and not Michelle or Jim Bob.

    Holy shit! Someone forced them to be on a reality show? How is that even legal?

  70. zuzu
    zuzu November 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Brigit: Would those of the rest of the kids be met under such circumstances? And what the heck would they do if Michelle, the helpmeet, can no longer do her “duties” because the pregnancy left her incapacitated?

    I think you misunderstand the dynamic (which the Duggars have themselves explained on their TLC show): Michelle is a helpmeet to JimBob. She takes charge of each infant until they are 6 months old, whereupon she hands the child off to one of her other children to raise. That older child is responsible for all of the care and feeding of the younger sibling in addition to their other duties (each child has a “jurisdiction” for which they are responsible in addition to younger-sibling care; as you would imagine, it is the older girls who bear the majority of the workload of the family: one of the older girls does all the cooking for a family of 19, another does all the laundry, while the boys are responsible for things like feeding the dog). Michelle’s job is to homeschool the children and keep them all organized, but really, if she died in childbirth, the home would hardly skip a beat given that she’s not doing the brunt of the day-to-day work to care for a family that large.

    Speaking of their show, you may or may not be aware that some of the more overt Dominionist/Quiverfull stuff was edited out of the original special that introduced them and replaced with a much more “Aren’t big families wacky?” editing.

  71. librarygoose
    librarygoose November 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    cookies: Holy shit! Someone forced them to be on a reality show? How is that even legal?

    I once saw a documentary about this. It was called “The Truman Show”.

  72. zuzu
    zuzu November 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    Aydan: As a Christian, I’m really uncomfortable when Christianity is co-opted for things like this.

    I think we’ve seen that Christianity is a remarkably elastic concept that is used just as Humpty Dumpty uses words. It means just what a particular Christian chooses it to mean, no more and no less.

    So, there’s been no “co-opting” of Christianity: this *is* Christianity, as practiced by the Duggars and a whole bunch of other people. There is no True Scotsman here.

  73. zuzu
    zuzu November 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    piny: I don’t agree. If you divorce her ideological commitment to a whole lot of pregnancy from the actual real-life consequences of a whole lot of pregnancy (medical complications, lethal complications, cumulative risk of complications, physical pain and hardship, financial hardship, financial dependence, other power disparities within marriage, marital and relational stress, a large number of dependent children), then you give her most of the argument.

    Absolutely.

    Let’s not forget that women only started making large strides in political and socioeconomic power when they gained control over the means of reproduction. As soon as women were able to control how many children they had and when they had them, they were able to improve their material circumstances and their educations.

    There’s a reason that so many fundamentalists of all religions want to keep women barefoot and pregnant: when a woman is tied down with many children (or for that matter, dead/ill from multiple pregnancies), she’s less independent, less able to do for herself, and less able to leave a bad situation (she’s also less likely to be able to compete with men in the workplace).

    Michelle and JimBob Duggar are pushing a toxic, dangerous agenda that benefits no one but men like JimBob. Michelle may be reaping certain benefits now (fame, glory, a sense of godliness, etc.), but her commitment to her agenda may very well kill her and/or her next child. And they’re not leaving the rest of us out of it: it is very much part of their agenda to change the laws of this country to ensure that American women are unable to choose the size of their families. Did we forget that JimBob has been an elected official, and that part of the point of showcasing his family and their values has been to get him and his ideas to the next level of office?

  74. EG
    EG November 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    Every single thing zuzu and piny wrote. Every. Single. Thing.

  75. WeirdAtheistGirl
    WeirdAtheistGirl November 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    The ideas of the biblical patriarchy are extremely dangerous. I’ve read lots of stories from women who came from quiverfull households and who still struggle with the idea that their only worth comes from bringing as many children into the world as possible. This woman’s last pregnancy was very dangerous and this one will most likely be as well. Aren’t her husband or children concerned for her health and life? Even if she thinks she should lay down her life for another child, don’t her husband or children disagree? (Not to say that their opinion in this matter is more important than hers; it’s not. But shouldn’t they try to convince her to stop?) They seem to be happy about this as well, though.

  76. Aydan
    Aydan November 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |

    zuzu: I think we’ve seen that Christianity is a remarkably elastic concept that is used just as Humpty Dumpty uses words. It means just what a particular Christian chooses it to mean, no more and no less.

    So, there’s been no “co-opting” of Christianity: this *is* Christianity, as practiced by the Duggars and a whole bunch of other people. There is no True Scotsman here.

    No; I disagree that sufficient numbers of people practicing one philosophy in the name of another is enough to redefine it– for instance, choice feminism and actual feminism.

    But that’s not what this thread is about, so I will rephrase to say that it bothers me that a subgroup of Christians have elevated things they believe to come out of the core tenets of Christianity to equal status with those core tenets. I suppose it’s a problem with every movement, along the lines of every movement having its extremists.

    Someone mentioned it above, but I wanted to recommend No Longer Quivering; it was an eye-opening look at the Quiverfull movement and some of its associated movements when I found it. I am always humbled by the courage of the women who share their stories there. They write about the Duggars, the Pearls, Bill Gothard, and basically every “big” name in Quiverfull (and related) circles.

  77. zuzu
    zuzu November 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |

    Aydan: No; I disagree that sufficient numbers of people practicing one philosophy in the name of another is enough to redefine it

    There are plenty who would say that your version of Christianity isn’t valid, either.

    We’ve been around this merry-go-round before, of course; you can try to redefine Christianity all you want to exclude people like the Duggars, but by doing so, you’re basically conceding the argument that Christianity really means nothing if each person defines what it is and what it isn’t for themselves. Wouldn’t you be better off simply denouncing what they practice, or at the very least distancing yourself?

  78. Bacopa
    Bacopa November 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    Someone above said that on one is judging the Duggars. I think I judged the Duggars. They are running a freak show. They are not “letting God decide”, they are making the exact choices it takes to maximize fertility. Six month nursing cutoff gets all the benefits of squeezing the uterus back into shape while preventing potential suppressed ovulation past that point.

    I bet they even use a fertility monitor. I bet Jim Bob hardly even lusts after Michelle. He just has sex with her in a way that is hardly more meaningful than a casual wank while fantasizing about his freak show.. What’s going on in Michelle’s mind I cannot imagine. She does deserve better. I hope she takes up with one of the producers of her TV show.

    I completely condemn the Duggar freakshow. But that doesn’t mean that I want it to be legally intervened with.

  79. Aydan
    Aydan November 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm |

    zuzu: There are plenty who would say that your version of Christianity isn’t valid, either.
    Oh, I’m well aware. (Snark not directed at you there.)

    We’ve been around this merry-go-round before, of course; you can try to redefine Christianity all you want to exclude people like the Duggars, but by doing so, you’re basically conceding the argument that Christianity really means nothing if each person defines what it is and what it isn’t for themselves. Wouldn’t you be better off simply denouncing what they practice, or at the very least distancing yourself?

    I’m not arguing that the Duggars aren’t Christian. I’m arguing that their lifestyle, that they are selling as “a” or even “the” Christian lifestyle, is not. They’re presenting it as the ideal lifestyle for Christians, and I argue that it is a lifestyle that some Christians happen to follow– I would further argue that it is not a Christian lifestyle, but both distinctions are important.

    I’m not clear whether you think I should be denouncing the Duggars or all Christians. I don’t approve at all of what the Quiverfull movement is, and stuff like the Vision Institute really horrifies me. There’s not a lot I can do besides continuing to speak up, both telling other Christians that stuff like this is happening (a lot of people– the majority of the Christians I know– have no idea), and writing about… alternate models? of Christianity (without the implication that this model *is* a legitimate model, though). As for distancing myself, I’m not particularly close to their ideologies in the first place (a non-straight treehugging feminist? “not particularly close” might be an understatement), so I’m not quite sure what you mean by that.

  80. Aydan
    Aydan November 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm |

    Oops– the “I’m well aware” should have been outside my quote of zuzu’s post.

    Bacopa, seriously, calling the Duggars freaks and a freak show is gross.

  81. zuzu
    zuzu November 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm |

    Aydan: I’m not arguing that the Duggars aren’t Christian. I’m arguing that their lifestyle, that they are selling as “a” or even “the” Christian lifestyle, is not. They’re presenting it as the ideal lifestyle for Christians, and I argue that it is a lifestyle that some Christians happen to follow– I would further argue that it is not a Christian lifestyle, but both distinctions are important.

    Actually, they’re trying to present this as the ideal lifestyle, period. Being Christian is part of the package, of course, but they’re the types who are eager to convert everyone to their flavor of Christianity.

    You can navel-gaze all you want and split hairs about whether they’re Christians, but here again, we have an example of someone claiming a practice is justified by Christianity and liberal Christians seem more concerned that anyone else is thinking of comparing them to the Duggars than, I dunno, pushing back against the Duggars for cloaking their misogynist ways in a mantle of Christianity.

  82. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that my reaction to large families at my work is completely dependent on their race. If it’s a Hispanic, Indian, Hmong or Somali family, I don’t think about it at all. If it’s a large *white* family, my gut reaction is “umm, you know this isn’t the children’s museum, right?” Mostly, because it’s a museum that has dinosaurs, and obviously, Christianity and science go together like baking soda and vinegar, or flour and fire.
    As for the Duggars, my reaction is just *this* again? Look, she decided to turn her personal time back to the 1800s, let her reap what she sowed. Yes, they’re freakish, but so is most of evangelical Christianity.

  83. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm |

    Aydan: I’m not arguing that the Duggars aren’t Christian. I’m arguing that their lifestyle, that they are selling as “a” or even “the” Christian lifestyle, is not. They’re presenting it as the ideal lifestyle for Christians, and I argue that it is a lifestyle that some Christians happen to follow– I would further argue that it is not a Christian lifestyle, but both distinctions are important.

    I’m not clear whether you think I should be denouncing the Duggars or all Christians. I don’t approve at all of what the Quiverfull movement is, and stuff like the Vision Institute really horrifies me. There’s not a lot I can do besides continuing to speak up, both telling other Christians that stuff like this is happening (a lot of people– the majority of the Christians I know– have no idea), and writing about… alternate models? of Christianity (without the implication that this model *is* a legitimate model, though). As for distancing myself, I’m not particularly close to their ideologies in the first place (a non-straight treehugging feminist? “not particularly close” might be an understatement), so I’m not quite sure what you mean by that.

    Yes, but the point is, that if Christianity is a concept with a flexible enough definition to include both ideologies, then as a definition, it is ultimately worthless.

  84. Aydan
    Aydan November 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

    zuzu: You can navel-gaze all you want and split hairs about whether they’re Christians, but here again, we have an example of someone claiming a practice is justified by Christianity and liberal Christians seem more concerned that anyone else is thinking of comparing them to the Duggars than, I dunno, pushing back against the Duggars for cloaking their misogynist ways in a mantle of Christianity.

    I’m not interested in judging whether or not they’re Christian– as I said. That’s… yeah. Not relevant.

    I’m not sure how you can conclude that I am “more concerned that anyone else is thinking of comparing [me] to the Duggars” instead of “pushing back against the Duggars for cloaking their misogynist ways in a mantle of Christianity” when my initial comment was about how it’s not cool that they co-opt Christianity for things like this. My comment about not being close to their philosophies was made in response to your suggestion that I distance myself from them, not because I was worried that someone might think I agreed with the Duggars (??) You can argue phrasing of co-opting versus cloaking, but honestly I don’t see much difference. Also, I’m not sure how you can conclude anything about my priorities given the pushback I do is not visible in feminist circles, since feminists are all pretty aware that this is kind of messed up! Yeah, of course I’m not going to preach to the choir here about the fact that Quiverfull exists and is bad; that’s not conclusive evidence as to the sorts of conversations I have about Quiverfull, or related movements, in Christian spaces.

    One thing I am interested to know, since I have never seen any of these episodes and much of what I know about the Duggars is from No Longer Quivering– how explicit are they about “wifely submission”? Is that a thing in the show, or do they avoid talking about it? I know the general ideas of QF, but not how they’ve been spun for an audience here…

  85. Aydan
    Aydan November 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    Xposted with Fat Steve–

    I’m honestly not interested in having a debate over whether Christianity as a concept is worthless, or trying to clarify what I mean about Christianity vs. lifestyle, or any of that. It seems like nothing more than a massive derail. I’m not cool with what the Duggars do, or that they do it in the name of Christianity– but it wouldn’t be any less objectionable to me if they were doing it in the name of another religion or philosophy (duh).

  86. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 4:46 am |

    I’m honestly not interested in having a debate over whether Christianity as a concept is worthless, or trying to clarify what I mean about Christianity vs. lifestyle, or any of that.

    Oh, don’t worry – that debate will start whether you’re interested in it or not. It’s actually very similar to what some people do to the most ordinary of American Muslims. “You there! Why aren’t you CONDEMNING suicide bombings?!?!?!” “Well, since I don’t share these people’s ideas, I would have thought that…” “Shut up! If you’re not out there with a big sign protesting this shit every day exactly where Fox News can see you – you’re siding with the evil-doers!”

    But the way that the majority practice Christianity in the U.S. is part of the problem as well. And by that I mean that it’s a mostly unexamined, consumer-type religion. A chance for people to bond over stuff such as “what church do you attend?” and some archaic notions over the “role” of women. In fact, it’s all so boring, that the Duggars are like a breath of fresh air – their very deliberate sideshow act is both confusing and entertaining and frightening all at once. It’s easy for people to forget that the are actual human beings, including small children, involved in the spectacle. The Duggars give the public an excuse for a debate in exchange for being able to sustain their idea of family. In the end, I suspect it doesn’t have much to do with Christianity, but whatever.

  87. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 4:51 am |

    The GOP will always give lip service to conservative Christianity.

    I dunno. The GOP didn’t start out pandering to these folks, did it? If it becomes politically expedient, party leaders would certainly embrace atheism. Or, for that matter, Cthulhu.

  88. konkonsn
    konkonsn November 13, 2011 at 9:29 am |

    Natalia: Oh, don’t worry – that debate will start whether you’re interested in it or not. It’s actually very similar to what some people do to the most ordinary of American Muslims. “You there! Why aren’t you CONDEMNING suicide bombings?!?!?!” “Well, since I don’t share these people’s ideas, I would have thought that…” “Shut up! If you’re not out there with a big sign protesting this shit every day exactly where Fox News can see you – you’re siding with the evil-doers!”

    See, I don’t think that’s an apt comparison. This is probably getting off topic, so sorry in advance, but I’ve been having this inner debate for awhile now. I see comments on articles about Christians being homophobic and other Christians coming in and saying, “That’s not Christianity! We’re the real Christians.” And all I want to do is shout at them, “Well, where the fuck are you when people are doing stuff like this?” But then I think, “Isn’t that was people in the USA do to Muslims.”

    But it’s not the Muslims in the USA who are oppressing me, see? They may be doing shit in other countries, but here it’s specifically the Christians that want to see me as a second class citizen. And so if the “true Christians” aren’t speaking up, then how can I distinguish the ones oppressing me from the non-oppressive? I’m just going to be anti-Christian because it’s safer than trusting a church at first and then finding out they funded a campaign to block gay marriage.

  89. EG
    EG November 13, 2011 at 10:22 am |

    Natalia: It’s actually very similar to what some people do to the most ordinary of American Muslims. “You there! Why aren’t you CONDEMNING suicide bombings?!?!?!” “Well, since I don’t share these people’s ideas, I would have thought that…” “Shut up! If you’re not out there with a big sign protesting this shit every day exactly where Fox News can see you – you’re siding with the evil-doers!”

    Yeah, yeah. Being a member of the single most dominant faith in the US whose mainstream political representatives encourage bullying of gay kids even while those kids are killing themselves, “personhood” amendments, female subjugation, theocracy, and child abuse is just like being a Muslim in the US in the wake of 9/11. Where’s that matchbox-sized violin I bought in order that I might properly mourn the difficulties of That White Guy who compared strange women not knowing whether or not he was rapist and so having to treat him with suspicion with assuming a black man is a criminal because he is black? I think it will do the job here nicely as well.

    Seriously, after over a thousand years of mainstream Christianity being used to justify all kinds of murder, abuse, and oppression of nonwhites and all women, you think it’s unfair that non-Christians regard the religion with suspicion and don’t give the benefit of the doubt to believers? It’s not just that a “substantial number” of people do bad things in the name of Christianity. It’s the vast historical and geographical scope of those bad things. Consider it the suspicion you pay for many hundreds of years of first-world domination.

  90. rain
    rain November 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Comrade Kevin @ 68:
    Are the passages referred to in the Dr. Laura letter basic teachings or additional rules and laws added by evangelicals?

    Aydan @ 76:

    No; I disagree that sufficient numbers of people practicing one philosophy in the name of another is enough to redefine it– for instance, choice feminism and actual feminism.

    Bad f’rinstance. First of all, choice feminism is a term*, not a movement or a kind of feminism that’s an offshoot of Original Feminism ™. So pick something that actually exists and that claims to be a kind of feminism, like i-feminism or Feminists For Life. And second, the difference between the religion and feminism example is this: the feminist off-shoots are feminist in name only, they abandon core feminist principles. The names are orwellian. OTOH, the various Christian philosophies are all based on the bible, a misogynistic text. For the religious example to be analogous to the feminist example, the Christian sect would have to just call themselves Christian but not adhere to the teachings of the bible**.

    *”Linda Hirshman . . . coined the term specifically to create this pretend group of feminists who she could then attack.” I wonder if Hirshman got her idea from this awesome Onion send-up, which pre-dated her creation by several years.

    **”The following are the basic Christian beliefs central to almost all Christian faiths. . . The Bible is the “inspired” or “God-breathed,” Word of God.”

    so I will rephrase to say that it bothers me that a subgroup of Christians have elevated things they believe to come out of the core tenets of Christianity to equal status with those core tenets

    This could just as easily be a fundie talking about how more progressive Christians are trying to hijack “their” religion. And they’d have history on their side:
    “Christians often regard their religion as one of peace, freedom, and liberation – but it hasn’t always been that way, and it isn’t even always that way today. For most of history, Christianity has provided the ideological and theological muscle behind the repression of… just about everyone, but especially women . . .”

  91. SarahJ
    SarahJ November 13, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    @Natalia, that’s an incredibly ignorant comparison to make. Please at least do some research on the Quiverfull movement before you compare criticism of it to Islamophobia. “No Longer Quivering” has been mentioned here several times. I suggest you check it out.

    Also: yes yes yes to everything EG and konkonsn wrote.

  92. igglanova
    igglanova November 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    I just think it is in bad taste to prioritize distancing yourself from the Bad Christians over actually critiquing said Christians. When your first impulse is to say shit like ‘well not all Christians are like this!’ then you are making it all about you instead of engaging with the critique. See also – every thread ever about the Pearls’ pro-child-beating manual, homo- / transphobic hate crimes, pedophile priests, et cetera.

    Also – this has already been addressed, but the Duggars are not co-opting Christianity for their own nefarious purposes. Their whole philosophy grew out of Christianity from the get-go. They didn’t come up with their schtick and then slap a Christian label on it after the fact for purposes of PR.

  93. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 11:34 am |

    LOL at you if you think that I’m comparing criticism of the *Quiverfull* folks to Islamophobia.

    My shocking take on religion in general is this: it’s mostly a joke. When practiced by anyone. Muslims, Christians, whatever. People like the Duggars are just more upfront about it – being on TV and all. And what’s happening in the United States (especially wrt families) is not special. If you think it’s special, you need to get out more. And if you think that all you ought to worry about is fundamentalist Christians, you don’t have much foresight.

    Consider it the suspicion you pay for many hundreds of years of first-world domination.

    I don’t “pay” anything, actually, since I think suspicion is a healthy thing for a person to entertain – and don’t care much if anyone “approves” of a particular faith.

  94. SarahJ
    SarahJ November 13, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    Ugh, I hate posting again so soon (I do have a life, promise!). But I think igglanova raises a really excellent point. It’s not really accurate to say that the Duggars aren’t Christian. Disagree with their doctrinal beliefs all you want but at least acknowledge that they are immersed in a thoroughly Christian subculture. And if you are a Christian, that should worry you. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to leave your beliefs by the side of the road, but at least have the courage to examine what it is about Christianity that encourages the growth of these fringe movements. And then fight it. If you love your faith, I can’t imagine a better course of action. And that’s my rant for the day :)

  95. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Natalia: I dunno. The GOP didn’t start out pandering to these folks, did it? If it becomes politically expedient, party leaders would certainly embrace atheism. Or, for that matter, Cthulhu.

    Appealing to these folks has been a deliberate part of the GOP’s strategy for decades. Look into Richard Viguerie sometime — he used direct marketing techniques to identify likely GOP voters and the issues they’d be likely to respond to. In addition, where you have authoritarian churches, you have people who can be reliably reached and delivered to the polls. It’s no accident that part of the Republican strategy has been to depress turnout among likely Democratic voters such as young people, people of color, etc., through any means necessary, up to and including voter ID laws, jamming the phone lines of Democratic campaigns, challenging same-day registration and registration of students, and (a recent example in Ohio) spreading misinformation about the dates and locations of voting. They know damn well they’re vastly outnumbered by people who find their agenda repellent, but as long as they can keep their base whipped up and going to the polls (while keeping liberal voters demoralized), they can win. And if they can’t win fairly, they’ll hack the electronic voting machine software.

    The usual dance is to give the base just enough to keep them turning out without actually letting them take over the agenda (because the money people and the scared-suburban voters don’t actually want to live in a theocracy). That’s, rather predictably, beginning to break down as the base is starting to demand what they’ve been promised all these years.

  96. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Natalia: People like the Duggars are just more upfront about it – being on TV and all.

    Actually, the Duggars have sanitized their version of Christianity for TV. I mentioned earlier that I’d seen the original cut of their first TV special, in which Michelle talked at length about wifely submission and some of the more explicitly Dominionist tendencies of their particular flavor of Christianity. That special was eventually re-cut to edit that out, and subsequent episodes of the series have really downplayed the religious aspects, even going so far as to get the girls out of their homemade “prairie muffin” potato sack dresses and into polo shirts and long skirts to look a little more mainstream.

  97. EG
    EG November 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |

    Natalia: LOL at you if you think that I’m comparing criticism of the *Quiverfull* folks to Islamophobia.

    That’s what you did, though. Here is the statement: “It’s actually very similar to what some people do to the most ordinary of American Muslims.” Copied and pasted directly from your comment. That is a comparison.

    Natalia: And if you think that all you ought to worry about is fundamentalist Christians, you don’t have much foresight.

    In the US, that is the clear and present danger. And that is the context the Duggars are operating in. It is the right-wing Christians who have taken over the Republican party and shifted politics steadily right-ward. It is the right-wing Christians who bomb abortion clinics and justify child abuse. Is that all I worry about? No. I also worry about climate change, nuclear hostilities, and the descent from capitalism into barbarism that Marx seems to have been right about so far. And every single one of those things is being exacerbated by Christian fundamentalists.

    And I second every single thing zuzu writes about the political relationship between Christian fundamentalists and the GOP. The Republican party is old. It may not have started out appealing to Christian fundamentalists, because it started out in 1854 as a pro-abolitionist party. But since the mid-1960s or so, that’s where it’s been going.

  98. EG
    EG November 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

    Natalia: I don’t “pay” anything, actually, since I think suspicion is a healthy thing for a person to entertain – and don’t care much if anyone “approves” of a particular faith.

    Then Aydan and others whose versions of Christianity are more about peace and love than misogyny and violence can consider the suspicion with which they’re looked at by non-Christians as the price they pay for hundreds and hundreds of years of European and US dominance.

  99. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    No – I was responding to Aydan’s desire to not hold a referendum on Christianity as a concept.

    In the US, that is the clear and present danger.

    True – but this is also a function of the U.S. existing in a bubble. Or actually, continuing to think that it exists in a bubble – when reality is rapidly changing and has been changing for a while. If you’re really worried about people like the Duggars at home, if commenting on the situation is not a mere intellectual exercise, but a means to address an actual problem, bubble-think won’t do you any favours.

  100. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    Then Aydan and others whose versions of Christianity are more about peace and love than misogyny and violence can consider the suspicion with which they’re looked at by non-Christians as the price they pay for hundreds and hundreds of years of European and US dominance.

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

  101. SarahJ
    SarahJ November 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    It’s not just a danger in the US. Take Uganda for an example. You can trace its recent anti-GLBT legislation (you know, the ones that hand out the death penalty for being gay) to the work of evangelical missionaries and activists in the region. Conservative Christians also have had significant influence on US foreign policy, more so during the Bush era, obviously.

  102. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Natalia: No – I was responding to Aydan’s desire to not hold a referendum on Christianity as a concept.

    Aydan’s trying to have things both ways, though — in one breath, saying that the Duggars’ theology isn’t really Christianity, and in the next, deflecting any examination of the logical consequences of that position.

  103. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    SarahJ:
    It’s not just a danger in the US. Take Uganda for an example. You can trace its recent anti-GLBT legislation (you know, the ones that hand out the death penalty for being gay) to the work of evangelical missionaries and activists in the region. Conservative Christians also have had significant influence on US foreign policy, more so during the Bush era, obviously.

    The Catholic Church, which has been lurching ever-rightward since JPII came to power and started undoing the Vatican II reforms, has also caused untold misery worldwide through its stance against condoms and family planning, both birth control and abortion. Not to mention the worldwide coverup of sexual abuse.

    I mean, ask someone who was denied a lifesaving abortion in a Catholic country in Latin America, or who is suffering from AIDS in Africa due to the Vatican’s policy forbidding the distribution of condoms by Catholic health workers, or who had been shunted into a Magdalene laundry in Ireland for suspicion of promiscuity if rightwing Christianity is only a problem in the US bubble.

  104. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    I can certainly see the concern behind Michelle Duggar’s 20th pregnancy. Clearly we see she is living for her Christian beliefs and for her husband’s desires more than her own. Why would she want to put herself in a position where if I had to compare her to something it would be to a machine, where her duties are to produce and keep producing without a say in what she wants and without complete freedom. She may say she is happy and blessed to have yet another child, but it is evident that she is completely submerged inside her Christian lifestyle. Further we are no longer living in the 1930 so in Michelle’s case I see anti-feminism being exposed because each time she gives birth to a child, her well being, both mentally and physically gets deteriorated and the more children she has the more will she encounter health problems that will consequently put her life at risk. Moreover, if we think of feminism we see it seeks equality and freedom for women and here Michelle is living for her religion and for her husband and not for herself; she needs to give herself more self value, self respect and self worth and act upon preserving her life while keeping in mind that she is not an object but a person capable of speaking for herself and saying no.

  105. Alexandra
    Alexandra November 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm |

    Because I’ve only been familiar with the Duggar family through print media, I took it upon myself a few nights ago after reading this comments thread to watch a few episodes of 17 kids and counting on Netflix.

    And to my great surprise, I was hooked. Many of the children were deeply appealing. They all looked happy, healthy, and attractive (although a few of the girls were going through that unfortunate period of having to wear braces) and both parents seemed to be active and involved. Their cousin, Amy, seemed like a lovely young woman with a great sense of perspective about her Aunt and Uncle’s lifestyle.

    And I found myself really attracted to all of it. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that most of the audience for a show like the Duggars’ is going to be modern women. Once you get past the freakshow aspect in the first episode or two, what keeps you watching?

    Here’s what kept me watching: family is far and away the most important thing in my life, and while I have career ambitions I’d be lying if I said I haven’t sometimes thought about chucking it all and just having a large family somewhere out in the country. Unfortunately these families don’t usually take into account grinding rural poverty, but that’s what’s great about TV: you get to pretend that you, too, could have loads of kids, a loving husband, and a great big house, and somehow, “God will provide.”

    Of course we all know that for the Duggars, their TV show is a critical way of making money. Watching their entitled and unappealing older son drive cross country to propose to his… female acquaintance, I couldn’t help wondering how the family is going to be able to launch all of their sons. The girls, I assume, will be married off to men who can provide for them (presumably) but how will their sons become providers? College doesn’t seem to be an option, and god knows the Duggars can’t have enough family businesses for each of their… what, ten sons?

    I think what I object to most about the Duggar family is the education problem. I don’t support home-schooling for a variety of reasons, but I find it particularly troubling in the case of a family like the Duggars, who are so far out of the mainstream that their children, unless exposed to normal families through public schools, simply will not know what their options are. And it disturbs me that college just doesn’t seem to be an option – first, because how could they afford it; second, because the Duggars don’t seem to value it. And I suspect that’s because Jim Bob and Michelle married very early (19 and 17 respectively) and have little formal education themselves. They’ve gotten along just fine without college, so why should their children be educated?

    And that’s almost criminal, in my book. Education is freedom, and their children deserve the chance to be free. The Amish allow their children room to explore, and the Quiverfull folks wouldn’t be nearly so loathesome to me if their kids were allowed the same room to grow, to be different.

    Even as I found the kids deeply appealing, I was amused – and then disturbed – to see them so /obviously/ parroting what their parents had told them, about discipline, about pre-marital kissing (let alone sex), about dating, about the internet. The kids didn’t seem unhappy, but they also sounded like it had never occurred to them to think differently from their parents. And that’s not fair. Every child deserves the chance to question.

    And that, more than anything, is what I judge the Duggars for.

  106. samanthab
    samanthab November 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    Alexandra, here’s a little problem with your comment: on the one hand you want the Duggars to aspire to be like “normal families,” and on the other you want their children to have “the chance to question.” So they should have the chance to question, but only if that questioning leads to conformity? And have you read polling on how rare it is for children to diverge from their parents beliefs and philosophies? If you think the Duggars are unique in that respect perhaps you should do a little questioning of your own.

  107. Natalia
    Natalia November 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    Hi all I just realized there is another “Natalia” on this forum commenting so I just want to clarify that I am the one that posted a comment today Sunday, November 13 at 7:08PM and you can call me “Natalia M.” to differentiate the two.lol. Thank you!

  108. EG
    EG November 13, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    Natalia: True – but this is also a function of the U.S. existing in a bubble. Or actually, continuing to think that it exists in a bubble – when reality is rapidly changing and has been changing for a while. If you’re really worried about people like the Duggars at home, if commenting on the situation is not a mere intellectual exercise, but a means to address an actual problem, bubble-think won’t do you any favours.

    That doesn’t make fundamentalist Christianity not the biggest danger to the rest of us in the US. It doesn’t make them less powerful. I fail to see how not pretending otherwise is “bubble-think.”

    SarahJ: Conservative Christians also have had significant influence on US foreign policy, more so during the Bush era, obviously.

    Oh, yes. Look at the US not paying dues to the UN for how many years? And refusal of funding to any aid organization that breathes the words “birth control,” even though it’s been shown over and over again that providing women with access to birth control decreases poverty etc. If you think that fundamentalist Christians wielding inordinate power over the policy decisions and attitudes controlling a large country that has shown itself over and over again to have no problem making unilateral decisions to invade other nations, to place embargoes on nations not toeing its line, and to give international travellers–even famous ones–a seriously hard time in the name of its “interests,” you’re the one engaging in “bubble-think.”

    Natalia: No – I was responding to Aydan’s desire to not hold a referendum on Christianity as a concept.

    How does that make what you wrote not a comparison?

    samanthab: And have you read polling on how rare it is for children to diverge from their parents beliefs and philosophies? If you think the Duggars are unique in that respect perhaps you should do a little questioning of your own.

    It is not universal, but it’s not freakishly rare, either. I’ve diverged from my father’s beliefs and philosophies, insofar as I’m not a hardcore Marxist (this has been the cause of more than one serious fight). Most people I know have some political/religious/philosophical differences with at least one parent; some have significant ones with both. More to the point, the Duggars go out of their way to ensure that their children have not the slightest chance of considering any differences in a variety of ways: isolation through home-schooling is one way; keeping them so busy with domestic labor that they don’t have time to think is another, as is keeping them together so you’ve got a norm-reinforcing peer group going on; not allowing them free reign in a library or other source of information is another. My father is and has been a hardcore Marxist; it’s a philosophy that means a lot to him and that I know he hoped I would follow. And yet he sent me to public school, allowed me to read whatever I wanted, allowed me time alone to think my own thoughts, and allowed me to spend significant amounts of time interacting with non-Marxists of various kinds. All those things gave me the opportunity to develop my own thoughts and beliefs. Does that necessarily mean that I was predestined to deviate from the path of Marxism? Nah. I certainly got a good deal more Marxist thought and values in my upbringing than, oh, 99% of US kids, I’d wager. Nor does it mean that I was predestined to embrace Marxism. While I do think Marx was right about some things, I’m quite certain that he was wrong about some other things (dictatorship of the proletariat? really?). But I was given ample opportunity to develop my own thoughts on the matter.

    These kids are not being given that, no matter what the probably outcome. If parent-child transmission of values and philosophies were so very bulletproof, after all, the Duggars and other fundamentalist Christians wouldn’t have any problems with sending their kids to ungodly public schools, or letting them hang with the heathen, or letting them read evil texts. It is precisely because those things give kids the opportunity to form different ideas than their parents have or want them to have that fundamentalist Christians get so upset at the thought of those things.

    samanthab: So they should have the chance to question, but only if that questioning leads to conformity?

    Not sure how you’re getting this from her comment. One of the Duggar kids could question the assumptions they’ve been brought up with and come to believe that they want to stick with them; another could, after long struggle, come out and join a gay-friendly Christian Church; another could become an atheist and enter a long-term poly relationship and work at Planned Parenthood; and most would probably do what most kids end up doing: sticking with many of the major values they were brought up with, but modify them here and there as they see fit in order to best work with their own lives. I didn’t see anything Alexandra said as suggesting that questioning values would only be OK if the Duggar kids eventually embraced “normalcy.”

  109. karak
    karak November 13, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    @cookies: so if someone chooses to be on a TV show, that makes it ~entertaining~ for the world to watch her die? Is it edgy, now, to watch people kill themselves on national television?

    Just because someone is a reality TV star–even if she’s one you hate, or dislike, or think is the antiChrist–doesn’t mean it’s morally acceptable to watch her fucking death while drinking a soda and cracking jokes with your friends. That makes YOU a bad person.

  110. rain
    rain November 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm |

    Alexandra @ 104

    I think what I object to most about the Duggar family is the education problem. . .
    And that’s almost criminal, in my book. Education is freedom, and their children deserve the chance to be free.

    In the FLDS community in Bountiful, BC, the gov’t went after the legality of polygamy, when what they should have gone after is the children’s right to an education, and one that met the curriculum standards. I couldn’t care less if an adult woman willingly becomes some guy’s fifth wife or wants to marry a man like Jim Bob, but denying a girl the education she’s entitled to is a different story. Strangely, despite an inability to demonstrate that the basic requirements of the curriculum were being met, the government not only failed to enforce its own laws and regulations and protect the children’s right to an education, but it is actually continuing to fund the schools.
    I think that the withholding of education is critical to the survival of these kinds of polygamist or religious groups. There just wouldn’t be very many opting for this kind of a life (especially women) if they were educated and aware of alternatives. They depend on a steady stream of ignorant girls.

    Samanthab @ 105:
    No, I haven’t read that polling. Is it really rare? When I think of how many atheists and feminists I know that came from religious and traditional backgrounds, I would think it would be fairly common. With me and my 3 sisters, zero out of four follow my parent’s Catholic faith, and three of us quite strongly identify as feminists.

  111. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    rain: In the FLDS community in Bountiful, BC, the gov’t went after the legality of polygamy, when what they should have gone after is the children’s right to an education, and one that met the curriculum standards. I couldn’t care less if an adult woman willingly becomes some guy’s fifth wife or wants to marry a man like Jim Bob, but denying a girl the education she’s entitled to is a different story.

    Uh, there’s neither a whole lot of “adult women” nor “willingly” involved there. Girls are married young, sometimes barely after puberty, to whichever older man wants them (and has enough power to make that happen), and since they’ve been raised to do whatever their leader tells them to do, they do it. Occasionally, a girl or woman will be told that she’ll be someone else’s wife from here on out.

    We’re not talking “Big Love” here.

  112. Alexandra
    Alexandra November 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    I think the FLDS comparison is spot on, because it’s mostly very young girls being funneled into a life of domestic servitude very early in their loves, never being given a real chance to question and escape. Honestly, I hope some of the Duggar children, because of their access to the world through the TV show, do get a chance to question their place in the world more than they might have otherwise.

    I don’t think that makes me a conformist for hoping children have a chance. Children of atheists become Catholics all the time, and vice versa; children who grow up in Grand Rapids move to New York or San Francisco all the time, and some kids born in big cities move out to the country, too. But children born into extraordinarily closed communities, given minimal education that stresses the values of their closed communities, and given restricted access to people from other ways of life, are much less likely to leave. When all you know is your parents’ way of life, the world outside isn’t just strange, it’s scary. Education reduces fear and creates choice. If we’re going to promote choice feminism, THAT is the kind of choice we should promote – not the choice to lead restricted lives, but the choice to lead broad lives.

  113. rain
    rain November 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm |

    Uh, there’s neither a whole lot of “adult women” nor “willingly” involved there.

    Uh, I’m well aware of that, but thanks for the lecture.

  114. zuzu
    zuzu November 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm |

    rain: Uh, I’m well aware of that, but thanks for the lecture.

    Really? Because you hand-waved the whole problem of plural marriages in the FDLS as something adult women consented to, but not sending girls to school, that was a bridge too far!

  115. rain
    rain November 13, 2011 at 11:53 pm |

    Do you know what “if” means?
    Also, “They depend on a steady stream of ignorant girls.”

  116. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 14, 2011 at 1:56 am |

    rain: I think that the withholding of education is critical to the survival of these kinds of polygamist or religious groups.

    I don’t know that I’d call it critical (but it does help, obviously).

    Education hasn’t always been as restricted in the FLDS. Comparing Carolyn Jessop to Elissa Wall, Jessop was married to an abusive asshole at age 18 that she didn’t choose to marry, but she got a college education and worked as a teacher. At least two of her sister wives also had college educations. Wall, who is young enough to be Jessop’s daughter, was married against her will at age 14 to an abusive asshole *and* she was pulled out of school in the 8th grade because of her father losing the priesthood and due to the fact that education got steadily worse under Warren Jeffs. A lot happened between the 1980’s when Carolyn Jessop was going to college and became a plural wide and when Elissa Wall was pulled out of school and was married in the early 2000’s.

    To me the Duggar girls’ situation is not all that different from the situation Elissa Wall was in, and is slightly different than the 1980’s era FLDS where plural wives often got college educations, and it’s quite a bit more different from polygamous groups where women go to college and have outside employment. In many ways the Quiverfull lifestyle can be harsher than the less extreme fundamentalist Mormon groups.

  117. Norma
    Norma November 14, 2011 at 8:39 am |

    Kathleen: wow — I’m with akeeyu here; the degree of vitriol here is astonishing.

    Agreed.

  118. Norma
    Norma November 14, 2011 at 9:22 am |

    Aydan: Also, I’m not sure how you can conclude anything about my priorities given the pushback I do is not visible in feminist circles, since feminists are all pretty aware that this is kind of messed up!

    To folks frustrated that liberal/feminist Christians seemed more concerned with distancing themselves from fundamental Christianity than challenging it, I strongly echo Aydan here.

    I’m most familiar with mainline Protestant churches, which is where you tend to find liberal Christians. There has long been a strong and persistent movement within the mainline denominations for women’s and LGTBI rights. Progressive Christians *have* changed our own church dogma and politics on these issues.

    But arguably we’ve just reformed our own churches (at a snail’s pace, and while shedding tons of members), while a new ultra-conservative brand of American Protestantism has exploded. The more liberal we get, the bigger conservative Protestantism gets.

    Challenging the increasing conservatism of American Protestantism is really difficult. There is no one American Christian Protestant church, but conservative evangelicals frequently speak as if they are the one American church. There are no progressive Christian cultural icons similar in stature and influence to conservatives. Mainline churches are losing money and shrinking (and sometimes splitting over contentious social issues); conservative evangelistic churches are growing exponentially. Evangelical groups led by single charismatic leaders don’t face problems of slow, bulky democratic governance that mainline churches do. Fundamentalist Protestants have an even bigger advantage, which is that their fairly simple messages are vastly easier and cheaper to sell and spread than any more nuanced theology.

    American Christian churches are wrapped up in the same cultural battles as everyone else; every push toward a more liberal mainstream Christianity (ordination of sexual minorities, for example) seems to inspire a much bigger growth in very conservative churches.

    Plus I think you see conservative Christians– who once felt very culturally marginalized– having since Bush II totally embraced an involvement with politics, while liberal Christians have not figured out how to re-engage church with politics without being, you know, bad liberals.

  119. midnightsky
    midnightsky November 14, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Does no one here realize that “God gave us another baby” is basically a way of her saying that she is thanking her chosen deity for her ability to give birth again? Most people who talk like this are not idiots; they’re being metaphorical. Seriously, guys.

    I don’t agree with her choice to have a zillion kids. Does she have the right? Yes. Do parents have the right to teach their kids about their religion and hope they adopt it? Yes. Are these kids capable of making their own decisions when they get older and have their own lives? Yes.

    End of story. Don’t panic.

  120. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 14, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    To all Christians on this thread: Isn’t feminist Christianity kind of an oxymoron? I mean if you’re going to accept that there’s a frowny old guy supervising the Universe, and that he’s in charge of everyone’s lives from birth, including yours, how does that fit in with the idea that women are autonomous people who should be able to choose how they want to live their lives? (Yes, I think there is a G*d, but I’m proudly on His shit list.)
    Norma: Evangelicals were a force to be reckoned with before Bush 2. I’d actually pin their rise to several years before. Reagan surfed to power on their backs, but they got fairly quiet in the ’90s. They’re a lot louder and more visible now than they were in the ’80s, though. At my work, I can spot certain types of evangelicals about a mile away. If I see a woman with long hair, a dress that was fashionable in the 1800s, and a lot of children in dresses or long pants, I know all I need to know about her voting habits and her outlook on life. Ditto with white women in headcoverings or dudes in hoodies with the names of Christian universities on them.

  121. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 14, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    midnightsky: Does no one here realize that “God gave us another baby” is basically a way of her saying that she is thanking her chosen deity for her ability to give birth again? Most people who talk like this are not idiots; they’re being metaphorical. Seriously, guys.

    Do you actually know what the term ‘fundamentalist’ means?

  122. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 14, 2011 at 11:22 am |

    Does no one here realize that “God gave us another baby” is basically a way of her saying that she is thanking her chosen deity for her ability to give birth again?

    Um, no. Quiverful folks actually believe that God decides what your family size will be and that using birth control thwarts God’s plan for their family. They literally do believe that God gave them another ‘baby’. It’s not a sense of gratitude that she’s still able to have children.

  123. j.
    j. November 14, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    You’ve touched on a major problem that exists within virtually any progressive movement.

    You mean, the problem that certain progressives decide that everything is off-limits when it comes to judgment, no matter how toxic it is, if the person being judged fits into an oppressed group?

    Michelle Duggar isn’t being exploited. She chose this lifestyle, she chose to go on reality TV, she chooses to politically agitate in favor of patriarchal policies, she chooses to shove her daughters into a life of limited choices. What Bacopa said: They’re a freakshow. I judge the fuck out of Michelle and Jim-Bob both, and the handwringers can suck it.

    Also, what EG said to Natalia. Xtians and their persecution complex.

  124. rain
    rain November 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    Annaleigh @ 116:

    I don’t know that I’d call it critical (but it does help, obviously).

    True, but I hope that careless little bit of hyperbole didn’t detract from what I was trying to say: that, repugnant as I find Michelle Duggar’s choices to be (not the having a large family part, but the following “the patriarchal, fundamentalist Christian dogma part), I will defend her right, as a consenting adult, to make that choice. (And just because I defend her right, doesn’t mean I can’t judge or criticize, or even ridicule, her for making that choice). What Michelle and Jim Bob don’t have the right to do is deprive their kids of an education to effectively hobble their ability to make a choice. That’s the point where what they do becomes our business and we should step in and say that they’re violating their children’s rights and/or not meeting minimum educational requirements.
    That said, education is but one way control can be exercised and choice removed, and the FLDS differs from families like the Duggars in the variety of additional tools at their disposal. Carolyn Jessop talks about the incarceration of “rebellious” women in mental health institutions. And this excerpt from Alternet (my link no longer takes me to the article) describes a whole different legal apparatus in one compound:

    Much of the power of the prophets has been drawn from the fact that they historically controlled both the cops and the courts that served the Hildale/Colorado City area. Though these were officially chartered law enforcement agencies and nominally public courts, they weren’t concerned with civil law. Instead, their task was to enforce the law according to the FLDS and its Prophet. The people in these communities had no effective recourse to the laws the rest of us live under. They could be arrested, fined, jailed, and have their property seized by nominally “official” cops and courts, acting under full authority of civil government, for violating church laws.

    Like African-Americans in the slavery era, women who tried to run were captured by these police and returned to their husbands for punishment — or taken to the hospital for the dreaded mental health evaluation. The police force’s main job is to be the muscle that enforces the Prophet’s control of the entire community. When the Prophet decides that a man no longer deserves his home, these are the cops who enforce the eviction. Appealing to the FLDS judges has been useless: due process as we understand it doesn’t even enter into the conversation.

  125. rain
    rain November 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    Norma @ 118
    I think what you’re talking about is Christians who are trying to reform their Church from within vs those who think it’s a lost cause:

    Post-Christian feminism . . . argues that there are certain incompatible values between Christianity and feminism, and as a result of this, Christian feminists ought to consider how to respond to this incompatibility. . .

    Those who attempt to reform their religious institutions from the inside out are innumerable. . . These scholars are usually referred to as “Christian reformists,” since they believe that genuine reform is needed and possible. . .

    Rita Gross points out how both Mary Daly and Carol P. Christ differ from the “reformists.” She says,

    “Their works are especially valuable because each began as a radical reformer, publishing important books and essays in which they hoped to make sense of biblical religions and to call them away from their sexism. Eventually each became convinced that this effort would fail because patriarchy is too integral to the outlook of those religions.”

    I agree with the author, that I “find it hard to believe that Christianity can eventually be morphed into something non-patriarchal.” But what is not addressed in that article is the implicit approval granted to the church, all parts of it, by those trying to reform it from within. Sure, you’re saying that you’re against X and Y because it’s sexist and misogynistic, but by being a member of that church, you’re contributing to the legitimacy of that church, including those sexist beliefs. You’re enabling them. Where would the catholic church be, what would be its power and influence, if everybody who disagreed with and ignored its edicts on birth control, left the church? Or if everyone who was horrified by the excommunication of those involved in procuring an abortion for that Brazilian 9-year-old incest victim, left the church? It would soon be a shell, irrelevant. And while your individual contribution is miniscule, the more extreme misogynistic protestant sects would not be what they are without the collective support of liberal churches under the umbrella of the protestant religion. It may be an unintended consequence, but it’s still a consequence all the same. And I think liberal christians should own that.

    I’m also amused that a protestant is trying to reform from within a church established on the revolutionary principle, formed because Martin Luther did not think he could reform the catholic church from within.

  126. Donna L
    Donna L November 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm |

    A brief digression from the topic at hand: Rain, the first sentence of the article you link to in comment 125 is “What do Martin Luther and Mary Daly have in common?”

    The answer that immediately comes to my mind is not, I’m sure, one that the author intended or would even think of, but it happens to be entirely accurate — namely, that they each used extremely hateful, vile rhetoric to condemn members of a group I belong to, Jews in Luther’s case and trans women in Daly’s. A plague on both their houses.

  127. Aydan
    Aydan November 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: To all Christians on this thread: Isn’t feminist Christianity kind of an oxymoron? I mean if you’re going to accept that there’s a frowny old guy supervising the Universe, and that he’s in charge of everyone’s lives from birth, including yours, how does that fit in with the idea that women are autonomous people who should be able to choose how they want to live their lives? (Yes, I think there is a G*d, but I’m proudly on His shit list.)

    A big part of all the branches of Christianity with which I am familiar is the idea of free will, that God doesn’t make you do anything. (One exception is the way some Protestant Reformed branches characterize grace/becoming Christian as “irresistible,” but I’m not touching that with a ten-foot-stick because it always gives me a headache, which is one reason I’m not Reformed!)

    I am not free to choose how I want to live my life, or free to choose how I live it. I am a product of my genes and my environment; while I am still completely responsible for and in control of my behavior, things I think are my own independent decisions are influenced by my subconscious in ways science cannot describe. And the world is a random, chaotic place over which I have the barest illusion of control. So, no, I don’t find Christianity impinges on my autonomy. But then, I don’t belong to a branch that likes to dictate to its members “wear this, don’t wear this, you must do “x” if you are a woman and “y” if you are a man.” And if it were, I would leave it. The branch to which I belong is much more of a “your moral responsibility is to treat your fellow humans with dignity and help those with less than you” type.

    rain: I agree with the author, that I “find it hard to believe that Christianity can eventually be morphed into something non-patriarchal.” But what is not addressed in that article is the implicit approval granted to the church, all parts of it, by those trying to reform it from within. Sure, you’re saying that you’re against X and Y because it’s sexist and misogynistic, but by being a member of that church, you’re contributing to the legitimacy of that church, including those sexist beliefs. You’re enabling them. Where would the catholic church be, what would be its power and influence, if everybody who disagreed with and ignored its edicts on birth control, left the church? Or if everyone who was horrified by the excommunication of those involved in procuring an abortion for that Brazilian 9-year-old incest victim, left the church? It would soon be a shell, irrelevant. And while your individual contribution is miniscule, the more extreme misogynistic protestant sects would not be what they are without the collective support of liberal churches under the umbrella of the protestant religion. It may be an unintended consequence, but it’s still a consequence all the same. And I think liberal christians should own that.

    Sure. That’s true of any movement. Couldn’t you argue the same thing on a lesser scale about those who identify as atheists in the wake of the very public misogyny coming out of some parts of the skeptic community? And liberal USians, even those who are anti-war and critical of the government, who choose not to renounce their citizenship and/or leave the country have to own their responsibility for atrocities in Iraq (and, you know, everywhere else the US operates). I disagree with much of what this country does, but I choose to retain my citizenship and my residency because I don’t believe it is irredeemable or without any merit whatsoever. To paraphrase Luke Skywalker, “There’s still good in it.” Same with the church (and you are free to draw whatever conclusions you choose about the comparison between the USA, the Christian church, and Darth Vader. I’m not going there). Of course, my membership in both groups also affords me privilege.

    But I disagree that if everyone who disagreed with the Catholic Church left, it would become an irrelevant shell… maybe, or maybe it would retain its relevance while becoming even more conservative, in a process similar to what Norma described for the Protestant churches.

  128. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm |

    rain @124

    Oh I agree with you totally, I was just clarifying in which ways the Duggar girls’ upbringing resembles that of FLDS girls, especially for people who might not see the parallel.

    Thanks for bringing up the FLDS legal system and the women being put in the institutions. One difference in the Duggar girls’ favor is that Colorado City/Hildale/YFZ are literal theocracies. Arkansas isn’t there yet, despite what some Arkansans might wish.

  129. Shoshie
    Shoshie November 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: To all Christians on this thread: Isn’t feminist Christianity kind of an oxymoron?

    Haven’t we been through this?

    I have no love lost for Christianity (Christmas decorations are already starting to make me cranky) but feminism is not helped by telling feminist Christians that they don’t or can’t exist. Of course, that comes with it the assumption that feminist Christians need to be aware of and check their privilege, just like white feminists and wealthy feminists and straight feminists etc.

  130. Alexandra
    Alexandra November 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    If Christianity can be used both by Nat Turner and Samuel Turner to justify their actions, by both MLK jr and Bull Connor, I think both feminists and fundamentalist evangelicals will be able to use Christianity, too.

    It’s also worth noting that at least for Americans, our feminist forebears in the 19th century were essentially all evangelical progressive Christians. It’s useful (to me at least) to keep this history in mind when I start wanting to condemn all Christians out of hand; as I was raised secular, I have no fondness for any church, but I am at least capable of recognizing that historically different churches and different believers have done both good and evil works in this nation and in all other nations.

  131. piny
    piny November 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    I don’t think Christian and feminist are any more mutually exclusive than moral and “American:” Most of us cannot choose our affiliations, any more than we can choose our family ties, and must at least some of the time work to change an immoral institution from the inside. I would never be so arrogant as to tell a woman she has no right to the community of her birthright or marriage. If she believes that these are her kingdoms as well as her husband’s or father’s, it’s not for me to insist that she exile herself. How feminist is it, anyway, to say that women have no right to Jesus? It wasn’t liberal theologians who argued, way back when, that there wouldn’t be any such thing as women in the hereafter.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to criticize theology and the real-life consequences of belief in practice, and I think the handwringing over Michelle-the-moral-agent is ridiculous. All women who participate in misogynist systems are victimized by those systems. I am a citizen of a country that considers my body public property; does that mean my own willingness to violate other women’s rights is above criticism?

  132. piny
    piny November 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    (That was an actual Puritan Theologian Thought Problem, by the way–like, will we need girls in Heaven, since we will obviously not need wombs–and Samuel Sewall of the Salem Witch Trials wrote a very sweet response to it wherein he pointed out that God could scarcely be less excited to see his beloved daughters than he himself was.)

  133. zuzu
    zuzu November 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    Aydan: Couldn’t you argue the same thing on a lesser scale about those who identify as atheists in the wake of the very public misogyny coming out of some parts of the skeptic community?

    Not really. Not unless you make the mistake of treating atheism as a religion. You can certainly criticize those who associate with the skeptic groups at which that shit happens and who don’t speak up about it. But all atheists? No. It’s not a religion to which one subscribes.

    And liberal USians, even those who are anti-war and critical of the government, who choose not to renounce their citizenship and/or leave the country have to own their responsibility for atrocities in Iraq (and, you know, everywhere else the US operates).

    Renouncing one’s citizenship and moving to an entirely different country (which may or may not want to have you, where you may not speak the language and where you may not be able to make a living, even if you could afford to move there in the first place) is rather different than leaving one’s voluntary affiliation with a religion or simply owning up to its problems. Or acknowledging that it’s socially and politically dominant in the US.

  134. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm |

    Personally I think religion is used 99 times out of 100 as a cover. The Duggars may well believe the theological ideas behind the Quiverful movement, but at its core its not about pleasing God, its about making sure the Good, Right people outnumber the Others, whoever they may be.

    The endless Internet argument of “Christians/Muslims/Etc killed X in the crusades/holocaust/9-11!” vs “The Atheists killed Y in China/Russia/Whatever” is pointless and meaningless. People will use anything to excuse their behavior. What is almost always boils down to is power and possession. Catholics and Protestants kill each other in Belfast, but in Iowa they have ecumenical Easter services and generally get along. Why? Because there is a struggle over land and power in N. Ireland and not in Iowa.

    Power, profit and the Patriarchy are the problem. Religion or lack thereof is not the cause, it is the excuse.

  135. Aydan
    Aydan November 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    zuzu: Not really. Not unless you make the mistake of treating atheism as a religion. You can certainly criticize those who associate with the skeptic groups at which that shit happens and who don’t speak up about it. But all atheists? No. It’s not a religion to which one subscribes.

    You’re right, it’s not a religion, which is why I said these factors are present in many or most movements, not just religions.

    zuzu: Renouncing one’s citizenship and moving to an entirely different country (which may or may not want to have you, where you may not speak the language and where you may not be able to make a living, even if you could afford to move there in the first place) is rather different than leaving one’s voluntary affiliation with a religion or simply owning up to its problems. Or acknowledging that it’s socially and politically dominant in the US.

    You’re right– that was a privileged viewpoint. I should have qualified to be talking specifically about those people who have the means to leave the country, take up residence in another, and could, conceivably, make a living in that country. There are still people in this group. I don’t think that my continuing to be a USian should receive any less scrutiny than my continuing to be a Christian.

    Choosing to identify with any movement or group has its baggage. Even identifying as a feminist has to be scrutinized in light of the numerous historical shortcomings of the feminist movement. Movements, as human institutions, are inherently flawed, and the flawedness of any movement is going to be related to the age of the movement and the size of the movement. Christianity is big and old. So is the US.

    And I do not deny that Christianity is socially and politically dominant in the US, or that it has problems.

    Shoshie: I have no love lost for Christianity (Christmas decorations are already starting to make me cranky)

    Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations. And the MUSIC. In the middle of NOVEMBER. Augh!

  136. zuzu
    zuzu November 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    Aydan: I don’t think that my continuing to be a USian should receive any less scrutiny than my continuing to be a Christian.

    Except that citizenship is a legal status that’s very hard to get rid of and must be replaced by another citizenship (it’s incredibly difficult to be stateless; there have been a few cases here and there, but mostly for people who were traveling when their governments ceased to exist, not because they renounced their citizenship without picking up another status), whereas being a Christian pretty much can be renounced at any time.

    Your analogy really doesn’t work. If anything, it should be easier to criticize your purely voluntary religious association since it’s not like you can be thrown in jail for trying to overthrow Christianity (at least not anymore). If you find it easy to understand the criticisms leveled against the US and recognize your moral complicity in the acts of the American government, why is it so difficult to acknowledge that Christianity has problems when you choose to associate with it voluntarily?

    Aydan: Christmas decorations. Christmas decorations. And the MUSIC. In the middle of NOVEMBER. Augh!

    I don’t think it’s the earliness of the Christmas decoration’s that’s making Shoshie cranky.

  137. Aydan
    Aydan November 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    zuzu: If you find it easy to understand the criticisms leveled against the US and recognize your moral complicity in the acts of the American government, why is it so difficult to acknowledge that Christianity has problems when you choose to associate with it voluntarily?

    The second-to-last sentence of my post directly above yours was, verbatim, “And I do not deny that Christianity is socially and politically dominant in the US, or that it has problems.”

  138. Donna L
    Donna L November 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |

    Brian Schlosser:

    Power, profit and the Patriarchy are the problem. Religion or lack thereof is not the cause, it is the excuse.

    Except for all the times that it is the cause, and all other reasons are either non-existent or an excuse. History can’t always be shoehorned into whatever theoretical framework someone happens to think Explains Everything.

  139. samanthab
    samanthab November 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    Alexandra, have you heard the phrase anecdote is not data. If you look at data, it shows that divergence from one’s family’s political views is fairly rare. Nevermind that moving does not actually demonstrate a dismissal of your familiy’s political beliefs.

    Also, thanks for the red herring, but it does make you a conformist if you are fucking evaluating what is “normal” or not. You’ve conflated your two arguments to create a strawman. It was never said that you’re a conformist because you believe children can move to different places; it was said that you’re a conformist if you have a fixation on what’s “normal.” That’s kind of the definition of the word conformist.

  140. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    zuzu: Not really. Not unless you make the mistake of treating atheism as a religion. You can certainly criticize those who associate with the skeptic groups at which that shit happens and who don’t speak up about it. But all atheists? No. It’s not a religion to which one subscribes.

    Don’t be silly, zuzu. I was so furious over Elevatordudegate that I decided to start believing in god again. Surely I can’t be the only one?

  141. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |

    piny: I don’t think Christian and feminist are any more mutually exclusive than moral and “American:” Most of us cannot choose our affiliations, any more than we can choose our family ties, and must at least some of the time work to change an immoral institution from the inside. I would never be so arrogant as to tell a woman she has no right to the community of her birthright or marriage. If she believes that these are her kingdoms as well as her husband’s or father’s, it’s not for me to insist that she exile herself. How feminist is it, anyway, to say that women have no right to Jesus? It wasn’t liberal theologians who argued, way back when, that there wouldn’t be any such thing as women in the hereafter.
    I think it is perfectly reasonable to criticize theology and the real-life consequences of belief in practice, and I think the handwringing over Michelle-the-moral-agent is ridiculous. All women who participate in misogynist systems are victimized by those systems. I am a citizen of a country that considers my body public property; does that mean my own willingness to violate other women’s rights is above criticism?

    This, seconded.

  142. EG
    EG November 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm |

    Alexandra: It’s also worth noting that at least for Americans, our feminist forebears in the 19th century were essentially all evangelical progressive Christians.

    Not Emma Goldman (atheist), or Elizabeth Cady Stanton (rejected all organized Christianity), or Susan B. Anthony (Quaker upbringing, then became Unitarian, and then agnostic), or Matilda Joslyn Gage (atheist), or Voltairene de Cleyre (atheist), or Margaret Fuller (Unitarian, sort of), or Charlotte Perkins Gilman (humanist), or the Grimke sisters (Quakers), or Julia Ward Howe (Unitarian), or…OK, I’m bored now. You get the idea. “Essentially all evangelical Christians” seems a vast overstatement.

    zuzu: Not unless you make the mistake of treating atheism as a religion.

    Seriously. There are no sacred atheist texts. There are no atheist principles by which one lives one’s life. Here’s what being an atheist means: I don’t believe in any gods of any kind whatsoever, with a subsidiary stand on there being no afterlife either.

    zuzu: Renouncing one’s citizenship and moving to an entirely different country (which may or may not want to have you, where you may not speak the language and where you may not be able to make a living, even if you could afford to move there in the first place) is rather different than leaving one’s voluntary affiliation with a religion

    Again, seriously. Renouncing one citizenship without the ability to take up another leaves one massively vulnerable, both legally and practically, with endless struggles in where one can live. Not being a Christian in the US does not carry even remotely the same consequences. Now, if I were really moral, I would join the War Resisters League and withhold my taxes, but I don’t, because it seems to me like more trouble than it’s worth–again, it opens me up to legal and financial trouble of the first order.

    Brian Schlosser: Power, profit and the Patriarchy are the problem. Religion or lack thereof is not the cause, it is the excuse.

    “Power” is a wildly abstract and vast concept, and religion absolutely does play a significant role in determining who gets power. Saying that “power” is the problem is pretty meaningless, as you can fit pretty much everything into that rubric.

  143. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm |

    EG: Seriously. There are no sacred atheist texts.

    What about The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? I’ve always considered that sacred, along with Catch-22 and A Confederacy of Dunces.

  144. Carinea
    Carinea November 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm |

    Those 2 have effectively sucked the free will out of those children- that is power

  145. EG
    EG November 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    Fat Steve: What about The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? I’ve always considered that sacred, along with Catch-22 and A Confederacy of Dunces.

    OH MY DARWIN, YOU ARE SO SEXIST! I mean, every single one of those books was written by a man! Are you saying that women aren’t good atheists? Is that what you’re saying? Well?! Is it?!

    (In case there is any confusion whatsoever, this is a joke.)

  146. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm |

    Alexandra: Evangelical Christianity in the US used to be very progressive, and indeed, encouraged education. But that is not true of evangelical Christianity in the US now, which is anti-progress and anti-education.
    Piny: I think the point is.. is it worth it? I think reconciling feminism with Christianity is like beating one’s head against the wall. Jesus was an okay fellow, I have no problems with him. But his followers don’t like women and like to make their disapproval- and the disapproval of the big frowny face in the sky- known at every opportunity. I’m not sure at all that God would be glad to have women in Heaven, unless they died in childbirth like a good Christian Quiverful woman should. But if someone wants to believe that a woman can live in the modern world and still go to Heaven, I guess they can.
    Steveb: You forgot A Handmaid’s Tale and Small Gods. Who wrote A Confederacy of Dunces? I’ve never heard of it.

  147. EG
    EG November 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm |

    I dunno, I think Small Gods is one of Pratchett’s least successful books, for me at least. If I were going to pick a Pratchett for one of Atheism’s Sacred Texts…hmm…I think I would pick Witches Abroad, because it’s all about the seductive power of narrative and how important it is to resist confusing narrative with life or truth.

  148. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho November 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm |

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t also another aspect of the Quiverfull movement that they are breeding an army for God? That and the part where they are forcing their older kids to raise the little ones are the reasons that I feel a-okay with judging them.

    That and the part where they’re getting rich and exploiting their kids by having a show on The Leering Channel.

    And if they’re practicing the Pearl child abuse techni

  149. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho November 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm |

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t also another aspect of the Quiverfull movement that they are breeding an army for God? That and the part where they are forcing their older kids to raise the little ones are the reasons that I feel a-okay with judging them.

    That and the part where they’re getting rich and exploiting their kids by having a show on The Leering Channel.

    And if they’re practicing the Pearl child abuse techniques, and TLC is covering it up, that would be tragic.

  150. librarygoose
    librarygoose November 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    What about the His Dark Materials trilogy? Phillip Pullman was actually trying to write books about atheism.

  151. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 15, 2011 at 12:28 am |

    EG: “Power” is a wildly abstract and vast concept, and religion absolutely does play a significant role in determining who gets power. Saying that “power” is the problem is pretty meaningless, as you can fit pretty much everything into that rubric.

    I was alliterating… my poetic license was issued under protest. But I stand by my basic assertion: very few of the conflicts in the history of the world have actually had their roots in disagreements over religion. The Crusades were SAID to be about freeing the holy land from the Saracen scourge. But it was really about wealth. If they had really been about freeing the Holy Land the 4th Crusade wouldn’t have sacked Constantinople, the seat of Eastern Christianity.

    Or, more recently, the conflict in Palestine. The root of that conflict isn’t the difference in religion. Jews, Muslims and Christians shared that land mostly peaceably for centuries. But then outside forces shook up the balance.

    Of course, there are plenty of individuals who fight because they honestly think God is on their side. They make the best cannon fodder.

    Essentially what I’m saying is this: I see no evidence from history that shows that a world without religion would be a world significantly more peaceful than a world with it. The 50 million+ people who died in the almost completely irreligious 1st and 2nd World wars are a testament to that: we are a nasty, brutish species as a whole and we use whatever excuse is handy to kill each other.

  152. EG
    EG November 15, 2011 at 12:57 am |

    Brian Schlosser: The 50 million+ people who died in the almost completely irreligious 1st and 2nd World wars are a testament to that

    Funny you should mention the 2nd world war, because that is what leaps to my mind as well. Specifically, the attempted genocide of Jews that continued even after it was fairly clear that all efforts should be diverted to, well, the actual military operations.

    But then, there’s also the Inquisitions–and there you have the problem with the subsuming everything under the term “power.” Were the various Inquisitions powered by the Catholic Church about asserting and consolidating earthly power? Absolutely, and asserting and consolidating earthly power was a major function of the Catholic Church, an inherently religious institution–religious conflicts are power struggles. Saying “this wasn’t about religion, it was about X” doesn’t actually mean that the conflicts and deaths weren’t about religion. It just means that they weren’t about only religion. But you can say that about anything. Very few large-scale conflicts are about only any one thing or cause.

    As for other religiously-motivated atrocities, various pogroms, more than once tied to the Christian Holy Week. Heretics burnt at the stake in England in the 16th century. The ongoing denial of reproductive rights to women (atheists can indeed be misogynists, but you will find few claiming that atheism is what justifies their misogyny, and even fewer who claim that atheism requires that women not use birth control).

  153. igglanova
    igglanova November 15, 2011 at 3:57 am |

    Power, profit and the Patriarchy are the problem. Religion or lack thereof is not the cause, it is the excuse.

    Even if this were completely true, eliminating the excuse is a powerful act in itself. If the public doesn’t accept a cynical religious justification for atrocity, there will be a dramatic weakening of public support for war, genocide, persecution, what have you.

  154. Norma
    Norma November 15, 2011 at 5:57 am |

    rain: Sure, you’re saying that you’re against X and Y because it’s sexist and misogynistic, but by being a member of that church, you’re contributing to the legitimacy of that church, including those sexist beliefs.

    Well, yes, of course this is a problem.

    Obviously I understand that religion isn’t just religion– where I live, one makes a choice to belong to a religious group, and when that religious group is the dominant one, that choice has social and political significance. In part it shows political support for the religion as a whole.

    But for me, religion is also religion. Personally, I *can’t* voluntarily leave religion–and my religion, Christianity, specifically–in the same way that I feel I could leave a political party if I felt I couldn’t reform it from within. I would (and have) been willing to change denominations or specific churches for political reasons, but religiously I believe in having a religious community.

    rain: And while your individual contribution is miniscule, the more extreme misogynistic protestant sects would not be what they are without the collective support of liberal churches under the umbrella of the protestant religion.

    Conservative Protestant churches don’t exist with “the collective support of liberal churches.” This simply isn’t the political or financial reality of American/global Protestantism today.

    rain: I’m also amused that a protestant is trying to reform from within a church established on the revolutionary principle, formed because Martin Luther did not think he could reform the catholic church from within.

    Um… I think you’re conflating two rather different reform efforts.

  155. Natalia
    Natalia November 15, 2011 at 6:20 am |

    EG, the problem with all of these earnest and no doubt sincere liberal critiques of Christianity in the U.S. is that they’re… useless? By assuming that Christianity on the whole is centralized, for example, or by assuming that it is somehow unique in terms of how it shapes societies, people paint themselves into a corner. I guess it works well for sounding off in the comments section of a feminist blog, but certainly not when it comes to addressing our actual societal problems of which the Duggars are but the tip of the iceberg. I’m not a scholar of religious history, but even I feel stupider after reading critiques of Christianity that basically amount to, “when will these people just start being RATIONAL?” – even if I may agree with the frustrated sentiment.

    Also, what EG said to Natalia. Xtians and their persecution complex.

    Yeah, I sure would like to see anyone on here “persecuting” me.

  156. EG
    EG November 15, 2011 at 8:40 am |

    Natalia: By assuming that Christianity on the whole is centralized, for example, or by assuming that it is somehow unique in terms of how it shapes societies, people paint themselves into a corner.

    Who’s assuming that all of Christianity is centralized or in any way unique in terms of how it shapes societies?

    Natalia: even I feel stupider after reading critiques of Christianity that basically amount to, “when will these people just start being RATIONAL?”

    I just don’t see many criticisms of Christianity that amount to that.

  157. karak
    karak November 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    Not unless you make the mistake of treating atheism as a religion.

    You know, plenty of religious don’t have sacred texts–especially ones based in cultures where there isn’t writing. Atheism is a system of belief about how the universe in ordered, the human place in it, and the behaviors expected of human being assuming all the above premises are true. Simply because it wildly varies from Atheist to Atheist doesn’t make it any less true. Nor does it excuse the misogyny seen in atheism, most of the misogynistic crap seen Abrahamic religions existed BEFORE Christianity and/or Islam came to area. Religion is being used to justify cultural misogyny, but the culture came first. Atheists aren’t magically excluded from their cultural influences either, and there are plenty of idiots out there arguing that evolution, instead of God, made women inferior and people who are gay wrong and etc, etc.

  158. zuzu
    zuzu November 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    karak: Atheism is a system of belief about how the universe in ordered, the human place in it, and the behaviors expected of human being assuming all the above premises are true.

    No, atheism is simply the belief that there is no god or gods. Really, that’s it.

    There are communities and associations of atheists who focus on other things — and the Skeptics have a strong scientific bent, but there are others who focus on ethics and philosophy. And a whole lot of atheists don’t do anything more than not believe in god.

    To the extent any particular groups of atheists are voluntary associations and have problems, yes, sure, you have the same issues that affect any other group where there are problems. But again, you’re treating atheism as just another religion, when that simply isn’t the case.

  159. rain
    rain November 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Aydan @ 127:

    Couldn’t you argue the same thing on a lesser scale about those who identify as atheists in the wake of the very public misogyny coming out of some parts of the skeptic community?

    No. To add to zuzu’s comment @ 133 about treating atheism as a religion, this is quite similar to the violence in the name of religion/ atheism argument. I didn’t see the no true Scotsman “they’re not real atheists!” posts raining down on Elevatorgate threads. If I’m not mistaken, you got the ball rolling on this @ 39:

    As a Christian, I’m really uncomfortable when Christianity is co-opted for things like this.

    Ayden @ 127:

    . . .I don’t believe it is irredeemable or without any merit whatsoever.

    “Irredeemable”, I can see. “Without any merit whatsoever” is grossly misrepresenting the position of those that believe that genuine reform is not possible within the church because patriarchal values are too integral to it. But I can see why you’d have to resort to the strawman that what I was saying was that Everything! about religion is Wrong!

    Norma @ 154:
    Saying that you feel you can’t leave your religion doesn’t mean that you’re not contributing to the legitimacy of the protestant religion by being a member of a protestant sect. As a response to that quote of mine, it’s a non-sequitor.

    Conservative Protestant churches don’t exist with “the collective support of liberal churches.” This simply isn’t the political or financial reality of American/global Protestantism today.

    Well, I never suggested that you were directly giving political or financial support to conservative churches. It’s more of an indirect relationship, which I thought I made clear, but apparently not. Building on the catholic example I gave, imagining what the church’s power and influence would be if the catholics that disagreed with its teachings on birth control left the church, people would not give a rat’s ass what some guy in Italy thinks about condom use in Africa. Nobody would be asking him, just like nobody is asking the leader of Scientology or FLDS or whatever. Much of the pope’s legitimacy rests on the fact that he ostensibly has the backing of over a billion people, simply by virtue of them identifying as Catholics. It doesn’t matter what their actual views or practices on birth control are.
    By calling yourself a protestant, you are drawing a connection with other protestants, claiming a commonality with them; you cannot completely disassociate yourself from them.

    Um… I think you’re conflating two rather different reform efforts.

    Um… I was not making any comparison between the two reform efforts other than one was reformist and the other was revolutionary. I’m still amused by that little detail, and that’s all it was, a little detail. I wasn’t saying that protestants weren’t allowed to be reformists because of the revolutionary foundation of their church or anything like that.

  160. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm |

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t also another aspect of the Quiverfull movement that they are breeding an army for God? That and the part where they are forcing their older kids to raise the little ones are the reasons that I feel a-okay with judging them.

    Yeah, I agree. If some asshole is pumping out child soldiers specifically to make more child soldiers, she is a terrible fucking person, no matter how capacious and/or oppressed her uterus is. It’s a weird case of someone using an aspect of themselves for which they are oppressed to turn around and oppress more people — it’s like how a person with an STD can be stigmatized or mistreated because of their status, but if they go around spitting into the mouths of toddlers they’re still a dangerous douchebag. Most people don’t weaponize their uteruses or diseases, but the ones who do need a verbal stomping. (Ditto people who weaponize their religions, in fact.)

    In this case, I think that the Duggars deserve all the moral condemnation we can heap and then some; while legally they seem to be within their rights to produce a billion brainwashing victims (and I wouldn’t want a legal limit on how many kids you can have, absent abuse or neglect) I think that non-legal entities judging them for their shitty goals and equally shitty tactics is perfectly legit and even downright reasonable. Just because one doesn’t want to outlaw something doesn’t mean you can’t throw a fit about how awful it is for the world.

  161. igglanova
    igglanova November 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    Can we please put the myth of atheism as ‘belief system’ to rest? Atheism is the absence of a belief system. Skepticism and secular humanism are belief systems, but they have about as much in common with religion as feminism or liberalism. Not every school of thought is analogous to religion.

    There is also the problem of people disingenuously equivocating two different meanings of ‘belief.’ The closest movements like skepticism come to having enshrined ‘beliefs’ is in holding common values. ‘Belief’ in religion can mean either values or faith.

  162. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    Politicalguineapig: Who wrote A Confederacy of Dunces? I’ve never heard of it.

    John Kennedy Toole. He committed suicide in 1969, and the book was only published years later when his mother passed it on to writer Walker Percy. The following year (1981) Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitizer Prize for Fiction.

  163. DouglasG
    DouglasG November 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm |

    [(Christmas decorations are already starting to make me cranky)]

    Well, now that Black Friday has conquered Thanksgiving (one possible benefit to me in that I have to drive 35 miles that day every year and back, and am thus hoping for less congested roads) and is rapidly advancing towards Hallowe’en, I don’t blame you.

    It reminds me a little of how Fiyero in Wicked notices the early start of the run-up to Lurlinemas, though I’m not sure who would be the Lurlinist equivalent if one tried to extend the parallel.

  164. DonnaL
    DonnaL November 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    I just wanted to point out that atheism doesn’t have to be “the belief that there is no god or gods.” It can be the absence of belief that there are gods or gods, which is a very different concept — not believing in the existence of X is different from believing in the non-existence of X. And the former is more descriptive of my own person brand of atheism — I don’t have a belief about the existence of God(s), but would never presume to opine that he/she/zie/they don’t exist.

    And yes to everything EG and others have said: the Holocaust is a prime example of engaging in mass murder for no reason other than anti-Semitism (whether having to do with power or patriarchy or anything else), given that the slaughter continued long after the war was clearly lost, right up to the last possible second — and was very much counter-productive to winning the war from the outset. And, yes, the Crusades may have been, in the grand scheme of things, an outlet for all the knights and barons in Europe to fight an “other” instead of each other, and to obtain land when many of them couldn’t in Europe, but little other than religion explains the mass murder of Jews in so many towns along the Rhine and elsewhere in German lands in 1096 and later, on the theory that it it made no sense to travel so far to kill infidels when Europe was full of them. Or the slaughter of all the Jews and many Muslims in Jerusalem when it was captured.

  165. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm |

    igglanova: Can we please put the myth of atheism as ‘belief system’ to rest? Atheism is the absence of a belief system.

    I’d just like to say that I’m amused beyond all reason by the prospect of atheists, say, clubbing up on Sunday mornings to not believe in god together.

  166. EG
    EG November 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    karak: Atheism is a system of belief about how the universe in ordered, the human place in it, and the behaviors expected of human being assuming all the above premises are true.

    No. No, it’s not. Here’s what being an atheist means, once more: I don’t believe in any gods. Here’s what I can reasonably expect of somebody else who identifies herself as an atheist: she doesn’t believe in any gods. That’s it. Full stop. It has nothing to do with how the universe is ordered, the human place in it, and the behaviors expected of human beings given that. It’s really not a question of wild variance: it’s a question of having no other points in common whatsoever. At all.

    karak: most of the misogynistic crap seen Abrahamic religions existed BEFORE Christianity and/or Islam came to area. Religion is being used to justify cultural misogyny, but the culture came first.

    It’s really not that simple. Religion and culture (another very vague and abstract concept) constantly reinforce and modify each other. A religion that was not amenable to misogyny was not going to take root in a misogynistic culture. And a non-misogynistic culture would develop a non-misogynistic religion. That has nothing to do, by the way, with atheism. Atheists don’t believe in any divinities, not just the misogynistic ones.

    karak: Atheists aren’t magically excluded from their cultural influences either, and there are plenty of idiots out there arguing that evolution, instead of God, made women inferior and people who are gay wrong and etc, etc.

    Yes, and if anybody was arguing that only religion caused misogyny or that atheists are by definition feminist or exempt from cultural influences, that would be a good point. However, I don’t see that anybody on this thread has argued those things.

    rain: I didn’t see the no true Scotsman “they’re not real atheists!” posts raining down on Elevatorgate threads.

    That would be awesome, though. “He’s a misogynist! That’s not true atheism!” “But…he doesn’t believe in any gods. What else is there?” (uncomfortable silence) “Does he know the secret handshake?” “Handshake?” “See, I knew it! Every real atheist knows the handshake!”

    DonnaL: And the former is more descriptive of my own person brand of atheism — I don’t have a belief about the existence of God(s), but would never presume to opine that he/she/zie/they don’t exist.

    Donna, I always understood that to be what was meant by agnosticism. Am I mistaken or is this something there is disagreement about among atheists/agnostics?

    preying mantis: I’d just like to say that I’m amused beyond all reason by the prospect of atheists, say, clubbing up on Sunday mornings to not believe in god together.

    Hey, I do this with friends and family all the time, not just Sundays (I guess that makes me a particularly devout atheist?). We’ve all gotten so good at the not believing in any gods thing that we can often watch movies, paint each other’s nails, and talk and think about subjects that have nothing whatsoever to do with gods or the lackthereof, all while not believing!

  167. Aydan
    Aydan November 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm |

    Okay, given that my comments about atheism were in the context of a post comparing membership in Christianity, membership in the atheist movement, and residency and/or citizenship in the US, which is clearly not a religion– all within lines of each other– the “you’re treating atheism like a religion!” thing is pretty silly.

    In the process of rereading the thread, I found this comment from SarahJ, which I’m quoting because I think it’s important.

    SarahJ: Disagree with their doctrinal beliefs all you want but at least acknowledge that they are immersed in a thoroughly Christian subculture. And if you are a Christian, that should worry you. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to leave your beliefs by the side of the road, but at least have the courage to examine what it is about Christianity that encourages the growth of these fringe movements. And then fight it. If you love your faith, I can’t imagine a better course of action. And that’s my rant for the day :)

    Christianity encourages fringe movements because it is an old and large human institution. There are bits of Christianity, both the Bible and historical practice (and whether the latter “matters” is itself open for debate) that are misogynistic. People who identify as Christians differ, and have differed historically, about how to interpret and apply these passages– were they meant as God’s will for all of history? were they products of a very specific culture and historical period? were they reflective of the writer’s (human, inherently flawed) viewpoint and not meant to be broadly applicable? were they reflective of the writer’s own sin/tendency to error? something else entirely? I believe that many of the misogynistic interpretations were a result of people bringing misogyny to the table… and then, of course, it became a self-reinforcing cycle.

    People will use whatever is available to justify their misogyny (or racism, or…), whether that be any religion, science (evolution and evopsych, for example), nationalism, etc. There are no large movements, ways of thinking, institutions, or fields that are not tainted with misogyny and/or used as a justification for misogyny. There are no large, old movements/etc that do not have problematic fringe elements. Tenets of liberalism are used as an excuse for anti-Semitism (by which I mean something separate from legitimate critiques of Israel). Tenets of science are and were used as an excuse for killings and sterilizations, as well as misogyny and racism. Tenets of feminism are used as an excuse for classism, racism, and transphobia. Rebecca Watson at Skepchick writes about how tenets of skepticism were used as excuses for misogyny. Even tenets of vegetarianism and veganism are used as an excuse for misogyny and classism. etc, etc, etc.

    I don’t leave Christianity because of things like the Duggars’ behavior any more than I leave the field of science because some evopsychers use “logic” and “the scientific method” as an excuse to justify rape. I think SarahJ was right on when she talked about staying and fighting. One can argue that Christianity is inherently misogynistic while science is incidentally problematic, but I don’t think that’s a debate that will go anywhere given that people interpret Christianity and the Bible in many, many different ways. Certainly many flavors of Christianity are inherently misogynistic. Many flavors of nearly everything are inherently misogynistic. That doesn’t justify any of the misogynism, but it does temper the idea of simply opting out.

  168. Aydan
    Aydan November 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm |

    And by “misogynism” I mean “misogyny.” Don’t know whether to blame cold, sluggish fingers or cold, sluggish brain for that one.

    While I am making another comment, someone above mentioned how happy the Duggar children seem, and I found this article on No Longer Quivering about something Libby Anne had mentioned, namely, that several influential figures in Quiverfull/dominionism teach that happiness is the only acceptable emotion.

  169. rain
    rain November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    Ayden

    Okay, given that my comments about atheism were in the context of a post comparing membership in Christianity, membership in the atheist movement, and residency and/or citizenship in the US, which is clearly not a religion– all within lines of each other– the “you’re treating atheism like a religion!” thing is pretty silly.

    So you write a post comparing being a Christian to being an atheist and being an American, and when people question the validity of your comparisons, it’s “pretty silly”? Wha?

  170. Aydan
    Aydan November 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |

    rain: So you write a post comparing being a Christian to being an atheist and being an American, and when people question the validity of your comparisons, it’s “pretty silly”? Wha?

    That’s not what I said. Many people, for instance zuzu, have questioned the validity of my comparison by arguing that it’s harder to renounce American citizenship than stop being Christian.

    Zuzu @ 133 also implied that I was treating atheism as a religion by comparing it to Christianity (which led to zuzu @ 158, rain @ 159, and igglanova @ 161), which is only a valid argument if you also think I was treating being USian as a religion, given that I compared the three things together.

  171. rain
    rain November 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |

    Aydan

    Rebecca Watson at Skepchick writes about how tenets of skepticism were used as excuses for misogyny.

    Example please?

  172. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve November 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm |

    Aydan: I don’t leave Christianity because of things like the Duggars’ behavior any more than I leave the field of science because some evopsychers use “logic” and “the scientific method” as an excuse to justify rape. I think SarahJ was right on when she talked about staying and fighting. One can argue that Christianity is inherently misogynistic while science is incidentally problematic, but I don’t think that’s a debate that will go anywhere given that people interpret Christianity and the Bible in many, many different ways. Certainly many flavors of Christianity are inherently misogynistic. Many flavors of nearly everything are inherently misogynistic. That doesn’t justify any of the misogynism, but it does temper the idea of simply opting out.

    When a book is fundamentally misogynistic, how can you argue that ‘fundamentalists’ are not?

  173. rain
    rain November 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm |

    Aydan @ 169
    No, we are not required to refute the validity of your comparisons together just because they occur in the same paragraph.
    In 133, zuzu first questioned the validity of your comparison of religion to atheism. Then she questioned the validity of your comparison of religion to residency/ citizenship. I didn’t see where you made the comparison between atheism and citizenship. So if we say religion is not like atheism and religion is not like citizenship, it doesn’t mean these things are not like religion in the same way. It’s like you’re comparing an apple (atheism) and a carrot (citizenship) to a steak (religion), and saying it’s silly to say the apple is not like a steak because a fruit is not a vegetable.

  174. Aydan
    Aydan November 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    rain:
    Aydan

    Example please?

    I was thinking of the post on The Privilege Delusion when I said that. If you want, I can look for other examples.

    Now, arguably, saying “Women can’t join our community because they’re not logical like us,” is misogyny informing atheism, not the other way around… but it’s also justifying the exclusion of women on the grounds that logic is a crucial element of atheism and skepticism, based on the misogynistic idea that women are illogical.

    rain: Aydan @ 169
    No, we are not required to refute the validity of your comparisons together just because they occur in the same paragraph.
    In 133, zuzu first questioned the validity of your comparison of religion to atheism. Then she questioned the validity of your comparison of religion to residency/ citizenship. I didn’t see where you made the comparison between atheism and citizenship. So if we say religion is not like atheism and religion is not like citizenship, it doesn’t mean these things are not like religion in the same way. It’s like you’re comparing an apple (atheism) and a carrot (citizenship) to a steak (religion), and saying it’s silly to say the apple is not like a steak because a fruit is not a vegetable.

    True, but given that I compared Christianity to atheism and to citizenship/residency in the same way, presumably I am also treating citizenship/residency like a religion if my broad comparison was one that invoked religion.

    I said in my comment that I was talking about movements in general (“any movement”), and then proceeded to list two movements (/institutions) in five lines, comparing them on the same basis. I did not indicate that I was comparing the two with religion on different grounds. I even connected them with an “And,” indicating that the two were meant as two examples of the same concept. I never said that atheism was a religion, I merely compared it to one, in the same way as I compared an institution that is clearly not a religion.

    Fat Steve: When a book is fundamentally misogynistic, how can you argue that ‘fundamentalists’ are not?
    Er, where did I say that fundamentalists (Christians, I assume you mean specifically) are not misogynistic?

  175. igglanova
    igglanova November 16, 2011 at 9:32 am |

    I don’t understand why we’re even dragging skepticism into this. Even granting that there is just as much inherent misogyny in skepticism as there is in Christianity (which is just…lol), that doesn’t absolve Christianity of anything. Pointing your finger at someone else and saying ‘they’re just as bad!’ is not an argument.

    Besides which…if we’re actually going to pretend that skepticism and Christianity are just as backwards as each other, let’s think for just a moment about the worst things today that are justified by either movement. Elevatorgate and shitty evo-psych theories about women being slightly inferior to men vs…the Ugandan KILL THE GAYS bill, the Quiverfull brainwashing movement and others like it, education suppression, domestic violence, marital rape, attacks on abortion rights and birth control…take your pick.

  176. rain
    rain November 16, 2011 at 11:38 am |

    Aydan:

    I was thinking of the post on The Privilege Delusion when I said that.

    There is nothing in that post that resembles “Rebecca Watson at Skepchick writ(ing) about how tenets of skepticism were used as excuses for misogyny.” I don’t think tenet means what you think it means.

    Igglanova, I picked the tenets of skepticism over feminism, liberalism, or vegetarianism because the mention of Watson made it into something quite specific. I was pretty sure the way Aydan was flinging around tenets that ze didn’t know what the tenets of any of those groups were (even though I was very intrigued by the tenets of vegetarianism being used as an excuse for misogyny and classism), but if I had asked about tenets in a more vague way, we could be here until the second coming of christ, ie, forever. So it was a, hopefully, smaller derail.

    True, but given that I compared Christianity to atheism and to citizenship/residency in the same way, presumably I am also treating citizenship/residency like a religion if my broad comparison was one that invoked religion.

    Again no. I’m going to tweak my example because we can correctly compare an apple to a steak (apple and steak are food) and a carrot to a steak (carrot and steak are food), unlike your example, where the comparison of atheism to religion isn’t valid, and your comparison of citizenship/residency to religion isn’t valid (see zuzu @ 133). So religion is now a hammer. Your argument amounts to : an apple is like a hammer because they are both foods, and a carrot is like a hammer because they are both foods, and it’s silly to argue that an apple is not like a hammer because apples and carrots are both food.

  177. Norma
    Norma November 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    rain: Saying that you feel you can’t leave your religion doesn’t mean that you’re not contributing to the legitimacy of the protestant religion by being a member of a protestant sect.

    Right. And I agree with you, as I said.

    rain: As a response to that quote of mine, it’s a non-sequitor.

    Huh? You criticized the idea of reforming-from-within vs opting out. I explained why some people, including myself, choose to reform from within instead of opting out, even acknowledging the problems of that approach.

    Eh, whatever, we’re not going to agree on this one.

  178. rain
    rain November 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm |

    Huh? You criticized the idea of reforming-from-within vs opting out.

    Look at your post @ 154 again. You quote me @ 125:

    Sure, you’re saying that you’re against X and Y because it’s sexist and misogynistic, but by being a member of that church, you’re contributing to the legitimacy of that church, including those sexist beliefs.

    Your response to that quote (in part):

    But for me, religion is also religion. Personally, I *can’t* voluntarily leave religion–and my religion, Christianity, specifically–in the same way that I feel I could leave a political party if I felt I couldn’t reform it from within.

    Now look at my post @ 125. I started out by referencing that reforming-from-within vs. opting out article and agreeing with the author that genuine reform isn’t possible from within. But that “Sure, you’re saying” quote comes *right after* :

    But what is not addressed in that article is the implicit approval granted to the church, all parts of it, by those trying to reform it from within.

    My “Sure, you’re saying” quote is talking about something else. If you meant your response @ 154 to address reforming-from-within vs opting out, and not liberal Christians’ role in mainstreaming conservative Christian thought, then your response is in the wrong place. Placing it under my “Sure, you’re saying” quote makes it look like it’s a response to that comment.

  179. Norma
    Norma November 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    Cool, rain, whatever.

  180. mim
    mim November 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    the best way to get around this problem is SECULAR EDUCATION! yay! because then, even people born in families rife with all kinds of patriarchal religious dogma, can explore critical thinking and gaining a different perspective. and then, we can truly say that those educated members of society make an INFORMED choice to their lifestyle. education is where it’s at, folks!

    Erin: @Kathleen.*This.*Exactlythis.Butit’stheproblemIdon’tknowhowtogetaround.Howdoyouletadultschoosewhateverlifestyletheydecideisbestforthemselvesandnotendupwithbrainwashedchildrenasaresult?

    Assomeonewhosefirst21yearswerecompletelyenvelopedinevangelical,fundamentalChristiancircles,Iamverysympathetictothedrawsofthatlifestyle.Iabsolutelyunderstandwhyadultscanchoosetofollowthosebeliefs.Butadultssometimeshavechildren.I’moneofthosechildren.AndIdon’tknowhowtoexpectpeoplewhohonestlybelievethatmyeternalsoulwillburnforevertobeopenmindedandaccepting,muchlesstoteachtheirchildrentothinkforthemselves.

  181. Aydan
    Aydan November 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    igglanova: Besides which…if we’re actually going to pretend that skepticism and Christianity are just as backwards as each other, let’s think for just a moment about the worst things today that are justified by either movement. Elevatorgate and shitty evo-psych theories about women being slightly inferior to men vs…the Ugandan KILL THE GAYS bill, the Quiverfull brainwashing movement and others like it, education suppression, domestic violence, marital rape, attacks on abortion rights and birth control…take your pick.

    My career field, and the misapplied findings thereof, was used as partial justification for the Holocaust as well as mass sterilizations in the US. It’s still used to justify racism, misogyny, fat-shaming, whatever. (Oh hey there, James Watson.) So… yeah. (Not as an argument re: skepticism but as an argument re: all human institutions inherently flawed, if we’re judging them by their consequences.)

    rain: There is nothing in that post that resembles “Rebecca Watson at Skepchick writ(ing) about how tenets of skepticism were used as excuses for misogyny.” I don’t think tenet means what you think it means.

    I thought logical thinking was generally considered a prerequisite– or, if you like, a “principle or belief,” courtesy of my dictionary– for skepticism, but I could be misinformed…

    rain: I was pretty sure the way Aydan was flinging around tenets that ze didn’t know what the tenets of any of those groups were (even though I was very intrigued by the tenets of vegetarianism being used as an excuse for misogyny and classism)

    1.) PETA.
    2.) Check the “vegetarian” tag (and the “vegan” tag) on Tumblr sometime for a bunch of posts about how people who don’t go complete vegan are evil, and anyone who says they can’t make it work because of dietary restrictions, money, etc are just “making excuses.”

    And, honestly, I can’t follow your carrot/hammer/steak/apple analogy at all, and haven’t been able to since you brought it up.

    *shrug* In the end, I’m not particularly invested in convincing anyone that they are wrong and I am right once I feel that all the definitions and concepts and whathaveyou have been clarified.

  182. igglanova
    igglanova November 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    Aydan: My career field, and the misapplied findings thereof, was used as partial justification for the Holocaust as well as mass sterilizations in the US. It’s still used to justify racism, misogyny, fat-shaming, whatever. (Oh hey there, James Watson.) So… yeah.

    This is still a complete nonsequitur that doesn’t refute anything I said.

  183. Aydan
    Aydan November 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    igglanova: igglanova 11.16.2011 at 5:50 pm

    Aydan: My career field, and the misapplied findings thereof, was used as partial justification for the Holocaust as well as mass sterilizations in the US. It’s still used to justify racism, misogyny, fat-shaming, whatever. (Oh hey there, James Watson.) So… yeah.

    This is still a complete nonsequitur that doesn’t refute anything I said.

    Given that I’m not interested in comparing skepticism and Christianity except insofar as skepticism is one example of a movement with problems, among other examples I gave, it wasn’t meant to refute anything re: skepticism.

    Your comment centered on the idea of judging movements by their consequences, so I discussed the consequences of one of the examples I had previously mentioned.

  184. zuzu
    zuzu November 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    Aydan: I thought logical thinking was generally considered a prerequisite– or, if you like, a “principle or belief,” courtesy of my dictionary– for skepticism, but I could be misinformed…

    Ooh, look at the big brain on you. That still doesn’t mean that the example you gave works, Aydan. How about you provide some text from Watson that supports your reading of it?

    Aydan: 1.) PETA.
    2.) Check the “vegetarian” tag (and the “vegan” tag) on Tumblr sometime for a bunch of posts about how people who don’t go complete vegan are evil, and anyone who says they can’t make it work because of dietary restrictions, money, etc are just “making excuses.”

    You do realize that not all vegetarians belong to PETA, right? And that Tumblr isn’t a central text for those who become vegans?

    And that no matter what Ingrid Newkirk or some jackass on Tumblr says, it really doesn’t refute anything igglanova said, nor does it make vegetarians analogous to Christians? Because you can choose to simply not eat meat while not signing on to the latest PETA newsletter or Tumblr ravings of overprivileged nitwits.

  185. Aydan
    Aydan November 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    zuzu: Ooh, look at the big brain on you. That still doesn’t mean that the example you gave works, Aydan. How about you provide some text from Watson that supports your reading of it?

    I paraphrased the text to which I was referring in the first comment answering rain’s request for a specific example.

    zuzu: You do realize that not all vegetarians belong to PETA, right? And that Tumblr isn’t a central text for those who become vegans?

    And that no matter what Ingrid Newkirk or some jackass on Tumblr says, it really doesn’t refute anything igglanova said, nor does it make vegetarians analogous to Christians? Because you can choose to simply not eat meat while not signing on to the latest PETA newsletter or Tumblr ravings of overprivileged nitwits.

    And my comments about how there are many ways to interpret Christianity’s central text, and you tend to get out of it the misogyny you put into it, are in the response to SarahJ’s comment. (It is not a coincidence that those branches of Christianity who believe in “woman, submit” tend to spend much more time dwelling on that than things like love and materialism.)

    I am done and disengaging. I have made my argument, you all have made your arguments, I’m not particularly invested in changing anyone’s mind, and that I am now repeating the same things in different ways trumps my like of argument.

  186. deb
    deb November 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    the appropriateness of criticizing women who choose to have large families

    It goes like this: I get to criticize whoever I want, but you also get to criticize me if you have reason to believe my criticism is unwarranted.

    Even if this was not related to the creepy Quiverfull movement, or whether this woman was in her right mind (as other have said, how can she be surprised?), there’s the issue of how others are affected. First off, the kids: the older you get, the more likely there are birth defects. By being dogmatic about having the kids be her biological offspring, she is (at this point) rolling the dice on whether one of these children will be born with serious problems. We have plenty of babies in this world who need a good home. Potentially condemning someone to a lifetime (even a short one) of suffering because of narcissism is not OK. And yes, it does matter that we have children available for adoption right now! That people are selfish does not excuse letting a child go unloved because your ape brain can’t get past the “MUST PROPAGATE MY GENES” meme.

    And then there’s the rest of us. Long-term, our current way of life – endless growth – is not sustainable. We will continue to see more booms and busts, resources will become scarce, and if we don’t turn things around in time it might be game over. It is not the right of this half-crazed loon to help kick overpopulation into overdrive. It is not anyone’s right to have children at all; childbirth is already a privilege for those of us who are capable of bearing children with our loved ones in the first place, but it’s time we learn that like most things we let adults do – drive cars, have jobs, operate machinery – it needs to be a privilege you demonstrate competency for. For my part I’ve opted not to have children; not just because of the problems we face as a species, but because I do not think I would make a good parent. If that changes at some point in the future I will consider adoption, but in the mean time I really wish people would stop thinking that reproductive rights include the right to have children in the first place. And from a moral perspective, in a world rife with child suffering any prospective parent has the responsibility to first see if there is a child they can give a home. To skip ahead right to procreation is despicable.

  187. rae
    rae November 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm |

    Is mentioning the environmental immense impact of adding 20 new human beings in a first-world country verboten here? Because we USians use up a whole lot of resources and emit a whole lot of pollution per capita. I mean, none of us are perfect environmentalists and I don’t usually get worked up over large families, but I think TWENTY children is getting you into “you at least need to buy carbon off-sets” territory. I don’t think just making your own soap is gonna be enough here.

  188. EG
    EG November 17, 2011 at 12:13 am |

    deb: First off, the kids: the older you get, the more likely there are birth defects.

    That has nothing to do with how many children you have, so it’s not really relevant. Are you claiming that no women over whatever arbitrary age you set should give birth no matter the circumstances? Because this a feminist blog. The “browbeat women with scare tactics about things that actually have very little to do with their decisions” room is the rest of the world. I don’t know a single woman who wants or has kids who wanted to wait until she was on the other side of 40. If you’re so concerned about newborn health, I would suggest you redirect your efforts at issues of poverty. Lack of decent nutrition and adequate health care pose much more of a danger to pregnant women and their resulting newborns.

    deb: We have plenty of babies in this world who need a good home.

    Well, this is interesting. We just recently had a very long thread on the ethical and moral issues involved in adopting. For one thing, if you want to adopt a baby, you will very likely need a shitload of ready cash on hand. These expenses are not covered by health insurance, unlike fertility treatments, prenatal care, and childbirth. Kids in the foster care system are not babies. In fact, in the last search I did in the NYC foster care system, there were, I believe, six or seven children available for adoption under the age of 10, and every single one had severe developmental disabilities. Then there’s international adoption, which only compounds the moral and ethical issues raised by private adoption, to say nothing of costs. So, no, if you want to have a baby, or even a young child, you can’t just go down to the needy baby shop and pick one up. Even you have the money and make your peace with the moral issues, it is a process that takes years. Literally.

    deb: That people are selfish does not excuse letting a child go unloved because your ape brain can’t get past the “MUST PROPAGATE MY GENES” meme.

    Ah, yes, the “if you want a child that is biologically related to you, you’re selfish!” accusation. There are plenty of emotionally and culturally resonant reasons to want a child who is biologically related to you. Whether those reasons are enough to sway one’s decisions varies from person to person. Refusing to acknowledge this so you can point fingers and chant “selfish! selfish!” is laughable. But you are following on in a long tradition of calling women “selfish” for daring to have and act on a preference instead of acting only for the good of others.

    deb: Long-term, our current way of life – endless growth – is not sustainable. We will continue to see more booms and busts, resources will become scarce, and if we don’t turn things around in time it might be game over.

    Yes, and IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU SELFISH WOMEN. Women’s childbearing decisions have nothing to do with this. Corporate greed and the government’s desire to pander to it does. But it’s so much easier to blame those wicked women who have babies, isn’t it? Never mind the fact that whenever women have access to birth control, birth rates drop dramatically. The US’s population has nothing to do with climate change and the destruction of the planet. Like most other first-world countries, the US has a comparatively low birthrate. In fact, the US birthrate has been declining throughout the recession, despite the Duggars’ best efforts. Right now, according to Wikipedia, we rank 139 out of 195 countries surveyed when it comes to birth rate. The problem with the US way of life is not that our birth rate is too high.

    deb: . It is not anyone’s right to have children at all….it’s time we learn that like most things we let adults do – drive cars, have jobs, operate machinery – it needs to be a privilege you demonstrate competency for.

    Oh, yes, that philosophy has always worked out really well. Never been abused at all. It’s certainly never been used against oppressed groups in order to justify forced sterilization, removing children from their families, or anything like that.

    And there’s no moral problem at all with marshalling the power of the state in order to force women to have abortions, or take children away from their parents because they haven’t yet “demonstrated competency” to a bunch of strangers. I can’t possibly see how that could go wrong. I would certainly be shocked if US politicians decided that being an atheist or queer disqualified you from having children. I mean, who would have been able to see that one coming?

    Only someone with absolutely no knowledge of the past couple hundred years, I guess.

    deb: For my part I’ve opted not to have children; not just because of the problems we face as a species, but because I do not think I would make a good parent.

    So obviously, not being able to be a good parent makes you the best possible judge of how those who do want to have children and would make good parents should go about it. I will certainly be taking your advice.

    It is convenient for you, though, isn’t it, that you have decided not to have kids? I mean, if you did decide to have kids you’d have to deal with all the nitty-gritty details that you’re skipping over, like why people who want children have babies, and the vicissitudes of the adoption process, and the moral issues it raises, and what it takes to raise children. You’d actually have to walk your talk, maybe even develop some empathy for other parents or parents-to-be. Lucky for you, you don’t have to worry about any of that!

    deb: I really wish people would stop thinking that reproductive rights include the right to have children in the first place.

    Well, they do. That is one of the most fundamental ones. Otherwise, you see, there really aren’t any reproductive rights at all. There’s just a bunch of government officials peering into our uteruses and judging whether or not we’re fit to use them based on whether or not we fit into their reactionary fantasy of which people are worthwhile and how women should behave. You know how there’s no such thing as a true “yes” if you’re never allowed to say “no”? It works the other way round as well.

    deb: And from a moral perspective, in a world rife with child suffering any prospective parent has the responsibility to first see if there is a child they can give a home.

    It’s true, nothing’s better for a kid than to grow up in a household run by people who really wanted to make a baby, but felt morally obligated to give a home to him/her instead. That is sure going to make for some good times.

    Again, it comes in handy that you don’t want to have kids, doesn’t it? So you don’t have to expend any effort in understanding why the desire to have a baby may not be the same thing as the desire to take in a completely random child.

    In a world as rife with starvation and malnutrition as this one, I sure hope you only ever buy the cheapest possible food for yourself, and make sure to give away the money you have saved by doing so to food banks. Anything else would be despicable.

    Your rant is completely bound up in the fantasy that if we all, as individuals, just live morally pure lives, suffering will be alleviated and the planet saved. If we all virtuously don’t have babies and adopt children instead (regardless of the moral and material obstacles to that), all our problems will be solved! It sounds good if you remove all the emotional and moral complexity and humanity from the problem, and is much easier to focus on than the massive system of exploitation supported by private industry and government complicity. It just doesn’t happen to be true, or to work.

  189. rain
    rain November 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |

    Norma:

    Cool, rain, whatever.

    Clearly, you don’t think it’s cool. But neither do you really think “whatever”. If you did, you wouldn’t keep responding with “whatever”. If you really thought “whatever”, you would just, you know, not respond any more. “Whatever” is just saying that you’ve run out of anything substantive to say, but for some reason, feel a need to get the last word in. If you don’t want to engage any more, fine, don’t, but what you’re actually saying there is, “I don’t want to discuss this any more, and *you* should stop talking”.

    Aydan @ 185:

    I paraphrased the text to which I was referring in the first comment answering rain’s request for a specific example.

    . . . and confirmed that you don’t know what the tenets of skepticism are. “Women are not as logical as men” is not a tenet of skepticism.

    And my comments about how there are many ways to interpret Christianity’s central text, and you tend to get out of it the misogyny you put into it, . . .

    Yeah, I’m just an angry feminist looking for something to get angry about. So all that stuff in Christianity’s central text about women being silent, or women being unclean during their menses and after giving birth (twice as long for a girl than a boy!), etc., that’s just me interpreting it wrong, and looking to get bent out of shape. I’m actually creating the misogyny in the way I interpret things. Similarly, catcalling on the street or sexual comments in the workplace are just compliments, sheesh. Calling these things harassment is misinterpreting innocent remarks, putting the misogyny into it.

  190. Spot
    Spot November 17, 2011 at 11:28 am |

    So, what is atheism?

    Because it seems to me that if it promotes the assetion that there is no God, with all the attendant rational arguments, it is a religion. Which boils down to a bunch of people arrogantly asserting that they know what they cannot possibly know and then acting accordingly. It’s the common thread in all religions and it is the source of their lethal power and evil potential.

  191. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 17, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    Because it seems to me that if it promotes the assetion that there is no God, with all the attendant rational arguments, it is a religion. Which boils down to a bunch of people arrogantly asserting that they know what they cannot possibly know and then acting accordingly.

    Most atheists do not assert that there is no God. They assert that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of God, and that therefore, there is no logical reason to believe in God. There’s a difference.

    Religious people take the existence of God on faith. People who take the existence of other things on faith, things that are invisible, intangible, have no detectable impact on the universe, and are often cited as the cause for things that actually have a perfectly rational cause, are generally considered to be mentally ill and may be incarcerated against their will. Only people whose specific belief in something that there is no evidence for whatsoever is in a thing called God get a free pass.

    Reality doesn’t reflect “oh, maybe there’s a God and maybe there isn’t, we just don’t know!” because the way reality works, if there’s no evidence whatsoever of something, then it’s reasonable to conclude that it isn’t there. The joke about the guy who uses pinwheels to scare off the pink elephants, and when told that there’s no evidence of pink elephants, replies that it’s because the pinwheels are so effective, is funny because we all know that believing in unfalsifiable things that are unlikely is nonsensical… except when it comes to God.

    I do not believe there is any evidence for the existence of a God that actually gives a shit about humanity. There is some very weird evidence that suggests the possibility that our reality is simulated somehow, which… I’d need to see a lot more evidence for before entertaining it as a real possibility, but I’m willing to keep an open mind. I consider that there is a vast body of evidence that there is no such thing as an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving man in the sky who will condemn you to eternal torment for not believing in him even though he does not provide any physical evidence of his existence, and who by the way cares very, very much about people’s sex lives… because that’s a moronic idea, and internally self-contradictory. So yeah, I am utterly convinced that the Christian God does not exist, because the Christian God makes no damn sense whatsoever *and* there is no evidence for his existence. I’m not convinced that there’s no such thing as an entity that created the universe, but I haven’t seen any convincing evidence that there is, so in the absence of evidence that something exists… it probably doesn’t.

    This is pretty much the opposite of faith. This is rationality. Things do not exist just because someone said so. They don’t even have equal possibility of existing or not existing just because someone said so. The fact that someone said so, in the absence of any other evidence, isn’t actually evidence of existence at all. so the hypothesis that “a thing that there is no evidence of does not exist” and “a thing that there is no evidence of does exist” ARE NOT EQUAL, do not carry the same weight, and are not equally likely.

    In other words: if you don’t believe in Blorg, *you’d better be right!*

  192. igglanova
    igglanova November 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm |

    Spot: So, what is atheism?

    Because it seems to me that if it promotes the assetion that there is no God, with all the attendant rational arguments, it is a religion. Which boils down to a bunch of people arrogantly asserting that they know what they cannot possibly know and then acting accordingly. It’s the common thread in all religions and it is the source of their lethal power and evil potential.

    Atheists hear tiresome variations on this comment a whole hell of a lot. The thing is, you can’t prove the absence of anything. One can’t prove the absence of unicorns, dragons, or Russel’s teapot, but everyone feels perfectly comfortable saying that such things do not exist. It would also be quite amusing if we were to posit that a lack of belief in unicorns makes one adhere to the religion of Anti-Unicornosity. So why are gods so damn special?

    I am not actually afraid of declarative statements like ‘there is no God’ because nothing else I lack belief in requires me to inject doubt into every discussion of the thing. (See again, unicorns.) That doesn’t make me a dogmatist. If someone offers me proof that God exists, then I will change my mind. But in the meantime, I edit my statements for brevity.

    Also, it’s fairly meaningless to say that lack of doubt in religion’s core tenets is the common thread that unites them all and allows for evil. You might as well say that the unifying factor of religious evil is that practitioners are speaking a language, or that their books are made of carbon. One doesn’t need to doubt oneself at every turn in order to avoid justifying atrocity. Atheism lacks the one thing needed for religious justification for war, genocide, what have you: ‘God wills it.’ I mean, that’s so obvious that I shouldn’t even have to say it, but apparently I do.

    Before I go, note also that nothing in atheism proscribes the behaviour of atheists. It is defined by its lack of dogma. In this way, it can’t even be a system of belief, let alone a religion. Is your life defined by your lack of belief in Thor?

  193. Spot
    Spot November 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm |

    Thanks you, Alara; I appreciate the distinction (“there is no logical reason to believe in God” vs. “there is no God”). Maybe it’s my own mis-interpretation but I occasionally hear the latter claim in some atheist circles and I find it problematic (not to mention, ironic) because it relies on the ridiculous assumption that we have all the evidence we need (or lack thereof) to state, as fact, that there is no God. I find this to be every bit as arrogant as the claim that there is a God.

    Also, the size and complexity of the universe and our monumental ignorance of it cannot be resolved by standard logic and rationality. So I am wondering if your logically correct and rational statement below loses power once it leaves the earthbound realm and is applied to the infinite:?

    “so the hypothesis that ‘a thing that there is no evidence of does not exist’ and ‘a thing that there is no evidence of does exist’ ARE NOT EQUAL, do not carry the same weight, and are not equally likely.”

    By the way, when I speak of God, I am referring to an entity (or entities) that has the ability to kick start life. The notion of an imaginary friend in the sky who looks out for us is too absurd to even discuss. That dude was clearly created in our image on a bad hair day (my own arrogance speaking here).

    Regards.

  194. EG
    EG November 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    Spot: Also, the size and complexity of the universe and our monumental ignorance of it cannot be resolved by standard logic and rationality.

    Why not?

    Spot: By the way, when I speak of God, I am referring to an entity (or entities) that has the ability to kick start life.

    In the utter lack of evidence for such a creature, that statement doesn’t seem any more likely to me than the one about a bunch of gods sitting on top of a mountain transforming themselves into animals in order to have sex with human women, when you’d think that taking the form of a really attractive human man would get the job done more easily.

  195. EG
    EG November 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    Spot: Maybe it’s my own mis-interpretation but I occasionally hear the latter claim in some atheist circles and I find it problematic (not to mention, ironic) because it relies on the ridiculous assumption that we have all the evidence we need (or lack thereof) to state, as fact, that there is no God.

    Do you feel the same way about the claim that there are no such things as vampires?

    I mean, I suppose there could be mutant space-vampires out there in reaches of the infinite that we just happen to have seen no evidence of at all, but I’m perfectly comfortable making the arrogant claim that there are no vampires.

  196. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |

    Spot, I cannot disprove the existence of a giant cosmic snail that shat the universe out of its ass. That doesn’t mean such a creature exists.

    FFS.

  197. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |

    Maybe it’s my own mis-interpretation but I occasionally hear the latter claim in some atheist circles and I find it problematic (not to mention, ironic) because it relies on the ridiculous assumption that we have all the evidence we need (or lack thereof) to state, as fact, that there is no God. I find this to be every bit as arrogant as the claim that there is a God.

    You’re right. The claim that “there is a god, and he is like this and such, and he likes these things but not those things, and he tells me what to do, and he says you other people are bad, and I demand that actual reality be warped to not interfere with my views!” is exactly as arrogant as “eh, that sounds like bullshit.” -_-

  198. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    By the way, when I speak of God, I am referring to an entity (or entities) that has the ability to kick start life.

    So “God” is… pockets of carbon and oxygen and/or RNA? Seems legit. :D

  199. igglanova
    igglanova November 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |

    I suppose I should count my blessings in that the worst thing I’ve been called by a theist today is ‘arrogant.’

  200. Donna L
    Donna L November 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    EG: I’m perfectly comfortable making the arrogant claim that there are no vampires.

    I would never be that arrogant. Vampires are clearly far more likely to exist than an all-powerful God.

  201. Donna L
    Donna L November 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |

    Oh, and thanks, EG, for responding to the comment about how despicable it is to want a child who is biologically related to you. I was going to say something explaining that that was always something important to me given what happened to my mother’s family and given that my sister couldn’t have children, but I decided that the person wouldn’t understand, and I didn’t feel like arguing about it.

  202. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    While licensing people to be parents and/or have babies is an idea that would… not end well, to say the least… I would personally be happy if people had way more access to birth control, including the kind of “opt out” birth control where you have to consciously take action in order to get pregnant. If we just reduced the number of unintended pregnancies that would actually be a pretty noticeable drop in total pregnancies (at least in the US, and I suspect in other places as well.) And it’s effecting a lower birthrate by further increasing bodily autonomy rather than decreasing it, which is hawt. As always, the solution is MOAR FEMINISM. :D

  203. EG
    EG November 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm |

    Donna L: I would never be that arrogant. Vampires are clearly far more likely to exist than an all-powerful God.

    Personally, I would find vampires far more sympathetic than the kind of all-powerful god who would let the kind of suffering that goes down here on Earth. I mean, hey, predators are a fact of nature. Vampires, if they did exist, would no doubt fill an important ecological niche. But some sociopath who could prevent torture, starvation, genocide, rape, and other assorted ills but just chooses not to? That’s just unforgivable. We’d have no morally acceptable choice but to foment bloody revolution.

    Donna L: Oh, and thanks, EG, for responding to the comment about how despicable it is to want a child who is biologically related to you. I was going to say something explaining that that was always something important to me given what happened to my mother’s family and given that my sister couldn’t have children, but I decided that the person wouldn’t understand, and I didn’t feel like arguing about it.

    Don’t mention it. The self-righteous ease with which some (fortunately only a few, in my experience) people who don’t want biological children dismiss all the feelings of those who do as “selfishness” is noxious to me. I always wonder how they would justify their dismissal of the possibility that biological family could hold any significance to any of the adopted children who have sought out their families of origin, to say nothing of somebody in your situation.

    Bagelsan: I would personally be happy if people had way more access to birth control, including the kind of “opt out” birth control where you have to consciously take action in order to get pregnant.

    Absolutely on board with this! Birth control is awesome, as long as it’s safe and freely chosen.

  204. librarygoose
    librarygoose November 18, 2011 at 12:09 am |

    igglanova: Is your life defined by your lack of belief in Thor?

    Mine totally is. Every morning I wake up and think “Nice day, NO THANKS TO THAT FAKE THOR”. Then I make myself some breakfast and sing about how Thor is just a myth. I even have a shrine to my lack of faith in Thor. It’s empty of anything even slightly Thor-ish. I’ve also invented a new name for what was once “Thursday” I call it…NOTThursday (because he doesn’t exist). The whole thing keeps me pretty busy.

  205. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan November 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    librarygoose, I love you. :D I hope that the total lack of Thor is cool with that.

  206. AthenaH2SO4
    AthenaH2SO4 November 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm |

    Bagelsan: Yeah, I agree. If some asshole is pumping out child soldiers specifically to make more child soldiers, she is a terrible fucking person, no matter how capaciousa nd/or oppressed her uterus is. It’s a weird case of someone using an aspect of themselves for which they are oppressed to turn around and oppress more people—it’s like how a person with an STD can be stigmatized or mistreated because of their status, but if they go around spitting into the mouths of toddlers they’re still a dangerous douchebag. Most people don’t weaponize their uteruses or diseases, but the ones who do need a verbal stomping. (Ditto people who weaponize their religions, in fact.)

    In this case, I think that the Duggars deserve all the moral condemnation we can heap and then some; while legally they seem to be within their rights to produce a billion brainwashing victims (and I wouldn’t want a legal limit on how many kids you can have, absent abuse or neglect) I think that non-legal entities judging them for their shitty goals and equally shitty tactics is perfectly legit and even downright reasonable. Just because one doesn’t want to outlaw something doesn’t mean you can’t throw a fit about how awful it is for the world.

    THIS. I can’t justify laws prohibiting what the Duggars do, but I do feel quite free to judge them personally.

  207. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm |

    To the person who mentioned scullery maids in the 19th century: Scullery maids could at least move up the ladder in the kitchen hierarchy, and they weren’t expected to indenture their baby girls at birth. And the Duggar girls don’t even get paid :(

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