I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
People Magazine was released this week featuring former Arkansas Rep. Jim Bob Duggar, his wife Michelle, their 19 children and their granddaughter. In the article they discuss how they are open to the idea of adding even more children to their brood.
Jim and Michelle Duggar began as a fairly average but somewhat religious family, practicing birth control for several years and continuing after the birth of their first son. Michelle became pregnant and miscarried and the couple became convinced that birth control was evil. They decided to have as many children as they could and joined the Quiverfull movement.
The Quiverfull movement has been around for some time, but it was really pushed when disgruntled former feminist Mary Pride penned the mantra of the anti-freedom movement in 1985. Her book uses various biblical versus to put forth the opinion that women are only useful as home-workers and baby machines designed to serve under the authority of an all-powerful husband. Young children are to be raised by their older sisters and boys are seen as superior even to their own mothers. The movement advocates homeschooling and a disconnect from non-adherents while producing as many children as possible in the hopes that these men and their flocks will become the majority.
Under Quiverfull, men and women aren't permitted to date. A man asks the father of the girl he desires to marry her and closely supervised courtship may commence. Girls are generally not encouraged to go to college and usually serve their fathers until they are married off.
I have serious problems with this movement for a number of reasons.
First off, Mary Pride does not actually believe in a biblical patriarchy herself and has released statements claiming that her rejection of modern feminism was misconstrued and taken to the extreme. While she believes in having many children and following the Bible, she does not favour patriarchy at all. Her and her children are computer-savvy and she maintains a career in conjunction with being a mother. While she is one of the foremost authorities on home-schooling, her reasons are not of an oppressive origin. Mary Pride wholeheartedly does not believe in the tenets of a movement that she is blamed for creating and uses the internet to refute patriarchal abuse.
Secondly, it is unfair to the other children. Girls are raised to believe that they only exist to care for children and are indoctrinated into subservient roles by engaging in activities like shaving their fathers. These future women are forced to raise their younger siblings and become their mothers as the new blessings take over the biological mama's time. While many of us have influential older siblings, our parents are still our parents. When you have 10 or 20 children you cannot devote time to the older ones as the new come into the world. You force children to become parents to their own siblings when they should be out playing soccer or hanging with their peers. Children born into these families see young children and adults. There is no grey area. Girls are expected to go from 10 to 30 in an instant without the natural learning curve that kids do go through.
Next, it is unfair to women. Women may aspire to have careers outside of the home that Quiverfull abhors. These females have been trained to fear. The phobia of the outside world is so ingrained that they cannot seek help, and when they do their husbands or fathers punish them. God is used as a weapon to justify why a woman must obey. Women are trained to believe that they are inferior to men and must submit to their husbands at all costs. Refusal to obey is seen as lowering a man's masculinity and selfish. This spiritual abuse was put at the forefront when Andrea Yates killed all of her children in a psychotic episode after being forced to have sex with and bear the fruit of her husband. Her husband desired her to be removed from a psychiatric medication regimen so she could bear more of his children and even planned to knock up his wife again if she was found not guilty. Women who see others with large families as the standard of perfection become disillusioned and depressed when they are stuck in loveless marriages with 10 or 11 children.
Finally, the Biblical basis is even flawed. While Psalms 137 is cited, it only states that a man with a quiver full of children is lucky, not that those who don't are evil. And last time I checked, my arrow quiver only held six. Certainly it states to be fruitful and multiply, but look at the context. There was a huge planet and a tiny population. Reproduction ensured that the "chosen people" would come to outnumber their opponents.
Moreover, women are not to be forced to give birth to children when her life is at stake. The Bible places the potential mother's life as superior to that of a fetus. In several passages it is opined by the extreme biblical scholars that those who would be uncared for are better off not to be born. Ecclisiastes may be the best case for birth control as Solomon says that those who never exist are luckier than those who are alive.
Farmers are told to never grow more crops than they can handle and quality of life over quantity of it is emphasized all over the place. Those who have more children than they can handle are considered to be worse than unbelievers. As for sex for procreation, well that's not the big deal. Couples are encouraged to have sex for fun and pregnant women and those who are barred are not prohibited from enjoying the deed. Solomon's songs speak of lustful desires, of adoration. Procreation is not mentioned.
It comes as no real surprise that the Duggar family has reproduced on a more frequent basis since they were featured on television in spite of the fact that each additional pregnancy has become more dangerous for Michelle and her babies. She has had several Cesarean Sections and dangerous pregnancies.. Michelle Duggar is a fantastic mother, but it is more than obvious that her girl children carry an incredible load that is involuntary, their jobs dictated solely by their gender and order of birth. The arrangement of marriage and dating prohibitions for their offspring are hypocritical . The idea of having so many children to start a Christian army smacks of things we find abhorrent about other selected religions. And patriarchy and all of its evils in the name of a book written by man sounds more like radical Islam than modern Christianity.
Forcing a restrictive cult-like lifestyle on children like the Quiverfull movement already has its outspoken opponents who have been victimized by institutional misogyny. The women who choose to leave are met with scorn and have confused relationships with their God. They feel guilty for bringing so many children into an overpopulated world and for raising their daughters to be spineless. The women who see Michelle Duggar as the perfect representation feel overwhelmed and inadequate .
Michelle and Jim Duggar were not raised in Quiverfull families but are raising an entire generation of girls to believe they are second-class citizens. I knew a family like this when I was a kid. The overly submissive wife was forced to bear an increasing number of children even after it was clear that her mental and physical health were deteriorating. The daughters had the same zombielike air that the Duggar girls have. They were one strange family that came to a sad end when the wife died as the result of having more children than her body could handle.
Trying to live a life based on one that gave women a life expectancy of 30 is not clever or fabulous. It is a recipe for disaster and just because one family became famous for engaging in it doesn't mean that we should follow the example. Michelle Duggar needs to stop risking her life bringing more babies in the world and focus on being the best mother possible to the ones that are already alive. And us as people need to stop encouraging women to view themselves as uteri on legs. Every society that devalues women has been met with destruction and we cannot look upon one woman-hating society while encouraging another.
Reality is not a show.
Here's an interesting website founded by a woman who left. Take a wander around. some of the guest posts are incredible.