…And Counting.

The Duggars are having their 19th child. I told two people at work about this, and both independently responded, “ew.”

I grew up in Arkansas, where the Duggars live, and have had my share of encounters with, shall we say, non-mainstream Christians. The Quiverfull movement is its own special brand of weird, but I’m not sure it’s really all that different from the reasons other people have children, even normal amounts of them.

I do disagree with the notion by Double X’s Lauren Bans that Michelle Duggar had no choice in becoming a breeder. She introduces it at the end of her piece, almost as an afterthought, and I’m not sure where it comes from. As her co-blogger, Noreen Malone, pointed out, Mrs. Duggar chose to join the movement. There are all sorts of ways cultural forces work on oppressed groups, and just about every non-white and non-male in the South can count themselves among them, but I don’t see any hegemonic forces working on Mrs. Duggar to have dozens of children.

I know plenty of women who don’t believe the things about women that I believe about women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re deluded. At some point, women are allowed to choose that their role in life is producing babies, right?

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27 thoughts on “…And Counting.

  1. shani-o September 3, 2009 at 12:45 pm Reply

    I have no beef with Michelle having babies. And the ‘ew’ reactions seem really immature to me. I actually like the fact that she seems to be pretty content.

    But the Duggars’ message of total self-sufficiency rubs me the wrong way because they are getting paid from all the TLC/Discovery specials.

    • G.D. September 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm Reply

      why ‘immature’?

  2. Leigh September 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm Reply

    I’m not above the “ew.” Disgust comes to mind.

  3. Scipio Africanus September 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm Reply

    Can you imagine Thanksgiving at chez Duggard in, like, 40 years?

    I’m not going to read that article, but is he a farmer or something? How can you afford that many children? Laundry must be a daily project.

  4. Molly September 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm Reply

    It is wrong to use that much of the world’s resources with just one family. And it is unfortunate that what is considered worthy of a TLC show for this family would may not be for a family with different circumstances (would their situation be as palatable for mainstream audiences if they were less affluent? if some children had different fathers? etc). I agree that she chose that path and that she was *forced* into this position, though sexism is so complicated–and southern female subjugation is so subtle that it is hard to see where the individual woman chooses her fate and doesn’t. I have been thinking about this a lot lately–about how “busy” southern women are with matters of the home: every woman I know where I live sleeps very few hours and has a constant slew of tasks to attend to, with no real male assistance. I dont know if this leaves room for self-reflection (particularly in cultures that believe in faith over psychology). I suspect Mrs. Duggar walks relatively blindly through life and her role as really nothing more than a vessel and a caretaker is nothing she has put that much time into thinking about. I also suspect that she doesnt have very many first-hand role models for alternative ways of living.

    • Molly September 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm Reply

      …for this family *may* not be…

      • Leigh September 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm Reply

        Looking at the ratio of boys to girls, I also suspect she has even less help than she would otherwise if she had more daughters. I’ve never watched the show – I assume traditional gender roles are enforced among the kids too?

        • Molly September 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm Reply

          It is pretty safe to assume–also, scroll down to the “How did Josh & Anna Meet?” portion on this wedsite for Josh (a Duggar son) and Anna Duggar (his wife), where Josh, discusses the difference between men and women: http://www.ja20.com/ourstory.html

    • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm Reply

      I completely agree with you, and I think those influences make a difference in like, the “choice” about whether or not to have kids, which isn’t a choice at all. The women I knew growing up and some of my peers now earn the most money and do all the household chores, but submit to the idea that their husband is the active decision-maker for the household, etc. With this extreme though, I don’t know. I don’t know that she had anything like a real choice between become Mom Duggar or Duggar the President, but I think she had a choice between an average family and this.

      • Molly September 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm Reply

        okay, I read her statement on their blog and the chaos of so many children seems to be her basis for metaphysical connection (I am too frazzled myself today to figure out whether or not this makes any sense)…so it seems that she is really vested in this, and must have chosen it if it is so unbelievably central to her life…

    • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm Reply

      And while I’ve never watched the show, the Duggars do both seem to be really active parents, whether they enforce traditional gender roles or not. I’m not sure about the mummy thing. Plus I don’t know if it’s fair. I go through some of my days relatively blindly.

      • Molly September 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm Reply

        what do you mean by the “mummy thing”? I would be really surprised if theirs was not a traditional relationship, and he is not a stay-at-home dad–in fact, he has served as a state legislator, ran for a national office and works another job, so I assume (unless they have help) she does the majority of the work.

        • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm Reply

          I meant that I don’t know whether she walks around like a mummy. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

          I would be surprised if their gender roles weren’t prescribed by their faith, but I don’t know, I would stop short of assuming things about his role.

          • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm Reply

            Sorry, I meant “weren’t.”

            • Molly September 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm Reply

              oh, it wudn’t clear…

          • Molly September 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm Reply

            LOL, mummy…good point; I shouldnt over-speculate about their lifestyle–what do I know about being a religious extremist ultimately? I am sure there are a ton of inconsistencies that occur when credo and human nature dont jibe. I was taking what I have observed and projecting it onto their situation, but it works for them somehow because they are still together. As a woman, I know what it feels like to do things that are expected of women without really thinking, and I know that when I make self-realized decisions that serve me as an individual, I look back at decisions I made that didnt serve me–that were really a function of sexism and cultural memes–and feel like I was blind or in some sort of walking coma. I have heart other people talk about making decisions based on what the -ism that guided them prescribed, and it sounds similar. I assumed that is what it feels like to wake up to too many children, in rural Arkansas, on reality television, married to a right-wing zealot…

            • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm Reply

              Yeah don’t get me wrong, it would totally be hell for me. Except that where they live in Arkansas is a really beautiful place.

              • Molly September 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm Reply

                Yes, what is it about weird cultish lifestyles and beautiful rural real estate? 🙂

                • quadmoniker September 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm Reply

                  I know. I hope beautiful real estate doesn’t cause it, because there go my plans to move to an island and drink bacardi all day.

                  • Molly September 3, 2009 at 4:34 pm Reply

                    My fingers are crossed…especially because I have heard that it is a challenge to attend to a dozen-plus children while drinking bacardi all day…

      • Leigh September 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm Reply

        How could they not be active parents w/all those children? I think that’s rhetorical on my part… 🙂

  5. ladyfresh September 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm Reply

    I admit my first reaction is disgust as well.

    I’m not sure why, i’m not familiar with the show (i’m reading here that it’s a show apparently).

    I guess the picture maybe a good starting point. It looks like a stepford brady bunch. Although those ‘woolworth’ family photo rarely turn out well and are more amusing in hindsight (shudders at her old woolworth shots) I guess it’s as good of a representation as any at what maybe turning me off. It doesn’t look real it seems phoney.

    Mind you my mother has 12 some odd brothers and sisters (all in another country) and my father has 8, half in NY half down south. Yet im an only child (half sister not withstanding) so it seems a bit of an alien concept oddly…but it can’t simply be the sheer number of children that is turning me off.

    Maybe it’s my assumed power imbalance…though you say she chose this.

    Maybe it’s all the mormon cult specials that pop up…though they aren’t mormons nor a cult (are they?)

    I’m going to have to think this over a bit more because you seem to have hit a prejudice that i’m not clear why or how it got there.

    • Leigh September 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm Reply

      I’m an only child too! Whee!!

      I can’t divorce their family with their reality stardom and for me it’s simplistic digust of “look at us (society) loving on this good, white Christian family!” Ugh, spare me.

      Though maybe the joke’s on them – we’re watching them raptly because they’re crazy outliers? Wingnuts? I don’t know exactly how or why they got their own show, but they are in the prime time line-up with a show about little people too, aren’t they? So is this like our 21st century version of the traveling freak shows from the past? Quiverfull families, little people, morbidly obese folks confined to their beds, etc. Greatest show in town!

      Either way, the subordinate wife (choice is irrelevant here, I think…) submitting to her husband and prioritizing extreme reproduction in God’s name just offends/repels me.

    • Leigh September 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm Reply

      PS: But my parents only have 10 siblings b/w them.

  6. glory September 12, 2009 at 11:08 am Reply

    Am I just naive in thinking then, that this is just what she wanted? That if she wants to have a 19th child with her husband and they can take care of it, so be it? Yeah they have the TV specials and shows, but before that they were feeding, clothing, and housing their own kids. If they’re using TLC for more income, I can’t hate the game. It’s doesn’t seem like they had/are having the kids for exploitation purposes. My reaction isn’t “eww.” It’s pretty much just, “So?” It doesn’t offend me that they live this way because it’s what they believe, ’cause what they believe doesn’t have anything to do with me. It doesn’t affect me. (I’m not concerned by the resources they use up any more than I’m concerned about the resources others use up, and I think, because of finances, they’ve probably had to be more conscientious about resources than your average 2.5 kid family. And how miscellaneous a concern is that, anyway?)

    How can we be presumptuous enough to assume that she didn’t want this, and that deep inside her, there’s someone who’d rather not be in her position, and who would rather be off doing something else “progressive” – not pregnant, not mothering a multitude? It’s like writing off her intelligence and autonomy just because her experiences are so far removed from our own. It seems folks are assuming she’s too simple to know she could do something else, or that she’s just blinded to those possibilities by a culture or faith that only wants to oppress her and keep her barefoot and pregnant so that her husband can feel superior or something like that. That is so disrespectful, in my view, to assume these things about her. I don’t have to share her beliefs to respect them. Some women find mothering to be the highest calling, and it appears she’s one of them. I find her reasoning irrelevant so long as it doesn’t involve abuse by someone else. She’s an adult, and she knows what’s out there in the world. She chose that faith, that marriage, and that motherhood over the other things she knows are available to her.

    I find myself thinking this more often lately – as I understand it, the whole thing about the choice feminism demands is that it actually involves respecting the choice a woman makes. This is equally as applicable when the choice is to mother as it is when the choice is to run for president or become partner in a law firm.

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