Perfect Recipe for Sustaining the Patriarchy, Compliments of God

I am American by birth.  And I admit it, I have American Christian Fundamentalist Weirdos in my family (henceforth AFCWs). I never knew much about them or their beliefs (my parents, thankfully, are weird in a mainstream secular way), except that they have a bazillion children, they homeschool, their children weren’t allowed to date, and when I was a child I remember the daughters being scolded for not playing like ‘proper young ladies’ (while playing with me, of course). I did attend the wedding of the eldest of the bazillion children. The preacher referred to nonbelievers as “THE WORLD” and believers as “us”; and one of the wife’s vows was to be “teachable”.

When I recently attempted to describe their weirdness to a friend (I do this often; everyone I know has heard about my AFCWs), said friend replied “Quiverfull! Vagina clown car!” And no, she wasn’t suffering a psychotic episode. I’ll explain the last first:

The Duggars, who now apparently have many more children, and their own television programme in America
The Duggars, who now apparently have many more children, and their own television programme in America

And then the first: Quiverfull, as I have now learnt, is the cross-denominational funamentalist movement to which my AFCWs apparently belong. It’s also charmingly known as “The Christian Patriarchy Movement”. Kathryn Joyce, who’s just written a book on the nutters called Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement has a nice article now on Joyce writes

Shunning all forms of birth control, Quiverfull women accept as many children as God gives them as a demonstration of their radical faith and obedience as well as a means to advance his kingdom: winning the country for Christ by having more children than their adversaries. This self-proclaimed “patriarchy” movement, which likely numbers in the tens of thousands but which is growing exponentially, bases its arguments on Psalm 127: [I won’t bore you; it’s here].

Pride [author of the quiverfull handbook, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality] told Christians to reject women’s liberation in exchange for the principles of submissive wifehood and prolific stay-at-home motherhood.

To summarise, and to explain the title of this post, I’ve compiled a helpful bullet-point list of core ideas within the Quiverfull movement.

•    No birth control—not even so-called natural family planning
•    Have many children to people the earth with christians
•    Home schooling (for example; mother does the homeschooling, of course)
•    Submission to husband; man is dominant in all things (it’s even explicitly a feature of the movement that men are to be in control in bed)
•    “natural” childbirth; extra credit for home births; double extra credit for unassisted home births (if you die in childbirth, God will provide for your children; you will be, essentially, a martyr)
•     Work, socialise, etc, within the Quiverfull community (this applies especially to the children; “Dare to Shelter” is a motto of the homeschooling branch of the movement); shun mainstream media, television, etc. The most committed Quiverfullers even “home church”
•    Explicitly anti-feminist: feminism is not compatible with biblical teachings.

And if you’re even a little bit clever, you can surely see how perfect the plan is. Women are exclusively in the private home; submissive to their husbands; pregnant, postpartum, looking after babies or all of the above for most of their adult lives; working as full-time primary- and secondary-school teachers for no pay on top of being pregnant and looking after babies. These women will have no face whatsoever in the public world, even in public religion, save that of their husbands: even if they weren’t (pardon my French) fecking knackered, they wouldn’t be allowed to.

And what if she tries to flee this unhappy fate? Kathryn Joyce gives a link to the blog of two women who have done just that. The short answer is: she’s screwed. She’s shunned by her community; she’s penniless; she’s homeless; she has no work experience nor references; quite likely she loses her children.

But it’s better than that! The children, of course, have no exposure to competing world-views, receive no formal education, and no sex education at all. So they inevitably follow suit. The daughters disappear almost instantly. Barred from being educated or taking up meaningful employment, their only choice is to marry, and they’re of course under heavy pressure from their families to marry within the faith. And the sons, at least largely reliant on the AFCW community for their livelihood*, readily marry and make good Quiverfull women of their new wives, disappearing women from the outside population by marriage**. Original woman + 8-12 offspring women + 8-12 offspring women for each of the 8-12 offspring + etc. You can do the maths.  POOF! Hundreds of women erased, all by way of the original AFCW couple, and all in the name of God.

As an American expat, I find it an interesting question just why AFCW groups like this thrive in America***. America is so modern and progressive in so many ways; so why is a woman-hating fringe religious movement like this growing in popularity there in the 21st century? You might be tempted to give an answer like “America values freedom of expression”. But I don’t think this explains it. It might surprise many Americans to learn that America, on this front, is really not much different to the rest of the western world. (It’s true! Surprise!) An interesting counter-theory was put to me as I was reading up on the Quiverfull movement: maybe a cult like this can survive and thrive in America because there is no welfare state. A disillusioned Quiverfull wife or daughter simply wouldn’t be trapped in the same way in, for example, the UK, because if she left, the state would provide her with job training, unemployment benefit, state housing, etc. In America, the same disillusioned woman would simply be stuck. What do you think?

NB. My tone is quite harsh in describing these people, I realise. And while that may be perfectly appropriate in one sense, it may by that taking such a harsh attitude towards them puts up an additional barrier for women trying to get out of this cult. So I think it’s important to say that, IMO, organised religions are powerful enough to brainwash *anyone* who happens to stumble into just the wrong circumstances, and women who have so stumbled are victims who can and should be respected and supported in their escape.

*This is how it goes in my family, for sure. It’s not clear to me whether my family is an especially extreme example, and perhaps other Quiverfull children are allowed to go into “mainstream” employment.

**The wife of my eldest cousin was “going to be a doctor” when she married into the family at the age of 20. Ten years later she is homeschooling 5 children (5? or 4, I can’t remember) and hasn’t completed even a bachelor’s degree.

***FYI they don’t in the rest of the Western world. I know, I know, you the American find it hard to believe. But it’s true. In the developed world, this is a uniquely American phenomenon. (Thanks Jender and Mr lp for input and info.)

47 thoughts on “Perfect Recipe for Sustaining the Patriarchy, Compliments of God

  1. Fascinating and deeply disturbing, elp. What a thing to discover about one’s relatives! Sounds like you’ve had a lucky escape. The explanation for the flourishing of cults like this in the US seems plausible to me. I wonder if the general religiosity in the US is also a result of lack of support structures other than religious ones. If the church is the only place that will help you when you’re down on your luck, no wonder so many Americans are so religious.

  2. jender, yes for sure. my first exposure to honest-to-goodness religious decent was (shudder to think) not until university. a very irreverent (and tenured) western civilization prof had us read a story from the brothers karamazov called ‘the grand inquisitor’. one of the main themes of it is the power that the church has by way of doing things like feeding the hungry. but they don’t just feed in america, do they? they house; support socially; train and employ; etc etc.

  3. And what, pray tell, do the males in this group do while the womenfolk are busy being pregnant, giving birth, recovering from the afore mentioned activities, nursing babies and cooking and cleaning and doing laundry for children and their menfolk, teaching all the kiddos of various ages and intellectual abilities (teaching them what?), caring for their sick children, sewing those little identical dresses and suits, kowtowing to the high-and-mighty males (including in bed), etc, etc? It boggles the mind and boils my blood.

    The phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” comes to mind….anybody remember who said/wrote that one? – OK, I just googled it and it was (gasp!) a man who said it – Lord Acton in 1887. Some things don’t change….

  4. elp, it sounds almost like science fiction! “My family in the twilight zone.”
    I’m not sure how many of the mainstream religions house, support, employ, etc.
    There’s been an interesting and really frustratingly disappointing saga in Texas over a sect that split from the Mormon church in the 1930’s or so. It’s polygamous, women are “baby factories,” etc. Quite young women/girls are married off to old guys, who have many wives. This all led to a raid on the sect for child abuse. The idea was that the women and children would be saved. It turns out that they were furious, did’t want to be saved and hated the interference.
    The leader, Jeffs, has been jailed and I recently heard a talk by the guy who is trying to sort out the members’ finances. Among other things, Jeffs said no one could own their homes, so this man is trying to restore home ownership to people. And they are dissenters who want ownership of their homes, but a lot of others most certainly do not, thank you very much.
    It reminds me of an editorial I recently read in the Guardian about Britain’s attempts to save sex workers from exploitation, where insiders and outsiders may have quite different takes, in some instances. The situations are enormously complex and varied, and the factors that hold people in place may also vary a great deal. Nonetheless, in the religious case, it’s a good guess that consent is based in part on an inability to understand the alternatives. There’s got to be an intertwined conjunction ofstructural and psychological factors to produce this all.

  5. It is much worst than in the time of my grandmother; she had 14 children but she lived in Portugal a subdevelloped country by the time, was poor educated and probably she did’n know how to avoid . In our time as you say is the perfect recipe for sustaining the patriarchy , so our job must be to fight against it with all our energy and denounce all forms that it assumes, sometimes these forms ar very subtle and women are easy victims.

  6. The Duggar family now has eighteen children–the most recent was born in December, 2008, by cesarian section. (Sidenote: Every single child, male and female, has a first name starting with “J”, presumably because the father’s name starts with “J” [Jim-Bob, if you can believe it].)

    What I think is worrying is that many who watch the Duggars’ tv show are enamoured of how “well-behaved” the children are, and how much “love” the family manifests. That is, the fact that the children are not obviously suffering is taken as evidence that there is nothing wrong with the family’s beliefs and behavior. The girls in the family (who are in the minority) do all the cooking for all twenty of them, and most of the cleaning. Not one of the children has any education beyond what the mother has provided. Try to imagine how you educate a brood that large, and provide any intellectual stimulation for them.

  7. I made the mistake of reading the website of the eldest son in the Duggar family and his soon-to-be slave (oops, wife) a while back. I had already known that on their wedding day they had never even kissed, but reading their site you also realize they’ve never even been alone for more than like 10 minutes (how the heck do you know if you even like someone that way?)
    Also, in the section explaining how the ended up engaged, every step of the way has statements like “I felt like I wanted her to be my future wife, and so I asked God what I should do and immediately he answered that I should go for it”. There is like 10 examples where they confuse making your own decisions for having God tell you directly what to do. It was absolutely ridiculous.

  8. jj: this american life did a piece where the accountant who has been put in charge of the assets of [whatever jeffs’s sect was called] tells his story. it’s very gripping. (i downloaded it as a podcast.) he’s very insistent that, if they want to get the deed to their houses and then give them right back (which is what the elders are insisting everyone will do) then so be it; but at least he’ll have given them a chance to do otherwise. he also talks about how, since these people have taken over entire towns, he’s experienced police intimidation, etc, along the way. amazing stuff.

    introvertica: the worry we’re not mentioning, on top of the sheer impossibility of meeting the educational needs of that many children in that sort of setting, is that i suspect most of these mothers are themselves not well educated. it’s not as if all of these Quiverfull women are taking it as their duty to get a degree in education before they marry.

    michelle: if my family is any evidence, it seems to be an *excellent* way to get kids to marry and start having babies very young. (if you have to marry just to hold hands…) and i suppose that’s exactly the point.

  9. Thanks for your story. I often wonder what becomes of most of the children from this type of family. What about your siblings? Do most of them have large families are most of them like you come out and do their own thing?

  10. suzanne, it isn’t my immediate family who are into this (thank god). but of the children, about 6, i think, are still at home. the other 5 are all married and following in mum & dad’s footsteps. one of the daughters got a normal job and moved out when she was 18. things looked good for her becoming a free woman. but (no surprise) she’s on baby number two in her very early 20s. so it would be unsurprising if she were pulled back into it all. (last i heard she *is* still working, in a skilled trade. which is a *huge* deal, imo. so, knock wood.)

  11. I think we have to be very careful in discussing movements like this; the success of the Quiverfull movement has been heavily driven by women who do not, at the beginning of their involvement, feel that there is any better option open to them — and among the options they feel aren’t doing anything for them, feminism is often explicitly on the table. People have noted the irony of the fact that it was essentially a woman-founded movement, deriving from, and sustained by, the ideas of people like Nancy Campbell or Mary Pride; it is, in fact, a result of the rise of the phenomenon of ‘ex-feminists’, women, often professional women, who came to feel, for whatever reasons, that feminism was just a set of empty promises, or that it was serving an agenda that had nothing to do with them, or that feminism had made itself ruthlessly incompatible with things they value highly, or some other such thing. The pattern noted by Vyckie in a post on the blog linked to in the post, where she was the one who was pushing Quiverfull ideas in an attempt to make her husband more responsible and more of a leader, is extremely common. And the worrying thing about it, of course, is that noted by extendedlp: now it seems to build relatively self-sustaining cycles that trap the daughters of those women (or those same women when they come to be disillusioned with the movement).

  12. brandon, i think these are all good points. like i say, i think it could suck in anyone who was at the wrong place at the right time; and not having any options for making your own way in life definitely puts you in the wrong place.

    i don’t think there’s a real worry of feeding the problem by being too critical. (i take it that’s your worry with how it’s talked about, yes?) i think people in these communities need to know, first off, that the rest of the world doesn’t think that the way they’re treated is okay. an analogy (again saying way too much about my family life): i grew up in the midwest, and as a young adult, hearing feminists saying that it’s not okay for women to be treated the ways they were every day in my community; that it’s not okay that my options should be more limited or that expectations on me should be different to that of my brother; that it is okay that i don’t neatly fit proscribed gender norms, and so on, was the difference between me feeling suicidally depressed and thinking there was something wrong with me, and me feeling motivated to seek change, and knowing that the wrongness lay in my backwater community (and i’m a perfectly worthwhile human being!!).

    i think these quiverfull women probably don’t hear many voices saying ‘it’s not okay for men to treat you that way’. and i feel confident that’s the first thing that’d have to happen, for most of them, in order that they should break out.

  13. elp, I think it was on This American Life that I heard about the lawyer. I do think one needs to remember that getting any of those people the deed to their house is in fact quite expensive, and that’s one reason why the sect members were angry.

    There are other things keeping people in line, as it were. There are all sorts of people who consent to a lowly position in a restrictive hierarchy, in part perhaps because of indoctrination, but also some people like that structure. Feminists who tried to resist and replace patriarchal hierarchies are not going to strike all women as doing a good thing. It might be like trying to take a child out of an abusive home; for some children and maybe many that can be terrifying because that structure is the only one in their lives.

    elp – you are really right: they need to hear they deserve better.

  14. I just goggled “Duggars” and went to their site’s photos. Those pictures reek of money! They have a huge house with a built in playground (if I gathered this correctly, the slideshow is too fast to read everything). Where do they get all that money?!? (According to wiki, they own commercial property…).

    The documentary “Jesus Camp,” shows what the kids learn in home schooling: The earth is about 6000 years old. Evolution is a joke since humans were really created by God. Basically, a ton of brainwashing…

    I don’t think that this happens only in the US – take a look at the Islamic countries. However, in the Western world, the US is rather unique in producing an absurd amount of religious fundamentalists who somehow got mentally stuck in the pre-Enlightenment era. Your suggestion that this might have to do with the lack of a social net is the most plausible explanation I’ve heard so far but that just raises another question: Why is there no social net? I find both questions especially mind-boggling because our Northern neighbors, the Canadians, are so different.

  15. rachel: i assumed they were paid for the cable television show they’re on. no? also, tho, aren’t they way out nowhere in nebraska or something? land is cheap there. but yes quite: this does happen in other countries; like you say it just doesn’t (so far as i know) happen in other western countries. (i think the founding fathers made a bargain with canada: we’ll take the warm south and you can have the brains.)

  16. jj, you’re quite right. there’s something better-the-devil-you-know about it all. women who “like” this sort of treatment always make me think of patty hurst: just too terrified and brainwashed and hopeless to do anything but endorse their own oppression and fight for basic stability.

  17. extendedlp, somehow it feels as if there is something incomplete or even mistaken about that description if it is applied to Michelle Dugger rather than to Patty Hurst. I think there may be something deeply satisfying about parts of the lives of women like Michelle Dugger that helps them to tolerate or even ignore the unsatisfying parts. There IS a kind of power and reward in having children and caring for them and raising them. There IS a kind of joy in having a close and loving family. And if one is constantly having more children, then there is always a new challenge being created, and the question, “What am I doing and why?” gets postponed again for the immediate bliss of nursing a newborn. By the time Michelle Dugger hits menopause she will have grandchildren, perhaps many of them, and so the rewards she gets from mothering will be extended.

    I am not, of course, endorsing her life, but I am saying she is not merely brainwashed. (The situation of her daughters may be different, however. Michelle Dugger was not raised in this life, but took it on, as an adult, along with Jim-Bob. [That’s my understanding, anyway.] The daughters, of course, have not lived any other life. Though I do wonder whether the effects of starring in a reality show may suggest to at least some of them that other life paths are conceivable.)

  18. Is the husband of your sister that is young and has 2 kids on the mindset of this movement? Were your parents followers of Bill Gothard. Years ago when I was in my 20’s in the early 70’s I was away from home living in another state and working as a school teacher in a Christian school. I was treated well and respected till the principal of the school went to a Bith Gothard Basic Youth Conference and came back and made me so miserable that I returned home.

    I met up with him years later and he asked me what I was doing and I said that I was teaching in a public school and living with my mom. He said he turned on me to make me move back home. The funny thing is my mom was a single mother and I bought a home and mom was living with me. I did not get married till I was 36 and I had by then more education and job history than the man I married. We ended up adopting one child and now she is on her own at age 18. I homeschooled my daughter but I was not part of any of this movement. Many in our homeschool group believed in courting but all of the girls wore pants and were preparing for careers. None of them were into AIT, and most likely they never heard of Bill Gothard.

  19. The Duggars basically built the house themselves. They did have TLC help them finish it as they were already out of the house they owned and were in a rental as it took over 3 years to finish the house. They did a show showing TLC helping them finish the house and I think they got about $25 for making the show which helped them finsih the house. But make no mistake this family is not depending on the show for their lifestyle as they have learned to buy as they have money for cash.

    They are debt free and basically live off the money they get for renting out their rental property and having some cell phone towers on their property. They do without till they have the money to pay cash and they buy most of their possessions second hand and save the difference.

  20. I made a mistake the Duggars got about $25,000 for making a show when they finished their house. They use to do specials one or two times a year before they had a regular show. I think Mr. Duggar is just a good businessman and he and his wife worked together before they started to have kids. They were married 5 years before they started a family and only started to stop taking the pill after the first miscarriage after their first child was born. The doctor told them they had the miscarriage cause of Michelle being on the pill.

    Some of you talk like this type of life is absolutely misearable for all women. I wonder if this is really true. The party who started this forum and came from such a house is your mother happy or have any joy in her life? What about your sisters that are still in the movement? I really think that Mrs. Duggar is happy and the girls look happy too. I think a lot depends on the husband and father. If he is overbearing and the controlling type it would be miserable. But i think you can have this type of lifestyle and all be content depending on the “controll” factor. Like I expressed in my experience with this principal it ended up meserable for me. He had control issues and he found an organization under Bill Gothard that gave him the liscense to control women. He was drawn to them cause of his own issues. However, if he was not a man that needed to have so much control he may not have succum to the tatics he did with me and other single women as he bragged that time we got together years later that he did the same to several other women he employed. I could not understand that if he really felt they needed to be home wiht their parents instead of having a job with him why did he hire them int he first place? To play with their emotions? That was one of the worse things that I ever experienced.

  21. I had to look up clown car as it is vernacular I was unfamiliar with. And yes, a vagina is not a clown car.
    Women are not brood mares. The worth of a woman is not determined by the number of (male) offspring she can produce. This is what we Dutch call “kicking in a door that’s open”.
    I was struck with the similarity with the view on women in for instance Saudi Arabia (Rachel mentioned the similarity with the way some islamic cultures treated their women, too). I guess the fact that these women are trusted to be able to teach all the children, regardless of their gender, is actually flattering, comparatively.
    What struck me in the ideology of these QF Christians is the focus on us versus them, those QF people seem to think there area lot of “them” that that are not like the QF Christians and are therefore “enemies” and need to be battled, in this case with education deprived kids.
    I just can’t relate to this kind of thinking.

    Regarding that Warren Jeffs (WJ) icky stuff, I read that article in the New York Times on them (here). I reel at it. It is related in the sense that there is this element of reducing women to brood mares, but there seem to be some differences:
    * the WJ people are incestuous, the QF people don’t seem to be
    * the WJ people endorse child marriages of women (under 18) and this doesn’t seem to be the principle with the QF people
    * the QF people think it’s fine if a woman dies in child birth, the WJ people seem to care about the women a bit more
    * the QF people have many children as a weapon against enemies, this doesn’t seem the reason for the WJ people (who don’t like anyone else, but don’t see them as enemies, per se)

    Meh. It is all about pocket envy (tongue-in-cheek male equivalent theory of penis envy, read about it in one of my psychology textbooks once, but can’t find it at the moment, if anyone is interested I will do a more extensive search).

  22. There may be several different things going on here. I was surprised to learn of the idea that some people just do really, really like hierarchies, but it now seems to me that it is pretty clearly true. (How, in a childhood structured by a number of rigid hierarchies I missed the fact that someone just like structure, I cannot say. Perhaps I was overly impressed by the offered justifications.) That’s different from the Patty Hurst identification with one’s captors, which may itself be different from the much longer term blinkering that can go on in a doctrinaire family. Perhaps a variation on people who like hierarchies is people who learn to exploit them.
    I can remember too well my parochial grade school friend whose mother was rhesus negative, which meant then that only the first child would be carried to term. She had 13 miscarriages, because of course contraception was a sin and she was fulfilling God’s will, etc. I doubt she had any sense of being oppressed. The family said they had 13 special souls in heaven protecting them, which indeed sounded pretty good. If you cannot see yourself as oppressed, your take might be in fact quite happy.

  23. elp,

    I do agree that there isn’t a problem with feeding the problem by being too critical; rather, I think it is important to distinguish ‘woman-hating’ movements from movements that are detrimental to women (which may sometimes be partly driven by women who don’t, from where they stand, see any serious options). I think, in other words, that the movement is more properly regarded as symptomatic than the problem itself (although, as in medicine, severe symptoms can be dangerous in their own right); it’s more like a dangerous set of symptoms as the body tries to fight off a virus in a way that’s not appropriate to it than the virus itself. And while there’s obvious overlap in treatment, one’s overall approach to dangerous symptoms is different from one’s overall approach to dangerous viruses.

    I think, then, it’s worthwhile to ask what could be done to address the underlying problems — the sense of powerlessness combined with the feeling that feminism has nothing relevant to say to them — that lead women to be vulnerable to this sort of danger. For instance, I’ve talked with women who pretty clearly think that once they marry, or once they have children, feminism ceases to have anything to say that is relevant to their lives: feminist thought won’t help them raise their children or have happy marriages. I think this is definitely false, but I also think that the voices that carry in the echo chambers of our still not-very-feminist society are not usually voices giving actual, practical advice on (say) how to educate one’s children and how to raise daughters to stand up for themselves, or giving practical tips on how to build marriages (or partnerships) that are more equal. That the Quiverfull movement, and movements like it, exist, is entirely because these sorts of things aren’t reaching many women who could use precisely this sort of encouraging practical help from a feminist perspective. And I don’t think it’s because it doesn’t exist, since I know plenty of feminists who are married, or parents, or both; rather, it’s just plain not reaching people.

  24. Brandon, if I can just interject before I retire: when we think about all this, I think there are a lot of factors to be considered. One is that changing people’s attitudes and actions is very hard. Perhaps if one can offer pretty immediate and very visible rewards – or you can terrify them -you can get a group of people to undertake change. But it’s exceptionally difficult. When you start to look at the sorts of things that go on – e.g., advertisements for change put out by people pretty clueless about effective manipulation of opinion – you could despair.

    The second thing is that there are usually a huge number of factors against change. Just think of the American diet and the food industry’s advertisements. Or look at how uppity women get utterly vilified in the press.

  25. brandon, i completely agree that this is a symptom and not a cause. (tho i stick by my charge of woman-hating!) it’s an interesting question, then, why there are these very extreme symptoms happening in our society, where comparably modern *and comparably sexist* societies lack them. or is the rest of the west simply not as sexist? that doesn’t seem right to me, really.

    i can’t believe any woman would think that the relevance of feminism stops at marriage! that is, i do take you at your word, but it’s astounding to me. i feel like the relevance of the movement wasn’t really clear to me _until_ i married and had children. then all of these issues about equality in the workplace and in the home really came out of the woodwork. i think if women are thinking that feminism ends at the alter, they’ve got a pretty strange view of the movement.

    introvertica and jj: i should clarify. it’s my feeling that women who reject feminism–all women who reject feminism, not just these quiverfull women–have something of the patty hurst about them. women who insist they don’t want equality are siding with their oppressors. (and btw it’s not clear to me whether *men* are their oppressors, or society more largely is. so, don’t be too quick to take what i’m saying as a man-hating thing. take it as an oppression-hating thing.) and i suspect that they do it for many of the same reasons that patty hurst did. so yes, i don’t mean that quiverfull women in particular are patty hursts; i mean that anti-feminist women are displaying stockholm syndrom. (which is, of course, a grander claim, but perhaps one for which it’s easier to see the thinking.)

  26. For a start, I agree with jender when she says that it is the lack of support structures others than religious ones that explain the proliferation of cults and sects in America and give oportunity for movements like Quiverfull Movement . Here is a political problem that has solution, it will not be easy but it will be possible.
    I do not agree with Brandon. I think it is not the excess of feminism that explain the options of womem like Quiver women, I think precisely the contrary: they have no serious options, they have been indoctrinated, not educated.
    At last, I may diverge from Introvertica. Having so many chldren do not give them time and humour to think nothing at all they are full occupied and that is the intention.

  27. There is a religious sect not million miles away from this one in Finland too (and in other parts of northern Scandinavia). And people generally tend to think that’s pretty incredible with the (supposed) equality and all that in Scandinavian countries. So, in Finland people who are ‘lestaadiolaisia’ also
    o Have no birth control
    o Have as many children as possible with the explicit aim to fill the earth with Christians (though only their kinds of Christians, of course)
    o TV, radio, popular music, arts are forbidden
    o The kids go to school (so no home schooling) but get exempted from lots of activities that inform them about the ‘outside’
    o Wives tend to have jobs but since they also tend to have up to 20 kids (not kidding!), the generous maternity provisions in Finland mean they often work very little outside the home. (e.g. if you have a permanent job, your employer must keep your job and hire someone for the post for the duration of your maternity leave. I know of a number of cases where women from this sect go back to work for few months at a time and then take time off to have children again. Suffice to say a number of employers are unwilling to hire them because of their religion although discrimination on such grounds is illegitimate.)
    o Teaching about birth control is forbidden. This has caused commotion in Finland lately since some feminist organisations have been criticising the sect for depriving girls the opportunity to form their own minds about their way of life and claiming that this amounts to a human rights violation.
    o Divorce is granted if the wife is unable to bear (enough) children.
    o The people who live in areas with many such families talk of them as a kind of mafia: number of jobs and political offices get distributed according to sect membership.
    o If you leave the sect, you’ll be utterly ostracised. If you join from the ranks of the sinners, you’ll have to give up earlier family relations.

    Sorry for the rant but I think movements like these are not so unique to America. (PS. And I am an expat-Finn who doesn’t see the country as a haven of equality!)

  28. wow thanks for sharing btps. it sounds so similar! SO, now the task is to determine why this sort of thing happens in america and finland. hmm… any ideas?

  29. but btw, btps: is it the case that in finland these women would be provided for by the state were they to leave? because if that were so, it would seem to cause real trouble for the lack-of-welfare-state theory.

  30. elp: do you mean if they left their husbands or their jobs? In the latter case, it’s not so clear they’d be eligible for job seeker’ allowance (if you leave your job voluntarily for ‘no good reason’, the Finnish state tends to penalise you). But they would still get money from social security, free schooling, child support, etc. The same if they left their husbands.

    Also worth noting about Finnish child support: the parents of every child in Finland get money from the state until the child is 17. Currently, they get 100 Euros/month for the first child; 110,50/month for the second; 141,00/month for the third; 161,50/month for the fourth and 182/month for every further child under the age of 17. (This is tax free.) Don’t know the figures in UK but this strikes me as pretty generous.

  31. i meant if they left their husbands/the lifestyle. but anyway, i think what you’ve said pretty neatly debunks the no-welfare theory IF this sort of thing (the jesusy anti-woman cult) is actually prevalent in finland. so, is it big, or is it a wee tiny fringe thing? also, is it a new thing, or has it been around for a while? and are there other extreme religious sects like this in finland? (sorry to grill you! but i really thought our theory was a good one, so i want to make sure i’m not throwing in the towel too soon!)

  32. It’s very regional and in some areas certainly not a fringe movement. (Like in the area where I come that is its main hub, belonging to the sect is the norm, not an exception.) For instance, traditionally all the clergy men (*not* a slip of the tongue) in my area were from this sect – hearing of one that wasn’t was a source of amazement (and I don’t think I heard of one until I was about 15!) There are around 100 000 registered members and just over 5 million Finns. It was formed during the mid-1800 in Lapland by a Swedish priest who was deeply shocked by the Finnish/Lappish way of life. There was a lot of drinking, casual sex, pregnancies, poverty, general debauchery, etc. going on that Lestadius (the priest) sought to end with a kind extreme puritanism.

    A number of other extreme sects (that are in Finnish called ‘awakening movements’) were formed at the time roughly in the same regions in response to the same social problems, but this is the one that has survived the best as far as I know.

    In all fairness, there are now moderate practitioners of this sect. The main difference between them and the picture I’ve painted earlier is (a) the moderates come from south, the conservatives from north; and (b) the moderates don’t have the same attitude towards having to have lots of children. So, they might only have only 3 or 5 kids rather than 10+. But, must admit I don’t know much about the moderate version and from what I can tell from my region, the conservatives don’t really care for the moderates.

    (P.S. elp, when you talk about your AFCWs, it all sounds totally familiar to me!)

  33. Hi, adilia,

    It’s possible I might have misunderstood your criticism; but I don’t actually think this sort of movement gets its success from an excess of feminism but from the opposite: a deterioration of the feminism in society at the margins, which leads to women at those margins to conclude that feminism has nothing practical and relevant to offer them and that it is not a viable alternative. Most of the early (and sometimes still significant) voices of the Quiverfull movement were women who had not been indoctrinated by Quiverfull ideology, because they were the ones who created it.

  34. elp, it’s an interesting thought that all women who reject feminism are victims of the Stockholm syndrome, but it is an empirical question and seems to me probably false. E.g., there are large numbers of very woman-centered communities in the African American communities; some may reject feminism because of their religious views or values. Or for other cultural reasons, such as perceiving feminism as addressingissues in middle-class white terms. Other women may shrewdly calculate they’ll get more by going along with the system than fighting it – maybe somewhat in the way that some battered women choose to stay because they’re pretty sure they’ll be killed or at least financially ruined if they leave. Others may not have the imagination to reimagine their lives – it certainly took me some time and I probably had a good setting for doing it.

    Or not. But I’d be carefully about think that something with a unified political description (going along with the patriarchy) has a unified and generally shared psychological cause.

  35. jj: yes, i think what you say is probably quite right. (altho it seems possible that the behaviour exhibited in stockholm syndrome arises from a multitude of triggers, no? i get the feeling you would know more about this than i would.) as descriptive of the behaviour, perhaps–rather than as a clinical explanation for it–it seems more apt.

  36. Mr J proposes that isolation is the key– both Finland and the parts of the US where this sort of thing thrive have some very isolated rural communities. Without isolation, it is much easier to be exposed to other ways of life, and much easier to escape a life that is oppressive. That might explain why this sort of thing doesn’t, for example, thrive in England. OK, bring me your counterexamples now! ;)

  37. elp, I don’t know much about the Stockholm Syndrome, but there is a huge range of cases where a person can act supportively toward a more powerful person who doesn’t fully recognize or act on their rights. Thesis supervisors, celebrities, politically power people can get caring reactions while still being really pretty horrible. Similarly, perhaps, difficult boyfriends or partners. The Stpckholm Syndrome seems to apply when a person reacts to pretty bad abuse by denying their real identity or acting against interests which are in some ways their own long terms values. E.g., Hedda Nussbaum who let Joel Feinberg basically abuse and perhaps kill their adopted children, Elizabeth Stark who denied who she was when first approached by police, or Patty Hearst robbing banks. I’m not sure that Elizabeth Smart is on any simple continuum with people who defend the somewhat rude and irresponsible ways “the great man,” their supervisor, treats them. My guess would be that non-feminist women are probably a similarly very diverse group.

  38. It certainly seems to me that many women in the Finnish context stay because leaving would mean being entirely ostracized from one’s community. But, it is worth noting couple of things that make the situation even more complex and don’t really fit the Stockholm syndrome explanation, as far as I can tell.

    First, since we lived in an area populated by the sect, many of the other kids in my class were from the sect, lived near me, etc and we would all play together. However, whenever we played in my house, the sect kids were obsessed about watching TV (because that’s banned in their homes). So, in a sense, they aren’t entirely cut off from outer world although certainly have a restricted access.

    Second, most sect teenagers also go through an Amish-like Devil’s playground ‘year out’ (go drinking, going out, etc), but I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t gone back to the sect in the end with *a lot* of guilt. (My dad always recalls how, having had to move a way from home to go to school at the age of 16, he ended up sharing a room with a sect member – now a Finnish MP with 20 kids – who’d go on massive benders only to return home to pray for hours on end for forgiveness.) Sounds to me more of indoctrination and of having a deep seated fear of hell that keeps you straight and narrow. (The sect have a much harsher conception of God than the standard Finnish Lutheran Church. God, for them, is not a benevolent ‘big brother’.)

  39. hello epl, btps, jender jj et al. Thanks for this post and the discussion – been away, but I enjoyed catching up!

    I think that on the matter of why people stick with the cults – even after exposure to different (non-cultish) way of lives – it is important to distinguish ‘being cut off’ from other ideas (which I guess few people are) and ‘having your whole social and support network’ dependent upon remaining in the sect (which I think is morelikely the case in explaining why people stay).

    I imagine isolation in terms of alternative sources of support, rather than ideas about how else to live, plays a big role in limiting exit options.

  40. Hi Brandon
    When you write that there is «the feeling that feminism has nothing to say to them… », I would like to call your atention to the fact that this is precisely what « a still not a very feminist society» want us to feel. Then there is always indoctrination, by the Media, the Politics, even by the scientific society. The power in these diferents fields is yet in the hands of men and sometimes they have an interest in spreading some ideias instead of others.
    So it seems likely that even the women who create the Quiverfull ideology suffered indoctrination and an heavy one.

    I must apologize but English is not my mother tongue so I have some dificulties; still I am vary happy for the opportunity of enter in dialogue with yo.

  41. Hi, adília,

    That makes sense, and I see better what you mean. I’m not convinced ‘indoctrination’ is quite the right word to describe it, but I’m also not sure of what would be a better word.

  42. amish people have a year out? really? i never knew. how odd! anyway yes, jj and btps, i agree it doesn’t neatly fit the mold. and i’m willing to admit that i don’t (at present) have a good argument for my stockholm syndrome claim. (okay okay, i don’t have a bad one, either.) but i just can’t help but think there’s something quite similar going on. but yes, i don’t have an argument. so i’ll agree with you that there’s no good reason (at present) to think these women have stockholm syndrome.

    btps: my AFCW relatives used to do the same thing at extended family holidays–right to the tv and stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed for as long as they possibly could. but i don’t think this really counts as having access to the wider world, because i know these kids went home and got *months* of anti-outside-world teaching to compensate for the 10 minutes of tv. (but also mine certainly weren’t allowed to play at the homes of non-AFCW children. they weren’t even allowed to come to extended family gatherings when i was a teenager, because we had an aunt who was cohabiting with a man who wasn’t her husband! perhaps your FCWs are more secure in the stability of their sect, and so don’t have to be so isolationist?)
    (jender, does btps’s children playing point kill mr jender’s isolation theory?)

  43. just want to stir the pot . .as where I live there’s a mennonite population that of all things does the above mentioned in this article but somehow manages to get tax free status from the government and contributes NOTHING to the community that it’s a part of

    don’t really know where I was going with that but your article reminded me of that. and also reminded me why religion in general is such a damaging tool for removing both logical and critical thinking.

  44. yeah it’s a screwjob and with these people multiplying like f-ing rabbits, the future of this country (and most likely the world) is basically screwed. yet another reason to NOT F-ING REPRODUCE! they can screw things up for THEIR children, not mine!

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