Odd that Westerners fear the patriarchal extremism of Islamic Sharia law, but tolerate or even praise the exact same principles when they are espoused by Christian extremists like the Duggar clan. How very strange.
There has been much flailing recently over revelations of Josh Duggar’s molestation of girls – some of them his own sisters – during his teen years.
Yes, it’s a crime that should have been handled better than it was. Yes, there is a lot of hypocrisy involved when a family earns their living partly by blasting the supposed sexual depravity and danger to children posed by folks like gays or trans people, while shielding their child-molesting son from law enforcement or professional intervention of any kind amid talk of how the whole dark episode brought the family closer to God, or some such drivel.
But there’s another lesson here, coming from those who have grown up in similar homes: extreme Christian fundamentalists like the Duggars treat their females just as horribly as a lot of the Muslim fundamentalists that we so fear and abhor. Sure, these Christians may not stone their wayward daughters to death, but they are just as restrictive, backward, and confining, and the way they treat their females has a direct bearing on the behavior of their males… because it has a direct bearing on what both males and females think about their place in the world: women submit to men.
I had never heard of the Quiverfull movement or the Christian Patriarchy movement, but the Duggars espouse the beliefs of such groups: men as protectors and providers. Women as homemakers and mothers, with no outside careers and limited education. Home schooling to “shelter” the children from outside beliefs or differing points of view. No dating, and parents play a large role in selecting husbands for their daughters. Essentially, girls have no choices in the matter of how to live their lives. In normal secular society, when a husband or partner isolates a woman and takes away her choices, we call it emotional abuse. When the Taliban does it, we call it an affront to human rights. But when extremist Christians do it, we call it freedom of religion. What the hell, people? How is this right?
How often do we speak of, say, Saudi Arabia with horror over their treatment of women? And yet, I actually knew some Saudi women who were more educated, had more choice in marriage, and had more business opportunities there, than these Christian girls have right here in the US. Check out this excellent explanation from Libby Anne, who grew up in a very similar family and is still, years later, trying to escape from that deeply inculcated mentality.
Then there is the little detail that girls who are not yet married are valued for one thing above all else: their sexual purity. Elizabeth Smart also grew up in a conservative religious community with that mentality, which only compounded the emotional damage done when she was kidnapped and raped as a child:
After that rape, I felt so dirty … can you imagine going back into a society where you are no longer of value? Where you are no longer as good as anybody else?” A teacher had likened women to chewed pieces of gum, and the image stuck with her. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
Who raises their daughters to feel this way? How is it that labeling this kind of mentality as “Christian” makes it acceptable? And how is it any different, in principle, from the treatment of women by such charming groups as ISIS?
If Sharia law, ISIS, and Islamic fundamentalism are anathema to the American way of life in the 21st century, so should this be.