An Open Letter to Hillary from Quivering Daughters

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on January 11, 2016.

Dear Hillary,

I don’t even know where to begin. You’ve grown and lived and thrived and your life journey is a beautiful work of art, it almost feels wrong to bring up Quivering Daughters even just to say thank you. But I’m not speaking just for me, when I say, sincerely, thank you for writing through your journey, for taking care of us as we left our families, for writing Quivering Daughters and leaving the blog up. Your tender heart and kind words were the gentle encouragement we needed to start moving forward ourselves. You didn’t judge and yet firmly confirmed that abuse was happening, that we weren’t wrong or broken for feeling how we did – you opened up the doors to healing for so many more of us than you know.

And I just really, truly, with all the warmth in the depths of my soul want to say thank you. Thank you for being the big sister so many of us needed, even though it was and is heart wrenching and hard and messy and exhausting. Thank you for moving forward in your own journey towards healing and showing us that it’s okay to embrace ourselves and make our life what we need it to be.

You are a beautiful human being and Quivering Daughters and now your art + life journey, mean so much to me, and so many of us.

Thank you. Thank you for being gentle and kind and healing. Thank you for lighting the way for so many more people than you realize.

Escapes and Rescues: A Call for Stories

By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editoral Team

Leaving any controlling system is messy.

But for many of us, getting out of a totalistic household required a literal escape, when guardians were away or with a large group of supportive friends.

Independence was discouraged. Freedom required a personal revolution.

Many of you have read the UnBoxing Project series recently crossposted on Homeschoolers Anonymous. The UnBoxing Project is the network Cynthia Jeub and I formed after we both left our dysfunctional households.

Since 2012, we’ve helped nine friends find new lives outside their cages.

But this isn’t just about our little group of friends in Colorado Springs. We’ve realized that we’re part of something much bigger. Informal networks like ours have formed in other states in other homeschool communities.

For our next open series, Homeschoolers Anonymous invites homeschool alumni to share their stories about leaving cults and controlling households.

Most of us never believed our own parents would bar our attempts to grow up and find freedom by emptying bank accounts, withholding identifying documentation, or taking away our means of transportation. Others were stalked by parents or fellow church members after leaving.

Some were kicked out by their parents because they wouldn’t comply with unreasonable demands.

We would like to hear your story.

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly. Please let us know your preference when you contact us.

* Deadline for “Escapes and Rescues” submissions: Friday, November 16, 2015. *

If you are interested in participating in this series, please email us at HA.EdTeam@gmail.com.

Please put “Escapes and Rescues” as the title of the email.

The Feminist Homemaker

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jay Morrison.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jeri Lofland’s blog Heresy in the Heartland. It was originally published on September 3, 2015.

“And what do you do?”

It’s an innocent question, neither nosy nor rude. One that pops up in the most casual of introductions all the time. And yet it can haunt some of us for hours afterward.

Why am I a stay-at-home mom?

I found myself mulling uneasily over this question after a conversation this summer exposed my own doubts and I got defensive. When I am uncertain, I tend to flounder and feel guilty. Should I want a career? Should I want to stay home?

When I was homeschooling, the justification was simple. I was already doing a “job”. (In hindsight, it’s apparent I wasn’t aware I had other options.) I have no regrets about those early years of pottytraining and naptimes and going to the park and teaching my little bookworms to read. Still, now that they’re older and in school all day, I’ve felt the need to rethink my reasons for not earning a paycheck.

My feminist values tell me that I need to be pulling my weight, that I should have the resources to support myself instead of being financially dependent on a relationship. I’m also afraid of perpetuating an outmoded patriarchal family model or unhealthy expectations of what a mom should look like.

However… not working does not automatically put me in the same category as Michelle Duggar. 🙂 And I’m privileged to know other ardent feminists who are unemployed, by choice, for various personal reasons. And so, I ponder.

As for expectations, my children see me pursuing knowledge and new skills. They see me involved in the community. They see me actively promoting equal rights for women. They see that Chris and I have independent interests and relationships. They know women working in a variety of fields. And they know every family operates by its own rules.

Chris and I have shed patriarchy gradually and embraced gender equality together. While there has been some shading and blending as we’ve adapted to these values, he remains our household’s breadwinner. And yet, we are a symbiotic team. We eat better food less expensively because I stay home and cook (our meals average $1.25/person!). He can focus on his career from eight to five and college classes on weekends because I can run the errands, take the cars for service, schedule appointments, shop, and sign the field trip forms. I can take classes, volunteer, exercise, help kids with homework, and cultivate supportive friendships because he brings in the income. And since he currently works at home, we get all kinds of extra moments during the day to connect as friends, freeing us to better focus on the kids when they are at home.

While extra income could ease some stresses, we are financially comfortable enough. If I worked part-time, my earnings would quickly diminish in higher food, fuel, and insurance bills. If I worked full-time, we would have more stress around daily school pick-ups and drop-offs. I would have much less time for the self-care that helps me manage my mental health. And instead of relaxed evenings together, we would have to pack all the laundry, shopping, organizing, and meal prep into that time slot.

To us, that time to just “be” after dinner and homework is worth more than we would gain if I went to work. It is a matter of what we value most this year. Our schedule and priorities are always evolving and we are open to change. But for now, we are savoring that closeness and flexibility.

On a personal level, overcoming years of emotional trauma and cult mind-control has been a long journey and there are still days when the demands of motherhood on top of that seem overwhelming. I’m grateful that I’ve had the option of concentrating on those aims without trying to hold a job at the same time.

Reflection on my domestic role has been time well-spent. These days I find myself prouder than ever of what I do and of the ways I contribute to our family’s well-being. I am a feminist homemaker: a cookie-baking, jelly-making, youngster-shuttling thriving woman who thinks for herself while advocating for the right of every woman in our community to make her own choices.

QuiverFull is an Ideology, not a Movement or a Cult.

By Nicholas Ducote, HARO Director of Community Relations

In the last three years, the mainstream media has dedicated unprecedented coverage on Christian fundamentalism, QuiverFull, and Fundamentalist Homeschooling. One of the big parts of my and Ryan’s positions with HARO is to help journalists and researchers navigate the sub-cultures and their many niches and intricacies. I don’t claim to be the end-all of information about homeschooling and I am always learning new things. I hope this article can provoke a discussion about the nature of QuiverFull as a pronatalist ideology and how it relates to other ideologies in the Christian Homeschooling movement. I have to thank Kathryn Joyce for accurately labeling QuiverFull pronatalist over six years ago.

It may seem petty to dedicate an entire post to a discussion of terminology and definitions, but it’s vital to bring clarity to our experiences. Given the amount of time I spend with journalists parsing terminology, explaining the differences between Bill Gothard, Michael Farris, and the plethora of homeschooling organizations, we need to have more clarity in our terminology.

“QuiverFull” has become a catch-all term to describe Fundamentalist Homeschooling and Christian fundamentalism. At its core, QuiverFull is a pronatalist ideology about reproduction and family purpose that stems from a verse in Psalm 127. QuiverFull is not a self-contained cult, it is not an organized movement with clear leadership, but it does have a number of core advocates. QuiverFull is most useful to understand as a number of points on a sliding scale of reproductive ideology. It can seem like its own movement because the QuiverFull ideology can have a massive impact on your lifestyle. However, QuiverFull was likely pitched to its victims as a part of a greater menu of fundamentalist beliefs that provoke a wholesale lifestyle change. The most prominent and widespread conduit for QuiverFull was Christian Homeschooling. It was popular among that sub-culture to encourage families for “filling their quiver,” to crochet the Psalm 127 verse and hang it on the wall, or barely disguise QuiverFull language in family-first ideology.

Michael Farris, head of HSLDA and one of homeschooling’s oldest and loudest advocates, believes in the demographic battle that is central to QF, but he’s made it clear his version of patriarchy is not nearly as radical as Bill Gothard’s or Doug Phillips.

Michael Farris and his Pronatalist Ideology

What I see as the most commonly used definition of QuiverFull is one developed by Vyckie Garrison at No Longer Quivering. I’m very thankful for what Vyckie has done to elucidate the perspective of a parent who adopted QuiverFull ideology.

This may be merely an issue of journalists inferring things from her statements that she never says – and I understand things being lost in translation. However, I think her definition and explanations of QF are obscuring the variety in Christian fundamentalism and homeschooling. The movement and culture is far from monolithic because there are so many different “leaders” looking to claim a sliver of the base with their unique ideology. 

In each one of her descriptions of the individual beliefs of QuiverFull, there is a spectrum that runs from individualism at one pole to authoritarianism at the other. I saw a spectrum in the families around me each ideology spread across these two poles. Not all QF families attended home churches – we didn’t. We didn’t attend “QuiverFull seminars,” but Christian Homeschooling conventions where QuiverFull ideology was woven throughout the movement’s core. Vyckie explains that most in QuiverFull would never use that term to describe themselves, which makes it hard to understand how a QuiverFull movement existed without even using some sort of organizing rhetoric. And the reason for that is because a (limited) spectrum of Christian fundamentalism was on display at Homeschool Conventions.

There were many families who bought into the culture war and using children as cultural weapons, but would also emphasize individualism. The relative individualism was expressed in more liberal ideas about consent, gender equality, the ability of a child to individually discern God’s will, and the spiritual role of the father. I was often the most conservative and fundamentalist among my peer group, so I often marveled at the freedom allowed at more liberal ends of the Christian Homeschooling spectrum. The authority and omniscience of the Patriarchal Father also varied. ATI and Bill Gothard emphasized the “Umbrella of Authority,” which claimed God’s will was interpreted through the father’s will. If your dad agreed with you, it was God’s will; if he didn’t, it wasn’t God’s will.

However, QF was far from the only ideology present in Christian Homeschooling. Most of the fundamentalist cults, like the IFB churches, Bill Gothard’s ATI, or Doug Phillips’ Church, incorporate QuiverFull ideology into their menu of beliefs. ATI was radically QF in that they encouraged men who had vasectomies to get a surgical reversal and for women to have as many children as possible. Despite being deep in ATI and Christian fundamentalism, and the Christian Homeschooling movement, I picked up on a slightly different set of values on the spectrum.

QuiverFull is the Christian version of pronatalist ideology, not a singular movement or an organized cult, that is shared by most fundamentalist religions.  A movement requires an organized social component. A cult requires, among many other things, central organization. Literally across the world, different forms of religious pronatalism are impacting demographics. Conservative religious people are having more children

Eric Kaufman’s 2011 work Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/shall-the-religious-inherit-the-earth-by-eric-kaufmann-1939316.html) examined the modern trends of pronatalism across the world. Kaufman summarized his work thusly (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2010/03/19/interview-with-eric-kaufmann-author-of-shall-the-religious-inherit-the-earth/) :

Fundamentalists have large families because they believe in traditional gender roles, pronatalism (‘go forth and multiply’) and the subordination of individualism to the needs of the religious community.

Speaking to the nature and variety of these beliefs and trends, Kaufman explained that the pronatalist demographic trend is “more advanced in the developed world” because of urbanization, contraception, and modern medicine have reached a zenith. Kaufman adds:

The pattern is most immediate and intense within Judaism where the ultra-Orthodox are already a significant share (over 10 percent) of the population and have three or four times as many children as liberals and seculars. But even within Christianity and Islam, fundamentalists have twice the family size of seculars.

Catholics practice a form of pronatalism and they have claimed birth control, contraception, and all non-reproductive sex as immoral. Muslims of various sects practice pronatalism and the most orthodox and radical absolutely see their children as weapons in a demographic struggle. This pronatalist rhetoric is also a key component to racist nationalist movements through history. 

Additional readings on the international tradition of pronatalism:

Heather Jon Maroney, “‘Who Has the Baby?’ Nationalism, Pronatalism, and the construction of a ‘demographic crisis’ in Quebec 1960-1988,” Studies in Political Economy, 1992. http://spe.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/spe/article/viewFile/11878/8781

“Demographic trends, pronatalism, and nationalist ideologies in the late twentieth century,” Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 25, Issue 3, 2002. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01419870020036701d#.VeNZVvlViko

Brown and Ferree, “Close Your Eyes and Think of England: Pronatalism in the British Print Media,” Gender Society 2005. http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~mferree/documents/BrownFerree-Close.pdf

Laura L. Lovett, Conceiving the Future: Pronatalism, Reproduction, and the Family in the United States, 1890-1938 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Monica Duffy Tuft “Wombfare: The Religious and Political Dimensions of Fertility and Demographic Change”, in Goldstone, JA; Kaufmann, E; Toft, M, Political Demography: identity, conflict and institutions, (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press, 2011).

The Curse of Being Bound to an Image

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jen Linfield Photography. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Jen Linfield Photography. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on February 2, 2015.

It’s been over nine years since I left my parents and over time my perception of how much progress I’ve made in my life has changed many times, fluctuating between sometimes thinking I am doing a terrible job at being an adult and sometimes thinking I am doing well. Through some enlightening conversations I’ve had recently with my friend James, who is in my cohort of ex-fundamentalists, I’ve come to realize that in spite of everything that I re-evaluated and realized since I left, I missed a very important thing. (I am not going to say that I missed one very important thing because I am sure that there are other things I’ve missed as well.)

Here it is: we were raised to believe that there is a pre-set standard for what adulthood should look like.

I was given to understand that I should grow up and get married at age 18-21, give or take, and after that point I should be completely mature and adult. There would be no need for further growth or any further emotional development. I should have my spirituality completed settled and sorted out, and I should not be different in any way, other than age, from any other married woman who was, say 40  or 50 (the same message was given to young men, although it was gendered differently).

There is a small inconsistency in this idea because older people are assumed to have more wisdom if they are telling you something they think you should do differently, but other than that, young adults were expected to be completely mature.

To get a somewhat more rounded idea of what other people (who were not raised in fundamentalist homes) internalized regarding expectations of how adulthood should unfold, I have spoken to several other people in my life. First, I asked my husband Chris what messages he received from his family on this topic.  He was raised in a fairly “average” home, if there is such a thing. He said that he wasn’t taught specifically that he needed to have his life together at a certain age. Instead, his family taught him life skills that were needed. His parents have supported him and his siblings in making their different choices, and when something hasn’t worked out the way they were hoping, his parents supported them again in making new choices. His parents have shown me the same kind of supportive attitude, when I have had hopes and dreams that didn’t work out. They tend to meet us where we are at, and while they give advice and input, they only show support to their adult children when they are struggling; they do not say guilt-inducing things, or say that they are disappointed in their children.

I also spoke to my friend Amber about her understanding of her parents’ attitudes about emotional and lifestyle development and this is what she had to say: her parents strongly encouraged her to start working early, to learn how to have a source of income and how to manage money. If she wanted money for extras, she needed to earn it. She was also strongly encouraged to go to enter some form of higher learning (apprenticeship, college, etc) right out of high school; her parents felt that this was a good idea to avoid becoming involved with other things instead of finishing school or an apprenticeship, as it is more difficult to finish pursuing such goals when you are married, have a mortgage, or have children. Her parents demonstrated what a good relationship should look like and what to expect; but they had no expectation that their children should have a partner at a certain age or have kids at a certain age. Her parents also taught her and her brother that women should be respected, and are equals, and encouraged her to be independent. She says that it was expected that she wouldn’t settle for anything less than a partner who treated her as an equal, showed her the respect she deserved, and loved her more than anything else.

In terms of emotional maturity Amber and her brother were able to go to their parents for anything, and her parents expressed that they felt that it was their life duty to look after their children, even now (Amber’s brother is now in his 30’s). Her parents have modeled for her that even parents don’t need to be independent, allowing her to see their vulnerability in a safe way. As Amber and her brother have gotten older, they are there for their parents for support and advice sometimes, when applicable, as well as their parents continuing to support them,  Her parents encouraged her to understand that there are life stages and people change and adapt over time. They encouraged her to take her own path, and made it clear that if her chosen path was to change, that would be okay too. She said that above all, the message she received was that she should pursue what she wanted. I asked her if, in her experience as part of society (in a secular “average” household) this is a typical message for young people to receive, and she said that within her circle growing up, and other people she has known since then, it appears to be typical.

In a recent conversation with one of my sisters, we were talking about her life plans and I asked her when she thought she should have her “stuff” together. She told me that she figures she should be well on her way with her life plan by 21. She has a pretty good idea of how the next 8 years should unfold, and strong expectations about what she should accomplish in that time. When I was 20, I thought that by the time I was 25, I should have my career down pat (which was still ironic for me at that point in time since according to my parents, there was no intention for me, as a woman, to have a career at all), and I should certainly have everything in my head settled and sorted by the time I was 25. I have struggled quite a bit with certain things since leaving my family, but I believed there was a deadline for dealing with those issues.

I thought that I should have the perfect relationship, which would turn into the perfect marriage. I thought I should sail smoothly through school and within six months, I should land a good job and get established in my career. I should start a family and never struggle with my past issues again. Overall, I have a good life, things just haven’t all worked out quite as smoothly as I thought that they would, if I tried hard enough. My career hasn’t taken off quite the way I was hoping. I struggled a lot with feeling ready to want children, because of what I went through a child. I was talking to my sister Natalie about this, and she pointed out that when our parents reached this age and stage in their lives, they chose Patriarchy and Quiverfull ideology, rather than sticking it out and trying to succeed in the 80’s when professionalism was taking off for both men and women. (Note: I feel comfortable saying that my parents did not succeed, since both of them have been unemployed for the greater part of the past 30 years).

The pressure that was put on me to have children, by my parents and the ideology they adopted, has also contributed to feelings of failure as an adult, as I am now 26 and do not have children.

I made a difficult decision to share this next bit on my blog, because I feel that it is not talked enough about and I feel that hearing about this may be good for others who have gone through the same thing as I did. I decided last summer that I was ready to have children. My husband and I had been talking about it for several years, and I finally felt like I was ready to take that step. So I went off birth control and we started trying. In October, 2014, I got pregnant, but by December I had a second ultrasound that showed that I had miscarried. That didn’t fit into what I thought my life plan should be.

Having the miscarriage brought up a lot of pain for me, which meant that I had to face that I hadn’t wished away my struggles from the past. I have a lot of painful memories from when I was a child. My childhood memories were linked to the idea of having my own children in a way that I think is reasonable. I get triggered by things sometimes, which is difficult. I had this idea that I needed to put those feelings and memories aside, and move on in my head. I am not talking about healing, I am talking about forcing it away. And I really tried to do that. I wanted to. I wanted to live a life where the things that happened to me, didn’t happen. But that’s not true, that stuff did happen. I survived. But not without scars. There is still some pain and some struggles. Some bad days. And somehow, that is okay. It’s sad that I had a miscarriage. But there is lots of time for me to heal from that and move forward.

I’ve come to realize that people I know, who weren’t raised like I was, think that it is okay to start their lives out slowly and work their way up to where they want to go. They think that it is okay to be more mature at 25 than they were at 20, and to be more mature and established at 30 than 25, and more mature and established when they are 40 then when they were 30. To see life as an unfolding story. Not one that you have to finish writing by age 20 or 25.

This is the curse of being bound to an image of what your life should look like. I am shocked to have realized at age 26 that I had never re-evaluated my feelings about my life path and the messages that I received about it. I have re-thought so much, and somehow I missed this huge piece of what life is all about. But it’s not too late. I hope that by sharing my husband’s and my friend’s thoughts on their parents’ attitudes, I can show that not everyone thinks this way. It is so easy (and so frustrating) to feel that you have gotten all the way out of fundamentalism but still be hanging onto an image or a timeline of how your life should be, that is not based in reality or has nothing to do with what you want in your life.

Discovering who you are and what you want, and pursuing that for yourself, is such an essential part of the human experience. It’s too big to miss out on. It’s still important for me to be functional. I still want to keep actively pursuing my goals. But I am going to let myself of the hook a little, and not count set-backs at 26 as a sign of global failure in my life. It just means that I am so much younger than I realized.

I have so much more time than I realized. There is lots of time for success. 

Rethinking The “Proverbs 31 Woman”

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chetan. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Chetan. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on July 29, 2011.

There’s something troubling me about a teaching going around.

I’ll probably be preaching to the choir here but on the chance that someone reads this who has swallowed said teaching, I need to give them a dose of reality.

The teaching goes something like this: Girls need protection, physical and spiritual. That’s why they need to stay home under their father’s protection until they can be safely entrusted to their husband’s protection. The extent to which this is fleshed out is different from family to family, but that’s the jist of the teaching.

So what about it? This idea of women needing “protection” is being used to keep them from going to college, getting jobs, and going on missionary trips, among other things. They are told that they are gullible, weak-minded, easily led, and not to be trusted on their own because they are easily deceived and taken advantage of. They need a strong man to come between them and the world.

Besides the fact that I see absolutely no scriptural backing for this idea, I can’t help but think that whoever came up with it doesn’t live in the real world.

I’ve heard so many use this as an excuse for why a woman shouldn’t go off to college. Because then she’ll be “alone” and without protection. What if her car breaks down? What if she has to go shopping in a bad part of town? What if something goes wrong and Daddy isn’t there to rescue her? Or a shady mechanic tries to rip her off?

My husband’s a trucker. I’m “alone” from about Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon every week during the summer. I have to fend for myself and three kids. I sleep alone, a gun nearby, knowing there may come a night I’ll have to use it (and trust me, I can use it better than most men I know). I have to make all the decisions on how to run my house alone. I have to be mature and interact with the world around me (including men and atheists *gasp*) alone. I have to be discerning all by myself, able to judge right and wrong, wise and foolish. If I break down on the side of the road, my husband isn’t there to “protect” or rescue me. I have to deal with it as if I were single. I have to be strong and capable and mature and independent every single day. My husband leaves every week depending on me to be all these things and more. If I had an emergency, it could be 12+ hours before my husband could get to me. He didn’t need a girl who needed to be coddled, needed someone to make decisions for her, needed to be “led” and guided in daily interactions like a child. He needed a mature woman who could handle an imperfect life. And it’s a darn good thing that I didn’t spend my growing up years thinking I needed a man to handle my life or come between me and the big bad world. I had to learn how to be a functioning part of society and take care of myself and others.

My family’s well-being depends on this. 

I know girls who weren’t allowed to go grocery shopping, in a safe small town, without their dad or big brother for “protection”. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere without a man, for that matter. Their view of the Big Bad Men in the world they needed to be protected from has grown into a paranoia. They’re scared of their own shadows. They think all men are out to rape them or take advantage of them. And they truly believe they are gullible, weak, and cannot handle life on their own, because that’s the line they’ve been fed all their lives. It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As my friend, Christi, said in comment to this idea:

This is exactly what patriarchy wants us to believe, that women are weak-minded things incapable of avoiding dangerous situation. I lived alone …and I never found myself in a compromising position. And how would a predator know whether a woman lived at home with her parents, or with her husband, or lived “alone” (with roommates)? 

And while we’re talking about this, why don’t people realize that homemakers are some of the most “alone” and vulnerable women out there? You seem to not realize that married young women have to do the exact same things that young women who are away at college have to do, and more. I have to go out and do my shopping alone, just like a college girl would (though I imagine that college girls get to carpool together). What’s more, I’m even at home alone. I’m pretty sure that I’d really be better protected on a college campus since I’m alone during the day (and night, since my husband works until 11 PM) and have often had to interact with strange men, sometimes even inside my house, while my husband is at work. Apartment maintenance men, internet guy, phone guy, UPS man, door-to-door salesmen, etc. Oh, and it’s usually my job to take our car in for repairs and oil changes. Car repairmen are actually pretty nice, or maybe it depends on where you go (which again, is simply a matter of making an intelligence choice). 

I mean no disrespect to my husband when I say this but, he’s really not here a lot to protect me because he’s busy working a full-time job in addition to being a full-time student. My marriage license doesn’t really afford me any more physical protection than I had when I was single.

You see, it is complete folly to train up a person to be completely dependent on another person.

You have no idea what their life is going to be like.

No idea what skills they’re going to need to provide for themselves or the people they love. No idea if they will get married, then widowed. Or even if they will marry at all. To raise a girl with the belief that she is weak and needs a man to be her mediator in life is to cripple her for life. To render her ineffective to do anything for herself or for the God that she’s supposed to be “glorifying”.

I know girls my age who are single and still at home with their parents, being told that they need to be “protected” and watched over until they get married and all that jazz. But guess what? I’m married and I’m still on my own. Age and marital status aren’t the magic keys to a perfect life. They are just used as excuses for controlling the lives of these girls. Real life doesn’t look anything like what the Patriarchy crowd are trying to say it does. Their view is way too narrow. Ask a soldier’s wife. Or a trucker’s wife. Or any woman who is married or single and has to be a mature adult and deal with the world on her own. Whose husband and children and lives depend on it.

I love it when my husband is home and able to take care of things so I don’t have to. I love being cared for and knowing that I don’t have to do everything by myself. I love feeling loved and protected by my man, just as much as he loves me caring for him. I love sleeping peacefully at night, knowing he’s right there and I don’t have to be so alert. But I also love knowing that should he not be there, I can still take care of myself and my children.

One last thought. You know that popular verse in Proverbs 31 that says “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.”? Go look up the Hebrew word translated “virtuous”. It’s most often used in the OT to describe might, strength, fighting men of valor, army men, efficiency, wealth, strength and force. It is translated all these ways: army 56 times, man of valour 37 times, host 29 times, forces 14 times, valiant 13 times, strength 12 times, power 9 times, substance 8 times, might 6 times, strong 5 times, and a few miscellaneous words.

Gives you a rather different picture of what a “Proverbs 31 woman” looks like, doesn’t it?

Home for the Holidays: Salome’s Story

siblings

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Salome” is a pseudonym.

Dear Homeschoolers Anonymous,

First, thank you so much for giving us a voice. It’s so important that we speak — and are heard. Just telling our stories has value, and you’ve done a phenomenal job. We are watching. We are listening. We are learning. And we are healing.

I’ve tossed around the idea of telling you my story for some time now — but I couldn’t figure out how, and I’m such a goddamn private person that writing about my childhood is like prying my teeth out with a crowbar. I’m finally writing because I don’t often get the chance to brag safely about my brother, and I think it’d be foolish not to take the chance.

We’re all home for the holidays, and I find myself struggling to reconcile the emotional manipulation, patriarchal ideas (which BTW have completely screwed my life up — I can’t even get married, because I can’t seem to shake my patriarchal conditioning — so thank you for speaking up about patriarchalism too), and sometimes simple cruelty that I remember as a kid and the relatively stable family who jokes around (at my father’s expense — which would have been heresy when I was a kid), allows my teenage sister to wear normal clothes, and practically force-feeds me some weird herbal goop my mother concocted to soothe my raw throat.

IDK what changed. 

I can’t forget all of the horrible things they said and did (I’m still keeping my recent decision that I don’t think I can be a Christian anymore, as well as the surrounding circumstances, from them, just in case). I can’t forget the constant friction that comes from being the oldest child in a cookie-cutter family whose inner rot was concealed beneath our conditioned responses. We were punished when we made our parents look bad, not when we actually did bad things. The incongruity was hardest on me — and I tried hardest to conform for awhile, until I set out on a campaign to break my father’s heart when I got into high school.

That made me target #1.

My brother bucked their rules from a very early age. Let’s be clear: he is objectively a good man, and was a good kid then. No drugs, no sex, no porn (that I know of… Mom did put a lock on the computer pretty inexplicably once, and gave me the password with instructions not to give it to my brother, so I guess it’s possible). Both my brother and I developed an appreciation for heavy metal (the raw honesty speaks to me), and have anger issues (I have a host of other emotional issues, but I haven’t talked to him about it, so I don’t know if he shares any more of them), but considering what we went through, I think we’re justified. Mom was convinced he was a terrible person, not a Christian, morally lax – the list goes on.

I apologize for the long and garbled introduction.

The point I was leading up to was this: my brother and I fought like the world was gonna end if the other person got their way, but we also stuck together.

We warned each other in hushed tones when our mother was in a particularly vicious mood, and helped each other skulk around outside her sight. We spent long hours outside, because she was likely to forget us if we were out there, but in the times that she did remember us and screamed our names in that tone of voice that said we were in for a rough day, we gave each other looks of pity as we walked back to meet our fate. We didn’t tattle on each other. In the times that the emotional abuse turned into physical abuse, after my brother got bigger and stronger than both my parents, he stepped in.

When our little sister came along, we made an unspoken pact to protect her too.

I’m a little jealous of her sometimes, honestly. She missed the worst of it, and we shielded her from much of the rest. She joined me in my campaign to break Dad’s heart — and succeeded to a degree I could not. Our joint efforts may have something to do with the change in my family, actually. I hope so. That call to protect my siblings has affected me hugely — I still find myself staying in dangerous situations just to protect the people who are still too naive to protect themselves.

Sacrificing my safety for theirs comes naturally. I’ve always done it. 

One incident is firmly lodged in my mind. My parents had decided that it was a good day to sit me down and lecture me (more like screaming cherry-picked Bible verses at me and telling me I was worthless) — for hours (I don’t remember just how long. It may have been anywhere from 2-4 hours). It had something to do with my campaign, although it quickly spread to include anything and everything my mom could think of, whether it was true or not.

Think Communist China Cultural Revolution-era denunciation meetings.

I was an emotional wreck, because I had been trying to ease into a closer relationship, which meant that my normal policy of emotional numbness was not in effect. I was crying, they were screaming, and then my brother swooped in to my rescue. He said, “Stop. Just stop. Can’t you see what you’re doing to her? Stop.” When they turned their ire on him, he explained further — he was intervening because he loved me. I didn’t stick around much longer — he had given me an out, and I spent the rest of the day outside (this time beyond earshot). That day remains both one of my best memories and worst memories — it was one of the only times I can remember my stereotypically strong and silent brother telling me he loves me without any coaxing.

I’ll never forget that.

I’m sure there’s more I could say, but sifting through all of these memories, trying to remain true to the story, while leaving out the shit I’m not ready to deal with, is kind of exhausting and painful. I feel bad criticizing the people who are showering me with love and gifts, but I’ve got to deal with at least some of the memories rattling around in my mind.

Thank you for listening. That’s more than can be said about most.

6 Things You Should Know About Voddie Baucham

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Due to the controversy over the lack of indictment of Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, American Christians are having heated conversations about racism in the United States. One of these conversations was provoked by an article written by Voddie Baucham for The Gospel Coalition. Baucham’s article, entitled “Thoughts on Ferguson”, was immediately criticized by fellow conservative Christian Thabiti Anyabwile. Today four Christian leaders of color — Austin Channing Brown, Christena Cleveland, Drew Hart and Efrem Smith — condemned Baucham for an “assault on black people” that was “dishonoring the image of God in black people, especially at a time when so many black Americans are in pain.”

As all these conversations are happening, it seems a lot of people who didn’t grow up in the conservative Christian homeschooling world are wondering: who is Voddie Baucham? Well, as people who did grow up in the conservative Christian homeschooling world, let us assure you: oh we can tell you. For those unfamiliar with Baucham’s extremism, here are 6 things you should know (and share with anyone who’s sharing Baucham’s article):

1. Voddie Baucham was a featured speaker at a male supremacist homeschool conference that called for dismantling child protection systems.

Voddie Baucham is one of the most outspoken proponents of “Christian Patriarchy,” an extreme movement within conservative Christian homeschooling that advocates for male supremacy and men ruling over their wives and children, especially female children. Two of Baucham’s fellow Christian Patriarchy advocates, Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, now stand accused of sexual abuse and harassment.

In 2009, an exclusively male group of such homeschool leaders descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana for a “Men’s Leadership Summit.” Voddie Baucham was one of the featured speakers at the summit. This summit included calls for girls needing to have an entirely home-focused education, the need to defeat “feminism” in homeschooling, the concern that “the female sin of the internet” (framed as equal to “the male sin of pornography”) was blogging, and the necessity of men taking back their rightful place as head of their own households. The summit also featured Doug Phillips declaring the entire child protection system should be dismantled. During his speech, Baucham himself complained that, “The homeschool movement is now rife with parents who do not know their roles” — a reference to the strict roles demanded by Christian Patriarchy.

2. This creepy quotation from Voddie Baucham:

“A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that. And instead they go find a substitute daughter….you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. These old guys going and finding these substitute daughters.”

As Libby Anne said last year when this quotation was going around,

“There is nothing wrong with arguing that a strong father/daughter relationship is important—if, that is, you’re also arguing that strong parent/child relationships in general are important. But there’s something weird when you elevate the father/daughter relationship above these others and start arguing that fathers and daughters should find in each other what they would otherwise go looking for in sexual and romantic relationships. Voddie Baucham says that middle aged men should turn to their teenage daughters to get the attention and fulfillment they would otherwise look for through an affair with a young secretary.”

3. Voddie Baucham is a proponent of the “stay-at-home daughter” movement.

The “stay-at-home-daughter” (SAHD) movement, promoted by the disgraced Vision Forum president Doug Phillips as well as the cult-like Botkin family, is best encapsulated in the documentary movie Return of the Daughters. Here is a trailer of that movie, in which you can see Voddie Baucham featured:

The Wartburg Watch explains the SAHD movement in the following way:

“Young girls and single women are encouraged (perhaps coerced?) to be “keepers at home” until they marry. They are forbidden to attend college or seek employment outside the home (that is, their parents’ home). These maidens spend all of their time honing their “advanced homemaking skills”, which include cooking, sewing, cleaning, knitting, etc. A stay-at-home daughter is under her father’s “covering” until he transfers control to her husband.”

True to form, Baucham has not allowed his daughter Jasmine to leave their home. She has to “live under the discipleship of my parents until marriage.” While she has completed higher education, it was only through an online, conservative Christian homeschool college program.

4. Voddie Baucham wants you to hold an “all-day session” of spanking your toddlers to “wear them out.”

From Baucham’s November 4, 2007 speech on corporal punishment:

Spank your kids, okay? (laughter from audience)

And, they desperately need to be spanked and they need to be spanked often, they do. I meet people all the time ya’ know and they say, oh yeah, “There have only been maybe 4 or 5 times I’ve ever had to spank Junior.” “Really?” ‘That’s unfortunate, because unless you raised Jesus II, there were days when Junior needed to be spanked 5 times before breakfast.” If you only spanked your child 5 times, then that means almost every time they disobeyed you, you let it go.

Why do your toddlers throw fits? Because you’ve taught them that’s the way that they can control you. When instead you just need to have an all-day session where you just wear them out and they finally decide “you know what, things get worse when I do that.”

5. Voddie Baucham wants you to punish your children for being shy.

Also from Baucham’s November 4, 2007 speech on corporal punishment, on what Baucham calls “the selfish sin of shyness”:

The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say Good-morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs behind the leg and here’s what’s supposed to happen. This is what we have agreed upon, silently in our culture. What’s supposed to happen is that, I’m supposed to look at their child and say, “Hey, that’s okay.” But I can’t do that. Because if I do that, then what has happened is that number one, the child has sinned by not doing what they were told to do, it’s in direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it, and thirdly, I am in sin because I have just told a child it’s okay to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of scripture. I can’t do that, I won’t do that.

I’m gonna stand there until you make ‘em do what you said.

6. Voddie Baucham wants you to punish infants if they’re not immediately obedient.

Baucham is an advocate of “first-time obedience,”  a staple of Christian discipline books advocating the physical abuse of children, such as Gary and Anne Marie Ezzos’ Growing Kids God’s Way and Michael and Debi Pearl’s To Train Up A Child. First-time obedience has been criticized by many Christian parents because it “neglects the child’s basic well being”, cripples “the development of critical thinking”, and is based on “works-based salvation” and a “gross lack of grace.” According to Cindy Kunsman at Under Much Grace, Baucham “defines any ‘delayed obedience’ in black and white terms as intolerable, an unqualified disobedience to parent and God, something he requires of a two year old.”

White Nationalism and Racism in Christian Patriarchy’s Background

race

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on March 19, 2013.

A while ago, someone outside the homeschool movement mentioned that my post on Bill Gothard sounded like a description of a White Nationalist.

The claim startled me at first. I grew up in the south. My university was built on a plantation and slave quarters and my great-great-great grandparents owned slaves, for crying out loud. So I’ve never been sure what’s religious racism and what’s southern racism (or when the two cross).

As luck had it, Fiddlrts, who writes at Diary of an Autodidact wrote a highly researched post on Patriarchy, Christian Reconstructionalism, and White Supremacy. His post got me thinking about how we cannot divorce those who influenced Christian Patriarchy from the Christian Patriarchy leaders. He writes:

It was during my Gothard years that I first noted a racist edge to this segment of ultra-conservative Christianity. Gothard, who began his programs in the 1960s, blames most, or perhaps all spiritual problems on exposure to “rock music.” “Rock music” (which turned out to include jazz as well) was deemed evil, regardless of content, due in large part to its alleged origin in pagan Africa. “Godly” music came from Christian Europe, and was exemplified by military marching music. (There were also musical claims, which I discuss below in my note.)

I also noticed that the vision of “ideal” Christianity presented looked much like an upper-middle-class, white society of the past. Perhaps the 1950s, or the Victorian period. There didn’t seem to be any chance of attaining “God’s best” unless one was reasonably well off, certainly; and all vestiges of non-European or non-white American cultures were looked on with suspicion.

Fiddlrts makes the point that Doug Philips, Doug Wilson, and Bill Gothard all studied (and in some cases plagiarized) influential men who were racists. 

Dabney and Rushdoomy are two men mentioned a bunch in his post. This does not mean that Doug Philips and Bill Gothard carried over all their ideas; they may have picked and chose which ideas to follow. But I don’t think that makes us feel much better. (If they tossed out slavery, but kept the oppression of women, for example, is that a great leader?)

So after reading Fiddlrt’s post, here’s a few highlights that got me thinking more about this.

  • Both Doug Wilson and Doug Philips are fans of Dabney, an influential figure white nationalists love to quote. I owe this point to Fiddlrts. Doug Wilson wrote a book called Slavery As It Was that some book publishers refused to carry because it was a wholesale plagiarized book by Dabney. Doug Philips wrote a book on Dabney called Robert Lewis Dabney: The Prophet SpeaksI was able to download Dabney’s most racist work, A Defence of Virginia, for free. The book says that slavery in the south is recognized by the Bible.
  • In Christian Patriarchy, there is an emphasis on hierarchy. In a way there is a sense that the last people left for white males to control is women and children.
  • The Dominionist and Quiverfull mentality is almost parallel to overpopulating other races. The twist, of course, is that now we are overpopulating other religions and “left-flaming liberals,” instead of non-white people. Bill Gothard then has his military ALERT camps to go along with it.
  • Christian Patriarchy almost goes in hand with the Christian Reconstructionism ideology that Rushdoomy advocated. I suppose the name is clear in that Christian reconstructionists want to reconstruct the past. But keep in mind that the past controlled women, discriminated against minorities, and hated LGBT* people. This has led some, such as Rushdoomy, the late Christian Reconstructionist leader who influenced Doug Philips, to advocate stoning gays. Libby Anne writes about this here.
  • There is a prevailing elitism going on in Christian Patriarchy because of an emphasis on the Victorian age. I’ve gotten in debates on whether Victorianism was better with homeschool peers. It’s weird.
  • Rock music is evil because it came from pagan Africa. Bill Gothard and other fundamentalists say just this. European music has rock music too, but yet, Bill Gothard always blames the Africans. I already knew this was racist, but Fiddlrts pointed out that Gothard borrows this almost word-for-word from Rushdoomy.
  • The Patriarchal/Quiverfull leaders oppose public education. Again, this is a twist on Dabney, Fiddlrts says. Rushdoony advocated private schools, and we see this in fundamentalism as well.
  • Interracial marriage is sometimes discouraged. In fairness, I never heard Doug Philips or Bill Gothard say this. But I remember studying the “problem” of the interracial marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe. I learned that Pocahontas would not have died if she had not married a foreigner.
  • Bill Gothard is against wearing jeans. Even guys wear khaki pants, not blue jeans. Again, this point is Fiddlrts, not mine: “Jeans were marketed to factory workers (an evil Northern system, according to Dabney), although I suspect that James Dean also contributed to their ‘ungodly’ reputation.”
  • Christian Patriarchalists believe that a Godly society once existed. And that brings us back to the entire quiverfull, anti-women, anti-gay ideology that progressives fight to stop and reconstructionalists fight to bring back.

Please read Fiddlrt’s entire post for all the many quotes and sources he has to back up these points. Julie Anne also wrote a post on Reconstructionism and Rushdooney worth checking out.

Patriarchy in Homeschool Culture: Samantha Field’s Thoughts

[this is what "The Patriarchy" looks like in my head]
[this is what “The Patriarchy” looks like in my head]
Samantha Field blogs at Defeating the Dragons. This piece was originally published on her own blog on May 13, 2014, and is reprinted with her permission.

I grew up in a subculture of evangelical Christianity that’s known as “Christian Patriarchy,” which is what the people who preach and teach this “lifestyle” un-ironically call it. I was also peripherally a part of the Quiverful and Stay-at-Home-Daughters movements, which are all separate things. A family can be Quiverful without preaching Christian Patriarchy or requiring daughters to remain at home until marriage, for example.

However, that’s not what I’m going to be talking about today.

One of the ex-fundamentalist Christian feminism blogs that I read is Wine & Marble, by Hännah Ettinger. She wrote one of my favorite posts on sex, and I highly recommend her as a writer. [Recently], her sister, Clare, wrote the fantastically-titled post “Fuck the Patriarchy,” about how she was kicked out of her “Homeschool Prom.” It went viral, showing up on Gawker, Fark, Cosmo, Jezebel, American Conservative, NYPost, and it should be up at the Daily mail and HuffPo pretty soon.

I was curious to see how each of these sites would handle a story about a homeschool prom, so I followed her story all over the internet, and, of course, ended up in the comment sections. Most were your standard internet outrage, but there were some people questioning the validity of her story (because of course there were). It was interesting to me that a bunch of different men thought that Clare was lying or exaggerating supposedly because men who were “ogling” her wouldn’t have asked her to leave.

It actually took me a second to figure out the rationale behind that, because it seemed so obvious that of course they would ask her to leave if they were “tempted” by the “strange woman” who was “dressed like a harlot” (not saying that she was, just that they thought she was). To me, asking Clare to leave was the entire reason why they were there. When Clare said these men were “chaperones,” that was instantly what I assumed.

However, to these (male) commenters, it seemed counter-intuitive that any man would ask a woman they thought sexually attractive to vacate the premises. If they found Clare attractive, why admit to enjoying the show– or asking the show to leave?

That’s one form of patriarchy, all on its own; implicit in many of those comments was the belief that women exist for the sexual gratification of men, and that men will compulsively ogle women they find sexually attractive, that “boys will be boys.”

However, what the chaperones did in pointing Clare out to the “Mrs. D” of the original article was another, more archaic form of patriarchy: the form of patriarchy where men are the guardians of honor– both of their own, and of “their” women. I’m not sure what the homeschooling culture is like in Richmond (not much like mine, if they have a prom), but at least some of the people in that community are probably familiar with books like Beautiful Girlhood:

One day a handsome young gentleman alighted from a train … As he paced the platform, he soon attracted the attention of a young girl. She watched him flirtatiously out of the corner of her eye, coughed a little, and laughed merrily and a bit loudly with a group of her acquaintances; but at first he paid no attention …

At last he noticed, turned, and came directly to her, while her foolish little heart was all in a flutter at her success …

“My dear girl, he said, tipping his hat, “have you a mother at home?”

“Why, yes,” the girl stammered.

“Then go to her and tell you to keep you with her until you learn how you ought to behave in a public place,” and saying this he turned and left her in confusion and shame. It was a hard rebuke; but this man had told her only what every pure-minded man and woman was thinking. Girls can hardly afford to call down upon themselves such severe criticism. (130-31)

Things like this are the subtext at events like “Homeschool Proms” that are chaperoned by conservative Christian homeschooling fathers. When those men saw Clare in a theme-appropriate dress, looking like a woman and enjoying the evening with her friends, what they saw was a “foolish girl” who deserved the “harsh rebuke” of being escorted out by security.

In this culture, it is the sacred duty of every man to police the actions of every woman. Women are not to be trusted with decision making, let alone gifted the ability to make up their own mind on what they want to wear to their Senior Prom.

If a man in this culture even notices a woman sexually, it’s a problem, and she deserves to be confronted and chastised because of it.

There’s two options available to men in these situations: either the girl is simply “silly” and telling her that her dress could cause “impure thoughts” is information she should be grateful for, and she should humbly leave in shame and humiliation– or, she is dressing provocatively on purpose, which makes her a “strange woman” who is “playing the harlot” and she definitely deserves to be confronted and removed. When Clare stood up for herself, that put her firmly into “strange woman playing the harlot” category.

It’s rape culture on steroids. It’s “she was asking for it” dressed up in Bible verses and cutesy Victorian language about knights and fair maidens.