Kay’s Note: I know I’m going to take some flack for writing this: so be it. If you choose to leave a comment, please be aware that I will gladly publish criticism of my writing, but I will remove comments that blindly attack me for writing this post. I will also not publish inflammatory statements about the Duggar family because that is not the point of this post.
Dear Mr. Duggar:
Let me begin by saying that this letter in no way criticizes your decision to allow God full control over the timing and number of children you and your wife Michelle produce and raise; I wish you a safe and healthy delivery of your recently announced twentieth child. I firmly believe a woman has the right to decide what she does with her uterus, and I refuse to contradict my belief. I sincerely hope, however, that you allow your wife the same courtesy and respect, Mr. Duggar.
My concern is the way you are raising your daughters. I have watched your television program, and I have read your family website. Again and again, your older girls are praised, and rightly so, for their cooking skills, their nurturing ways with the younger children, and their determination to tackle the mountains of laundry your family produces. The television audience sees your daughters working diligently in your home, and it seems the highest praise you and your wife bestow upon a daughter is to state she possesses “a servant’s heart.” It is clear what skills and attitudes you encourage in your female children.
Never once have I heard or read praise of your daughters’ intelligence. None of your girls, although Jinger, Jessa, Jill, and Jana are all over 18, have attended post-secondary schooling. Jana, in particular, is turning 22 and theoretically could be nearly finished a bachelor’s degree, but she has stayed home to help you raise your children. I am aware that your older children are trained as Emergency First Responders, but I have only ever seen these skills used within the Duggar household. Here are four grown women who could be contributing, self-supporting members of their community, but they continue to live at home as adults, seemingly making little use of their God-given intelligence beyond the domestic sphere. This is a shame, considering how bright your daughters seem to be and what a blessing they could be to others if they were encouraged to work outside the home and were sufficiently educated to do so.
I fully support a woman’s decision to stay home to raise her children, if she so chooses. Every woman, should, however, be able to support herself if necessary, and be free to pursue education beyond highschool. It is painfully obvious that a highschool diploma is not a level of education that provides any kind of reliable income.
Your adult daughters stay home to help with your enormous family because they have been raised to obey their father. These women will remain in your home, based on comments on your television program, until they meet a God-chosen husband of whom you approve. You will also decide which young men can court your daughters, and ultimately you have the control over every aspect of their relationships, since you do not allow your daughters to be alone with a potential future spouse. Once they are married, they will obey their husbands as the head of their households, a pattern clearly established in your home and within your faith community.
Why, Mr. Duggar, are you treating your adult daughters as though they aren’t intelligent enough or valuable enough to choose their own husbands, and as though they do not have enough self-control to be alone with a male? Your decision to control every aspect of their lives, including the person with whom they will spend all their years after they finally leave your house, is disrespectful at best. By not encouraging your daughters to seek higher education, you send the message that their only purpose on this planet is to be good wives and productive mothers. I am aware that you believe the Bible calls you to act as you are. I am also aware that the realities of modern life make many of your practices anachronistic at best and potentially dangerous to your daughters.
Your actions place your daughters in vulnerable positions because none of them have the education necessary to support themselves without a man. My first concern with this situation is that none of your daughters could ever live alone, unmarried, if she so chose, leaving her as a servant in your home forever if she decides for any reason not to marry. These young Duggar women have little control over their futures in this regard. Also, and perhaps more importantly given your family’s beliefs, your daughters will be forever in a position of relying on a man to support them. If one of your daughters finds herself suddenly widowed, she will almost certainly have children (possibly many) to provide for, and she will have no means to support her family without her husband’s income. Worse still, if one of your daughters is being abused by her spouse, she will be forced to stay with him not only by her faith but also by her simple inability to support herself and her children without her husband. You have created a situation that forces your daughters to rely on a man for financial support, which is a potentially dangerous scenario indeed.
At this point, you’re probably focused on my statement in the previous paragraph about spousal abuse. I’m certain you believe that by essentially choosing your daughters’ husbands you will protect them from men who seek to control and abuse them. Let me share some information about the issue, since this is an area I’m all too familiar with and have researched extensively.
Abusive men can be experts at acting the part of a loving, supportive partner in public. We are all familiar with the stereotypical abusive man, repeatedly roughing his wife up while the neighbours wonder if they should finally call the police. We think we know the signs of an abusive man, that we should be able to spot a predator a mile away, but the obvious cases are few and far between. Dangerous men know exactly how to manipulate others to make themselves seem the ideal partner, and could fool you very easily into thinking they share your beliefs and will treat your daughters and future grandchildren well. Because a woman often does not experience the worst of her husband’s ill-treatment until after the wedding, your efforts to choose an ideal husband for one of your daughters could very well backfire.
Raising your daughters first to obey you without question and later to submit to their husbands establishes a pattern where their opinions and decisions always come second to those of a man. Never allowing them to be alone with a man before marriage and approving their future husbands yourself means that an abusive man could easily wed one of your daughters and trap her in a cycle of abuse, with your full blessing. For your girls, the truth about a man would not be clear until it was far too late.
Many men who abuse their wives believe that they are simply acting the way God intends them to as the heads of their households, that they have the right to behave abusively if a woman does not submit to them in the ways they require. Such men also believe that they are forced to act against their wives to keep them “in line,” or to respond to something they think the woman has done incorrectly, ensuring that each incident of abuse is firmly established as the woman’s fault. Such patterns are clear in physically abusive and also in emotionally and psychologically abusive situations. Because your daughters have been raised to habitually defer to a man, they do not have the skills required to recognize or respond to abuse and are at particular risk for becoming victims.
The manner in which you have chosen to raise your daughters is a gamble, Mr. Duggar. You seem to expect that they will never become the victims of abuse or tragedy, and therefore have not prepared them to cope with either. You assume that by controlling all their decisions, you will ensure what you see as a successful life for your female children. Unfortunately, you have raised them in a way that greatly limits their futures and leaves them at significant risk.
You have been repeatedly blessed with intelligent, kind, and beautiful, beautiful daughters, Mr. Duggar; I hope you realize how very fortunate you are. I realize you will most likely never read my letter, and that on the off-chance you do you what have said will not change your convictions about your actions. Encouraging change in you is beyond the scope of my intentions with this letter. My hope is that the many others who emulate your behavior might read and consider what I’ve said, and perhaps examine the way they raise their own daughters.
If even one young woman’s life is improved, or saved, by my efforts in this letter, then I will be satisfied.
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