An Open Letter to Jim Bob Duggar

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.



copyright 2011:

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol says:

    Kay, I am personally going to post your letter on our blog! I think it is amazing, and I want it to receive attention. I know Susan and I are NOT the big time, but we have over 2000 feeds, so at least that many people will read it. If they pas it on, then all the better!!! If you ask me not to re-post this I will honor your wishes, but it is powerful and RIGHT on the money, in my opinion!!

    Amen sister!!

    1. Carol, if you’d like to post it with a link back to me and credit to me as author, go for it.

      1. Carol says:

        That is EXACTLY what I wanted to do. Link it back and give you credit! I just want more exposure for you wonderfully written insightful letter…

    2. Thank you for helping me to reach people who have the power to change women’s lives. I appreciate the exposure, Carol.

      Thanks for the compliment, as well. I’ve been writing too much fluff lately, it seems, and this letter has been forming in my head for a few days. I’m glad it expresses what I wanted it to.

  2. Pat Jackson says:

    Bravo. First bit of advice I truly remember giving my two (only two) daughters was to make sure they didn’t have to rely on anyone – man or woman – to support them.

    1. Thanks Pat. I’m very glad your daughters had effective advice from a parent who cared about their futures as individuals.

  3. Cinderella says:

    Outstanding and very insightful points, Kay.

  4. tamara says:

    Where I grew up, there were some Hutterite groups. When I saw those little girls, in their thin cotton dresses, shivering as they skated on the community ice pond (because they couldn’t wear snow pants like the rest of us), I wanted nothing more than to “corrupt” them.

    And yet, the girls all seemed to have a confidence, a strength of self, that me and my friends didn’t have. I never understood why they felt sorry for us, even as we felt sorry for them.

    1. I don’t feel sorry for the Duggar girls, but I certainly worry that as women they could be placed in difficult circumstances by the decisions their father makes for them now, and I think Jim Bob Duggar sets a poor example for the many families who use his parenting as an example.

      1. tamara says:

        I think a lot of people on reality TV set a lot of terrible examples. I read a non-fiction book called “Reality Bites” that was basically about how casting agents for the shows will never put a feminist in a program, because it’s not good TV. They love narcissists and mentally unbalanced people, especially for the female roles. Finding good role models on TV is tough. And they just cancelled Community. LE SIGH.

  5. Leslie says:

    My parents raised me to be a strong,independant woman and still I fell for a guy who put on a great show in public. I thought I would see it, I never thought it would happen to me, but it did, even with the strong foundation my parents built for me. I strongly agree with you, that Mr.Duggers daughters are being rasied in a way that could possibly end up putting their lives at risk.
    There is a chance, that they’ll get lucky, and some amazing men will be chosen for them, and I wish them all the happiness in life. What saddens me, is that there will be no one to turn to that will help remove them from a bad situation if it arises. They have a lot of fellow women who will sympathize, but sympathy doesnt stop the hurt.

    1. It’s true that any woman can become a victim, Leslie. My concern is that the Duggar daughters are at a significant disadvantage because of the way they are being raised, or have already been raised in the case of the four that are already adults.

  6. Carol says:

    Kay, I published your post today with a link back to you and giving your authorship. I hope I have been able to help you reach a larger audience for your amazing piece of writing! Brava!!

    1. Thank you so much, Carol. I saw the link during my lunch break today and was dancing in the staff room. 🙂

  7. Angie says:

    Bravo and well said!

    1. Thank you very much, Angie.

  8. pam says:

    Even the Amish let there children make a choice at 18 to go and see what the world is about. I agree with the letter that was written but lets go further what would happen if one or more of the girls decide to move out yes I know they need jobs what would happen if the wore jeans or shorts better yet lets go further what would happen if they were gay or so forth my point is we can not control our kids one day they start doing their own things

    1. I agree with you, Pam, that healthy parenting situations lead to children doing their own things. A certain level of “rebellion” is positive and helps young adults establish their own views on and boundaries within the big world. Good point about Amish youth, as well. My observation is that the Duggar girls (and the boys for that matter) are not going to do anything of their own volition because of the constrictions of the way they are being raised, and I worry about the future of those children. To me, it’s not about whether they choose to wear jeans instead of skirts: the issues and risks to these young women are much more critical than that.

  9. Joyce says:

    It’s likely that all of the Duggar “kids”, really adults, that are 18 years of age and older, who are appearing on the TV show, have their own contracts and are paid for their appearances. They may make more money doing the show that they could at a traditional job.

    1. While it is a possibility the older Duggars are each under contract as you’ve suggested, my points about the girls being unprepared to take care of themselves is still valid. TLC will not run their television program indefinitely, and all members of the family should be planning for the day when the network cheques cease. Given that Jim Bob Duggar seems to make all his children’s decisions, save for the eldest, married son, I would bet a dozen donuts the family is treated as a single entity and paid a single rate. The fact all the children except one still live at home also reinforces my suspicion that they are not paid separately and do not get to make their own financial decisions.

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