Unpopular opinion time! I think that most men in the Quiverfull Society have it pretty hard.
Don’t get me wrong! I am NOT saying they have it has hard as the female folk, nor am I saying they suffer in their daily lives domestic slaves under the thumb of an in-house “superior.” In comparison, the men of the fundamentalist Baptist movements have it made in the shade as far as privilege goes. Men have access to education, careers outside of the home, and with their genitals also comes an inborn credibility…and that credibility is really powerful. While it takes one man to shame a woman, it takes a huge Josh Duggar-esque scandal to shame one man (and even then, assholes like Rick Santorium may come to your defense). They, by their own rules, can say no wrong, do no wrong, and be no wrong.
But with all of those Y-chromosome-based perks comes a hell of a lot of poisonous pressure, warped philosophies, and a hair-based trigger for a world-class downfall that takes everyone you know and love with you.
Josh Duggar was a cocky bastard from the beginning, as a first born son. He had all of these heaping expectations laid on his shoulder practically from birth, and, because his weenie, perverted ass couldn’t handle it, he brought dishonor to his entire family, permanently fucking up their lives. Did he ultimately get away with it? Sure, because he’s the headship, and the sooner he gets back to trying to re-conform it his expectations, the quicker the whole mess could be forgotten! Male privilege strikes again!
In contemporary sociology, the study of masculinity and the upholding and expectations of ‘dominant’ gender roles is becoming a hot topic of study. It isn’t about undermining feminism, but rather about how strict adherence to the archetypal alpha-male template is as harmful as subscribing to the stereotypical June Cleaver-esque female ideal. It’s about the problems that arise when the butch, hyper-intelligent, heterosexual muscle man norm is held in high esteem. Men, more than ever, are developing eating disorders. There is still a highly problematic male-centric homophobia issue that stems from the idea that a man who loves another man is a “pansy” because there MUST be one masculine role and one feminine role in a romantic pairing. Putting the pressure of running everything on the shoulders of only half of the world is a big burden to the everyday man who doesn’t have a cushion of money to fall back on, and such pressure can harm anyone.
While I still believe that male privilege is a huge thing (and a bad thing), you can’t dismantle harmful gender norms without attacking all sides of the issue. Looking at extreme cases like the IBLP and the Duggar clan helps people who have a difficult time seeing both side understand that no one wins with such intense, live-or-die-by rules to follow. Look at Jinger’s new fellow. He gave up professional soccer to become a pastor. Why? Because being a pastor in the IBLP is acceptable…being a pro athlete is not (what with all the cheerleaders and thighs and stuff). Derick gave up being an accountant to become the evangelical equivalent of Plays-With-Squirrels. Ben was always a lazy douchebag, but now he’s a lazy douchebag with ministerial ambitions.
See? Men in the Quiverfull world have to conform too! In particular, those who marry in…because marrying ‘out’ obviously doesn’t happen. Sorry, Free Jinger folks, but it doesn’t matter if Jeremy Vuolo is college educated. He will be inducted into Gothardism with their version of flirty fishing…um…courtship catching? Wife winning?
But what if there were another factor that overruled even the strictest gender roles in Gothardism? Something that overpowered even the manliest of manly men-men?
Let’s take John David Duggar as our example, and lay forth a scenario that demonstrates my idea.
John David is 26, unmarried, and his entire life has been taught that his role in his future family (which he must have, because families ARE what the Quiverfull Cult is all about) is that of a “headship,” that is to say, the unquestioned leader. He is to make the decisions based around his household, provide for everyone a secure, steady income to live off of, and it is up to him and him alone to save his family’s souls from the fires of Hell. Pretty tall order, yes? Even to someone who, by his family’s standards, should have four kids by now.
Going off of what we’ve seen and heard from 19KaC as well as his family’s own words, John David does not sound particularly like someone who could handle such expectations. Words used to describe him are typically ‘gentle,’ ‘mellow,’ and ‘quiet.’ And, in the author’s humble opinion, he doesn’t seem very intelligent either (I mean, look where he comes from…his parents could put their IQ scores together and still not get enough points to win a basketball game).
But one thing he has said consistently in interviews, in between assuming that his sisters love scrubbing the train tracks out of his panties, is that he wants to get married. Unlike his twin, who is likely not a spinster by choice because of her father’s strict guidelines for a courting partner (that is, if they’re not a clone of Jim Bob, they’re no good), John David has the freedom to go out and pursue a potential mate. So what the hell is stopping him from doing that?
Well, let’s say he’s met a young lady. We’ll call her Susie. Susie is like Cousin Amy, that is, she’s definitely a conservative Christian, but she’s also socially liberated. She wears pants, has a job, dances, has aspirations beyond perpetual motherhood, and has kissed before marriage. Not a rare find, really. By most standards, that conservative Christian aspect should be enough of a starting point for a Quiverfull boy (it was for Josiah for a little while).
John David and Susie talk and decide that they might have a future together. He asks her father and yaddi-yah, and he approves of a courtship. If he got this far without Daddy’s intervention, that in itself would be rather amazing. But let’s say he did. So now John David’s got Susie all ready for wide-eyed glares and hand sex all night long, and he introduces her to the rest of the Duggar family.
Courtship over. The end.
Because Jim Bob is the be-all end-all decision maker, even over a adult child’s love life.
It’s not his status as a male that gives him this power. It’s his age.
While there’s no denying that Gothardism doesn’t respect women of any age, it seems to be an oft-overlooked fact that it also doesn’t respect any young people. Status comes with age and family, much like in the FLDS, where the philosophy is the more wives and children you own, the more of a God you will become on your own paradise planet in the Celestial Realm after you die.
It’s a cyclical pattern as well. Older men in fundamentalist society have control over their childrens’ educations, so they instill the fear of God and the outside world in their offspring from the time they can walk and talk. Jim Bob and Bill Gothard place themselves not only as headships in their homes, but as lesser Gods as well. Much like how Warren Jeffs claimed leadership because he was ‘special enough’ for God to speak directly in her ear, because older men in IBLP get their leadership commands directly on the orders of the big man in the clouds, they get the respect and status that goes along with it.
Moreover, John David probably has a hard time finding courting opportunities because he needs to find a girl who is even MORE passive and dim-witted than he seems to be, so he can at least attempt to fit into the headship role set forth for him. I can’t imagine, even in Duggarville, that is an easy thing to track down. If he finds a girl who goes even a little bit over his head, he could quickly fall into the same downfalls of his older brother…not necessarily in a sex scandal…but in a crumbling of the foundations of everything he was raised to be. When you are taught no other ways of living, when that one way doesn’t work out for you, it’s pretty much game over. That’s why people who escape from fundamentalist groups like IBLP or FLDS experience withdrawals and culture shocks worse than some drug addicts in rehab. John David is supposed to hold control over his own destiny, but he can’t really help it if he’s just not a powerful personality or if there really are no women out there for him.
That is why men in the Quiverfull Cult have it bad. They are expected to be Gods and have the ability to control everything short of the wind and the rain. When something falls out of their hands and they slip up, the entire fortress of masculinity they spend their whole lives building up comes a-tumbling down, leaving them clueless and without answers in a lifestyle that requires that they know everything.
Well, as sad as that may be, in the end all I have to say is…