The Duggars Are What’s Right and Wrong About America

by kim on August 4, 2009 · 23 comments

in belief, religion, television

To date, the posts that I’ve gotten the most vehement feedback on have been the ones involving The Duggars.  And the funny thing is that they’ll come over time, one this month, one last month, etc.  People seem to find this post every so often and just can’t wait to write me an e-mail to tell me how ridiculous I’m being.  And frankly, I love hearing it.  It reminds me that I’m not so ridiculous after all.

Since the people that know me best have questioned my tastes for these shows, I thought I’d take this time to clarify my position on The Duggars.  It seems that a little post that was meant to be more humorous than opinionated became a soap box I never meant to set foot on…until now.  So read this, enjoy and then you can all go ahead and send me more hate mail (e-mail me at kim@perfectlycursedlife.com early and often).

I love watching The Duggars on TV.  There are two reasons why:  they are a piece of what can be right for America and they are a piece of what can be wrong for America.  Bear with me on this….

They are what can be right about America

The Duggars truly do mean well.  They are largely a harmless bunch that are intent (I will refrain from using the term “hell-bent”) on doing the right thing.  When they took in Jim Bob’s father and mother while the father was dying from cancer, they did so in hopes that they might help.  When they went to volunteer in Costa Rica and at the animal safari, they honestly did so thinking they were helping.

More than that, the parents, Jim Bob and Michelle do try and set an example for their children.  Knowing too many parents who don’t think about the consequences of their actions in their own lives and the example that sets for their children.  When the ice froze over the Duggars’ trees and crashed them onto their property, Jim Bob didn’t scream and yell (much the way I or my Dad might have), but instead he took a deep breath and thought about the example he was setting for his children.  Whatever his actions were, he at least thought about setting an example and that means a lot in a world content with just getting by.

They are what can be wrong about America

The Duggars, while being great people, don’t seem to get the impact that a large family has on society.  First of all, they home school their children, which is something that I think should be avoided.  Children need the interaction that school, particularly public school, brings.  If I had skipped over all of the things I learned in public school, I’d be a pretty boring person.

Secondly, they believe that having a big family is God’s will.  Well, if God invented having sex and procreation, he certainly had a hand in contraception.  And maybe contraception came around because there were just too many people hanging about this planet, strained as it is.  All of these children could become well-functioning members of society, but at some point, after 18 kids are popped out, at least a few are bound to get lost in the shuffle and end up somehow the burden (emotional, financial or otherwise) on society.

Thirdly, while they have a lot of diversity to choose from within their own families, they surely cling to gender roles like they’re going out of style (which they are, for good reason).  The women and girls in the family are locked into household chores while the boys are locked into more masculine chores.  The modest clothing requisite seems to bear more heavily on the women than the men.  It just rings of misogynistic best intentions–they mean well, but they end up reinforcing the stereotypes that have chained women to lower paying jobs, lower expectations and lower results for years.  Their ridiculous “courting” rituals reinforce these beliefs.  The fact that they don’t see this as a problem scares me.  And it should scare you.

So while the Duggars bring much entertainment to my life, they do so at a cost.  I’m fully aware of that cost.  I’m fully aware of all of the arguments I’ve received over time calling me a horrible person for questioning the Duggars’ way of life.  I’ve thought about them all and stand behind my words.

The fact o’ the matter is that I could write this post about every family in America.  The people who have written me condemning me to a lower form of existence just don’t get that.  And that is the sad part.

Plus, it’s not like anyone is writing me to defend the Kardashians.  That I’d love to see.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

WickedRB August 4, 2009 at 4:47 am

I feel like people should have something better to do than get mad at you about something like that…that's a story in itself

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Christina August 4, 2009 at 6:57 am

I totally agree with you and share your love of watching the circus that is the Duggars on TV. John and Kate? no thank you! I'll take the Duggars any day because at least they like each other.

In a creepy, misogynistic, we don't let our children near literature kind of way.

I'm secretly jealous that you get hate mail too. :)

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Lydia August 4, 2009 at 7:49 am

Who the hell are the Duggars? I gather that they must be on a cable channel reality show. "Ridiculous courting rituals"…that one got me going, and the news about the division of chores. What ghastly fundamentalist tribe do these people belong to? Or have they just decided to procreate themselves a congregation?

I'm sorry (no, I'm not) but this photo makes me furious. I despise them for contributing so heavily (and obviously, so cheerfully) to the world's dire overpopulation.

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sleepyjane August 4, 2009 at 7:58 am

Well…that's too much! All of it. I don't even know what the show is (I get the gist of it though) and even *I* totally get where you're coming from. I got more and more worked up as I read about how wrong they can be.

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f.B August 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm

They scare me a lot. And for basically the same reasons you noted: the misogyny and the religious themes that feel untethered to modernity. It’s dangerous to so openly embrace ideas that so poorly prepare your children for a diverse world. Of course, just my opinion.

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sharon August 4, 2009 at 1:13 pm

You make some very valid points! I don't really watch this show, but I am familiar with some of the issues surrounding it. I think the central problem is not their choices and perspectives as much as a lack of moderation. For example, my parents wanted a big family, and had one…but there's a reasonable difference between 7 kids and 14. I'm not sure what the benefits would be for such an extreme number of kids that you wouldn't enjoy with a handful.

And I must say, I was homeschooled from cradle to college. I'm not a boring person. The quality and impact of the homeschooling experience totally depends on who, why, where it's being done. Coming from a passel of 7 kids, there was quite a bit of "interaction" even without the extracurricular activities, neighborhood friends, etc. Homeschooling doesn't necessarily equal narrow-minded gender roles, social inadequacy, etc., although it certainly can encourage it in families already so predisposed.

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Sheema August 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

The Duggars are my guilty pleasure- I am fascinated with their lives and how they live in his self-created bubble. I agree with you that they're well-meaning people and they teaching their kids to be respectful & kind individuals who know right from wrong. At the same time, they are clearly delusional (for lack of a better word)- I love how they don't think they are reinforcing gender stereotypes & how they claim that their children can choose whatever path they want, but they don't expose them to any different lifestyles.

The best part of the Duggars? The "normal" cousin Amy. I love her little comments.

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Jessica August 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I can appreciate how nice and decent the Duggars are, but I just get an overwhelming sense of dread whenever one of the girls is on camera – I just feel sad when I hear one of them talk about long-term goals. I think it may have to do with one of them explaining (I'm paraphrasing) how courtship worked and her destiny was to serve her husband.

I've heard the Duggars, as well as a friend of the family on the show talk about the criticism of "sheltering" their children and could not follow the logic. It's a big world out there and all of these children are not prepared for it…but maybe that's the point? To stay close and populate a fundamentalist utopia.

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YogaforCynics August 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I've never seen this show, and in fact, these people reminds me way too much of some of my relatives, who are also breeding like rabbits, homeschooling the kids so they'll never learn about evolution or homosexuality, and so into traditional gender roles the last wedding I went to was like a political rally against gender equallity (which was why I decided it will definitely be the last I'll go to).

That said, I've gotta disagree with you about homeschooling–much as I'd like to see my young relatives get some exposure to the world outside of their cultish home. The interaction that school, particularly public school, brings did an incredible amount of damage to me, as it does to many people. If I had skipped over all of the things I learned in public school, I’d be a far happier and probably less boring person, as I'd have had more opportunity to cultivate my own gifts in the formative years instead of constantly struggling against the ill-fitting mold the school was trying to force me into. Kids who think or learn differently than the mass should be pulled out of school before their minds and spirits are crushed.

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Ronnica August 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

It's amazing how polarizing the Duggars can be in society. I don't have a problem with them, though I don't agree with all their views, either.

That said, I like homeschooling as an option for schooling. It's certainly not for every family or even every child within a family. But I think that it's the parents responsibility to educate their children, and their decision on how that'll be done. I do believe in interaction with others, but believe that that can be successfully done through other activities besides formal schooling. Just my two cents. =)

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Jennifer August 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I've loved all the posts on the Duggars. There are two ways to look at everything, and I loved it all. I will take a leap here, and request the Kardashian analogy. Whenever you get the chance. Thanks! ;)

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ConstAttitude August 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm

OMG! that is a HUGEEE family. when and where does this air?

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Erin August 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I don't watch this show, but I am familiar with who The Duggars are. They seem like good people, but definitely behind the times as far as the women's movement goes.

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cari August 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm

the duggar's is one show that i always had a hard time watching because like your previous duggar post and this one state, they are out of touch with reality. now, i'm pretty sure you read my blog, at least every now and again, and you're aware of my beliefs. i just have a hard time with theirs. the show usually made me angry or made my head hurt. yes, they mean well, but i personally think that they need to smart up a bit. you can be a Christian, even a good one, and not wear skirts all the time and go to public school. i sure turned out pretty ok, don't you think?

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Deva84 August 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm

18 kids? Dear Lord I would die! First you need to popped them out /I can imagine of disaster which was left down there!!!/ then bring them up… wow…. I thought 3 kids are pretty enough!!!

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Lacey Bean August 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Haha I love the Duggars. And I love watching them because they're so different than my own family. I love seeing how other people live, and clearly they are no exception. And if people hate on them, they need something better to do. Same for the people who hate on Jon & Kate + 8. Yeah they're family is messed up now, but they don't need random people hating on them on top of it.

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Lindsay August 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I completely agree with you. Their way of life seems almost cult-like to me. I admire their desire to lead these righteous lives, but I'm worried about these kids when they grow up and enter mainstream society. I don't think their family life has equipped them with the tools they need to make it in the world outside of Duggarville.

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Shoshanah August 5, 2009 at 12:51 am

Didn't you see the episode where the girl's did "boy" chores like changing the oil of a car and the boy did "girl" chores like cooking? Clearly, they are trying to move past the gender roles!

Kidding of course. I think what the Duggars is so interesting because its similar to a wreck on the side of the road in that you can't look away. While I do think they try to live on "Christian values," I don't necessarily think its the best plan. And listening to some of them talk, they say things like, "well you can't be alone with a boy because bad things might happen," they come of as SO sheltered. I can't image what it would be like for them to try to go off into the "real world"

O, look, the new episode starts in 10 minutes!

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Andhari August 5, 2009 at 3:27 am

Geez I wanna see if someone will send me a hate mail over this. I do not understand and of course I will give a nasty remark about this lifestyle choice from time to time because, well let's see, 18 kids are too many? They're not doing themselves any good by having that many and like you said not everyone can be controled? Why not having nice small family where you can totally raise their children to their very full potential? What's so wrong with it? This and Jon&Kate are totally wrong. I know it because I saw how my dad is the 15th out of 16th children, I know how wrong people can turn out after all that, luckily my dad didn't suffer anything but lack of childhood nurturing.

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Jane August 5, 2009 at 1:21 pm

This is unrelated to the Duggers, but I think you're brilliant. You make me glad that I got into this whole blogging thing. The Shwartz is strong in you, my friend.

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Kelly August 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I have Kimsaks syndrome b/c I canNOT stop watching The Duggars. Last night, I was flipping feverishly back and forth between 18 Kids and Counting and Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood. I did happen to notice that Michelle's hair in one of the interviews was suprisingly more modern than it has been in previous episodes. Wouldn't it be great if Stacy London and Clinton what's-his-face got hold of her and gave her a makeover?! I'd watch that with a bag of Doritoes AND a pint of Phish Food.

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Lainey August 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I don’t know what it is about this show but it fascinates me. My husband doesn’t get it but when it’s on, I always watch.

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