On Michelle Duggar’s Signature and the Infantilization of Women in Fundamentalist Christianity

by | May 17, 2022 | Bare Marriage, Faith, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 56 comments

Michelle Duggar's Signature and the infantilization of Christian women
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Like you, I’m heartbroken by the Josh Duggar case, and by the continued support for him from his wife.

I noticed something that I shared on social media yesterday, and I thought it was worth a super quick post because I’m curious what my commenters think (and there were great comments on Facebook yesterday!).

As you all likely know, Josh Duggar was convicted of possession of child sexual abuse materials (I hope that it becomes normal to call it that instead of child porn; let’s all adopt the term like the Brits already have!), and will be sentenced on May 25.

His mother Michelle and his wife Anna, as well as some family friends, sent letters to the court in support of him. 

To be clear–I’m very upset about Michelle’s letter and Anna’s letter. In no way do they admit that Josh did anything wrong. They seem to think that the fact that he blended in to the community means that he should get a pass at looking at materials which depicted the torture of children (and I’ll leave it at that).

Much has been said about that. But I just want to draw attention to something else.

I’ve been staring at this part of Michelle Duggar’s letter to the judge in support of her son Josh for a while, and thinking about it for a few days:

Michelle Duggar is a 55-year-old woman writing an official letter to a judge–and she doesn’t use a signature.

She prints her name and puts a “heart” over the i. This is how 12-year-old girls doodle.

She also seems to have perfected a “sing-song”, childish voice.

Have the Duggar women been raised to stay child-like? To never really grow up and take responsibility? Been so sheltered that they don’t even understand sexual abuse?

I just can’t get over this signature and I keep thinking about what it means.

Does this give us clues about why Michelle and Anna aren’t able or willing to see the truth about Josh? They’ve been so infantilized that Anna can’t picture actually raising her family alone? That they can’t picture what child sexual abuse material may even mean? That they’ve been so taught to not question the men that they can’t believe the men would do anything wrong?

I mean, what post-menopausal woman would sign a letter like that?

Why are women rewarded for staying child-like? And does this creep anyone else out besides me?

I just find it very strange, and I’m wondering if anyone else does too, and what you all think it means about fundamentalist Christianity!

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What do you think? How can we help women who have been infantilized? How can we stop this from happening? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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56 Comments

  1. Chris

    I am not sure how I feel about this. I mean on the one hand, yes it is odd that an adult woman would sign her name that way. But I see a lot of signatures in my work and I have seen that kind of stuff before. Including a grown man printing his name or another employee signing into the safety meetings we have with an “X”. I have my own thoughts on why he did that but I guess I don’t want to read too much into them. But the heart for the dot on the “i” is strange.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it’s really the heart that stood out to me on an official legal letter.

      I know some print–especially younger people who aren’t taught cursive. But Michelle is a little older than me. we were definitely taught cursive. I’m far more comfortable in cursive than printing, and most of my generation are. It’s just weird.

      Again, I know it’s different for younger people where cursive isn’t even taught in the same way anymore. But i do find it strange.

      Reply
  2. Cynthia

    Without giving away any confidential details, I have a case now that could be described as “imagine if Anna Duggar had taken the kids and left”.

    Leaving did not happen right away. It ultimately happened with involvement and support of family and friends. Prior to that, there was a great deal of isolating her from sources of support and opportunities to fully process what was happening, and the support structures that did exist were supportive of him.

    She is still processing, and allowing herself to realize the extent of the abuse and control. Aside from the practical issues of having a place to go with very young children, the effect of not having the space and opportunity to ever really be able to be alone or be open with your thoughts can form a bit of a psychological straightjacket.

    And yes, we need to use the term child sex abuse material!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think it very much can be isolating. The thing that’s different with Anna, though, is that her brother has offered to take her and the kids in. And she could have a GoFundMe campaign of like a few hundred thousand in a few days I’m sure if she tried. She may not understand any of that, but she has far more options than most women in her situation. She married far too young and her parents are still supporting Josh, and I’m sure she feels lost and helpless. But at some point she has to protect those kids. I hope some around her can talk to her sensibly.

      Reply
      • Tiffany

        As usual, well said!

        Reply
  3. Codec

    Here is my idea on the matter.

    People abuse the idea of becoming childlike. Rather than understanding that to be childlike means that one should develop a healthy curiousity, a sense of gratitude, the ability laugh at your own foibles, or the ability to see through fakes as children are aught to do many who want to control others I think want people to stay childlike in the sense of being ignorant and/or emotionally available.

    It is in my view a form of emotional parasitism. You are using someone elses dependance on you to make up for your own emotional and intellectual shortcomings.

    Some I think do it as a form of authoritarian control. Building themselves up as someone keeping their “children” safe from a world that will polute them. Some may be aware of the harm they do others may not be. I figure this Duggar guy is aware of his own behavior.

    Reply
  4. Michelle

    I am appalled at the letters from Anna and Michelle. If JB and Michelle had properly reported Josh back as a teenager, he may have had a chance. They are to blame as well. I also find it telling that none of the abused sisters wrote letters. In fact, they all agreed with the verdict. I think Jinger/Jeremy said it best with “We fear for his soul.”

    As for Anna, she seems to be a lost cause and should have her children removed.

    Reply
  5. Laura

    Michelle Duggar’s childlike, sing-song voice is what really irritates me. I’m not sure if it’s really her voice or it’s fake. Like these Christian fundamentalist women who are raised in the IFB movement all sound the same: little girl voices and acting helpless because the men are in charge of them. As for that signature, or print, it is definitely childish.

    Reply
  6. A2bbethany

    So the strategy in the letters, that emphasize his generosity and his “providing financially”, is a loophole. Sometimes a parent figure is given special treatment in the sentencing of crimes, so they can still support the family.
    So they’re hoping that’ll get him off this horrendous criminal charge and a light sentence.

    What are they ignoring though? He’s a pedophile and those tend to be “popular, helpful, community people”. Because it positions them to take advantage of vulnerable people. Like the widowed mom(?) That was mentioned in Anna’s letter. So I think the judge isn’t going to be stupid or niave! He’s not even acknowledged that he did it still, according to his evaluation.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      If anything those letters would make me want to sentence him LONGER because I’d realize the family has no clue what he’s actually capable of, and so the family won’t keep him away from children.

      Reply
  7. Nathan

    The childish signature and the little-girl voice are a bit disturbing, and could be a window into what things are like in the male patriarchal culture.

    More disturbing, though, is that fact that they have never condemned his actions as wrong. Now, when this happens, most people say that we’re Christians, and ought to forgive and nurture and support people, even when they do bad things.

    This sounds great, but the problem is that in many cases such as this, they only do that for the abuser, and ignore the victim, sometimes even blaming the victim and excluding them from the church and group.

    Reply
  8. Nathan

    > > a healthy curiosity, a sense of gratitude, the ability laugh at your own foibles, or the ability to see through fakes as children are aught to do

    versus

    > > childlike in the sense of being ignorant and/or emotionally [Dependent]

    A psychiatrist on the old TV show “M*A*S*H*” noted something like this, and called it the difference between child-LIKE and child-ISH.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Nathan, are you referring to Dr. Sidney Freedman? The episodes where he visited were awesome, and he had one of the best lines ever: “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice!”

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Actually, no, although Sidney was awesome. This was Captain Hildebrand who, during the premier of season 2, was assigned to see if stress was so bad that the unit needed to be broken up. They tried to play it straight, but he saw their goofiness anyway, and made the speech about childlike versus childish

        Reply
      • Chris

        All the episodes of that show were awesome. That show was waaaaaay ahead of its time. I almost tear up when Suicide Is Painless comes on during the intro. Yes, nothing like *M.A.S.H.* on tv today. Nothing.

        Reply
  9. Elissa

    I can see where you’re coming from with the infantilized thing, but it kind of seems like you are doing a similar thing in how you talk about Anna. It’s like she’s either brainwashed or this poor helpless victim who can’t possibly come to her own conclusions on things without the help of all the rest of us, her enlightened betters, who will gladly share our opinions to help her see the light and the truth of her condition. What if, like a normal adult, she has considered multiple viewpoints and come to own conclusions about her situation? Maybe she totally understands the extent of what Josh has done, but still holds the positions that she does?
    Now, to be clear, I’m not saying this is or isn’t the case, but it seems just as infantilizing to her to assume that she’s NOT making her own decisions in these matters. The fact that she doesn’t agree with your assessment of her situation doesn’t automatically mean she’s brainwashed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, you’re right. She very well may be like that.

      If she is, then I think her children should be taken away from her, though, if Josh ever gets out of prison when there are still minors in the house. I hope that she is just brainwashed; the alternative is so awful.

      Reply
  10. Phil

    That heart says connect with me. Thats what that means. Very poor choice to try and persuade a Judge. I am sure it was noticed. It was the first thing that jumped out at me…Yes girls in middle school write that way to boys they liked or maybe their close girl friend. I recall getting that type of signature from notes from girls at that age. Today kids don’t write notes they text with emoji’s. When I read it, I reacted with thats weird ewe. So apparently this woman is hoping the judge is one of those men or women who might be like 50 or something but never got past 13 maturity wise.

    Reply
  11. Andrea

    I’m thinking about how thin the line is between fundamentalism and what has become of mainstream American evangelicalism because Michelle Duggar is extreme with the heart above her signature, but wouldn’t you say, Sheila, that you were also infantilized when your former church board debated for a year whether saying a few words between worship songs constituted preaching? Or the complementarian idea that the husband makes the final decision after consulting with his wife. This is how good parents parent, they allow the kids input, but of course as the adults they make the final decision for their children. I think American evangelicalism more broadly infantilizes grown women. Another example is that they believe women are naturally more easily deceived, you know, because of Eve, whereas actual social science research shows the exact opposite, that oppressed groups tend to be more discerning because they have to for survival, typically referred to as “double consciousness.” So another way women are infantilized – like children, they are perceived to be more gullible.

    One final very important point I need to bring in here is race. Only white women and girls get the privilege of innocence. The only reason Michelle and Anne get to even try to pull off this kind of s**t is because they are white.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Agreed. My abusive, controlling ex-husband treated me like a child and that attitude was fed by the teachings of American evangelicalism.

      Reply
      • Laura

        Amy,

        I can relate. My ex-husband treated me like a child too. He would often say things to me like “Sit up straight,” “Use soap when you wash your hands,” etc. I had to remind him that I am an adult and don’t need to be told what to do all the time. He would say, “I’m only telling you this for your own good.”

        After I served him with divorce papers 20 years ago, he said to me, “Whose idea was this for you to go through with this divorce? Who talked you into this?”

        He acted like I did not have a mind of my own. For crying out loud, I lived alone, purchased a used vehicle, and handled the checkbook before I ever met him. I was also taking college classes at night while working a full-time job. I was a self-sufficient, independent woman. Now that I look back on this, I cannot believe I allowed myself to stay in this relationship and marry him. Well, I was only 23 and naive when it came to dating and relationships. He was my first serious relationship and after him, I did not date for 15 years.

        Reply
      • Denise

        My sister was married to a very controlling and verbally abusive man. He also treated her like a child and when they finally divorced she had no confidence in herself. But, he was not an evangelical, he was Catholic.
        My dad and my husband are/were wonderful men and wonderful, considerate husbands and they are both from an evangelical background.
        My point is that I think one’s character has more to do with their personality and their heart than what church they belong to. Power-hungry men and narcissists come from all kinds of belief systems. Even if I don’t always agree with or like the direction of some evangelicals or some evangelical churches, it does not mean that I should lump everyone into the same category. Just my two cents worth.

        Reply
    • EOF

      When we were living in patriarchy, my husband also treated my like a child. It was to the point that one time when I pointed it out by comparing how he treated me to how he treated our daughter, he said, “Of course I treat you differently. I have sex with you!” 😳

      Reply
  12. EOF

    It’s definitely weird to see a woman in her 50s “signing” her name like that. It does look like a middle schooler’s writing.

    I read Anna’s letter and it was truly disturbing. Like others are mentioning, she didn’t mention anything about him having done anything wrong. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was coerced into writing that or if she really believes it, which is a sickening thought.

    Reply
  13. Michelle

    I was appalled by Michelle and Anna’s letters. If JB and Michelle had properly turned Josh over to the authorities when the incidents happened as a teenager he might have had a chance. They are to blame as well. I also cannot fathom Anna’s dad writing a letter in support of Josh!

    It’s interesting that none of the abused sisters wrote letters. I think that says a lot.

    I think Jinger/Jeremy said it best. “We fear for his soul.”

    It seems Anna is a lost cause. She should have her children removed.

    Reply
  14. Amy

    My mom taught high school for decades and she would sometimes express her annoyance with the elementary school teachers sending hand written communications to the high school teachers on Big Chief tablet paper in big, plain print. In comparing my mom’s viewpoint to Michelle’s “signature,” I wonder if Michelle is so immersed in her role as mother and grandmother that she’s never explored who she is as an individual. That signature tells me that her entire identity is so wrapped up in caring for children that she doesn’t even know how to communicate as an adult.

    Reply
    • Boone

      [Ed note: Trigger warning for extreme descritions of child abuse]

      I’ve dealt with fundamentalists off and on my entire legal career. Believe me when I say that the Duggers are tame. Look up some of the accounts of survivors of Hepzibah House in IN. Also Lester Rolloff’s Gulags down in TX. There was even a home called Bethany something down in LA. I’ll let you read for yourself what went on there.
      Of course there’s Kingsport, TN’s Rev Joe Combs. He and his wife took a baby from some fundy unwed mother mill up in IN. They never adopted the child but kept her as a slave. She was beaten, burned, had pieces of skin twisted off with needle nose pliers, and when she became a teenager, repeatedly raped. Fortunately, old Joe died in prison.
      Joe came up under the mentoring of Jack Hyles of Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Hammond, IN fame. He made his son youth pastor. Let’s just say it ended badly. After Jack’s death his son in law Jack Schaap took over the empire. He’s now in federal prison for transporting an underage church member across state lines for immoral purposes.
      I really don’t like these people.

      Reply
      • Codec

        These guys sounds like the weird twisted child of Nurse Ratched and Chick Tracts.

        Reply
  15. Orange

    The heart in the signature is definitely weird.

    I often find the tone of advice given to women in the evangelical sphere infantilizing.

    One particular way this bothers me is when writers focus on the mother son relationship, telling women they must be careful to respect their sons. Shaunti Feldhahn does this and so does Emerson Eggerichs. It is as if they are putting the son on the same level as the woman’s husband——while at the same time diminishing the role of the mother to a potentially disrespectful shrew.

    Reply
    • EOF

      I stopped listening to FOF years ago when James Dobson told moms of teen boys never to tell them what to do because it’s emasculates them and teaches them to submit to women (which of course would be horrible; we can’t have mutual submission like the Bible calls for!)

      Reply
      • Codec

        Its weird.

        This sounds like a recipe for emotional enmeshment and a whole lot of sexual issues. Recently read Unwanted by Jay Stringer.

        I find it weird. The same company that did one of the best adaptations of The Screwtape Letters also says stuff like that.

        Reply
      • Anon

        Why do I get the feeling his mother told him “No” as a child and it scarred him for life?

        Reply
        • Laura

          It’s all in Dobson’s writings and teachings. FOF probably meant Focus on the Fathers more than Focus on the Family.

          Reply
      • Laura

        For crying out loud, boys are NOT yet adults! They are children and need guidance. But, because they have penises, the James Dobsons and Emmerson Eggerichs of this world believe penises=privilege and power.

        Reply
  16. Danite

    Or by not signing – it’s an act of rebellion? Like I’ll write this letter because you’re making me, but, I don’t agree, so I’ll not put a formal signature. Which, in and of itself says a whole lot and is very immature and petty. There’s a lot going on behind closed doors. By some of the sisters coming out and saying the truth about it and what should happen? It’s sad all the way around.

    Reply
    • Anna Renard

      I saw other writings of Michelle’s over the years on Reddit. That’s her signature! Hasn’t changed!

      Reply
  17. Angharad

    This has not really been on our radar in Europe, so I can’t comment on anything except what I have seen in Sheila’s post. But one thing about the signature and the mention of the childish voice really concerns me. And to be clear, I’m not saying this HAS happened, but friends who work with abused kids say that it is common for them to get ‘stuck’ at the age they were when they were first abused. If they encountered a woman who was writing her name like a 12 year old and talking in a 12 year old’s voice, their first thought would be to question whether she was a victim of child abuse.

    Reply
    • Andrea

      It seems like most of these people are, actually, victims of child abuse. I started following some Twitter accounts of Gothard cult escapees when Josh was first arrested and they claimed it was very likely that Josh himself had been molested. To be clear, none of them were bringing this up to in any way excuse Josh, but to point out how sadly common it is in those circles. Some shared screenshots of their instruction manuals that, among other things, warn against letting toddler girls run around naked cause they might incite anyone from their toddler brothers to the grown men in the room. They are the extreme version of mainstream evangelicalism (again, thin line) that sexualizes prepubescent girls. So child sexual abuse seems widespread in those circles.

      I remember this blog had a post a few years ago about a similar problem among the Amish. It’s these innocent-looking, but extremely patriarchal groups that have been idealized by everyone from the “liberal media” that gave the Duggars a platform to mainstream evangelical moms with their 2.5 kids and all the kitchen appliances they can dream of reading Amish romance novels that idealize women with no bodily autonomy who have to do all the laundry by hand. We are all complicit.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Andrea – I grew up near the Amish community (well sort of close proximity). We were around it. I remember that post here vaguely too. It is quite interesting the view of the Amish that is held by the Public. They make some great furniture and good food and are noted hard workers. They also have some solid community stuff that most aren’t quite aware of. My Mom still “takes a trip to Amish Country” several times a year. 30 years ago I ran on an EMS squad and there was this Medic who had ran the entire eastern part of the state and been around for a long time. We used to call him Pappa John lol. Anyway he told a story once about the Amish Community. The summation was he got called to an Amish car vrs bicycle accident. There was an Amish woman injured and he had to tend to her injuries. When he removed her outer clothing to get to her injuries, it was not plain underneath. What he found was clearly not from “their private world”. The point of the story was not sexual in nature but rather to point out dont judge a book by its cover. Most people including myself growing up view(ed) the Amish as “cute”. “Awe look at that horse and buggy so cute!” Thats how they leave it. Then they go buy their stuff and tell everyone about it. Truly interesting.

        Reply
      • Laura

        I don’t get the obsession with all these Amish romance novels written by mainstream Christian authors (mostly female). They infiltrate the Christian fiction section at my public library. I read a few of them, but after a while, they are all the same.

        Reply
      • anon for now

        “…reading Amish romance novels that idealize women with no bodily autonomy who have to do all the laundry by hand.”

        I would roll on the floor laughing, if it wasn’t so serious!

        Reply
    • Laura

      Very true. For years, I suspected that I may have been touched inappropriately at the age of five. When I talked to a friend about this years ago (I was 21 at that time), she said something along these lines, “Do you ever feel like you are stuck at 5?” I think I did. I’m 45 now and at times I still feel stuck. Now, I live like an adult woman. I’m educated and work two part-time jobs, but when it comes to relationships with me, I struggle. I’m afraid of sex, but that’s mainly due to the sexual assaults I endured by my ex-husband.

      I would NOT be in the least bit surprised if Mrs. Duggar experienced some kind of abuse in her childhood. Also, I don’t think she grew up Fundamentalist. It wasn’t until after being married to Jim Bob that they became Fundamentalists. Of course, extreme religious practices can cause people to get stuck, especially women. As I deconstruct from organized religion, I realize I feel stuck in some ways.

      Reply
  18. Jane Eyre

    Abusers infantalise their victims. A handful of people have done it to me over the years; I used to think it was because I was young, but when I hit almost-40 and it kept happening, I really understood how creepy it is.

    It’s usually subtle: the abuser will lose their mind when their target acts in a mature manner. They will become emotionally or physically abusive if you calmly stand up for yourself. They will infantalise you – use childish nicknames, talk about how you aren’t capable, and act like you’re 12. The abuse will (temporarily) back off when the target is childish. If you dress in a more mature manner, there are snippy little comments. Even if you don’t intend on being childish, your brain figures out the pattern and pushes you that way.

    I can see it so clearly: young Michelle changes her signature to an adult one, and it’s all these little passive-aggressive comments about “who do you think you are?” If she modulates her voice, she’s mocked. If she puts on a power outfit, she’s screamed at. Then she wakes up one day and she’s 50+ and acting like a little kid.

    Reply
  19. Nathan

    A long time ago, before the scandal with Josh broke, a big story on that show was the marriage of daughter Jessa. Some people on another site noted that she would be going from a situation where she was completely under the control and authority of her father to a situation where she was completely under the control and authority of her husband.

    Nobody, then, would ever really get to know the REAL Jessa, perhaps not even Jessa herself, because her true personality would never be allowed to blossom.

    Reply
  20. exwifeofasexaddict

    Women are rewarded for staying childlike because children are dependent and women have to stay dependent too.

    Reply
  21. Bre

    I have a lot of different thoughts about this. I definitely think, as someone noted above, child like and childish are different things. I personally am a very “cutsey” person; I wear cosplay clothes, cat ears and flower crowns, still collect stuffed animals as an adult, and have what people have described as ‘cute’ mannerisms. But that was an image that I chose to cultivate after coming to college; I love cute things and anime and that basically was what I based a part of who I wanted to be on. Am I immature sometimes? Yes. And because I’m Autistic, that may leak through more than most people till the day I die because I struggle with social norms. But I am able to be professional when I need to be and am living on my own away from my parents, attending college, and have my own job and apartment. I can do and be both; a grown adult who can pay my bills and take care of myself daily and also someone who likes cute things that people associate more with children.

    But what I’m noticing with some of these patriarchy groups is that, not only are they keeping women childish and a bit immature, they are keeping them very ignorant. Like someone mentioned on Facebook, just because women are legally able to sign documents and handle legal stuff equally to men in America doesn’t mean that woman are able to in reality because of groups of thought like the Duggers follow making it a non-occuring thought that women can do that because it’s considered sinful for them to have autonomy. In my mind, it’s very possible that Michelle never signed a legal document before. Or, if what others are saying about her entering into the hyper patriarchy cult as an adult by choice and not growing up in it is true, she at least hasn’t done it in years since being indoctrinated.

    Also, lately, I’ve kinda gotten over my anger stage of grieving over all the misogeny and abuse in churches and christian circles and am now just in the sad “how long, Lord?” phase. While I don’t excuse Michelle and Anna in any way and believe that they shouldn’t be allowed their children unless/until they prove that they understand the severity and evil of the situation and take tangible steps to protect them, I’m just…sad. Really sad that awful groups like this even exist that rob women of their autonomy and joy and claim to do so in the name of Jesus. My life isn’t perfect and is pretty normal, really, but I am largely happy. I like having the freedom to go where I want and having my own little place. I like being able to try and expand my bubble and slowly meet new people. I’ve had lots of amazing experiences in college. It just makes me sad that there are so many women and girls out there who are not only deprived of this, but many of them think that they are actually happy to have no autonomy or freedom of their own. It’s also heartbreaking to think of the lost of human capitol, both in Christendom and society in general.

    For instance, I don’t make a ton of money, but I am still able to give money to things that I’m passionate about and just donated a small chunk of money to my local woman and children’s transition home to help them get AC in the home. Even just small things like that. Or many of my teacher friends who are Christians and specifically sought out charter schools and low income schools so that they could be with the kids who need love and support the most. Or the campus ministry I’m in where it’s largely student led and we plan parties and game nights and fun events so that other students have fun, safe things to do. There are so many ways to just be the hands and feet of Jesus and love others in tiny ways that matter. But then you’re closed off from the world in hyper-legalistic isolation and, in the case of women, told you have no autonomy or rights apart from a man “leading you”, you don’t have many, if any chances to do this because you are separated in a little bubble. You miss out on so much and I wonder how many good things could have happened if some of these people actually lived and didn’t separate from the world. I don’t want to shame people’s choices or excuse any of the awful, evil abuse, but it just makes me sad how much is lost for everyone. And I honestly can’t imagine living a life like many of these women.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      I’ll tell you how it happens. Women are told, over and over, explicitly and implicitly, that if they do not choose to live this way (dependent on and under the complete authority of either their father or their husband), they are SINNING AGAINST GOD. They might not even be Christians if they don’t live this way.

      Those are trump cards of unbelievable proportions. After all, the men teaching and preaching this message went to seminary, have been Christians a long time, have been studying the Bible half of forever. And their wives, already in the swamp, never question, never waver, never stray from the path, because THEY don’t want to sin against God, because they can’t risk their souls by not being believers.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree, Bre. The lost opportunities for everyone is just astounding and heartbreaking.

      Reply
  22. n

    I was single for well over a decade of adult life… and a lot of men who aren’t ultra-religious like their women to be somewhat childish, too. Many of them often say they want a smart, confident, modern, capable woman… because they don’t want to see the truth about themselves, or anyone else seeing it, either. But in practice, a lot of them recoil from the sort of women they say they want, and in vulnerable moments, many have admitted to me that they prefer a woman who’s not as smart or educated as they are, who has a high-pitched childish voice, who lives to follow their directions, who is so adoring that she isn’t likely to trigger them by calling them out about any of their flaws or inconsistencies.

    Reply
    • Laura

      I wonder that too. It’s like the whole “damsel in distress.” It seems like men thrive on rescuing a woman. I refuse to be a damsel in distress.

      Reply
  23. Brenda

    I was with a man who sexually abused my girls. I stayed with him for 9 months. Living in separate residences that he paid for. I was so mentally abused by him I couldnt see living without him. He was definitely a narcissist. Very controlling in everything I did. And I didnt even see it happening until my oldest daughter had a mental breakdown and then refused to come home. Even though she never had contact or saw him, she knew I was still seeing him and it hurt her.
    Within 6 weeks of her leaving I had a mental breakdown and ended up in the hospital for a lack of potassium.
    I dont think it has anything to do with the church. Unless it is a specifc Church’s misinterpretation of the Bible. (That was one issue with us) But its not an entire denomination i dont think. Men when combined with religion are a powerful combination and women look up to that.
    I thought my husband was in the right. We had made a covenant marriage and I thought it was right to stand by him.
    If you had known me before or knew me know it would be a totally unexpected. But its what I thought was right in the eyes of God and thats all I wanted.
    Trying to keep my kids protected and keep my marriage almost broke me. I found an awesome church, an amazing womens group, and a good therapist. And that help me to get out. And that sounds like what Michelle and Anna need along with a lot of prayer

    Reply
  24. GCB

    Thanks for putting into words so many of the things I’ve aways felt but never recognized or looked enough at. I spent a bit of the last few years stepping away from former Catholic blogs that I used to follow, or limiting my time with the ones I still respect. Spending time with so many other Catholic Women, both online but far more in person, made me feel more hardcore and out of place compared to all of the smiling, happy and hopeful ones, with barely enough recognition of struggles or testimonies of struggles that were either improperly addressed or reaching bizarre conclusions on. Not that there’s anything wrong with being happy and celebrating life even when life is hard but the context and discretion is not as simple as many people say it is. I had still followed these influences because it was what I was told to look up to or else I had less faith, and it took a long time to come to terms that I wasn’t a failure if I didn’t want to belong in a place where I feel like I didn’t fit, and that these places weren’t the only Christian corners where I could find Godly counsel, let alone healthy insight. I never thought of the word “infantilizing” when considering these places, but in retrospect, I can’t think of a better one.

    So many of us, especially so many of us women in the Church, are no longer so accepting of pat answers, especially after the past two years we’ve lived through. We know we’re meant to be more and do more. We know how much our communities need us and our voices and how we’re responsible for taking the steps that God outlines for us, whether in action, prayers, healing or all of them combined. It’s not stupid to not want to stay in places where you feel like the important things are not getting done. It’s possible to both praise God in hard circumstances and not exercise incomplete and immature methods and expressions of praise and prayer. But we’ve got a long way to go thanks to these kinds of environments that we withstood and absorbed as children, maybe even still cultivate today.

    Reply
  25. Lauren

    Is signing your name with heart quirky for a grown woman? Yeah. But is it a symptom of being infantilized by Christian fundamentalism? I think that’s a far stretch. Go ahead and offer a substantive theological disagreement with Michelle Duggar’s beliefs— she’s a public figure, so I believe that’s fair if you want to publicly disagree. But this is weak and honestly comes across as gossip.

    Reply
  26. Anna Renard

    I know I’m late to the party. I’m 57 and grew up in IFB. Still trying to sort things out which brought the Duggar case to my attention. I just saw Michelle’s letter with her “signature” and was appalled so I had to Google if anyone was as triggered as I was.

    This is a MOTHER of 20 children who HOMESCHOOLED all of them. She is still printing her name and using a ❤️ to dot the “I” on a letter to the court asking for leniency for her adult son?

    Everyone I see is appalled by the cognitive dissidence of the letters from Michelle and Anna. Actually, it would be more appalling to read a well laid out reasoning which acknowledged the indiscretions and pled for leniency but signed by a middle schooler in love💕.

    No wonder the world attracts homeschooling! Makes me wonder myself.

    Reply
  27. Anon

    I’m not sure how much to attribute to the Duggars’ version of Christianity, to their family specifically, or Michelle’s own upbringing here. But a print signature like that isn’t even acceptable, legally, in many cases. I used to have a job where I’d return documents for being signed in this manner because we couldn’t use them. How does a 50-something not know that? I mean, I’m 20 years younger than Michelle, and I knew a print “signature” was not OK well before I began signing documents on my own behalf.

    Reply

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