Whether one watches the Duggars’ TLC show or reads books by the Botkin sisters, one cannot escape the reality that dutiful daughters of Christian Patriarchy do exist. Heck, they even blog. I used to be one of them. For nearly twenty years, I was a dutiful daughter of patriarchy, and more than that, I was a happy and contented daughter of patriarchy. I was in some sense a poster child of the movement. What enabled me to be such a happy and dutiful daughter of patriarchy? While I cannot ultimately speak for others, a better understanding of my experience may shed some light on the dutiful and contented appearances of girls like the Duggars and the Botkins.
When I analyze it, I believe that I was happy and contented for four reasons: first, I was taught that the home was where God wanted me; second, my beliefs gave me a sense of purpose and destiny; third, I received nothing but praise for fulfilling my role; and fourth, I never truly felt the pain of submission.
1. First and most importantly, I honestly believed that my role as a woman was in the home and that women must always be under male authority. It was all I knew, all I had been taught, all anyone around me knew. I truly thought that this was what God wanted for me, and that if I did it well it would make me both happy and godly. There were no other options because every other option was selfish and sinful. I had the key to godly living and to pleasing God and I loved the feeling of knowing my place, my role, and the expectations God had for me.
2. Additionally, holding these beliefs allowed me to feel like I had a real mission in life, a mission to rebel against the hedonistic culture and return true Christianity to the earth. I was part of something much bigger than myself, part of God’s plan to renew the world and bring about awakening like we had never seen before. And I, lowly little me, could do this, by adhering to the beliefs of Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy and fulfilling my God-given role in life.
3. Next, when I endorsed my parents’ teachings of patriarchy, I was praised as if I was Cleopatra herself. Endorsing patriarchy brought me an enormous amount of affirmation from both family and community. In fact, it functioned like a feedback loop: I agreed with what my parents believed, they praised me for my beliefs, and I felt affirmed and believed even more in what they believed. In my community, I was honored, praised, and affirmed, a veritable princess of patriarchy.
4. Finally, I was a happy daughter of patriarchy because I never felt the pain of submission. I was simply never in a situation where I found submission painful. What my dad wanted for me was pretty much the same thing as what I wanted for me. This was largely because I had been taught to accept and endorse patriarchy, of course, but the reality was that my parents never asked me to do anything I really didn’t want to do, and I could therefore endorse male headship and female submission without feeling any pain for doing so.
Of course, unlike the others this fourth reason for my contentment would not be shared by all daughters of Christian Patriarchy, and indeed, it didn’t last. After spending time at college, out of my parents’ patriarchal bubble, I began to think for myself and for the first time felt the pain of submission. I rebelled. Yet if I had felt this pain of submission before experiencing the outside world and learning to think for myself, I probably would not have rebelled. You see, my belief that this was my role and that submitting was identical to serving God and the fact that by submitting I would be praised and lifted up as a paragon of virtue could very well have led me to bear up under the pain of submission with a tenacious smile. And ultimately, I might even have convinced myself that what my dad wanted for me was not only what God wanted for me but also what I wanted for myself. And I would imagine that the more times this happens, the easier it becomes, as a young woman slowly smothers whatever independent will and outside desire she might otherwise have had.
Now I would like to point out that my experience notwithstanding, I cannot know that all seemingly happy dutiful daughters of patriarchy actually are happy. There are likely plenty of daughters of patriarchy who secretly unhappy and holding it all inside and faking their smiles. Indeed, some may even have actually problems and conflicts with their parents that their families manage to hide. These seemingly-happy-but-actually-miserable daughters of patriarchy likely hold in there because, like I said above, they’ve been taught all their lives that this is how life is meant to be and what God wants for them and that there are no other real options. And perhaps they truly have no other options.
When I see at a dutiful daughter of Christian Patriarchy, I remember that whether she is truly happy or inwardly miserable, whether she is praised as a paragon of virtue or facing the trials of submission, the core reason she endorses patriarchy with a smile is that she has been taught that her God-given role is to remain in her father’s home safely under male authority, and that anything else is sinful, selfish, and rebellion against God. She is happy not go to college because she thinks girls who go to college are selfish whores, and she in contrast is a virtuous, righteous woman. She is happy to not have a career because she believes that only selfish women who neglect their families or eschew children altogether have careers. She is happy to spend her life changing diapers and mass producing food because she believes this and this only is what God wants of her. She is happy to endorse patriarchy because she believes that every evil in society has been wrought by feminism. In sum, she is happy because she has been lied to. Her childhood and young adulthood is being stolen from her and fed as fuel to the fire of her parents’ beliefs, and she does not even see it.