The Beautiful Girlhood Doll, part 9: The Broken Doll

Soon after this rethinking of my parents’ beliefs, I returned home from college for a semester break more worried than I have ever been in my life. What were my parents going to think about my new beliefs on things like evolution, the Bible, the pro-life movement, and female equality? For a few weeks I said nothing, afraid of what would happen when I did. But the longer I listened to my parents praising me for my steadfast beliefs and condemning evolution and liberal college professors the more I realized I couldn’t hide my changes in belief. And so I told them. I was used to being only praised and affirmed, so telling my parents about my changing beliefs was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And sure enough, it was like I had dropped a bomb.

I have never seen my parents as angry or disappointed as they were that day. I had gone from being their golden daughter to being broken, completely broken, in their eyes. With that one revelation, they learned that all of their work had been for nothing. Since their whole reason for raising me was to create a soldier for Christ, spreading their specific views around the world, my changes in belief meant that everything they had done to bring me up was wasted.

My parents’ utter horror was soon replaced with attempts to retrain me and bring me back to the strait and narrow. My mother gave me a pile of Vision Forum materials on daughterly submission and fatherly authority and demanded that I read them. I think that backfired, actually, because having learned to think for myself and having seen a bit of the world, the books by the Botkins and others made no sense. The Botkins seem to think every college girl is a whore, and yet I had spent two years at college and knew this was not true. The Botkins also seem to worship their father in a way that I found extremely dangerous, for I had just realized that fathers are as fallible as anyone else. None of the literature made any sense to me any more.

Slightly more effective than the literature was the emotional pressure. My father, with whom I had been so close, ignored me. My mother told me over and over how much I had hurt my father, and that if I really wanted to follow God and know what was true I should just ask my dad my questions and believe whatever he told me. But this didn’t make sense to me because I had learned that my father could be, and was, wrong. My childhood friends’ admonitions that God spoke to me through my father and so I should listen to him fell on deaf ears, for they no longer made sense. After all, the Bible never said any such thing, and if God wanted to speak to me I felt sure he could speak directly to me.

I was learning what it meant to be under authority. I was learning what it meant for my heart and mind to tell me to go one way, and my male authority to tell me to go another. And I couldn’t do it. I believed too much in myself and my abilities to turn off my brain and submit to a man I no longer felt I knew. Was his love conditional? Was I only his daughter when I did exactly as he said? What kind of love was that, anyway? It was almost like he had shaped me and molded me, and as soon as I had a single independent thought, he saw me as broken, ruined. “I’m not your creation!” I wanted to yell, “I’m a person and I have the right to think for myself and make my own choices!” I felt suffocated, constrained. I couldn’t take it. Everything was ruined and I felt that I was being asked to choose between my family and my intellectual freedom.

When I returned to college after that break, I determined to leave everything behind me. I had rejected my parents’ authority, and was unsure if I would even be allowed to return home for visits. I paid for the rest of college myself, even though that meant working and going to school at the same time. My intellectual freedom was too important to sacrifice, and I felt like my entire childhood had fallen apart. What had been so beautiful had suddenly been destroyed, and why? Because I had deaned to use the brain God god had given me and my father had taught me to use? Did they want me to be a robot, or a doll, created as they pleased and positioned however they liked? Was that all it was about?

For the next installment of this series, see here.

Beautiful Girlhood Doll Table of Contents

Anonymous Tip: In Which Gwen Loses Casey
Sometimes All I Can Say Is UGH
Lesbian Duplex 14: An Open Thread
Monogamy Isn’t Biblical, It’s Roman
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    So sad. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Jesse

    I had a friend send me a link to your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I grew up in an extremely conservative Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) home. We had a lot of the same books you talk about, and my mother homeschooled because she didn't trust the other Mormon kids to be good enough. There is so much that you say that really resonates with me…I escaped by getting married at 18(to a man my parents did not approve of), and it's often been a rough road. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • M.E.

    Yes – I was also raised to be a "trophy homemaker." I was accused when I thought for myself. I was debased when I questioned. I was forsaken when all I needed was a listening ear. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm thrilled you also found freedom.

  • Natalie’s Life: A Work in Progress

    Wow. I can so relate to so many of the things I have read so far in your story. I haven't finished it yet so I don't know what your relationship is with your family today, but my family has "disowned" me for marrying (7 years ago) someone they didn't choose/approve of. My parents also believed in the umbrella of authority over daughters being passed from dad to husband which I thought was absurd. Unlike you I was not allowed to go to college and it was all I could do to get my parents to send me to community college (because it was nearby and I could stay home while attending). Over the years they got more and more entrenched in their conservatism and more and more controlling of me. While my older brother was at a University and dating and staying out late, I was 20 years old with a 9pm curfew; they checked the odometer to make sure I hadn't added any stops on my approved visits to friends; they checked my cellphone for calls and voicemails; my dad said "God spoke to him and told him something was wrong" with me (at the time I had expressed my interest in my now husband); they thought I was possessed and knelt in their living room to cast out the evil spirit; etc, etc.It makes me so sad to know that other people experienced similar (or worse!) things but also relieved to know that I'm not the only one. I felt so alienated and so rejected ("God can't bless your marriage", "you're living in sin", "you must repent", etc). I have turned in recent years (after wasting entirely too much time caring about what they thought and feeling guilty) to reason and science as my informants and feel so liberated. Knowledge is truly power; power to feel worthy on your own merit.Thank you for sharing your story.

  • The_Physeter

    I am fascinated by how you describe an experience that sounds so painful for you, with rejection by your family and friends, and at the same time make it sound so positive. You went back to college determined to succeed and paid your own way rather than give in or hide yourself.
    My experience is very different from yours, but I’m in the same way where I know my parents will be very sad and maybe reject me if they know what I think about God. I still haven’t worked up the courage to tell them, but your story is encouraging.