A post in the Raised Quiverfull series.
Part 1: Introductory Questions
Question 1: Please introduce yourself before we get started. Are you married or unmarried? Are you in school, holding down a job, or staying home? Do you have children? What religious beliefs or lack thereof do you ascribe to today? Provide whatever additional information you like.
I‘m Anne (aka quicksilverqueen). I’m married to the most wonderful, loving guy anybody could ask for! I currently stay at home to take care of our daughter, but I’m hoping to get a small photography business open in my area in the next few weeks. My husband and I are both agnostic.
Question 2: How did your parents first come under the influence of Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull teachings? What leaders did they follow and what publications did they receive?
I think it was back when they decided to “let God choose the size of their family” and started reading Mary Pride’s books “The Way Home” and “All The Way Home”. I’ve never read them, I just know she claims to be a former feminist and those are the books my parents attribute to being responsible for their changing their minds on how many kids they wanted.
Question 3: In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?
My family was atypical because after I was about 15-16, we stopped “going to church” and my dad started leading a bible study in our home which lasted until I was 18. His beliefs align very much with Gothard (if Gothard had been OK with rock music and beards, we would have joined his cult), but to an even greater extreme in many cases…we were spanked up into our 20’s (dad liked to brag he would spank us on our wedding day if necessary), and I was completely shunned (think Amish) when I moved out.
Part 2: Living the Life
Question 1: What sort of a church did your family go to while you were growing up? Were the other families who attended the church also involved in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
When I was young, we attended evangelical churches. After we moved when I was 12, we went to an Open Bible church (the one we went to was very laid back), and after leaving that church (the pastor’s wife started insinuating my dad was more intimate with her than he actually was, so we left to not cause trouble), my dad started leading his own bible studies.
Question 2: In many ways, every Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull couple has a different dynamic. What sort of a dynamic did your parents have? Was one more sold on the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology than the other? Or, if you grew up in a broken family, how did this affect your experience?
They were physically affectionate in front of us all the time (my dad believes it’s important for kids to see their parents like each other). My mom always said she was stupid though, and that my dad could say things better than she could. I sometimes wonder if dad wasn’t in that garbage, if mom would have ever found her way in, but now regardless she is steeped in it and even runs a forum for moms on how to obey your husband’s every whim, and raise your kids (with the rod liberally applied, of course). My dad went through a phase in my mid-teens where he would complain to me about my mom…what she wasn’t doing right around the house (and how I should pick up the slack), how he wished she would lose weight (so he bugged me a lot about my weight even though I was at a decent weight)…stuff like that. Then somewhere along the line it was like a switch was flipped and he stopped doing that and instead would get really angry if he perceived someone had even implied anything slighting mom.
Question 3: How often did you, your siblings, and your parents read the Bible? Were you guided by your parents or pastors in how to interpret the Bible, especially certain passages, or were you generally free to form your own ideas about what the Bible said?
Bible reading was up to us for the most part (for a few years in my early teens, I read at least a chapter every day), until just a couple years ago when my super-patriarchal brother decided the rest of us needed to read our bibles more and got dad to give us reading assignments with prizes if we finished. We all read through the bible twice in a year or so using that method. By that point though, my view of the bible was already skewed by years of my dad’s interpretations, so after I moved out, there were verses I didn’t even recall reading because since they didn’t fit my dad’s agenda, they were basically skimmed over.
Question 4: What role did race play in the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull community in which you grew up? Were there any black or Hispanic families? Were they treated differently?
When my dad had his bible studies, my best friend was half black half white. My piano teacher was Japanese, and my dad had many Russian employees. Nobody was treated differently.
Part 3: A Gendered Childhood
Question 1: How many siblings did you grow up with? Did responsibilities in your family differ by gender, with the girls having certain chores and the boys having others? Explain.
Mostly I say I grew up with three brothers, because my sister was seven years younger than me, but I have 11 younger siblings. Responsibilities were very gender-oriented: while the boys did have kitchen chores, cooking was mainly the girls’ responsibility (at one point my mom made a schedule which said the five oldest in turn made lunches through the week, but that ended up to be Anne make lunch on her day, nobody else make lunch on theirs), along with dishes, and the boys had jobs like clearing the table, sweeping the floor, and taking out the garbage. The boys did do laundry though (sorting/putting away). After they turned 18 (or got a job, whichever came sooner), the boys stopped having to do kitchen chores so more of a burden was put on us girls.
Question 2: If you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.
Yes. I started helping with the little ones when I was seven and my sister was born, and when I was 12/13, I had the then-baby in my room and I had to get up in the middle of the night and either take her to mom (when she was really young) or feed her a bottle myself and try to get her back to sleep. In my mid-teens was constantly blamed (and spanked) for not watching what the other kids were doing if they were in the same room, even though if mom was in the same room they would do the same things. My dad would tell me he wanted me to do “more” around the house, and when I dared ask him what more, he couldn’t give me an answer but his suggestions were stuff like “homeschool the kids”, “pick up for mom’s slack”, etc.
After my second to last sister was born, my parents started the “buddy system” and my next sister had the baby as her “buddy” (I didn’t have a buddy because they said I had taken care of the kids for so many years already). That baby became more attached to my sister than to mom.
When the last baby was born, she wasn’t really anybody’s buddy but I was the only one who actually listened to her and we became very close.
Question 3: In what ways were boys and girls in your family expected to dress or act differently from each other? Were there certain things it was appropriate for girls to do but not boys, and vice versa?
Girls were supposed to dress “modestly”, of course. I’ve come to find out in my house, “modest” was liberal in comparison to some houses, and conservative compared to some. Us girls were supposed to wear shirts that weren’t “tight” (which was fairly subjective, depending upon if you asked mom, dad, or the brothers), that came below our pant waists even if we raised our arms, were high-necked enough so if you bent over nothing was showing, and if you wore a tank or a sleeveless top, you couldn’t see in the armhole. We were allowed to wear pants and shorts, and there wasn’t really any requirement there except no leggings as pants. In my teens, I figured out if I asked nobody (especially my brothers) what they thought of my clothes, I could get away with more. Tight jeans were a no-no at one point, but I stopped asking if my clothes were OK, and really, it was mostly my brothers who would say something. My dad might mention my pants were a bit tight, but if he didn’t say I couldn’t wear them, I kept on. Same with when I started wearing shirts that showed I actually had breasts, and shirts that showed my belly when I raised my arms. (I pointed out at one point that I wasn’t going to be raising my arms above my head, meaning since I wasn’t a kid anymore!)
The boys wore whatever they wanted, and were allowed to go topless while swimming.
Question 4: In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?
The girls were definitely pushed towards homemaking. We weren’t allowed to go to college (the boys might have been had they asked, but it was out of the question for us girls) because the answer we repeated over and over was that we didn’t need a college education to be a wife and mother. The boys got jobs after they graduated, and us girls just bummed at home. We always said we were at home “preparing to be a wife and mother”, but in reality we really didn’t do much…once our chores were done we could do whatever (except the things we weren’t allowed…like, I wasn’t allowed to be anywhere alone because it made me “anti-family”, I think because I had asked for my own room in my early teens. I was the only one with that restriction).
Part 4: Homeschooling
Question 1: Why and when did your parents originally decide to homeschool? Did their reasons for homeschooling change over time?
I keep hearing the recited reasons and answers to some of these questions! My parents decided to homeschool even before they were Christians, because they were “shuffled through public school”. So instead, we were shuffled through homeschool with a less than adequate education. After they became Christians, of course homeschooling then became about how we weren’t getting indoctrinated by “the world” and that it was great because we “got” to stay home with mom all day.
Question 2: Briefly describe your experience being homeschooled, including the amount of interaction you had with other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers (socialization) and what sorts of textbooks or homeschool program your family used (academics).
Question 3: What do you see as the pros and cons of having been homeschooled? Do you feel that your homeschool experience prepared you well socially? Academically?
My mom would always say we knew things she didn’t, but she definitely had a more rounded education. Homeschool was basically once you knew how to read, you were given the books and were supposed to do it all on your own. We mostly focused on the three R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, though writing usually only came in to play when dad told us to read a book and we hadn’t read it within a week…we were then made to do a report on it). We didn’t have a TV and for the most part (except in the case of my brother who has dyslexia) we were a reading family, so I learned from reading on my own. I absorbed more grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. by reading books than I ever did from my mom. She used a variety of books…Bob Jones for English, Math-U-See for math, and later on, Switched On Schoolhouse (on the computer) for English. When us girls were in our teens, we did Above Rubies.We went to some homeschool group meetings, but we weren’t very active in the community and didn’t interact with other homeschooled kids often. We weren’t really allowed to make friends, because we were supposed to be “each other’s best friends”. Our whole family was fairly antisocial (because my dad thought we were better than everyone else), so I can’t attribute homeschooling to being unprepared socially.
Question 4: Do you perceive of your academic or social abilities differently today than you did when you were being homeschooled?
I think I’m slightly more socially adept, though it’s still difficult for me to interact in person with people (I’m also introverted). I don’t just walk up to someone and start chatting, in fact, I very rarely start conversations with people I don’t know. It ends up being really awkward. I express myself much better through a text medium, so taking into account that during my teen years (and early twenties) my social life was online, I’m much more social online.
Question 5: Do you plan to homeschool/are you homeschooling your children? Why or why not? If you do plan to homeschool, in what ways will you/do you do it differently from your parents?
I had planned to at first (I still had the ingrained fear of public school), and since I was only going to have one or two it would be much easier and much different from what my mom did (she had way too many kids). But when my daughter was born, she was (and is) so high-needs that I decided to put her in public school after all, so I’d be able to have some time to myself.
Part 5: Purity
Question 1: What were you taught about physical purity, emotional purity, and courtship and dating? How was sex education handled?
Oddly enough, we weren’t schooled in ’emotional purity’. My dad considered crushes to be normal, and was actually pretty cool how he handled that (wouldn’t let anybody make fun of anybody else for “liking” someone). As far as physical purity, it wasn’t brought up that I can remember, but somehow heavily implied that touching the opposite sex was a no-no. We didn’t think far enough into the future to know what would happen after any of us entered a courtship. How to go about courting wasn’t decided on beforehand either, just figured out as they went along. As far as sex education…I knew something happened “down there” with guys and girls, but I thought they just rubbed parts. As I got older, I read health books and stuff, but I was never actually told exactly how to have sex or anything until I was 20 or so, when my dad sat my next sister and I down and explained everything because he found out my mom had been deficient in that area…and all areas of female health, actually. My dad ended up doing the sex and period talk with the girls because my mom wouldn’t.
Question 2: Did you participate in a parent-guided courtship? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?
I was fortunate to not be subjected to that particular brand of hell, but my brother was, and I have plenty to say about that if you want. As far as I’m concerned, I met my husband online and our relationship was forbade by my dad, and as a result, kept secret. I told my mom I was engaged eventually (after she looked at my phone records to check up on who I’d been talking to and saw one particular number consistently), and she told me I wasn’t because my dad hadn’t said I could be.
Question 3: How do you feel about purity and courtship teachings today? Have you rejected some parts of it and kept other parts of it? How do you plan to handle these issues with your own children?
I reject all purity and courtship teachings. The only teaching my daughter needs is how to respect herself and her body. She’s not even a year old yet, but she will not be subjected and inundated with meaningless rules about her clothes and lifestyle. “Modesty” is completely relative to what you’re used to and where you live, so when trying to pin down what conservatives actually mean by it, they can’t give me a straight answer – it’s not even in their bible. As for emotional purity, that’s even worse, and contributes to the whole “only some feelings are acceptable” thing which I totally disagree with.
Question 4: Do you feel that the purity and courtship teachings you were raised with still have lasting impact on your life today? If so, how?
No, not at all. For a while they did…I was still dressing fairly conservatively. But now I’m free of the ‘modesty’ stuff…and even nurse in public without a cover (gasp!). Courtship was never taught like a how-to, but after seeing my brother go through it (he ended up with a sweet lady but went through hell to get her), it makes me all that much more against it.
Part 6: Questioning
Question 1: How were you first exposed to “mainstream” American culture? What were your first impressions?
I moved out of my parents’ house July 2010, so I guess that was my first real exposure. Other than that, it was mostly seeing “worldly” people and judging them for things we didn’t even know about. I don’t remember having any kind of impression, first or otherwise, after I moved out, other than a general attitude of “I know my parents were really wrong in this aspect, so maybe they were in all aspects and I’m going to withhold judgment and keep an open mind”.
Question 2: What first made you question the beliefs you were raised with? Was this initial questioning a frightening or liberating experience?
What got me started questioning was a combination of me thinking there HAD to be something wrong with the way my parents were doing things because I knew being suicidal meant there was something really wrong, and my then-best friend/boyfriend telling me my dad wasn’t right. It was both frightening and liberating: liberating because I got confirmation that no, I really wasn’t crazy and I was totally validated, and frightening because I had implicitly believed and trusted my dad for so many years.
Question 3: What did you struggle with most when you were in the midst of questioning and/or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology? What was the hardest part?
Getting the courage to leave was the absolute hardest part. I hated everything my parents did and how they handled things and all, but I was terrified to leave. Kind of like when you’d rather stay with the evil you know rather than take a chance on the unknown that could be evil or could be good. When my parents originally found out about my engagement, I chickened out and said I would stay with them. I thought that things would get better because they would be happy I’d stayed, but things were worse: I was even more restricted than previously, and treated like a five year old. I then decided to wait until after my baby sister’s birthday to leave, but my dad cornered me and brought me in to talk with him and mom on July 4th. He lectured me for a few hours, then asked for the final time if I was going to go or stay. It took half an hour (and him threatening to knock my block off if I didn’t answer) before gathering up the courage to say I was going to go. I didn’t know if he was going to knock my block off anyway, or yell at me, or what he was going to do.
Question 4: Among those you grew up around who were also raised with Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology, what proportion has remained in the movement and what proportion has left?
For starters, I don’t really know many people, and haven’t kept in touch with many families. It seems like most everyone is still some form of Christian, but that the children are turning out slightly more liberal than their parents.
Part 7: Relating to Family
Question 1: How did your parents and siblings respond to you questioning/rejecting their beliefs? How did those you grew up with respond?
I was cut off when I moved (my parents didn’t even let me say goodbye to my younger siblings), so I’ve had no flak from them, but I was told I was going to hell for moving out. I texted my next brother (the super patriarchal one) for his birthday (very innocuous) and received a very angry reply basically saying “You’re a liar, I don’t believe you, you’re going to hell, you’re a horrible sinner, I love you”. The brother after that is the one who went through the courtship and he is still a somewhat conservative Christian, and he has assured me that even though he may disagree with what I believe (or disbelieve), there’s nothing I can do that will make him cut me off. He hasn’t really expressed an opinion on my agnosticism. My dad’s family (brother and sister in law, mainly) are another story.
They have also cut me off and say my husband has brainwashed me. (Basically they are believing the lies my dad says about me.) At first they were happy I moved out because they knew my dad was a wacko, but then when I started questioning Christianity, they were like “Hey you can’t do that!”
Question 2: What is your relationship with your parents and siblings like today? What is your relationship with those you grew up with who remained in the movement like?
I have no relationship with my parents and all but one of my siblings. With my one brother, I like to think we have a fairly good relationship given that he lives 1200 miles away from me. He is still conservative and complementarian, but he has a good head on his shoulders and isn’t controlling like my dad.
Question 3: For those who are no longer Christian, are you “out” to your parents or siblings? If so, how did you do it and how did they respond?
As far as my parents and the rest of my siblings are concerned, I came “out” to them by leaving, and that from that point forward they no longer considered me a Christian, even though I continued to be for a year (give or take). My married brother hasn’t commented about my lack of religion.
Question 4: Have any of your siblings (or perhaps even parents) left Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy ideology? How do you approach the relationships with siblings who have not?
Part 8: Adjusting
Question 1: Do you still feel as though you are “different” or that your past experiences emotionally isolate you from society?
Sometimes, though I think I’m getting better.
Question 2: Since most of the world doesn’t understand Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy culture, do you feel this creates barriers in friendships or in romantic relationships? Do people have a hard time understanding you and your past?
I don’t feel it creates barriers, and when the question of my family is brought up I explain as simply as I can how my dad is a controlling nut (using his religion as the excuse for his behavior) and that he cut me off when I moved out, because I moved out from under his control. Most people are shocked, but don’t really get the depth of everything.
Question 3: What do you think is the biggest way being raised in a family influenced by Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideas has influenced who you are today?
The ideas don’t have much of an effect on me anymore, but some things, like never being taught how to handle money and never being allowed to have a real job, things like that still bother me. I guess a few ideas still do affect me, but I’m not sure if they are ideas from the movement or stuff I came up with on my own (or just a product of my relationship with my dad growing up), like I have a hard time saying no to people or disappointing them. It took a long time to get rid of some things like spanking (even though I hated being spanked, I thought spanking was The Way to make your kids behave and if you didn’t spank, they were going to be horrible brats). I think just the biggest thing it affected though has been my emotional health and worth.
Question 4: How did you perceive your childhood at the time compared to how do you see it now?
As I get to know myself better and see without the movement’s lens (and reading about other parenting styles and articles on childrens’ actions), my childhood and my actions and feelings as a child make a lot more sense.
Question 5: Do you sometimes wish to go “back”?
No f*cking way. I miss my siblings, and the nice-ish parts of my parents, but I have absolutely no desire to go back into bondage. Not to mention my dad set completely unreasonable conditions for if I were ever to return: #1, my husband has to be dead. #2, if I have any children, they have to be left with someone and I’d never see them again, and #3, things would be much worse for me. I don’t know if that all was a last-ditch effort to scare me into staying or what.
Part 9: Helping Others
Question 1: What advice do you have for other young adults currently questioning or leaving Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology?
Listen to people who have been there. Learn that you have worth as a person, not for what you do. If you’re planning on moving out, get your birth certificate and SS card and any other documents you can, if you can. Get your bank account in only your name, if your parents’ is also on it. Make an escape plan. Make lists of what you can take with you, so you don’t leave things accidentally. Make arrangements for a trusted friend to get you.
Question 2: What was most helpful to you when you were questioning and/or leaving the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
The encouragement of my husband and others who had left or were leaving, and Hillary McFarland and her Quivering Daughters book and blog. Her blog taught me I was completely validated in feeling there was something wrong, because there WAS. It’s not just a snotty teenager’s whiny complaints, it’s much more.
Question 3: What helps you the most today?
My husband, and just reading about and absorbing modern culture. Movies, ‘worldly’ books, music, TV shows. Facebook pages!
Question 4: What suggestions do you have for those who might to help friends or relatives who grew up/are growing up in families influenced by the Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull movement?
The best thing is to just be there. Show them by your actions that you are open and always there for them, but don’t tell them what they are doing wrong or how their parents are wrong. That will just make them run farther away from you. Engage in discussions (and bow out if they become heated) about different issues, just to get them thinking. You’ll need a LOT of patience, because this stuff goes deep and they won’t even realize they are just regurgitating without thinking for themselves! (And then you have the ones who DO believe it wholly and they are even harder to reach!)
Anne blogs at The Eight and Final Square.