Last week Josie and I did something we would have never dared do back in our card-carrying super-fundie bread-making frumper-wearing days. We went into that darkened den of iniquity…*cue the music* dumm-dumm-dummmmm… The Movie Theater.
Back when we both were at PCCF, movies were frowned upon except things like “Ben Hur” or “Veggie Tales” or that Mel Gibson’s Jesus Chainsaw Massacre. Most were branded purposely anti-Christian. We still sometimes slunk off to see things like “March of the Penguins” or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” hoping that no one in leadership from PCCF church was lurking about the town’s only movie theater in the downtown of our small city.
We went to see “The Help”. We’d been talking about it for weeks. Josie spent a large dose of time as a military brat living in Georgia in the early sixties and the promos for the movie struck a sweet nostalgic chord in her. I wanted to see it because the way the lives of the white women lived in the book was my childhood. I grew up in a very well to do family in South Louisiana. We had a cook, a housekeeper, a nanny, gardener and my father had a driver. All were African Americans.
The first real unconditional love I experienced was from my nanny, just like most of the white characters in “The Help.” My mother was busy with her ladies that liquid lunch friends and when she was home she would spend literal days locked in her boudoir drinking whiskey, reading romance novels and eating bon bons. We had very little time together and almost no bond. The people that raised me, parented me and loved me until I was 13 were our servants and my father. So I really wanted to see this movie from the side of those that raised others children and did the real work of parenthood in those times and that strata of society.
Josie and I sat in the middle of the mostly deserted theater and giggled, whispered, cried and laughed over this film. Behind us we could hear our own age African American counterparts doing the same thing. After the movie Josie and I were standing in the parking lot as the other duo of ladies emerged from the building and walked up to us. We all started talking about those times, even if we were all small children back in the early sixties. We laughed, we cried, we shared our hopes for the future and for history to not be forgotten. An hour later we exchanged hugs and phone numbers after deciding we were going to start having lunch together a couple times a month.
That would have never happened if either Josie or I were still at PCCF because both of us would have been mentally spouting scriptures about being ‘unequally yoked’ knowing that spontaneous friendship with others not affiliated with PCCF would be out of the question.
After I got home and thought more about what I’d seen I realized that it was a pretty accurate picture of being a submissive servant in the Fundamentalism movement. Especially if you were a woman trying to be totally surrendered to your husband/leadership head/lord and master. The constant work without acknowledgment, putting your own deepest needs aside for others, biting your tongue when you feel strongly about something going down but realizing you are ultimately powerless, and being controlled by another that rarely had your best interest at heart.The difference between the movie and what the Quiverful Patriarchal movement shows to the world is that “The Help” portrayed being in bondage to another as it genuinely is while the QP shows a false picture of blissful happiness, perfect families and Godliness. All unpleasant truths swept aside, like right under the rug where no one but the sweeper knows it exists. That’s the real danger of people like the Duggars. They show this pretty picture that’s nothing like the truth, making the world believe that this type of life is so wonderful when it’s a type of slavery that wounds and grinds you down.
That pretty picture is what drew me in. I was not your typical Quiverful mom. I had a career I enjoyed, had been raised in an entirely different way than any of my friends at church and I’d been an Atheist and a ‘gasp’ feminist for years before we joined. I struggled with the rules of my new life, I choked on the requirements that went against everything I’d been raised to believe. But I did it, very imperfectly, submitting myself to that type of servitude. It was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life and I praise God every day that I managed to escape mostly intact.
Making sure that the world gets to hear another side to that perfect picture has helped me forgive myself and move past the anger and bitterness. When someone from my former life tries to lure me back in and uses pretty phrases like how ‘content’ they are I know that the subtext is actually how they’ve given up on being happy and settled for their situation while trying to make me fit the same mold. Not me. I’ve chosen freedom and I’d love to help erase that fake stupid picture.
Comments are open below.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce