Emotional Incest Part 2: The Botkins

by Libby Anne

After discussing the definition of Emotional Incest in Part 1, I am now going to address the way the teachings of leading Christian Patriarchy organization Vision Forum and its close affiliates, the Botkins, essentially mandate emotional incest.

Vision Forum teaches that adult daughters are to stay at home until they marry. More than that, it teaches that they are under their father’s authority just as they will after marriage be under their husband’s authority, and that well they remain at home it is their duty to adopt their father’s “vision” in place of their own and serve as “helpmeets in training” to their father in preparation for serving as “helpmeets” to their future husbands.

The possibilities for emotional incest become obvious. In fact, like I said, emotional incest is practically mandated. Adult daughters are to subsume their identities in loving, adoring, and serving their father, and they are to make his vision, his hopes, and his dreams their vision, their hopes, and their dreams. The father in turn is to guide his adoring daughter to maturity in preparation for handing her off to an approved suitor.

These ideas are promoted especially through Geoff Botkin and his daughters, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth. Anna Sophia and Elizabeth run a website called Visionary Daughters, and at ages 17 and 19 they wrote a book called So Much More in which they urged daughters to forgo college (which they argue is hedonistic, atheistic, and against the Bible). They have also produced a documentary called The Return of the Daughters. The Botkin sisters are today in their mid-twenties, still unmarried, and still living at home under their father’s authority and sharing in his “vision.”

I’m going to pause for a moment to offer several quotes – all Botkin related – to illustrate just what is involved in the whole “serving as a helpmeet to your father” thing:

Firstly, you must love and honor and cultivate respect for your father. Second, you must seek your father’s heart and vision. Third, you must be able to come up with ways to use your gifts to make your father’s vision a reality, without him telling you what to do. (Visionary Daughters)

I realize that it is most likely God’s will for me to be married someday, and I desire and have the responsibility to be prepared, as much as possible, for this role as God sees fit. I want to be a true helpmeet to my husband, and what an excellent opportunity I have to practice this with my own father! (So Much More)

And finally, a passage from House Proud, an article in Bitch magazine:

A young New Zealander named Genevieve, profiled on the Botkin sisters’ blog, decided to live at home until marriage after trading in her dreams of becoming her country’s first female prime minister for ambitions to become a Christian homeschooling wife and mother. Now the author of the Isaacharican Daughters newsletter, Genevieve exemplifies how young women in this lifestyle are encouraged to subsume their own thoughts and identities into those of whichever male figure in their lives currently acts as the authority. In writing about the process of swapping her father’s “vision” for her new husband’s, she notes that a woman having independent thoughts is evidence of Satan gumming up the works.

“My loyalties have had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or option I couldn’t think ‘What would Dad have done in this situation?’ Now I had to think ‘What would Pete do in this situation?’ These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux—learning to replace one man’s vision with another—the devil would come around and say, ‘But what about what you want? What about what you think?’”

The more I read of the Botkins and of Vision Forum’s teachings regarding the role of adult daughters, the more it strikes me that adult daughters are expected to serve as (traditional, submissive) wives to their fathers in every way but physical. Adult daughters are expected to completely lose themselves in their father, and to literally not have a desire outside of what he wants for them. His vision is to be their vision, his thoughts their thoughts, his desires their desires, his passions their passions.

Strangely, mothers are left out of the picture almost entirely. You would think that if an adult daughter is staying home to learn to be a homemaker, she should be serving primarily as her mother’s right arm – learning to cook, to run a household, and to care for children. Yet in everything the Botkin sisters have written – in their books, their blog, and even their documentary – mothers are completely missing. Indeed, every chapter of So Much More begins with the phrase “Fathers, Daughters, and…” and in the case of three of the four adult daughters profiled in their documentary, The Return of the Daughters, the mother never even appears on screen.

When you realize how male-centered Christian Patriarchy is, this starts to make sense. After all, the father is the head of the family, the leader of the family, the center of the family. The mother serves the father and is to make his vision and his desires her vision and her desires. Within this rubric, the daughters must be oriented to serve the father, to adopt his vision and his outlook on life, rather than oriented toward learning from their mother. The patriarchal household is one where every member, from oldest to youngest, wife and children, must be oriented towards the father.

Given all this, it would appear that the teachings of Vision Forum and the Botkins essentially mandate father/daughter emotional incest. The passage where Genevieve discusses transferring her loyalties from her father to her new husband is particularly illustrative of this, and particularly damning. A daughter of Christian Patriarchy is to first serve as “wife in training” to her father, and then as wife to her husband.

I’m really not surprised the Botkin sisters aren’t married, given that their ideology almost seems to place more importance on men’s adult daughters than it does on men’s wives. As soon as the Botkin sisters marry and produce daughters, the usurpation of their roles will have begun.

Next, in Part 3, I will turn to how easily emotional incest can occur even in ordinary families (the “daddy’s girl” effect), and in Part 4 I will discuss my own experiences and the pain emotional incest brings with it.

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3 ~ Part4

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

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

 

  • abba12

    …wow. Thank you for this, this is exactly why I read websites like this.

    I live in what I consider to be christian patriarchy, happily and willingly. But I am not an extremist, I don’t like a lot of what Doug Phillips says, I will have nothing to do with ATI, I think that submission should not be silent, I have a right to state my opinion and debate a topic so long as I am willing to submit after discussion and a final decision is made, and that story about the cereal yesterday? I would have laughed at him, told him he was a dope for not sealing the cereal tightly as I’ve told him to do repeatedly, then told him what else was in the cupboard to pick from (my husband struggles with thinking explorativly, if I didn’t take this step he would probably eat nothing because he simply wouldn’t think of anything to eat. Personality quirk, not slavery lol)

    I do believe in daughters staying at home, but not because of this. because of, a. protection (a woman living alone scares me, I had a bad past, and am all too familiar with the dangers for single women alone out there) and b. because of the opportunities it provides to learn and study interests and skills without the stress of having to pay rent or keep a job. A girls single years are so full of opportunities! Yeah, there’s an element of helping with the kids too, but in the perspective of using it to learn how to care for their own children, something I wish I’d had before becomming a mother.

    Anyway, my point is, this idea of practicly becoming your father, then becomming your husband, and nothing but? It’s disgusting! In our home I hope my daughters will prepare for marriage by finding the gifts God has given them and honing those skills. My study as a teen of teaching, psychology and technology has been invaluable in my married life. As a teen I just knew they were interests I held and wanted to explore for my own fulfillment, no intention of a career, just knowlege. Now, teaching will help me to teach my kids, psychology is a valuable skill in life and has also opened the door to medical knowlege, and technology? Well it just so happens that is now my husbands desired profession! How is a daughter going to improve her abilities in anything other than blind submission by waiting hand and foot on her dad? Sure, our daughters might do some part time work with the family business, but I get the impression that’s not what the botkin daughters are talking about.

    And again, that is why reading about the other side of things is important, I never read the botkins books or saw their documentaries, but I thought I agreed with their ideas. Nope, definitely not, absolutely don’t agree with anything I’ve seen here and I now know to cross it off the wishlist of stuff to read/watch.

    I’d just like to say, not all of us are as extreme as this :)

  • Alice

    Thanks for writing on this topic, it never ceases to amaze me how extreme and creepy people become when they latch on to something other than Christ and Christ alone and form whole movements and lead so many astray with their books and seminars. The comment above contains the statement (a woman living alone scares me…dangers for single women alone out there…) what dangers??? Women live alone all over the world and do just fine, thank you. They don’t need a “protector”, they have almighty God who protects them and that wonderful brain and common sense he gave women just as he gave men. It nauseates me the way this movement undermines the capacity of women to live a full and happy life making decisions for herself, having friendships and activities with people whom she choses to interact with, and earning her own money in her chosen field of interest all without the whole family but especially daddy directing her.

  • http://www.funkenwagnel.com Sharon @ Funken Wagnel

    I am loving this series! I remember when the first post about emotional incest was published, I had very little concept of it, and now I feel as though I have a better understanding of it over time. I can’t wait to read about how this sort of thing can spill over until non Christian families too, because I think it’s an important thing to look out for.

  • Laura

    What if the father’s vision is to go to work every day so he can get a paycheck and pay the bills, and come home in the evening to eat his dinner and watch Star Trek in peace and serenity? I’d think all of this vision- and heart-seeking on the part of his grown daughters could be a bit much.

    His vision could also be that his kids grow up and leave the nest. Then what?

  • Tyro

    because of the opportunities it provides to learn and study interests and skills without the stress of having to pay rent or keep a job.

    For many of us, this time period is called “college.”

  • Sophie

    Haha, yeah, I feel sorry for the fathers in this movement too, who are expected not just to have a ‘vision’ for themselves but for everyone else in the whole family!

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