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.
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