CTBHHM: One Ugly Hillbilly

by Libby Anne

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 27-28

Throughout her book, Debi’s attitude toward women is bizarre. In this passage, Debi tells a story to illustrate her point about the importance of having a cheerful spirit. But like all of the stories Debi tells, this one comes off as just, well, off somehow.

A few years back there was an overweight hillbilly woman who worked in the local store of our hometown. Every time we went into the hardware store, several men would be standing around the counter talking to her, and they were always laughing. We usually had to wade through the cheerful crowd and interrupt the gaiety to get served. … The strange thing was that this woman was ugly, I mean, hillbilly ugly, which is worse than regular ugly.

Um. Yeah. I don’t usually go around calling overweight women ugly. Or calling people hillbillies. I’m not really sure of the proper etiquette here, but just reading this story makes me cringe.

One day as we were leaving the store, I laughingly brought to my husband’s attention all those men standing around talking to the sales clerk. His reply really surprised me, “oh, you mean that cute little lady?” Live and learn! … In his mind that lady was cue! The truth is, she was not little, she was not cute, and she was not young. But she did smile, laugh, and giggle, and she was always ready for a good clean joke.

There is something very gendered going on here. In Debi’s world, women gain respect and acclaim by putting on a smile and being cheerful, not by being intelligent or talented. A pretty face, which can be attained by actually having one or by smiling until men are lulled into thinking you have one, is all a woman needs. I’m pretty sure Debi wouldn’t say the same about men.

A few weeks later, we saw her in the grocery store. She was mad at her very obese daughter for grabbing a handful of candy. Gone were the smiles, giggles, and radiance that had so captivated everyone at the hardware store. In their place was a bitter, ugly snarl.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Debi Pearl is not very nice. Why mention that the daughter was obese? And describing the woman’s expression as a “snarl”? Really?

My husband remarked before we left the grocery store, “Haven’t we seen that woman somewhere before? She looks familiar, but I just can’t place her.”

Debi tells her husband who the woman is, and he is stunned and insists that that’s not possible.

The funny thing was that the woman looked just like she always did. She was the same size, same scraggly hairstyle, the same clothes style, the same everything she was when we saw her in the hardware store. All she lacked was her glorious smile. It was her most valuable asset.

The moral of this story, according to Debi, is this:

Men are highly attracted to smiles. That includes your husband. Do you want your husband to stay home more? A merry heart and a mischievous giggle are good drawing cards.

A “mischievous giggle”? Really? I find a mischievous giggle quite attractive in Sally, but that’s because Sally’s in preschool. I’m really trying to imagine what it would sound like for me to have a “mischievous giggle.” I can’t. I honestly truly can’t. For one thing, I don’t giggle. For another thing, I don’t have Sally’s little sideways flirty smile down. I feel like you kind of need that to have a “mischievous giggle.” Once again, I’m feeling very much like Debi is telling women to ask like preschoolers. And that’s quite simply all sorts of not me.

You want to know what Sean and my favorite activity is? You want to know what we do together when we’re both home in the evening, or on the weekend? We engage in intellectual conversation. We pick an issue and rigorously debate it, turning it over and over and trying different positions. In fact, I just asked Sean, who is sitting across the room as I type this, what the main thing that attracted him to me when we first met was. His answer? “That you argued.” He then added as an afterthought: “That you’re pretty.” In other words, our ability to engage in rigorous intellectual discussion was the main thing that attracted Sean to me in the first place!

Debi can’t conceive of a couple like Sean and I. Instead, her fixation is on how attractive a woman is physically, and how a woman can augment that attraction by laughing at men’s jokes and giving men simpering, brainless smiles. She seems to think that’s all men care about. I mean, she framed her story about the importance of a cheerful spirit in terms of one’s physical appearance. Her message wasn’t “how you look doesn’t really matter, it’s who you are inside that matters” or “how you look doesn’t really matter, it’s how you treat those around you.” In fact, it most decidedly wasn’t that, since she indicates that the woman she’s talking about really was an unkind person inside, based on the experience in the grocery store.

Instead, what Debi is saying is that you should put on a cheerful spirit in order to make yourself physically attractive to the men in your life. After all, Debi isn’t simply saying that the “ugly hillbilly” sales clerk attracted people by being cheerful and laughing. Instead, she emphasizes that being cheerful and laughing made men view her as physically attractive. That’s what she emphasizes here – physical appearance, physical appearance, physical appearance. The woman was extremely ugly, but Debi’s husband actually saw her as beautiful. The message here is NOT that it is your manner – your smile, your cheerfulness, your readiness to laugh – that matters rather than your physical appearance, but rather that your manner actually affects your physical appearance, which is of course what actually matters. After all, how else are you supposed to attract a man, with your intellect?

But this passage isn’t wholly irredeemable. There’s one truly excellent sentence.

Everyone is drawn to a smile and wants to be a friend to someone overflowing with goodwill.

There! Just say that and stop there! That I can get behind.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

 | Part 8 | Part 9

Comments open below

Read everything by Libby Anne!

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

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

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


Patheos Atheist LogoLike No Longer Quivering and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

Vyckie Garrison in People Magazine
Memories of My Own Cognitive Dissonance: Gothard's Doctrine of Grace as an Example
As an Unbeliever, Is it Possible to Have Christian Family and Friends?
News: One of Josh Duggar's Lovers Speaks Out
About Suzanne Calulu
  • Betty Crux

    …sounds like Debi was a little jealous that her husband called someone else “cute.” To me, it comes off like she wanted a place to vent about it and wrote this section, realized how unChristian it sounded, and added a moral to the story to justify being a B-word.

  • K

    Wow, Debi, jealous are we? What a horrible thing to say about someone. Sure, sometimes people arent very attractive, but are really lovely people and that makes them way more beautiful than people who are pretty but ugly on the inside…but is it really necessary to describe just how ugly and fat this woman is and how her daughter is fat too, and then mention she worked at their hometowns local store, so anyone in the area who reads it can guess exactly who it is.

    I thought when I first saw this, that she was talking about Michael, he really really freaks me out, hes got evil serial killer eyes, which is sorta fitting as he is a child beater.

  • Meggie

    The use of “ugly” always bothers me. Beauty and ugly is a very personal thing. I use to be very self concious about my weight in my teens. It took quite a while for my husband to convince me that he actually thought I was perfect and that he finds skinny girls very unattractive.

    What Debi Pearl finds ugly may be quite attractive to other men, regardless of whether or not she is smiling. I do also read some jealousy in the statement; I am more attractive than this lady but she gets all the attention. As for Michael’s reaction, it is quite possible that is due to the lady’s behaviour (smiling/laughing versus angry) but given his attitude to women in general, I really don’t care about his opinion.

  • http://calulu.blogspot.com Calulu

    The moment I read that whole “Hillbillly Ugly” thing Debi wrote while reading this post I was so taken aback by the ugly in Debi in the way she wrote that. So wrong on so many levels without one scintilla of the love of Jesus. If she’s so concerned about this woman and her behavior it would behoove Debi to actually befriend this lady and help her deal with whatever issues life is throwing at her. Her statement was so jealous and arrogant!

  • http://baronessblack-baronessblack.blogspot.com/ Baroness Black

    What I always remind my children, when someone is an usual size, has a disability, etc. is that none of us know how we’re going to turn out. You can be a supermodel, and then have a car accident and be in a wheelchair. You can have a brilliant intellect and then receive a head injury which changes that. Similarly, many people overcome disabilities and injury to find their niche, and what works for them. None of us know what the future holds. Heaven forbid Debi would gain a few pounds, or lose the income that allows her to dress in the style she currently chooses! She comes across as VERY judgmental!

  • Anon

    Or maybe the message here is “judge others based on appearances and eventually you’ll be vindicated.”

    Poor lady. She can’t catch a break. She’s got a weight problem, so wouldn’t keeping her kid from eating too much candy be a praiseworthy effort?