Quite a lot of criticism has been leveled at the Duggar parents for not appearing to care much about the victims of their son Josh. And that criticism is quite deserved. They did after all spend the bulk of their spin-doctoring interview with Megyn Kelly minimizing and trying to otherwise downplay the damage done to their daughters. As far as they’re concerned, because the attacks happened only to sleeping girls, weren’t legitimate rapes, occurred only over clothing (except when it wasn’t), and individually were of short duration, and were done by a boy who (at first at least) wasn’t quite old enough to technically be a pedophile, there is nothing to see here. Every family has these sorts of little secrets, and it’s just downright mean of the outside world to view them as monsters for not taking firmer action to address the situation when they first realized what was happening. In fact, it’s a persecution agenda–or as Michelle put it in her breathy, wondering, affectation of a little-girl voice, “an…. agenda???”
That voice caught my attention in a major way. Gang, let’s face it. I live under a rock that doesn’t get cable. I was next to ignorant of this whole show. So I hadn’t noticed her voice until this interview. But once I noticed it, a lot of stuff fell into place for me.
The Voice of Command.
Let’s talk for a moment about Michelle Duggar‘s voice. It’s breathy, soft, childlike, even babylike and childish. It’s like Marilyn Monroe’s but without the sex appeal. An ex-Mormon board member calls this affectation “the sweetsie-syrupy voices,” and others there concur that it’s a common one among hardcore Mormon women. I’m suspecting that patriarchy women are under a similar cultural rule; women in my church affected similarly baby-like soft voices and it wasn’t easy for me to get out of the habit myself when I deconverted. Michelle Duggar’s on record as saying she has a serious anger problem (OH MY GOD A HARDCORE FUNDAGELICAL WITH AN ANGER PROBLEM! HOW WILL WE EVER?), and her resolution to that problem is to keep her voice extremely low and breathy so she comes across as more meek and mild. She says she got the idea out of a “Wisdom booklet.”
The interviewer just lets that one go, but I looked the term up. “Wisdom booklets” are part of the “core curriculum” of the Bill Gothard Advanced Training Institute homeschooling program. These booklets are meant more for parents than their children/students and are meant to help them cultivate proper patriarchal virtues and learn proper patriarchal lessons. Today when I looked at their website, they featured the cover of booklet #4, which tells parents that they will be learning about patriarchy-style humility, which involves “recognizing that it is actually God and others who are responsible for the achievements in [their] life.” So that’s the kind of “wisdom” one will find in these “Wisdom booklets:” self-effacement and self-negation.
Who’d ever have thought that Bill Gothard, the disgraced pedophile, sexual harasser, raging misogynist, control freak, and all-around vainglorious bastard king might be telling women to cultivate breathy baby-doll porn-star voices to sound more acceptable and less challenging to the egos of their frail, fainting, hothouse-flower
lords and masters man-children husbands?
Instead of Michelle Duggar actually addressing the reasons why she’s so goddamned angry all the time, she masked that anger with a breathy soft voice and started whispering instead. I’m sure that went over wonderfully with her kids. The affectation doesn’t even work; as she concedes in the Radar Online article, she still gets so mad that her kids sometimes have to remind her that she’s falling into her old habits. And no surprise: she never actually engaged with that anger. How could she? Like most fundagelical denominations, hers has a serious problem with healthy management of strong emotions, especially in women. I’ve got to admit that I’ve rarely met anyone really hardcore into fundagelicalism who didn’t have some serious issues with anger. You can only bottle it up for so long. Eventually, like anything bottled up and shaken over a period of time, it’s going to come OUT. And when it does, it is going to be horrible and messy:
That’s why she’s basically masking over it like she is. That said, reading her account of why she talks like that reminded me of something familiar.
If you’re my age, then you probably ran into David Lynch’s 1984 space-opera Dune at a rather formative age. If you are significantly younger, then you likely know about the miniseries from 2000. If you’re really old-school, you might know about the novel that came before all of it. In the Dune universe, a school of psychic witches called the Bene Gesserit distort their regular voices into the Voice of Command so they can order people around.
What Michelle does is more like a Voice of Command in reverse: a voice of false submission. The reason I’m bringing up that affectation and comparing it to the Voice of Command is that I think understanding her use of babylike, breathy speech is key to understanding the behavior of her daughters during their subsequent interviews with Megyn Kelly.
Before we start, I want to make something clear. I’m not angry at these young women at all. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to mock them or belittle them. I’m sad more than anything at what they’ve had to do here. I know why they’re saying the stuff they’re saying. So when I use terms like “lie,” please understand that I know it’s not totally their fault.
In the interview, Jessa (22) and Jill (24) sit with Megyn in the interview. Jessa looks like she is on horse tranquilizers, and I can’t really blame her.
We won’t do a full fisk of the interview because I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s all just the same shit we’ve been hearing. Like their parents did, the two daughters contradict themselves constantly and also constantly contradict the police report (some deets here at HuffPo, and a very detailed and excellent summation here at Wonkette). It’s grotesque to have them on nationwide television like this, especially when all they were going to do anyway was repeat and confirm the family’s party lines about the assaults. I was going to detail it, but seriously, why? You already know what those lines are, and every single thing you thought these young women would say, they said with few exceptions. The less focus on them specifically, the better.
I’ll re-link y’all to this paper about sibling incest. I’m not surprised that they’d say they love their brother; maybe they even do in the same way that normal, non-cult-raised people would say they love their siblings. I’m not surprised they’d have complicated, complex feelings about him and their parents both. Add to that the constraints put upon them as Quiverfull daughters, and one wouldn’t expect anything different than what they said on this interview. When they describe knowing that if they went to sleep in those days that Josh might creep up on them to cop a feel, but then follow by saying everything was totally fine and nobody even knew what was happening until Jim Bob explained it, I got the impression that they don’t even notice how mind-bendingly jarring it is that they can hold those two ideas at once in their minds. But sibling sexual abuse is complicated–and everything gets even more complicated with patriarchy daughters.
Given that their parents cannot even identify what Josh did as sexual abuse and that they constantly minimize his crimes and negate his victims, THEN WHAT THE FUCKING HELL ELSE ARE WE EXPECTING HERE but for his victims to deny that they suffered and even that it was sexual abuse in the first place? Despite their insistence that only a penetrative, forcible penis-in-vagina rape would have registered in their minds as abuse, what happened to them is in fact sexual abuse, and of course it had its effects on them. Just like their parents, they’re trying to protect Josh and save him from the consequences of his own behavior.
Just like Michelle masks her deep internal fury with a breathy whisper of a voice, these girls must mask their own pain constantly with robotic dopey smiles and negations of their own feelings.
One of the most sickening self-negations they made was about how much they’ve totally forgiven Josh. As Carmen Green, a friend of Libby Anne’s (and fellow survivor of the Duggar’s particular cult), has noted,
Forgiveness is a warped topic in fundamentalist Christian circles where abuse is concerned. Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh are using that language purposefully. They are tapping into the belief that no sin is too terrible for God to forgive and the mandate that we must forgive our trespassers as God has forgiven us. Together, these beliefs force victims in this subculture to shut up, sit down, and “make peace” with the people who have wronged them. This results in victims having to act as if nothing ever happened. They still have to live with the perpetrator. They still have to speak to the perpetrator and show affection to them. They have to smile and pretend for years and years. No one gets real counseling. And the perpetrator is never punished.
So pardon me if I don’t believe that these two young women have actually had the freedom to choose if they would forgive their abusive sibling. Gothard cultists use words differently than other folks do, and terms like “trust” and “forgiveness” mean very different things in that world. Pardon me if I don’t even believe they’re really aware of the damage that got done to them, and if I particularly don’t believe that they are speaking free of duress and coercion even right in that interview. I don’t think they’re lying for the hell of it; I think they’re lying because the repercussions if they don’t are too horrific to imagine. And I hate the Duggar parents even more for making them go through that farce. Consent isn’t about the ability to say yes to something. It’s about the ability to say NO to it. They have never had the right to say no. Dissent brings penalties normal people can’t even imagine: disowning, shunning, ostracism, and more.
They come by this building of facades very honestly, at least; their mother’s very good at it with her “sweetsie-syrupy” voice. They learned at her knee and they learned well. Facades will keep them safe; affectations of submission will ensure they are loved by their families and can remain in contact with them all.
This family is all about facades and affectations used as masks. I always knew that, but that understanding has come home in a whole new way lately.
The only honest reaction is when one sister breaks into tears around 15 minutes in discussing the Freedom of Information Act disclosure. It’s the one truly honest thing I saw in the whole Duggar scandal: her reaction to the crimes against her becoming potentially public knowledge. Remember, her identity was redacted; we had a good idea of who the victims probably were, but there was a lot of plausible deniability and people were understandably unwilling to go into detail. I wish it’d stayed that way because we need to keep the emphasis on the Duggar parents and their demonspawn son who put these daughters through this torture. But when it came out that some of Josh’s victims included his own sisters, I bet that absolutely did devastate the sisters in question. They thought they’d buried it and could pretend that everything was fine; it was “dealt with,” they thought, which meant that everyone was pretending it hadn’t happened. And now it was in their faces again, alive and scarlet-red and seething. I can’t even imagine the pain or shame. Their parents just left them to it.
I can only hope that they understand one day why this happened. They’re victims in every single sense, and the best service we can do for them is make sure we keep the focus on the people who victimized them and failed them every fucking step of the fucking journey, hold those people accountable—and find out how much deeper the rabbit hole goes.
Because mark my words:
This is One Rabbit Hole That Goes Deeper Than We Think.
Probably the biggest revelation of their interview was that they claimed to personally know many other girls who had gotten much worse treatment. If that statement is true and not just a blithe restatement of Jim Bob’s earlier assertion, it’s not hard to guess who these other girls must be: fellow cult children.
How many girls do you imagine they even know outside of the Quiverfull/Patriarchy movement? And they actually think they got off lighter than all those other children who got sexually abused in their “godly” families?
Do the authorities need to be checking into those families too? Because it sure sounds like it. This Duggar scandal may well be only the tip of a molestation iceberg. The Duggar parents sure didn’t think they were required to report abuse–do these other parents think that way too? How do we find out who those other parents are?
These interviews have been a disastrous PR move for the Duggar parents and Josh alike–utterly so. We’ll look at the responses to the interviews next time we talk about this topic. And I’ll also be talking at some point about what actually would be a good response on their part.