Seventeen children later…

Yep, my feminist education is serving me well.

I recently read that Joe Bob and Michelle ( have had their seventeenth child, and, although a painful thought, I’m not really surprised. I tried to find the blog entry I’d read again (was it on Feministing? Pandagon? Broadsheet?) so I could send it to Da Spouse: one of the guests at a cookout we held last weekend mentioned it, and I wanted to share.

So I searched “Vagina Clown Car” on Google.

Of course, the famous line gracing the photograph of this family (which is old, I think: I only counted fourteen children) became the title to several posts around teh internets. When investigated they yielded some seriously misogynistic lines, all in the name of criticizing Republicans, conservative Christians, or whatever.

This Arkansas couple has seventeen children and still wants more. They’re all home-schooled. All the kids’ names start with the letter J. Is it just me, or does someone need a swift kick to the ovaries?

How many minutes out of the past thirty years has she spent on her feet?

Sure. Blame her. Call her an idiot. No, better yet, call her a slut. Say not one damn word about him. Or the religious background telling her about her Rightful Place.

This is the main point to this feminist:

Among the “fun facts” listed on Discovery Health’s Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the Duggars have gone through an estimated 90,000 diapers, and Michelle, 40, has been pregnant for 126 months — or 10.5 years — of her life.

That is. So. Fucking. Scary.

EDIT: Women are now being educated into their Rightful Place… at Seminary. Specifically Southwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Nashville.


16 thoughts on “Seventeen children later…

  1. It is scary. : (
    I confess that my feeling about the whole 17 kids thing is vaguely disapproving – vaguely because I refuse to read coverage, disapproving because there are so many people in the world already who need food and love and education and aren’t getting it, so having so many children seems so wasteful and strange.
    So I’m glad you made the points about not blaming the victim, because it was well ingrained in me to do just that.

  2. Part of me thinks this sort of thing doesn’t need to be in the news at all, simply because this is a private matter — and we have other things to worry about.

    Of course, the other part of me thinks this gets in the media because it pushes the conservative agenda — women in their ‘places’, leaving the ‘important’ stuff to the rich white men. Setting this family up as an ideal. Promoting procreation as the point of legal marriage, legal marriage as the way to long-term partnerships, and all the rights and privileges thereof granted to white heterosexual Christian couples. *shudder*

    The points about not blaming the victim were turning into an uncontrollable rant, so they had to be curtailed somewhat. In any case, while she is, in fact, the owner of the vagina + uterus in question, I highly suspect that Michelle does not execute full control over the use of her reproductive capabilities, whether she considers herself to be a victim or not.


    “Wives, submit to your husbands, as it is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18 NIV).

    I’ve heard this verse used numerous times to tell women they’re wrong, they can’t have opinions, they’re not as good as men, etc. If she believes this, she’s oppressed. If she doesn’t believe it, but does these things to get along with her husband/family/congregation/community, she’s oppressed.

  3. Anyone stop to think that Michelle might actually LIKE children and is making her own choices???? Is she making the rest of us feel guilty?

  4. I never said she wasn’t making her own choices. I do doubt she’s uninfluenced by her religion, and in my experience with more conservative Christianity, the pressure for women to exclusively be housewives and bearers of children is stronger than messages to the contrary, but these are my personal misgivings about the situation were I in it myself and are not to be misconstrued as her feelings or opinions.

    It was my point that these comments were focusing on Michelle herself, blaming and slut-shaming her, and not once considering that her husband might have something to do with all 17 babies, or that she might not have as many choices as others, or may not realize all the choices she has, because she might have been trained to be obedient to her husband.

    Whether Michelle likes children is not up for discussion, because it is not relevant. There is not a 1:1 correlation between liking children and having them, or that being oppressed == she is having her decisions made for her. IF she is oppressed (also a fact any of us are incapable of ascertaining) she does not automatically have NO choices; she could also have LIMITED choices. Choosing from options based on limited bodily sovereignty is choosing, while simultaneously being oppressed.

  5. More power to them. They seem happy as a couple, their home is beautifully organized, the children appear to be doing well. I read a beautiful book as a girl: CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. It was about a New York family where dad was an efficiency expert. They listened politely as a Planned Parenthood representative came to their home to make their eugenics oriented presentation. Then they gave the signal and all twelve children came. The PP representative gasped, “and within a mile of national headquarters.”

    It looks like the Duggars can handle them, you can’t. Oh, and I’m the oldest of seven myself. Which of us would you have eliminated!

  6. Constance, your comment, though approved, displayed some trollish tendencies, which I am inclined to address. If you haven’t read the Caveat (FAQ) on this blog, I suggest you do. The link is at the top of the page.

    First off, you appear not to have read what I wrote. Your response appears to be, not to my blog, but to what I was blogging about. If my stance on Michelle’s right to have as many children as she wants is somehow unclear to you, I suggest you read the comments, especially the one immediately previous to yours.

    Secondly, ad hominem attacks, a.k.a. namecalling, is not conducive to actual conversation. This tactic is often used to belittle and silence the other participants, and your final paragraph is an excellent example of covert namecalling.

    “It looks like the Duggars can handle them, you can’t.”

    This sentence glorifies the Duggars’ choice (to have many children) and vilifies my status as a child-free woman. It implies that having lots of children requires great courage (it does) and, by extension, anyone who doesn’t have lots of children is a coward. It was a very subtle way of calling me a coward.

    “Oh, and I’m the oldest of seven myself. Which of us would you have eliminated!”

    The pure fact that this is written to be an exclamation and not a question signals that you intend it to be the end of the argument. You have not, however, even begun to participate in the discussion this particular blog post was intended to address.

    I will not attempt to argue with you, as I recognize this as a futile effort. You are absolutely assured in your convictions, so much that you have your assumptions about me and what I would think/say/do on any given topic (which one sprang to your mind?) that you think you have won your argument because you presume to know precisely with whom you are dealing.

    I assure you, you do not. You have made no visible attempt to get to know me, as evidenced by your non-sequitur comment.

    If you want to come back and read the post again, possibly noting my main points (which were reiterated in the comments, as well), then feel free. I welcome civilized conversation with people of different viewpoints. A definition of civilized conversation may be found in the aforementioned FAQ.

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  8. Thank you.

    I seriously considered trying to answer this comment, but realized I’d already done so in replying to the last one. I know baiting when I see it. Whether it is by the same person or not, repeating a point is not argumentation, it is bullying.

    It is refreshing and powerful to know that I don’t have to get all defensive about people who don’t know me (or can’t be bothered to read for comprehension) making assumptions about me that are not even pertinent to the original discussion.

    And my bog, did it feel good.

  9. Nicely done, nightgigjo.
    I particularly liked Constance’s essential troll point that a book about a family with twelve children was about a man. She really earned her trollhouse cookies with that one.

  10. Thanks for this post, Jo. I have long been uncomfortable with the victim-blaming in leftist accounts of this family.

  11. Natalia, I think I’d been reading a LOT about victim-blaming at the time. I credit the IBTP message boards for edumacating me in time. ^^

    thebewilderness, I hadn’t noticed that particular point about Cheaper by the Dozen, mainly because I haven’t read it. (Although, come to think of it, they did do a movie, and I remember Steve Martin from it — and not who played the mother). Well-called!

  12. Re: Cheaper by the Dozen

    Actually quite a good book, written by the eldest daughter of the family. Dad was indeed an efficiency expert, but so was Mom, for that matter. Dad is very much the main character of the book, but it’s mostly for his major eccentricities and general buffoonery. But I think the point that the person above missed was that it was written as humour, not a how to live your life guide.

    Yeesh. As the oldest of 12 and a daughter in a chauvinist household, I probably have a better idea than most what the Duggar daughters lives are like. Believe me, it’s not just mom taking responsibility for the mites – every daughter down the line is pitching in in some way as soon as she can toddle. I’m 90% sure that the boys don’t have the same level of responsibility.

    But don’t despair for the Duggar daughters. None of my sisters or I chose to have children of our own. Most of my sisters have chosen not to marry, although some of us do have a live-in partner. On the other hand, two of my brothers have kids, but I think it’s telling that all of the girls said no way after helping to raise their own siblings. I suppose that the youngest girl may have kids of her own someday, but she’s only 12, so it;s hard to say.

    I love my three nieces (I have no nephews) and they will always have support from me. But no kids of my own, kthanxbai.

  13. Thanks for that, Deanna. Strangely enough, I wasn’t thinking about the daughters yet. Your experience does mirror situations I witnessed in the more conservative-religious families I grew up around.

    I’m glad to hear that you and your sisters have more choices available to them than getmarried-havebabies. The pushing of this line as a natural progression for girls/women, indeed, such a ‘right’ thing that is becomes the only thing, is a piece of patriarchal rhetoric I have only started to examine in my own life within the last few years.

    I definitely want to be a revolutionary force in my niece’s life — she’s the only one, and was already getting the princess indoctrination at her first birthday. Last Christmas she was the only child not to get a book (and she’s not the youngest, before you ask). I don’t always know how I can and should combat this, but I always know I want to provide a voice of dissent that says “Your looks are not an indicator of your worth”, “You are a smart person, and capable of developing all your talents” and “Pink is not the only choice”.

    It is so hard sometimes to watch the patriarchy’s ideas being reinforced by everyone else but me and Da Spouse.

  14. I too am minus child, and at age 40, will probably be childfree for life. I do have to fib about why I don’t want children if I don’t want major big time grief from the baby tyrants of my area, (not just the normal baby loving types but real honest tyrants who think every uterus should have a baby in it)!

    Fortunately, my fib comes with 100% truth, that any baby I would have would not be healthy, and good chance would not live. Even then, that doesn’t get some tyrants off my back! Some of these creeps think I should go procreate anyway.

    There are people working hard at the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, yet at the same time, eliminating social services for all the children born.

    There is a very scary element developing in America’s society, and the Duggars are only the tip of an ugly iceberg.

  15. I too am minus child, and at age 40, will probably be childfree for life. I do have to fib about why I don’t want children if I don’t want major big time grief from the baby tyrants of my area

    This, I think, is a telling indicator. When women have to lie about, sugar-coat, or even just explain their personal choices that affect their own bodies – choices that aren’t hurting anyone else – that the baby tyrants are pursuing an agenda that has nothing to do with women personally, but everything to do with their role in our society, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

    If these individuals were really concerned personally about the women they encounter who do not have children, for whatever reason, they wouldn’t encourage/demand that those women act against what the women themselves have considered to be their own best interests.

    Health problems for mom and baby NOT a concern? Then the entire discussion is more about social roles and, by extension, women’s oppression, than what appears to be the conversation at hand.

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